Fearless Fifteeners

Friday Five: Writing Progress, Book Events, Good Reads, and More

I feel like I start too many of these Friday Five posts off by talking about the weather, so I won't tell you that as I write this, it's a temperature best described as "stupid-hot." But I'm inside, where it's air-conditioned, and here are this week's five good things: 

1) I finally managed to break 10,000 words on a new manuscript. This is an almost total rewrite of an old project, and I've been pretty scared of starting over after spending so much time with the existing version, but in the past two weeks, something clicked. I made myself sit down and write words, and in writing words, I figured out a few new plot details, and I keep having ideas for more, which is awesome. For me, 10K is usually where I feel committed to a project. If I can get that far, I can keep going. So yay! 

2) This past Sunday, I had a great time at Bookitcon: Chapter Two. This annual New Jersey book festival is run by a multitalented book blogger, Nori—who is an actual teenager. Seriously, she's amazing. And the event was too! I got to meet and chat with readers, bloggers, and other authors, participate in a panel discussion about surprises in publishing, and of course sell and sign books. Can't wait for next year. 

3) My husband and I have been watching Penny Dreadful on Netflix. I'd heard good things, but had been nervous that it would be too scary. And it is pretty scary—but it's also incredibly compelling. Gothic horror characters (Dr. Frankenstein and his Creature, vampire-hunter Van Helsing, Dorian Grey, and others) coming together to fight the forces of evil in Victorian London—more, please! We've just begun season two, so I may report back with further thoughts.... 

4) Continuing to love my new yoga studio. Wednesday's class kicked my butt—as it does each week. I love how that teacher, in particular, pushes us to safely go past where we think our edge is. Case in point: a tough set of one-legged poses (King Dancer to Half-Moon to Sugarcane and back up to King Dancer) that left me trembling...but still standing. Thumbs up. 

5) I've been reading some fantastic books lately! Here are four of them.  

Melissa Grey's THE SHADOW HOUR is the sequel to 2015's THE GIRL AT MIDNIGHT. If you love urban fantasy, don't miss this story about a human girl (or is she?) caught in the middle of a centuries-old war between a birdlike race, the Avicen, and a dragonlike people, the Drakharin.

SPIN THE SKY is Jill MacKenzie's debut (out this November). I was so excited to read it because it's about a dancer, Magnolia, who goes on a reality TV dance competition to escape her family's bad reputation at home. Spoiler: I adored it, and will be talking it up more in the fall.

Virginia Boecker's THE KING SLAYER is the follow-up to 2015's THE WITCH HUNTER. It's a lush alternate-history fantasy set in a world where magic has been outlawed by the crown...but may not be as dangerous as the power that threatens it. Book two is every bit as good as book one.

And finally, I bought Charlotte Huang's 2015 debut FOR THE RECORD after meeting Charlotte at Bookitcon on Sunday, and I've already raced through it. It's about a singer who's brought in by her record label to front an existing band—and these guys are not happy to have her there. The book follows the group, Melbourne, on tour for a crazy summer, and it's so much fun. 

What's going on in your world? Can you believe it's already mid-August? 


Friday Five: How 'Bout This Weather?

New Yorkers love to talk about the weather. Whether it's a heat wave or a Polar Vortex, we can always be counted on to gleefully complain. Except...for the first warm stretch of spring. Excuse me—I need to open all the windows in my apartment. *heart-eye emoji* 

Here's this week's Friday Five: 

1) Did I mention the weather? It's been a balmy between-50-and-75-degrees here in Brooklyn since Wednesday. I wore a skirt with bare legs yesterday. The birds are chirping. The air is comfortable and fresh. Everyone seems...happy. I know it's only March. I know that the temperature can and will drop again. Heck, it might even snow at least once more. But right now—it's perfection. 

2) I made it to Day 15 of the 30-Day Shred! And this week, it was no easy feat. On Tuesday afternoon, I stepped in a pothole and twisted my ankle. I don't think it was a bad sprain—it's already feeling significantly better—but it certainly put a crimp in my workout plans. It's hard to get your heart rate up when you can't jump around. But I stuck with the daily regimen, modifying whatever I needed to modify (i.e. holding a plank instead of doing what Jillian Michaels calls "plank jacks," jumping jacks combined with a push-up position), and hopefully next week I can dive back into cardio. 

3) I am having so much fun working on my current manuscript-in-progress. After HOW IT FEELS TO FLY, which to be honest took a lot out of me, it's such a joy to be working on a book that feels...not easy, per se, but the good kind of challenging. I'm excited to dive in each morning. I know what I need to work on and where I'm going. And I feel confident that, with time, I can make this book my best yet. 

4) I got to read another fellow Fearless Fifteener's sophomore ARC this week! I loved Jenn Marie Thorne's debut, THE WRONG SIDE OF RIGHT, so I was confident I'd also enjoy her May 2016 release, THE INSIDE OF OUT. Thorne is so good at capturing real, honest teen voices and issues. (If you missed THE WRONG SIDE OF RIGHT, about a girl who discovers she's the daughter of a presidential candidate during election season, grab it now!) In THE INSIDE OF OUT, high schooler Daisy learns that her best friend, Hannah, is gay. She decides to jump headfirst into supporting the LGBTQIA cause, but in her newfound zeal, she manages to completely co-opt the story. As the closeted-straight figurehead of a movement that goes viral and attracts tons of protestors, Daisy makes a lot of mistakes that keep the plot racing forward. This tagline from the book sums up her journey: "Every story needs a hero—sometimes it's just not you."   

5) Speaking of YA literature...next week is the NYC Teen Author Festival! I'm an attendee this year, rather than a panelist, but there are some *incredible* authors gathering for sure-to-be-amazing events. Will I see you there? 


Friday Five: Three Memorable TV Moments, a Great Book, and WIP Progress

Without further ado—or really, without any ado at all—here are this week's five good things: 

1) As if I didn't love Agent Carter enough, Tuesday's episode had a song-and-dance dream sequence! Bonus fun fact for the dance crowd: the number was choreographed and performed by the cast of Dancing With the Stars

2) On another superhero TV show note, I was very gratified to have predicted a major twist on The Flash—Zoom's identity—a week before it was revealed. My husband sometimes gets irritated watching TV and movies with me because I'll guess what's coming next or how something will end, and (not to pat myself on the back too hard) I'm quite often right. But I write stories for a living! It's difficult not to get caught up in the nuts and bolts of the stories we're watching. (FYI, I also figured out the identity of the Winter Soldier in the second Captain America film very early on... *shrugs*) 

3) I've added almost 10,000 words to my manuscript-in-progress since the start of the year, and I am still having so much fun with this project. It also now has a working title: THE ITALIAN WORD FOR GOODBYE. Intrigued? Maybe I'll have more details to share soon...

4) I only read one new book this week: Mikaela Everett's THE UNQUIET. It's a literary science fiction YA that has been compared to Kazuo Ishiguro's NEVER LET ME GO. There are two Earths, and children from the dying planet are being trained to infiltrate their doubles' lives on the planet that's healthy and strong. The main character, Lira, ends up living her double's life—with two loving grandparents and a little sister—on an orchard in the French countryside. It's not long before she and the other "sleepers" are feeling conflicted about their role in the invasion. As much as she wants to stay strong for her cause, Lira is haunted by the innocent lives being taken. This book was eerie and unsettling and unfolded at a careful pace. The writing style definitely won't be for everyone—but I'm glad I read it. 

5) The X-Files' six-episode season ended on Monday night...on a cliffhanger. On the one hand, it wouldn't be my favorite TV show without those memorable nail-biting season finale moments. On the other, with no word about future episodes or a third movie, my immediate response was "Ahhhhh!" But I'm choosing to believe (I WANT TO BELIEVE...ha!) that this isn't the end for Mulder and Scully. If anyone deserves a happy ending, it's those two... 

That's all for this week. Anything exciting to share on your ends? 


Friday Five: Cirque du Soleil and Fearless Fifteeners and More

Do you ever have one of those weeks where you're running and running on your hamster wheel, trying not to trip and do a complete spin over the top? That was my week. (And it's still ongoing...) So here's a quick Friday Five! 

1) On Tuesday, I got to go out to Long Island to observe rehearsals for the new Cirque du Soleil show, Paramour, which is planned to open on Broadway in May. Yes, taking this quick-turnaround assignment for Dance Magazine contributed to the overall hamster-wheel sensation, but how could I turn it down? It's not every day you get to watch some of the world's best dancers and acrobats in rehearsal—or interview a Cirque du Soleil director and two choreographers. I can't wait to see the finished product in a couple months! 

2) Fellow author launch parties are the best. I missed the one I'd hoped to attend on Tuesday night (post-Cirque du Soleil stuff), but did get to go to one on Wednesday. Lauren Magaziner writes adorable, magical middle-grade books, and it was a pleasure to celebrate her sophomore novel, PILFER ACADEMY: A SCHOOL SO BAD IT'S CRIMINAL. I can't wait to read it! 

3) Remember the Fearless Fifteener ARC tours I used to post about all the time? A few of them are still running, which means I am finally catching up on some fellow debuts' books that have been on my TBR for a long time. This week, I read THE FIX by Natasha Sinel and THE ONE THING by Marci Lyn Curtis. Both books are about teens healing emotionally after difficult times. In THE FIX, Macy has been holding on to a shameful secret, but a chance conversation with a boy at a party cracks her walls and lets those memories bubble to the surface. In THE ONE THING, Maggie is barely coping after losing her sight—and her promising soccer career—six months ago, but a chance meeting with a kid she can see sets her on the path to recovery. Neither author tiptoes around the tough stuff. Check these books out for realistic and heart-wrenching situations and lots of feels. 

4) My husband and I are headed to Philadelphia tonight for a family event—my first bar mitzvah! He tells me I have no real reason to be excited, but I've never been to one before, so I can't help it. ;) (Mazel tov, David!) 

5) My HOW IT FEELS TO FLY promotional bookmarks have arrived! I'll be sharing pictures all over social media soon... 

How's your week been?


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? 


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... :) 


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. :) 


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: 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: 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, 


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! 


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. :) 



Friday Reads: More Fabulous Fearless Fifteeners!

It's been a couple weeks since I last posted about books on here, because last week was the NYC Teen Author Festival and my schedule was PACKED. (Want to see some photos from the events I did at the Union Square Barnes & Noble and at Books of Wonder? Check out the slideshow on my Events page!) But a busy schedule didn't mean I wasn't reading. I just…didn't have much time to write about what I was reading. So today, I wanted to squeeze in a few quick reviews. Enjoy! 

THE UNHAPPENING OF GENESIS LEE is a near-future science fiction story where the next generation of humans has learned how to store memories outside their minds, instead using objects called Links to capture perfect records of their experiences. But what happens when someone starts stealing those objects, basically erasing huge swaths of people's lives? Genesis Lee gets caught up in trying to find the Link thief, partnering with a member of the Populace (basically, a lower-class person who still stores his memories in his own head)—only to realize that crucial bits of her own memory are being erased. Author Shallee McArthur fills the plot with twists and turns, and the fact that our narrator is experiencing memory loss of her own keeps the stakes high. This book is on shelves (and online, of course) now! 

I AM HER REVENGE is another high-stakes story, but set at a modern-day English boarding school. Vivian was raised by her cruel, domineering Mother to become a weapon. Specifically, Vivian's only purpose is to destroy the son of the man who broke Mother's heart so many years ago. When Vivian first arrives at the school where she is to meet her mark, everything goes according to plan. But then someone from her childhood shows up, intent on stopping her from fulfilling her mission. Plus, the guy she's supposed to ruin…is really not that bad. And what about the secrets Mother has been hiding? This is an atmospheric thriller about, yes, revenge, but it's also a story of a girl who was raised to be a cipher, and is now realizing she can be more. She can become a whole person—if she can survive Mother's wrath. I AM HER REVENGE comes out on April 7th! 

Last one for this post: BECOMING JINN by Lori Goldstein. On her 16th birthday, Azra Nadira wakes up with a silver bangle on her wrist. That means that her powers as a jinn are now hers to use—or rather, she is ready to be used by the Afrit, who rule over jinn society. Azra has to start learning how to grant wishes right away. The problem is, she doesn't want to be a jinn at all. She doesn't get along with the other girls in her Zar—her jinn extended family—and she would rather focus on the two guys in her life, hot lifeguard Nate and kind neighbor Henry, than study her spells. Most of the plot follows Azra's discovery of her abilities and her efforts to connect with her Zar while still trying to feel like a normal teen, but there's a sequel coming, and by the end of this book it's clear where the story's headed. (No spoilers, but it sounds exciting!) BECOMING JINN releases April 21st.  

I've got more book recommendations coming soon, so stay tuned! Now, a bit of business: next week, I'll be participating in the YA Scavenger Hunt, coordinated by Colleen Houck. If you're interested in winning books—potentially lots of books—visit my blog April 2-5 and join the hunt. I'm on Team Blue: 

More instructions to follow next week! So for now, happy reading. (And next week, happy hunting!)


Friday Reads: Magical Middle Grade

It's been a magical reading week, thanks to two delightful middle-grade novels that take place in magical realms: THE WATER AND THE WILD by K. E. Ormsbee and MONSTROUS by MarcyKate Connolly. They're both really wonderful (and they're both 2015 debuts), so if you like fantasy starring girls who don't know their true power and who must learn where they came from and where they belong, pick up these books. 

And check out these two gorgeous illustrated covers!! 

And check out these two gorgeous illustrated covers!! 


THE WATER AND THE WILD is about Lottie Fiske, an orphan who lives on the island of New Kemble. Her best friend, Eliot, is sick, and shortly after his situation becomes very serious indeed, strange things start happening around town. She ends up being whisked down into the roots of the local apple tree, where she discovers a place almost like her home, but filled with sprites and wisps and other magical creatures. One of the sprites she meets is a healer, and he might have the cure to Eliot's illness—but that cure could come at great cost. Lottie soon finds herself on a dangerous journey with the healer's two children and their friend, where the stakes aren't just Eliot's life, but the fate of entire land of New Albion. THE WATER AND THE WILD is a beautifully written, imaginative fairy tale with a classic feel. Definitely pick this one up when it releases on April 14. 

MONSTROUS is also about a girl on a mission, but Connolly turns many common fairy tale tropes on their head by making Kymera the monster instead of the heroine. The book starts with Kym's very first day of life. She's been reanimated, built from human parts but also given wings, claws, and a venomous stinging snake-tail. Her father, the scientist who built her, says she's been created for a purpose: to help the girls of the city of Bryre escape a terrible fate from a terrible wizard. And so Kym begins saving girls, one each night, from the prison where they're being held. But when she meets a boy named Ren—a boy that for some reason, she might remember from her former life—things get murky. She starts to wonder about her father's experiments, as well as about the girls they're saving. What's really going on? Is her father being honest with her? Like THE WATER AND THE WILD, MONSTROUS offers an imaginative twist on a classic story. It's on sale now!

What are you reading right now? Any recommendations? :) 


Friday Reads: Heather Demetrios, Corey Ann Haydu (x2!), and Jenn Marie Thorne

I've been reading a ton of Fearless Fifteeners ARCs lately, but that doesn't mean I'm not reading anything else! I attended a panel at Books of Wonder in mid-February about unconventional teen romance, and picked up several awesome books there that I have to recommend. 

Heather Demetrios' I'LL MEET YOU THERE lived up to all of the wonderful things I'd heard about it. I really, really enjoyed this book! It's about 17-year-old Skyler, a recent high school grad who can't wait to escape her small California town, and 19-year-old Josh, a former local hotshot who joined the Marines and returns from a tour in Afghanistan missing a leg. Skyler and Josh work together at the tiny, quirky Paradise motel, and strike up a friendship that feels like it could become something more. But as they grow closer, Skyler's world starts falling apart. Her mom loses her job and spirals back down into depression and drinking. Skyler starts to feel like she can't possibly go to college, leaving her broken mother behind. Meanwhile, Josh is struggling with PTSD and is grieving for the friends he lost in Afghanistan. I'LL MEET YOU THERE is about two people who are hurting and who find solace and strength in each other. Demetrios tackles heavy subjects with care and compassion. This book made my heart hurt (but don't worry—it made me so happy, too!). I can't recommend it enough. 

At the same Books of Wonder event, I picked up a double-shot of Corey Ann Haydu's writing, purchasing her sophomore novel LIFE BY COMMITTEE and winning an ARC of her next book, MAKING PRETTY. I read them both over the past week and a half! LIFE BY COMMITTEE is about Tabitha, whose friends dumped her when she suddenly became "hot." Tabitha has a major crush on Joe—who happens to be dating one of the most beloved girls at school. After she acts on their mutual attraction and kisses him, she finds Life By Committee, a website where members anonymously share secrets and receive assignments in exchange for having their secrets kept. At first, LBC feels life-changing and liberating, pushing Tabitha to do things she never thought she could. But then the assignments get tougher, taking her farther out of her comfort zone. This book was a page-turner, especially toward the end. It was also a nice twist on the girl-gets-dumped-by-her-newly-popular/hot-friends plotline. I really liked Tabitha, even if I find the idea of Life By Committee more than a little terrifying! :)

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MAKING PRETTY might just be my favorite Corey Ann Haydu book yet. It's set in NYC, which I loved—but of course that isn't the only thing I enjoyed about it! 17-year-old Montana has spent the past year dealing with her plastic surgeon father's latest divorce, while her older sister and lifelong BFF, Arizona, was off at college. To combat her loneliness, she's become friends with a 23-year-old from her acting class, the effortlessly cool and beautiful Karissa, who seems to represent everything Montana isn't. But with Arizona home from college for the summer—and changed in a number of ways—and her dad on the verge of making it official with wife number five, Montana feels like nothing in her life is stable and constant. Enter Bernardo, a guy she feels like she can lose herself in. Their relationship quickly becomes the most important thing in her life…which may or may not be a good thing, especially given how it affects her relationship with her sister. Be sure to grab this book when it comes out in May! 

Finally, as part of the Fearless Fifteeners ARC tour, I got to read Jenn Marie Thorne's THE WRONG SIDE OF RIGHT. I really enjoyed this story of family politics—and actual politics. (Especially having just finished watching House of Cards season 3!) Kate Quinn has been living with her aunt and uncle since her mom died last year. She never knew her father. And then—breaking news, literally—it turns out that her dad is a Republican presidential candidate who had an affair with her mom back in his local campaign days. Seemingly overnight, Kate finds herself on the campaign trail, being embraced and paraded around by her new family. Or is it all political spin to minimize the potential damage of the bombshell that is her very existence? Kate has to deal with living in the spotlight, discovering that her father's political views don't necessarily match her own, and, oh yeah, meeting a rebellious guy from the opposing camp whose motives in pursuing her may or may not be pure. Whether you're a huge fan of The West Wing or not much of a political animal at all, THE WRONG SIDE OF RIGHT is a great read about a girl who just wants to figure out where she belongs. It's out March 17!

That's it for now! More book recs next week...


Friday Reads: Four More Fearless Fifteeners!

After taking last week off from book reviewing (you understand, right? I just had that pesky book launch of my own to deal with…), I'm back with FOUR fabulous Fearless Fifteeners books. Two YA, two middle-grade. Three very serious (with two making me cry…a lot…), and one really, really funny. So what are they? 

First up, I read Maggie Lehrman's THE COST OF ALL THINGS. This book is about grief and lies and friendship and ambition—and magic. The story takes place in a world where hekamists operate illegally, selling spells that help people get what they want. The only thing Ari wants is to forget her boyfriend, Win, who just died. But forgetting her pain has a cost: she loses her ability to dance, and thus her planned future with a ballet company. Meanwhile, Win's best friend Markos is struggling with his own grief, and Ari's best friends Diana and Kay (who has some hekamist-related secrets of her own) are growing apart. As Ari, Kay, Markos, and Win each share their side of the story, the tangled web of spells starts to become an angry knot. The end of this book felt like a train speeding toward inevitable disaster. THE COST OF ALL THINGS is a page-turner about the consequences of the decisions we make and the lies we tell. It's out May 12! 

Next up, I got Michelle Levy's NOT AFTER EVERYTHING—which made me cry. I mean, I *wept* at this book. Multiple times. It's about Tyler, a football star whose mom kills herself. His grief sends him into a downward spiral, but his struggles aren't just internal. He's also stuck living with an abusive, alcoholic father who blames him for his mom's death and forces him to pay for everything from his own food to his own toilet paper. Tyler starts senior year unable to focus on football, his girlfriend, or the friends who once took up all his time. Then he gets a job working alongside Jordyn, a childhood friend who's now an angry goth girl. Jordyn hates everything Tyler has become—and isn't afraid to tell him, despite the fact that everyone else is walking on eggshells around him. But her brutal honesty might be the only thing that can get him to let go of the guilt he feels about his mother's death and open up about the abuse he faces every day at home. If you're in the mood for a dark, painfully real story and don't mind shedding a few tears, grab this book when it comes out in August! 

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Next, I read Dan Gemeinhart's THE HONEST TRUTH, which is a powerful middle-grade novel about a boy, Mark, who runs away from home—and his recurring cancer treatments—to climb Mt. Rainier. Most of the story is from Mark's point of view, as he journeys toward the mountain with his faithful dog, Beau, by his side. But Mark's chapters are separated by scenes about his best friend, Jessie, as she struggles with deciding whether to tell his parents and the authorities what she knows about Mark's disappearance. Mark encounters a lot of obstacles on his journey—on top of being a very sick kid—and it's hard not to read this book with a knot in your gut, expecting the worst to happen at any moment. But Mark's story is also about friendship and hope. And yes, the end of the book—especially a scene with Beau the dog that I won't spoil—made me cry. THE HONEST TRUTH is on bookshelves now, so you can buy your very own copy! 

Finally, I just finished MY NEAR-DEATH ADVENTURES (99% TRUE) by Alison DeCamp. This is a hilarious historical middle-grade novel about an 11-year-old boy, Stan, who travels with his mom and granny to live at a logging camp for the winter. The year is 1895. Stan is a sweet kid with an overactive imagination and a tendency to find himself in all sorts of trouble. He wants nothing more than to find his long-lost father. But first, he has to deal with his snarky cousin, Geri—who aspires to be a doctor and won't stop playing practical jokes on Stan—and dodge Stinky Pete, the possibly murderous lumberjack who has the audacity to play games with Stan and ask him about his day. Stan's voice is hysterical, and the book is illustrated with images from Stan's scrapbook that provide lots of extra laughs. This book just came out on Tuesday, and I can see it making a big splash with young readers! 

Phew. That's all she wrote. Until next week… 


Friday Reads: MOSQUITOLAND by David Arnold

It seems appropriate that David Arnold's MOSQUITOLAND ended up in a post by itself, because this is a book that isn't like others I've read recently. The narrator, 16-year-old Mim Malone, has an incredibly unique voice—just this close to being over-quirked, but with all of those quirks coming together in the end to create a believable, fully rounded whole. Mim is a girl with a lot to say and a lot to discover, and her story is truly a must-read. 

So what is that story? Mim's parents have separated, and her father has remarried. Dad and Kathy have moved Mim from her hometown outside of Cleveland, Ohio, to Mississippi, which Mim refers to with no small amount of scorn as "Mosquitoland." When Mim finds out that her mom is ill back in Cleveland, she skips town on a Greyhound bus headed north. Most of the book follows Mim's journey, which is filled with colorful characters—both good and evil—and vivid southern settings. In addition to the main narrative, Mim fills in her own backstory in letters to Isabel. As she's on the road, you slowly learn what took her to the precipice and what she's really hoping to find when she reaches her destination. And that destination, for us readers, is so well-earned. (That's all I'll say, for fear of spoiling the journey!) MOSQUITOLAND is a coming-of-age odyssey that grapples with mental illness, first love, and a host of other tough issues, and it's really something special. It's out March 3! 

Probably no Friday Reads next week, as I—*ahem*—have to launch my own book. But stay tuned for more great reads in the future, as my to-read list gets longer and longer...



I have been on a Fearless Fifteeners reading spree over the past eight days! I am currently on my fourth 2015 debut of the week, and I can't wait for more. So in today's post, I'll highlight the first three—you'll hear more about David Arnold's MOSQUITOLAND next week, after I finish it (spoiler alert: it's earning every bit of the praise it has received!). 

In the meantime, here are this week's stellar book recommendations! 

Susan Adrian's TUNNEL VISION has the really cool distinction of being the first of my fellow 2015 debuts that I initially read as a purchased hardcover, rather than as an ARC! And I am so glad I bought it. TUNNEL VISION is a must-read for fans of the supernatural/spy/thriller genre. It's about 18-year-old Jake, who seems like a normal kid but has been hiding a secret: when he holds an object, he can see what its owner is doing, thinking, and feeling at that exact moment. He calls this ability "tunneling." When the government finds out about Jake's power, he is enlisted for a top-secret project—whether he wants to participate or not. But is he working for the good guys or the bad guys? After his family is threatened, Jake is forced to take drastic measures to keep them safe. This book was packed with twists and turns—some of which I saw coming, and some I absolutely did not. Jake is a likable narrator, and you really feel for him as he discovers just how in-over-his-head he truly is. If you're looking for a page-turner, grab this book. It's out now! 

Next, I received the ARC of I.W. Gregorio's debut NONE OF THE ABOVE in the mail. I'd been eagerly anticipating this one, because it tackles a subject I know virtually nothing about. Shortly after Kristin is voted Homecoming Queen, she discovers that she is in fact intersex: she developed outwardly as a girl, but has male chromosomes and internal "boy parts." This knowledge throws her into a tailspin—especially when word gets out at school, her boyfriend dumps her for "being a guy," and she starts being seriously bullied. The topic of being intersex is handled so carefully and clearly. Kristin has to come to terms with what it means to feel like something in-between—a girl who doesn't have a womb, who will never get her period or have children. Intersex conditions are much more common than most people think, and books like this one will increase awareness and understanding—and empathy. I can't wait for teens to read NONE OF THE ABOVE. It's out on April 7! 

And finally, I got my hands on an ARC of Adam Silvera's debut MORE HAPPY THAN NOT. This book was billed as a YA Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and I have been eager to read it for months. It's about a Bronx born-and-raised teen, Aaron, who is still struggling to recover from a downward spiral after his dad's suicide. On top of that, Aaron is happy with his girlfriend until he meets a guy from a nearby housing project and best-friendship starts to feel like it could be something more. The book is set in a near-future where the Leteo Institute offers relief from troubling memories to anyone who can afford the expensive procedure. Could a memory wipe help Aaron get past the conflict he feels about his sexuality? I don't want to say anything more about the plot, because knowing too much going in really would spoil the experience. But suffice it to say, this book was surprising, heartbreaking, and powerfully written. I'll be thinking about the ending for a long while. MORE HAPPY THAN NOT comes out June 16! 

Are you reading anything awesome? I'll add it to my TBR!