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 

 

Welcome to the Spring 2015 YA Scavenger Hunt!

Welcome to the YA Scavenger Hunt! This bi-annual event was first organized by author Colleen Houck as a way to give readers a chance to gain access to exclusive bonus material from their favorite authors...and a chance to win some awesome prizes! At this hunt, you not only get access to exclusive content from each author, you also get a clue for the hunt. Add up the clues, and you can enter for our prize—one lucky winner will receive one signed book from each author on the hunt in my team! But play fast: this contest (and all the exclusive bonus material) will only be online for 72 hours!

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

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

Here's How It Works:

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

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

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

So Let's Get To It!

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

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

About REAWAKENED: 

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

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

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

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

Bonus Content From Colleen: 

Hello Tiger Fans! 

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

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

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

RECREATED!

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

~Colleen

***************************************

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

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

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


I made a DISTANCE BETWEEN LOST AND FOUND playlist!

I’m a big believer in finding the right music to write to—and what’s perfect for one book often won’t work at all for the next. For THE DISTANCE BETWEEN LOST AND FOUND, getting my writing playlist together took a little trial and error. The book is set in East Tennessee, specifically in the Smoky Mountains, so I needed songs with a southern, bluegrass feel. But the main character, Hallie, is a singer, and her tastes drift more toward the singer-songwriter spectrum. I wanted to make sure her artistic voice was present. And finally, Hallie and her friends are on a youth group retreat when they get lost in the mountains, which meant I needed at least a couple spiritual songs mixed in. A few weeks and one carefully curated Pandora station later, I had a selection of music that never failed to get me inspired to work on the book.

Because it’s all music I love, I thought I’d celebrate THE DISTANCE BETWEEN LOST AND FOUND’s (almost) six-week birthday by sharing a curated playlist with you. These songs will give you a glimpse into my process, as well as a glimpse into Hallie’s mind and heart. As an added bonus, this playlist roughly follows the arc of the story, so if you listen while you read, you might find that certain songs line up pretty nicely with specific scenes!

Want to learn more about why I chose each song? I’ve annotated the playlist below. But be warned—there are a few light plot spoilers!

**SPOILER SPACE**

**SPOILER SPACE**

**SPOILER SPACE**

**SPOILER SPACE**

So here we go!

1) “Elastic Heart” by Sia

Okay, I admit it—this song wasn’t around when I was first writing THE DISTANCE BETWEEN LOST AND FOUND. That said, “Elastic Heart” completely captures Hallelujah Calhoun at the start of the book: angry and angsty and ready to snap.

2) “The Weight of Lies” by The Avett Brothers

I discovered The Avett Brothers while writing DISTANCE, and this song is one of my favorites of theirs. I love the wistfulness of the singer’s voice, the sense of wishing for things to be different. As far as the book goes, Hallie is clearly suffering under the weight of all the lies people have been telling about her, and she feels like she can’t break free. 

3) “Poison and Wine” by The Civil Wars

I was obsessed with The Civil Wars while I was working on DISTANCE, and to me, this song is made for Hallie and Jonah. It’s their former closeness and their current distance, the harmony and the hurt all wrapped up together. Plus, I can imagine the two of them performing this song as a duet…

4) “When Your Mind’s Made Up” from the Once soundtrack

Hallie loves the soundtrack to Once; it's one of the albums she shared with Jonah, back when they were friends. The chorus of "When Your Mind's Made Up" pinpoints how Hallie is feeling about Jonah—and all of her former friends—during the first few chapters: "When your mind's made up / There's no point trying to change it." I also hear the storm that opens the third day in the swirling emotion as this song builds and builds. 

5) “Wash.” by Bon Iver

After Hallie and Jonah fight under the tree, she cries until she feels wrung out. This song is for those raw, tentative next moments when Hallie and Rachel start to open up to each other, as well as later that evening, when Hallie and Jonah start to figure out who they are to each other after everything that has happened. 

6) “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” by Sufjan Stevens

This is my favorite version of one of my favorite hymns. It’s quiet and reverent and lovely. In the imaginary movie version of DISTANCE, this song is playing while Hallie sits on the mountaintop on the morning of the fourth day, looking out over the landscape and watching the sunrise. 

7) “The Light Will Come” by Phil Wickham

The fourth day is when Hallie really starts to feel like things can change—she can change—and this song echoes that hopeful feeling. “Lift your eyes, the sun has overcome the night / Come alive…” 

8) “Locked Up” by Ingrid Michaelson

Ingrid Michaelson is one of Hallie’s favorite artists, so this playlist had to include her! This song represents Hallie deciding whether to trust Jonah and Rachel with her story. There are so many spot-on lyrics: “I have taken a wrong turn / When will I learn? When will I learn? / Should I show them all my scars?” 

9) “The Kiss” from The Last of the Mohicans soundtrack

The Last of the Mohicans was the first soundtrack I listened to over and over…and over. While writing DISTANCE, I kept returning to it when I needed to feel just as lost in the woods as my characters. “The Kiss” provides the perfect backdrop for Hallie, Jonah, and Rachel’s late-night soul-baring on the fourth day. 

10) “Tomorrow Is a Long Time” by Nickel Creek

The fifth day starts with a few happy surprises—not the least of which is the renewed ease between Hallie and Jonah. This song is Jonah in the creek. It's the three of them with food in their bellies. It's Hallie's feeling that anything—good things—can happen. 

11) “Everything Has Changed” by William Fitzsimmons

Pay no attention to the lyrics, aside from that critical “Everything has changed.” The song may be about a man’s relationship with his father, but the melody and William Fitzsimmons’ soft, wistful voice feel just right for Hallie’s changing, opening heart on the fifth day. 

12) “The Story” by Brandi Carlile

It’s not in the text, but I know Hallie likes Brandi Carlile. This is one of Hallie’s hiking songs on the sixth day, as she’s psyching herself up to find help and make it home. And I love the lyrics: “All of these lines across my face / Tell you the story of who I am … But these stories don’t mean anything / When you’ve got no one to tell them to…” 

13) “Where the Light Gets in” by Sennen

Pandora chose to introduce me to this song at the exact right moment: as I was writing the scene when Hallie finds the road on the sixth day. Now, I hear it in my head whenever I read that passage. The music builds and builds as Hallie walks closer and closer to rescue. 

14) “Don’t Carry It All” by The Decemberists

The seventh day! Home! Rest! Safety! When she wakes up in the hospital, Hallie finally lets go of the burdens she’s been carrying and decides to move on. (And yes, Hallie definitely listens to The Decemberists…) 

15) “Hard Times” by Eastmountainsouth

The “closing credits” song. It starts playing when Hallie and Jonah are together in the hospital, staring out the window at the mountains in the distance. "It's a song, a sigh of the weary / Hard times, hard times, come again no more / Many days you have lingered around my cabin door / Oh, hard times, come again no more."  

Fade to black. :)

Friday Reads: More Fabulous Fearless Fifteeners!

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

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

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

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

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

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

~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!! 

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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! :)

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

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

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

~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! 

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

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

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

~Kathryn 

7 Days of DISTANCE Wrap-Up!

I did it! I made it through book release week in one piece. And frankly, aside from the probably-to-be-expected amounts of stress, it was SO MUCH FUN. 

It was fun to spend so much time on social media chatting about my book, both with people who were excited to read it and those who actually were reading it. It was fun to go to my local Barnes & Noble and find my book on the shelf. It was fun to have so many different blog posts (and a podcast!) go live in one week—the culmination of a lot of prep work. And of course, my book launch at Books of Wonder in Manhattan on Tuesday night was SUPER FUN. 

Aside from the party itself—having so many friends and family members in one place, signing all those books, enjoying the delicious snacks—one of the coolest things about my debut week has been hearing from readers. Former coworkers, high school and college friends, distant relatives, and more have come out of the woodwork to tell me they have already finished my book, or that they've bought it and can't wait to start reading, or that they're buying it for a friend or a teen in their life. One person even said she's never read YA before, but wanted to support my writing career! Each and every message has meant so much to me. I will probably be riding this high for a good while. :D

But I promised you launch party photos! Here's a slideshow: 

Aside from a bout of nerves that hit *just* as I was supposed to start reading from my book, everything went smoothly. The audience seemed engaged during my reading and people asked excellent questions during the Q&A portion of the event. The signing was a blur—I wanted to spend so much more time chatting with everyone who walked past! When I got home and collapsed onto the couch, I was still smiling. And then my husband, sister, and I ordered pizza and got into our comfy pants—the perfect end to a pretty much perfect day. 

Thanks to ALL of you who helped make my book release week so special! This has truly been an experience I will cherish forever. :) 

~Kathryn 

7 Days of THE DISTANCE BETWEEN LOST AND FOUND!

I never get tired of seeing this cover...

I never get tired of seeing this cover...

To celebrate my book, which comes out *ahem* two days from now, I thought I'd organize a mini blog tour. And since THE DISTANCE BETWEEN LOST AND FOUND takes place over seven days, it seems only fitting to have a seven-day blog-fest, as well. Thus, "7 Days of DISTANCE" was born. Today, The First Day, is all about looking back. 

I've been doing a lot of interviews and guest blog posts lately (some of which you'll get to read later this week!), and I was thinking about what I could share today that I *haven't* talked about in any of those posts. I've also been doing a lot of reflecting on my writing journey thus far—only natural on the eve of my first book being released, right? So, as a look back before I start looking forward, I thought I'd answer one of the most frequently asked questions I get about THE DISTANCE BETWEEN LOST AND FOUND: 

"How long did it take you to write your book?"

All of the writers reading this know how much of a loaded question that is. Do you mean how long between the initial idea and now? Or how long it took me to complete a draft? Or how many rounds of revision I did? What about all of those months the publisher had the book between when I finished it and its official release? So, here are a few dates: 

  • Late 2011/early 2012: I have the initial germ of the idea that will become THE DISTANCE BETWEEN LOST AND FOUND—the main character's name. 
  • May 2012: I start writing the first draft. 
  • July 2012: I finish the first draft, take a few weeks off, and then start revising. 
  • August 2012 - March 2013: I do three complete revisions, sharing the manuscript with beta readers for feedback each time. 
  • March 2013: I enter a pitch contest online and connect with my literary agent. 
  • March - April 2013: I do a quick revision with my agent. 
  • May 2013: The book goes on submission to editors and is acquired by HarperCollins. (Woohoo!) 
  • August - December 2013: I go through three rounds of revision with my editor. 
  • 2014 - Now: Copyedits, cover reveal, ARC distribution, marketing plans, and more. There is SO MUCH that goes into creating a finished book! I wrote a whole post about this busy time where it seems like I, the author, am doing practically nothing, back in fall of 2013. Read it HERE
  • February 17, 2015: THE DISTANCE BETWEEN LOST AND FOUND is on shelves! 

So here we are, only two days away from that finish line. I am exhilarated and anxious—though probably more exhilarated—and overjoyed to share THE DISTANCE BETWEEN LOST AND FOUND with the world. 

And luckily, several blogs and friends have agreed to help me spread the word during this crucial first week! Here's where you'll be able to find me online during the 7 Days of DISTANCE blog tour: 

The First Day/Sunday, February 15: …it's today. You're reading it. Welcome! Enjoy! 

The Second Day/Monday, February 16: I'm joining the YA Buccaneers' blog hop to celebrate THE DISTANCE BETWEEN LOST AND FOUND! The crew is writing Love Letters to people who are important to our writing lives, and I know you want to know the recipient of my day-before-pub-date letter… (Plus, there are opportunities to win a finished hardcopy and swag!) UPDATE: The post is live HERE

The Third Day/Tuesday, February 17: Each of the Fearless Fifteeners is celebrating our book launch dates with a post describing our book in three gifs. Head over to see what three images I picked for THE DISTANCE BETWEEN LOST AND FOUND! UPDATE: The post is live HERE

The Fourth Day/Wednesday, February 18: I'm doing a podcast about THE DISTANCE BETWEEN LOST AND FOUND and the craft of writing setting over at DIY MFA. Founder Gabriela Pereira and I had a great conversation, and I hope you'll enjoy listening to it! UPDATE: The podcast is live HERE

The Fifth Day/Thursday, February 19: Lovely blogger Dana at Danasquare is hosting an excerpt from THE DISTANCE BETWEEN LOST AND FOUND, as well as a book giveaway! UPDATE: The post is live HERE

The Sixth Day/Friday, February 20: Equally lovely blogger Jen at Pop! Goes the Reader is hosting my guest post reflecting on the journey to publication. There's a giveaway here, too! UPDATE: The post is live HERE

The Seventh Day/Saturday, February 21: I'll be back here at KathrynHolmes.com, recapping debut week. Expect book launch party photos and more. UPDATE: The post is live HERE

Still with me? Want to keep up with all of these posts without having to check back here each day? I'll be using #7DaysofDISTANCE on social media, so you can follow along. 

Thank you in advance for reading, and for your support and encouragement. I feel like I'm about to jump off the cliff into the sparkling blue ocean—and I can't wait! 

~Kathryn 

Friday Reads: MOSQUITOLAND by David Arnold

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

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

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

~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 

I'm Throwing a Preorder Party!

THE DISTANCE BETWEEN LOST AND FOUND is almost here. Seriously. I can't believe it either! 

Now that I'm in the home stretch before the book is actually on the shelves, I want to take a moment to thank all of you who have taken the time to preorder a copy. Preorders matter a lot, especially for debuts. Here's why: 

  • Preorders count toward the first week's sales, helping a book get a running start. 
  • Preorders show the publisher there's interest in the book, which could lead to the book getting more marketing dollars and publicity support going forward. 
  • Preorders can encourage bookstores—especially indies—to stock a book they might not otherwise have taken a chance on. 

I'm so grateful to everyone who has preordered my book, whether you went through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or your favorite independent bookstore. Now, I want to give a little something back. 

I'm putting together a mini swag pack, including a signed TDBLAF bookmark and two awesome stickers, that I want to send to each and every one of you who preordered. Who's eligible? Anyone who preordered—and you don't even have to send me proof of purchase. Just fill out the form HERE and I'll get your swag in the mail ASAP. 

Feeling left out? There's still time to preorder and enter to get your swag! Here are just a few of the places you can find THE DISTANCE BETWEEN LOST AND FOUND available for preorder: 

AMAZON | B&N | KOBO | BOOKS OF WONDER
 BOOKS-A-MILLIONINDIEBOUND | POWELL'S  
BOOK DEPOSITORY | HARPERCOLLINS 

Again—thank you, thank you, thank you, from the bottom of my heart! 

~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!) 

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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 

My Word for 2015 Is...

Happy New Year, everyone! Can you believe it's 2015?! How crazy is that? I feel like I've been waiting for it to be 2015 for so long, and now… well, my book comes out in six weeks. So if I seem overwhelmed and flustered and exhilarated and stressed all at once in the next couple months, you know the reason why. 

My fellow YA Buccaneer Bridgid Gallagher painted me this watercolor postcard, and it's been hanging above my desk for a&nbsp;year!

My fellow YA Buccaneer Bridgid Gallagher painted me this watercolor postcard, and it's been hanging above my desk for a year!

For the past two years, instead of making a list of resolutions, I've chosen a single word to represent my goals for the year. In 2013, I selected PATIENCE. My aim was to help myself be okay with my publishing path taking longer than I'd wanted and to remind myself that what mattered was writing the best possible book I could write, the book only I could write. In 2014, I chose MOMENTUM. With my debut novel on its way to publication, I wanted to keep working hard and pushing forward, not resting on my laurels or taking a second book deal for granted.

In both cases, having a single word to focus on helped keep me grounded and on track throughout the year. So obviously, I was going to try for a third successful Word of the Year in 2015. After much deliberation, I've picked...

I've been thinking a lot about gratitude lately. Frankly, I have so much to be grateful for at this point in my life. 

I'm grateful that my debut novel is releasing in February. I'm grateful to be surrounded by friends and family who are almost as excited about my book coming out as I am. I'm grateful for my talented, supportive editor, who pushes me to be better, and for my enthusiastic agent, who helps me dream big. I'm grateful for the rest of the folks at HarperTeen, who have turned my Microsoft Word document into a real, live book that I will get to hold in just a few weeks. I'm grateful for the people who taught me to write, who fostered my passion for reading and writing, who critique and comment on my works-in-progress, who bounce ideas back and forth with me endlessly. To all of you who've helped me get to the here and now, I'm so, so grateful. 

I'll stop there, because as you can probably tell, I could go on and on. And the paragraph above is just the book stuff! (Did I mention my husband specifically? Justin, I am beyond grateful for you. Every single day.) So why did I pick this as my word for the entire year? In short, because no matter how grateful I feel as I'm writing this, I know I will still constantly need the reminder. 

When I'm freaking out about my revisions for my next book, I want to remember to be grateful that I get to write another book for publication. I'm lucky to be doing a job I love. I'm lucky that people seem to want to read the stories I create. When I'm fretting about less-than-stellar reviews or lists that my book isn't on, I want to take a step back and think about the people who have told me my book touched them. When I'm getting too caught up in the big scary craziness of What Happens Next—Will people actually buy this thing I wrote? Will I sell another book? Am I running out of ideas? Do I actually have what it takes to be an author?—I want to try to think about the things that make me happy and hopeful and grateful. As cheesy as it sounds, in 2015 I want to live in the moment and enjoy every bit of what I've accomplished.

(And yes, I'm still trying to be patient with myself and my work and to keep up my momentum moving forward…) 

Did you choose a word for 2015? Share it in the comments! 

And once more, happiest of new years to you all! 

~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: UNUSUAL CHICKENS FOR THE EXCEPTIONAL POULTRY FARMER and SKYSCRAPING

I'm excited to have read two more Fearless Fifteeners books this week! It's almost 2015, which means our debut year is almost here, and the more incredible books I read by my talented peers, the more excited I am to be debuting alongside them. So here's what you should be looking out for next year: 

I fell in love with the title of Kelly Jones's middle-grade debut the moment I heard it: UNUSUAL CHICKENS FOR THE EXCEPTIONAL POULTRY FARMER. Then I fell in love with the cover—look at that grouchy chicken at the top! And when the ARC arrived in my mailbox on its tour, I was excited to fall in love with the words, too. When 12-year-old Sophie Brown moves with her parents from Los Angeles to a farm in the middle of nowhere, she finds herself caring for a chicken, which she names Henrietta. But Henrietta isn't an ordinary chicken—she can move things with her mind! And she's only the first of Sophie's great-uncle's missing chickens to show up and wreak havoc. Sophie has to adapt to small-town life while protecting her inherited flock from a nefarious chicken-napper. This book is charming and funny—text and illustrations—and I would recommend it to city kids, country kids, kids at heart…anyone who enjoys a good story. 

I also got to read Cordelia Jensen's beautiful and heartbreaking SKYSCRAPING this week. In fact, I raced through it in one day. This powerful novel-in-verse depicts a year in the life of Mira, a high school senior who thinks she has it all together. Then she learns a family secret that changes everything. She tries to distance herself from her family, but her father's health crisis brings her back. Novels-in-verse have to make every word count, and Jensen does just that. The writing is spare, raw, and elegantly crafted. And yes, I cried at the end. (I also loved the 1990s New York City setting—so cool to see my city through a native teen's eyes a decade before I moved here!) This book releases next June, so if you're a fan of honest, sad, and ultimately uplifting stories, put it on your calendar now. 

I can't believe we're almost done with 2014! Next week, I'll be sharing my Top 10 books I read this year. I'm still trying to narrow my list down—SKYSCRAPING was number 92 (!!!), so I have a lot of really tremendous books to choose from. In the meantime, if you're itching for a Top 10 list right now, check out the YA Buccaneers' picks HERE. We have pretty good taste for a band of fearsome pirates! :) 

See you next week! 

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)! 

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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  

Welcome to the New and Improved KathrynHolmes.com!

Come on in! Make yourself comfortable! Can I take your coat? 

As you can tell, I've been doing a little redecorating around here. I hope you like the site's new look as much as I do! (I have my talented and patient husband to thank for all of it, so: thanks, Justin!) In addition to the new design, I have switched from Wordpress to Squarespace. I think we've worked out most of the kinks, but if you find something that doesn't work the way it should, please let me know. 

The navigation's pretty straightforward: 

  • Learn about my books HERE
  • Learn about me HERE
  • Read the latest blog posts HERE
  • And, if you want to contact me, there's a form you can use HERE

Simple and clean, right? 

One important note: If you were a blog subscriber before, unfortunately you'll have to resubscribe, since I switched blog platforms. You can sign up again on my blog page. Act now, and you won't miss a single post! 

With my debut hitting shelves in two and a half months (ahhhhh!), it feels awesome to check yet another thing off of my author to-do list. Redesign website: done. I really do hope you like it! 

That's all for now, 

~Kathryn