reading

2016 Reading Wrap-Up

The end of the year is here, and I promised you one more blog post. Before Christmas, I shared my Top Ten Reads of 2016—check them out if you're looking to lose yourself in a wonderful book! This post's a little more nuts and bolts: I've tallied the final stats from my year-in-reading, and I've made pie charts! Yay, pie charts. 

First things first: my grand total for 2016 is... 93 books! I think that makes this my third most productive reading year ever, after last year (117 books, which will probably never happen again) and 2014 (94 books). Even better than the number: I enjoyed just about everything I read, which means all those hours were completely worth it. 

Here's the breakdown by age level: 

2016 books age breakdown.png

In last year's wrap-up post, I shared that I wanted to read more adult books in 2016. I beat last year's percentage by just a tiny bit, but I don't think I can really count that goal as met. So I'm setting it again for 2017! More adult books. Also, I plan to read a lot more middle-grade, as I dig into revising (and hopefully submitting) a middle-grade manuscript of my own. Expect the chart to be not quite so YA-heavy a year from now. 

Meanwhile, here's the genre breakdown from 2016: 

Last year, I lumped a lot of those smaller categories together, but this year it just didn't seem fair. Obviously, I still read a lot of straight contemporary, but look at what happens if you merge fantasy, historical fantasy, magical realism, and sci-fi! Probably close to a third of what I read this year was "genre" fiction. Maybe I can do even better next year. (That middle-grade manuscript I mentioned above is magical, so I'll need some inspiration...) 

Finally, in an effort to curb my book-buying habits, I returned to my shelves for a lot of rereads this year—16.1%, up from only 6% in 2015: 

Also tallied, but not with a chart: of the 93 books I completed this year, only seven had male authors. Sorry, dudes. It was the ladies' year. 

Do you keep a running list of what you read and how it adds up? Do you use it to help you set goals for the following year? Share in the comments! Meanwhile, I'll be back in January with an update on my blogging plans, and more. 

Happy New 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 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

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: 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: 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, 

~Kathryn 

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! 

~Kathryn 

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. :) 

~Kathryn 

 

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!! 

16181516.jpg

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? :) 

~Kathryn 

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! :)

making pretty.jpg

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...

~Kathryn 

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! 

the honest truth.jpg

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… 

~Kathryn 

Friday Reads: TUNNEL VISION, NONE OF THE ABOVE, and MORE HAPPY THAN NOT

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! 

~Kathryn 

Friday Reads: UNDER A PAINTED SKY

Another wonderful week in reading-land! I got Stacey Lee's Young Adult historical novel UNDER A PAINTED SKY in the mail and lost myself in a beautifully written, gripping page-turner full of adventure, friendship, and romance. And cowboys. Handsome, funny, chivalrous cowboys. <3 

So what's it about? The year is 1849. Samantha is a Chinese-American whose father has brought her to a small town on the edge of the frontier. Annamae is an African-American slave. The two girls are brought together by one tragic night, and flee into the Wild West disguised as boys headed toward the California Gold Rush. Not long into their journey, they encounter a trio of cowboys: talkative, flirty Cay; quiet, surly West; and kind horse-lover Peety. The guys agree to take "Sam" and "Andy" as far as the next fort…and then the next. Friendships are formed. Romance blossoms. But Sam can't let herself fall for one of her new friends—she's supposed to be a boy, after all. And anyway, she has bigger problems. She and Andy are being chased by the law, and if she can't find a former friend of her father's on the trail ahead, everything will be lost. UNDER A PAINTED SKY has gotten a lot of accolades already (it doesn't release until March 17), and it deserves each and every one. The historical details are perfect. The Wild West setting is stunningly described. The characters are vivid and their relationships are heartwarming and heartbreaking. Even if you don't usually read historical fiction, put this wonderful book on your radar. 

The eternal post-ending question: Reading anything good right now? :) 

~Kathryn 

Friday Reads: CONVICTION and BREAKING THE ICE

I won the Fearless Fifteeners jackpot this week, getting to read not one, but two of my fellow 2015 debut authors' books in advance. (Well, technically I received the ARC of BREAKING THE ICE on its release day…) I'm pleased to report that they both exceeded my already high expectations! 

And in case you haven't noticed, this is an ongoing theme with these Fearless Fifteeners books. With each one I read, I'm more and more grateful and humbled to be in their company. 2015 is going to see the debut of some really talented authors on both the YA and MG fronts, and I'm so excited to be sharing this experience with them. 

Now, on to the books. First up was Kelly Loy Gilbert's CONVICTION, the gut-wrenching and beautifully written story of a boy who has to question everything he's ever believed when his Christian talk radio host dad is arrested and charged with vehicular homicide. Even worse, Braden finds out he'll be called as a witness in his dad's trial—and his court date is just before he's due to play against the deceased man's nephew in an intense rivalry baseball game. Since Braden's father is in prison and Braden's status as a key witness means they can't be in contact, Braden's older brother, Trey, shows up to care for him. Trey left home almost a decade ago, and hasn't been in touch since, so their brotherly dynamic is tense, to say the least. All of those puzzle pieces come together into one of the most taut and emotional reading experiences I've had in a while. As the story careened toward the climactic courtroom moment and the evidence stacked up against Braden's father (who is admittedly not a very nice guy), I couldn't stop turning pages. This is a book about faith and family, and the way things can fall apart in an instant, exposing the cracks that were there all along. I have no doubt that CONVICTION is going to make a big splash in the YA world this year. It's out in May! 

Next up, I read a book that is pretty much on the opposite end of the spectrum. Gail Nall's BREAKING THE ICE (out now!) is a delightful middle-grade novel about Kaitlin, a competitive figure skater who ends up at the worst skating club in town after an out-of-character post-competition tantrum turns her into a pariah. But landing at the Fallton Club—mockingly nicknamed the Fall Down Club by the area's more elite skaters—might just be the best thing that could have happened, since it gives Kaitlin a fresh start and a chance to find the passion and heart that were missing from her programs before. Can she learn a new program before Regionals and redeem herself in front of the judges and her peers? This one is ideal for kids who like sports stories and for kids who don't, because Kaitlin's journey is so relatable and fun. 

So now, the eternal end-of-blog-post question: What are you reading now? Anything I should check out? 

~Kathryn

Friday Reads: CITY OF SAVAGES by Lee Kelly

Welcome to the first Friday Reads of 2015! I'm kicking it off on a very high note, with a fabulous debut from my fellow Fearless Fifteener, Lee Kelly. Technically, I finished this book at the very end of 2014, but since I didn't blog last Friday, here we are. (And this book is *too good* not to mention at all!) 

18300869.jpg

Lee Kelly's CITY OF SAVAGES takes place about 16 years after World War III destroyed New York City—and the rest of the world. Manhattan is a P.O.W. camp where teenaged sisters Sky and Phee live with their mother. During the summers, they fend for themselves in what's left of downtown. In winter, they join the other refugees in Central Park, where the vicious warlord Rolladin rules with an iron fist. Phee, the strong, outgoing younger sister, feels at home in this violent, every-man-for-himself city. Sky, who was a baby when the world fell apart, is quiet and bookish and wants nothing more than to leave the island and see what else is out there. When strangers arrive from England, a sequence of events gets set into motion that forces both Sky and Phee to question everything they've ever known—including their own history. This book is a thrill ride, from the brutality of the refugee camps to the horrors that await in the subway tunnels, and beyond. But it's also a beautiful story about sisterhood, as Sky and Phee alternate narrating chapters and discover a lot about each other, and about themselves. I can't recommend this one enough! 

I'm currently reading ALTHEA & OLIVER by Cristina Moracho, and loving it. It's about best friends (you guessed it…) Althea and Oliver, who find themselves and their friendship suddenly falling apart. She's developed feelings for him that she's not sure he reciprocates. (He's not sure, either.) He's developed a sleep disorder that leaves him feverish and bedridden for weeks at a time. When she makes a big, horrible mistake, he leaves town for a sleep study without saying goodbye. And…that's as far as I've gotten! I'm hoping to finish it later today, so no spoilers! :)

What are you reading right now? Any recommendations as I kick off the year's reading? 

~Kathryn 

Last Friday Reads of 2014: My Top 10 Books Read This Year!

First of all, can you believe it's December 19? I certainly can't. (Nor can my to-do list…) 

One of my favorite things about the end of the year is all of the Top 10 lists—best movies, best songs, and of course, best books. But when it came time to do my own Top 10 Books list, I actually had quite a hard time. It wasn't that I didn't read 10 amazing books this year. It's that I read so many more than 10 amazing books this year! As of today, I have read 94 books in 2014—a personal record—and many of them were spectacular. So, please don't assume that if your favorite isn't on this list, I didn't love it! I most likely did. 

Without further ado, here's my painstakingly crafted Top 10 Books I Read in 2014, in chronological order of when I read them (with links to my original blog posts about the books, where applicable)

A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd (original post HERE

Faking Normal by Courtney C. Stevens (original post HERE

Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick (original post HERE)

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart (original post HERE

I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson (original post HERE

Simon vs. the Homo-Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli (original post HERE

My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga (original post HERE

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir (original post HERE

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson (original post HERE

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson 

Brown Girl Dreaming squeaked in under the wire for this list—I just finished it on Wednesday! And I'm so glad I read this beautiful book. Woodson's writing is vibrant and rich. Her verse says so much in so few words. She tells such a powerful story. My favorite sections were those in which she was beginning to discover herself as a storyteller, and then as a writer. For example: 

Nothing in the world is like this—

a bright white page with

pale blue lines. The smell of a newly sharpened pencil

the soft hush of it

moving finally

one day

into letters. 

How perfect is that?! If you haven't picked up Woodson's National Book Award–winning book yet, don't waste any more time. (And the same goes for all of my Top 10 books, obviously!) 

What were your favorite books read in 2014? I'll start making my 2015 reading list now! 

In the meantime, Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!! 

~Kathryn 

Friday Reads: AN EMBER IN THE ASHES, THE WITCH HUNTER, and LIFE AFTER LIFE

After a week off for Thanksgiving (and to put the finishing touches on this new and improved website!), I'm back to talk about three fabulous books. Two are by fellow Fearless Fifteeners, so you'll have to wait until 2015 to add them to your shelves. The other is out now (in fact, I've been hearing I should read it for quite a while)! 

ember.jpeg

Sabaa Tahir's AN EMBER IN THE ASHES is one of the most anticipated YA debut releases of 2015, so I was thrilled to finally get my hands on an ARC. And it didn't disappoint! This book is epic and thrilling, filled with complex characters who are forced to make impossible choices. It takes place in a world that's like a fantasy version of ancient Rome. The Scholars, once an educated and cultured people, have been conquered and enslaved by the Martial Empire, which craves only power and blood. Laia is a Scholar who goes undercover as a slave at the academy where the Martials train the next generation of Masks—their most fearsome fighters. Elias is the academy's best soldier, but he's having second thoughts about the life he's been born into. Their paths cross thanks to a prophesy that puts Elias in a competition to become the next Emperor. And…that's all I want to say, for fear of spoiling any of the story's twists and turns! If you're a fantasy fan—YA or adult, because this definitely skews older and darker—grab this book when it comes out in April. 

The next ARC I read was also a YA fantasy, but that's pretty much where the similarities end. Aside from the fact that I loved this one, too! Virginia Boecker's THE WITCH HUNTER is magical historical fiction. Elizabeth Grey is a skilled witch hunter. The king has outlawed magic, and the witch hunters are the crown's best line of defense against illegal witchcraft. But when a chain of events leads Elizabeth to be accused of witchcraft herself—and sentenced to death—she finds salvation in an unlikely ally: Nicholas Perevil, the most powerful wizard in Anglia. Nicholas needs Elizabeth to find a cure for the curse that's been plaguing him. Reluctantly, she agrees to help. As the story progresses, Elizabeth's world gets turned upside-down as her enemies become her friends—and vice versa. And then there's John, the handsome young healer… (Spoiler alert: I <3 John!) I raced through this book, unable to turn pages fast enough. If you enjoy medieval history and magic, pick up THE WITCH HUNTER when it releases next June. 

And finally, last night, I finished Kate Atkinson's LIFE AFTER LIFE. I'd been hearing great things about this book all year. I bought it on iTunes and put it on my phone before our trip to Paris in October…only to not start reading it until a few days ago. Suffice it to say, I shouldn't have waited! This is one of my top reads of the year. It's about a woman, Ursula Todd, who lives life after life. In the opening chapter, she is killed in an attempt (Successful? We never find out…) to kill Hitler before he destroys Europe. In the next chapter, we've gone back to 1910, the day of her birth. Ursula dies before she's even given a name. Then the same scene plays out again, but the doctor is able to save the baby. The book moves forward through Ursula's life—death after death (childhood accidents, the influenza pandemic in 1918, a bomb during World War II, etc.) followed by the same birth scene, always with slight variations. Atkinson follows each possible thread of Ursula's life to its natural conclusion, showing the power of one decision, one moment, to change the entire course of a life. Ursula eventually starts to experience deja vu, and to be able to avoid certain tragedies—only to encounter others down the line. This book is so rich. It's an epic historical and also an intimate family portrait. The characters are vivid and real. I finished LIFE AFTER LIFE and sat with it for a few minutes, and then flipped back to the beginning to read the opening chapters once more.

What are you reading? I want to hear about it!

~Kathryn  

Friday Reads: EVERYTHING THAT MAKES YOU

I got the chance to read another fabulous Fearless Fifteeners ARC this week! Seriously — y'all are in for a treat when 2015 rolls around and these books start releasing. I've now read 14 of my fellow debut authors' books, and each and every one had something special to offer. I'm so proud to be a part of the Fearless Fifteeners!

everything that makes you.jpg

Up this week: Moriah McStay's EVERYTHING THAT MAKES YOU. This book tells two stories about the same girl. Fiona Doyle was in an accident as a kid that left half of her face scarred. Fi Doyle is the same girl, but that accident never happened. As a high school junior, Fiona is a shy bookworm who writes song lyrics she won't let anyone see. Fi, meanwhile, is an outgoing star lacrosse player with her eye on an athletic scholarship. The two stories cover three years in the girls' lives, and intersect in unexpected ways. Minor players in Fi's story become major ones in Fiona's, and vice versa. Fi and Fiona prioritize different things, and make different decisions, but there are still characteristics that make it clear they're the same girl. And some things are the same in both stories; for instance, Fiona/Fi's mom wishes both girls were girlier and is always trying to buy them frilly clothes. I enjoyed reading this book—which is really two stories for the price of one! If you've ever wondered "What if…?" you should pick this one up.

I'm currently two-thirds of the way through A.S. King's GLORY O'BRIEN'S HISTORY OF THE FUTURE, which is completely and totally different! It's about a girl whose mother killed herself and who worries that she'll fall victim to the same depression—and who then gains the supernatural ability to see a dark and dangerous future and decides it's her responsibility to try to change it. This book is gritty and painful and *weird* and probably not for everyone—but I'm curious to see where it ends up. And I want to pick A.S. King's brain one day! She truly comes up with the most imaginative and unusual premises for her books.

That's all for now. Anyone out there reading anything good?

~Kathryn

Friday Reads: MY TRUE LOVE GAVE TO ME

My husband and I just got back from a wonderful trip to Paris, and while I brought several books with me, I actually didn't end up reading as much as I usually do while traveling! It was a combination of trying to sleep on the plane (instead of reading), running around the city all day (instead of reading), and using our limited time at the flat we were renting to check in on email and social media (instead of reading). 

Luckily, one of the books I brought was perfect for that fragmented reading schedule: My True Love Gave to Me, an anthology of holiday YA short stories edited by Stephanie Perkins. The book features twelve holiday-themed stories by some of the Young Adult book world's biggest names. As with any anthology, it's a bit of a mixed-bag. My favorite stories were those by Rainbow Rowell (a series of New Year's Eve snapshots as two friends realize they're meant for each other), Stephanie Perkins (girl meets boy at a Christmas tree farm), and Laini Taylor (an otherworldly tale where the Dreamer, an ancient god, rescues a young woman from an awful future). That said, one of the coolest things about this anthology was how diverse it was: male and female narrators from various backgrounds, contemporary as well as fantastic settings, and diverse writing styles. If I wasn't totally feeling one story, I didn't have long to wait for something completely different. I would definitely recommend this book if you're a sap around the holidays, and if you like any or all of the talented authors involved. It's worth a read.

You didn't think I'd mention Paris without sharing a photo, did you? On the holiday theme, here's the Eiffel Tower lit up like a Christmas tree:

Happy Friday to all, and to all a good weekend! ;)

~Kathryn