books

Friday Five: Mid-October Fun Times

So...it's been quite some time since I did a Friday Five. But I have good reason for my delinquency! I have been busy, busy, busy. Here are just a few of the things that have kept me from blogging...

1) I sent my latest manuscript revision to my agent on Monday! I've been hard at work on this draft since getting her notes in August, making a lot of changes that I think have made the book significantly stronger. I've got my fingers crossed that my agent agrees... :) 

2) One of the reasons I wasn't around in September was that I had an overwhelming amount of freelance work, on top of the manuscript revision I mentioned above. But! On September 30, I concluded my contract with one of my freelance jobs. Since October 1, I have had twice as much time to devote to my fiction, and that has been a genuine pleasure. 

3) Speaking of October 1... I had a birthday! Hello, 34. 

4) I shared on Twitter the other day that I hadn't been reading much while I was deep in revision-land. That said, I did read a few spectacular books over the past couple weeks! Here are three realistic YAs I have to recommend: 

Two sweet love stories (GEORGIA PEACHES and MY UNSCRIPTED LIFE) and one bittersweet love story (SUFFER LOVE). So you can tell what kinds of stories I've been in the mood for lately!  

5) I don't think I've mentioned on here that I've fallen hard for "Jane the Virgin." In particular, I want Rogelio de la Vega to hang out in my vicinity, hashtagging things. (#RogelioMyBrogelio) If you're looking for a charming, funny, sometimes-ridiculous telenovela with plenty of heart and depth, the first two seasons are on Netflix. 

That's all for now...what's up with you? 

~Kathryn 

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? 

~Kathryn 

Friday Five: Book Events, Book Events, Book Events!

Two weeks ago, I was having a hard time coming up with a consistent Friday Five when there was so much ugliness and fear in the world. And today, I'm writing after a period of multiple new shootings, as well as a terrorist attack in Nice, France. It's really overwhelming. But that doesn't mean there haven't been good things happening, as well. So in the spirit of focusing on the positive, here's this week's Friday Five: 

1) I've had some really great book events for HOW IT FEELS TO FLY so far in July! On July 6, I paneled at the Jefferson Market Library in Manhattan, along with a bunch of other authors with new YA releases. And this past Tuesday, July 12, I had the privilege of participating in a panel that was all YA books featuring dancers—aka, right in my wheelhouse. Both events had wonderful discussions and attentive audiences, which is really all a writer can ask for. (I mean, that and selling some books...which I did. Yay!)

2) Tomorrow (July 16), I'm doing the first hometown event for HOW IT FEELS TO FLY! I'm so excited about this one. I've teamed up with fellow author Brooks Benjamin (MY SEVENTH-GRADE LIFE IN TIGHTS) and my hometown dance studio, Van Metre School of Dance in Maryville, TN, for a fun dance/book extravaganza. There will be book signings, dance performances, and more. I really hope some people—especially young dancers—show up!  

3) I did a forearm stand in yoga class on Wednesday. This is a pose I've only done successfully once or twice before—and that was several years ago. So I'm thrilled to think maybe I'm getting some of my old skills back! 

4) I've been rewatching the TV show Farscape (aired in the early 2000s, when I was in college), and I've reached season 3...which is all about the 'ship. I mean, other stuff happens, but...John/Aeryn truly happens, and it's amazing and swoony and heartbreaking. I can't wait to be emotionally compromised all over again. 

5) I'm currently reading (and loving) Victoria Schwab's newest YA novel, THIS SAVAGE SONG. What are you reading right now? Anything I should check out? 

Until next week! 

~Kathryn 

Friday Five: Can't-Miss Books from Kerry Kletter and Jeff Zentner

It's Friday again! It's been a pretty good week here—how've you been? 

Anyway, here's my Friday Five: 

1) I've (almost) made it to the end of the 30-Day Shred! (Today is Day 29, for those of you keeping count...) Four weeks ago, this exercise challenge seemed incredibly daunting. And I won't lie—it hasn't been easy, especially on the days when I had to get up early in order to fit a workout into my busy schedule. (Getting up early *and* working out...blech.) Anyway, I'm proud to say I haven't missed a day. :) 

2) Books: I read two incredible ones this week...and the authors happen to be each other's critique partners! (I also got to see both of them at the NYC Teen Author Festival last week, which was so much fun.)

Kerry Kletter's debut THE FIRST TIME SHE DROWNED is a lush, lyrical book about a girl who's trying to rebuild herself after a two-and-a-half-year stint in a mental institution. Upon release, Cassie heads straight to college, but unsurprisingly has a hard time adjusting to her new circumstances—never mind dealing with renewed attention from her mother, who's the one who checked her into the hospital against her will in the first place. Cassie's mother is magnetic and charming and self-absorbed and cruel, and Cassie is so tempted to fall back into her orbit, even as she remembers all of the abuse and neglect that led to her current fragile state. This is a heartbreaking and hopeful story, beautifully written and extremely hard to put down, not unlike the next book in this post...

 

Jeff Zentner's debut THE SERPENT KING was always going to be right up my alley, with its small-town Tennessee setting and its distinctly southern prose and sensibility. But man, did I love this book. It's about three misfits: Dill, the son of a disgraced Pentecostal snake-handling preacher; Lydia, who's Internet-famous for her fashion and lifestyle blog; and Travis, who's so obsessed with a Game of Thrones-esque fantasy book series he actually carries a staff. Their mutual outcast status brought them together, but it's senior year, and Lydia's planning to get as far away as she can for college—her top choice is NYU—while Dill feels his small life closing in around him. (Travis just wants to stay out of his drunk father's way.) Full disclosure: this book made me cry. But it also made my heart sing. It's sad and sweet and thoughtful and gut-wrenching and lovely. 

3) On the topic of my own writing: it was a fun week, because I got to write a lot of kissing! Spoiler: my first two books (THE DISTANCE BETWEEN LOST AND FOUND and HOW IT FEELS TO FLY) don't have much in the way of making out. This new project, on the other hand...there's a fair bit of smooching, at least in the chapters I've been working on lately. But don't worry—my characters won't remain in that happy kissing place for much longer...*evil laugh*

4) Husband and I are heading to Philadelphia tonight to celebrate his mom's birthday. It will be nice to see family, even if only for 24 hours! 

5) Ahh, NYC spring...

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? 

~Kathryn 

Friday Five: Taking a Deep Breath

The absolute best thing about the past week has been the lull in my freelance work schedule. It was pretty hairy there for a month! (That's what happens when you say "yes" to just about every assignment you're offered...) So, the Friday Five has to start with: 

1) Having time to get everything done each day, without feeling freaked out or overwhelmed. Plus extra time for my current book-in-progress! I'm probably halfway through this first-draft/first-revision—it's a mix of new writing and revising—and I'm starting to sound like a broken record for how much I'm in love with this project. 

2) Next, a pat on the back: last Friday, I started the 30-Day Shred. After a cold, comfort-food-filled winter (and, frankly, a sedentary and junk-food-filled 2015), I wanted to see if I could reboot my body and rebuild my cardio endurance a bit. But here's the thing: I really don't like to exercise. I love taking dance classes and yoga classes, but the whole jogging/weights thing—not my favorite. So I am rather pumped that I've made it to Day 8 without missing a single workout, even when it was absolutely miserable. More on this next week... 

3) I've been writing on Thursday mornings with the charming and talented Lance Rubin, and yesterday, we both really enjoyed the cafe's 80s/90s classic rock Pandora station. Never mind that I was working on a very emotionally charged scene... each new tune made me smile. Phil Collins! Chicago! George Michael! Whoever it is that sings "Total Eclipse of the Heart!" It was a blast, even if the mood was all wrong for my WIP. 

4) Broadchurch season 2. Just as devastating as season 1, with the added perk of seeing the actor who plays Jarvis on Agent Carter in a *very* different context. 

5) Oh, books... I read two really lovely, inspiring books this week.

It was a pretty sure bet that I'd fall in love with Jennifer Longo's UP TO THIS POINTE. It's about a ballerina who runs away to Antarctica's McMurdo Station after realizing that her plan for her life (first up: a company contract with San Francisco Ballet) might not work out after all. The story jumps back and forth between the lead-up to Harper's fateful SFB audition and the present day at McMurdo, where she gets into Winter-Over shenanigans (there are penguins!) while also rebuilding her broken spirit. One thing I loved about this book was how unflinching it was in forcing Harper to face the facts about her future. Being passionate about something doesn't mean you're destined to find success at it—an issue I also tackle in HOW IT FEELS TO FLY—and yet having to change your life plan doesn't mean your life is over. UP TO THIS POINTE is filled with honesty and hope. 

Another sure bet: Natalie Lloyd's THE KEY TO EXTRAORDINARY. Natalie's an auto-buy for me. Her debut, A SNICKER OF MAGIC, was in my top 10 books of 2014. Her follow-up is heartfelt and heartwrenching, a winsome love song to a small mountain town and its occupants—especially protagonist Emma Pearl Casey. Every woman in Emma's family has had the Destiny Dream, and before Emma's mama passed away, she predicted that Emma would discover her destiny at a young age. The last thing Emma expects is for her dream to ask her to find buried treasure, but with the future of her Granny Blue's Boneyard Cafe on the line, she gathers her friends and goes treasure-hunting. This book has ghosts and magical flowers, laughter and music and love, and there were definitely a couple moments that made me tear up. I adored it.

What's got you smiling this week?

~Kathryn  

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?

~Kathryn  

Friday Five: Anniversaries and Great New Reads and Comfort Books

It's been one of those weeks. Very *February.* Cold and gray and a little bit blah. But here are some good things! 

1) Today marks seven years since my husband and I went on our first date. I know most people don't commemorate their dating anniversary, but since ours falls so close to Valentine's Day, we always remember the date. (Plus, celebrating on the 12th means avoiding the V-Day craziness at local restaurants!) Tonight, we're doing dinner and a movie in Manhattan. Seven years ago, it was French food at a cute restaurant on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn. I had a nasty cold, so we called it a night fairly early, but I was excited and hopeful to see him again—once the snot cleared! (There's more to this story about our early dating mishaps, but I'll save it for another time...) 

2) One of the best cures for the "blahs" is to pull out an old favorite book that I know will make me smile. One of my top comfort reads is Stephanie Perkins' ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS, which, if you don't already know, is a sweet teen romance set at a boarding school in Paris. It never fails to make me swoon. This week, it was exactly what I needed to break out of a funk. 

3) I also finished reading Lee Kelly's A CRIMINAL MAGIC this week, and it was spectacular. (Remember the speakeasy launch party I went to last week?) If you like alternate-history fantasy, or the 1920s in general, or books about magic—or just exciting, well-written books!—definitely pick this one up. 

4) This week has been yoga boot-camp. By tomorrow afternoon, I will have taken six yoga classes (plus two dance classes) in nine days! Unfortunately, it's because my yoga studio is closing (with the intention of reopening at an as-yet-TBD location), so this is a mixed good thing/sad thing. But you can't argue with the benefits of that much yoga in such a short time. 

5) Did I mention where my husband and I are going for dinner tonight? Blue Smoke is one of my favorite BBQ places in NYC—and as a southerner, I care about the quality of my BBQ. Pulled pork, here I come! 

What's been making you happy this week? 

~Kathryn 

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? 

~Kathryn 

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

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

117!! 

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. 

Next: 

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! 

~Kathryn 

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! 

~Kathryn 

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... :) 

~Kathryn

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. :) 

~Kathryn

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... 

~Kathryn 

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! 

~Kathryn 

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? 

~Kathryn 

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: 

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Friday Reads: RED QUEEN, NIMONA, and UNDER THE LIGHTS!

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? 

~Kathryn

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! 

~Kathryn 

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! 

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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! 

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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! 

~Kathryn