Thursday, December 26, 2013


While 2013 takes a masterful bow, let's look forward to the books coming out in 2014 that look unmissable...

KRISTAN:

DREAMS OF GODS AND MONSTERS by Laini Taylor, because holy cow this series is epic, with all the YA tropes twisted into the most lyrical and disturbing versions of themselves. A happy ending seem impossible and yet... I still have hope, which makes its own kind of magic. ;)

- HOUSE OF IVY AND SORROW by Natalie Whipple. I have wanted to read more about Josephine and her witchy family ever since Natalie posted a snippet on her blog as a writing exercise a couple years ago. Plus, I am a sucker for covers with delicious typography.

- RUIN AND RISING by Leigh Bardugo. The Grisha series is one of my favorites, and I've been recommending it to everyone. The second book went in a direction I didn't expect, so I'm curious to see how that plays out in this final installment -- not to mention any new curveballs Leigh might throw at us!

INGRID:

COMPLICIT by Stephanie Kuehn. As I read the blurb for this book, my heart rate started to increase and then, bam! That last line clinched it. I simply MUST know what’s going on in this story. It hooked me like a fish.

#SCANDAL by Sarah Ockler. This book sounds really interesting, as much for the relevance of the social media issues as for the plucky plotline. Also, I love Sarah Ockler’s writing style.

(DON'T YOU) FORGET ABOUT ME by Kate Karyus Quinn. This intrigues me because I love books involving sisters and this novel seems like it will be eerie, suspenseful and emotional. I also adore the characters’ names, which is an added bonus.

SARAH:

- THE UNBOUND by Victoria Schwab. Loved, loved, loved THE ARCHIVED and after hearing so many great reviews for VICIOUS, I know that Victoria's writing keeps gets more and more stellar. So excited for this one.

WE WERE LIARS by E. Lockhart. One I've heard a lot of buzz about and trusted readers of ARCs can't seem to say enough good things. I'm prepared to be dazzled. The description pulls on every one of my strings.

MARINA by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. Dude wrote THE SHADOW OF THE WIND, which I friggin’ loved. I'm all about escaping to Barcelona for his next mysterious flight of fancy.

STEPHANIE:

- DREAMS OF GODS AND MONSTERS by Laini Taylor. I'm so in love with this series. I am both aching to see where the story goes and dreading to turn the last page. I don't want it to end!

- THE NETHERGRIM by Matthew Jobin. This book is described as being reminiscent of the CHRONICLES OF NARNIA. That was enough to convince me. Knights and wizards, magic and scary monsters. Can't wait to try it.

- MISTWALKER by Saundra Mitchell. This story sounds so haunting and creepy, and I love that it's set in a small town in Maine.


What books are you guys most looking forward to reading in 2014?
Friday, December 20, 2013


One of our favorite things to do at the end of every year is reflect upon the books we've read and highlight a few that really stuck with us. But it's also one of the hardest things to do every year! There are just so many good books, so many stories that hit us in different ways.

SARAH

In a year with some thrilling and satisfying fantasy reads (see Kristan and Steph's picks below), I have to admit -- authors of contemporary fiction, you slayed me!

Eleanor & Park 17 & Gone Winger

ELEANOR & PARK by Rainbow Rowell -- It's everything: sad, funny, cringeworthy, joyous passionate, creative, young and wise. If there was one book I wish I'd written, it would be this one.

17 & GONE by Nova Ren Suma -- Okay E&P wasn't everything. It wasn't this: haunting, moody, obsessive, cracked up. I love a good psychological story, especially as told by this author. 

WINGER by Andrew Smith -- How do we (collectively) not talk about this book every day? I loved every beat of this story, laughed out loud and teared up. Can't remember the last book that did that. It was like hanging out with that friend you only communicate with through shrugs and grunts. You get me?

The Lucy Variations The Last Kings of Sark: A Novel

Honorable mentions: THE LUCY VARIATIONS by Sara Zarr and THE LAST KINGS OF SARK Rosa Rankin-Gee.

INGRID

WILD AWAKE by Hilary T. Smith -- Wild Awake is everything I want in a contemporary novel -- an endearing protagonist who has family issues, friend issues, a journey of self discovery, and a steamy yet interesting romantic entanglement. And it's all wrapped up in pretty writing.

FALL FOR ANYTHING by Courtney Summers -- This was one of the first books I read in 2013, way back in January. It's the kind of book that just digs its way into your heart and stays there for a long time. Courtney Summers' writing style is spot-on and her storytelling is stellar. This book tackles some heavy topics with authentic characters and solid prose.

Wild Awake Fall for Anything If You Find Me Chime

Honorable Mentions: IF YOU FIND ME by Emily Murdoch and CHIME by Franny Billingsley.

KRISTAN

Since Sarah and Ingrid are cheating with these "honorable mentions," I'm going to go over our limit of 2-3 books too. My favorites were all over the place year. Contemporary, light fantasy, historical, epic fantasy... I love that YA covers such a wide terrain!

Fangirl The Dream Thieves (The Raven Cycle, #2) Code Name Verity Shadow and Bone (The Grisha, #1) Siege and Storm (The Grisha, #2)

FANGIRL by Rainbow Rowell -- In E&P, Rainbow took me back to those first love feelings; in FANGIRL, she took me back to my college days, which were some of the best years of my life. (Sorry, cliché, but true.)

THE DREAM THIEVES by Maggie Stiefvater -- This sequel is one of those rare beasts that's even better than its predecessor. I had mixed feelings about Ronan in book 1, but after book 2? All the feels. (And you guys, I kind of hate that phrase, but it's too perfect not to use here.)

CODE NAME VERITY by Elizabeth Wein -- Speaking of feels... Kiss me, Hardy! Kiss me quick!

(Aaaannd now I'm crying...)

SHADOW & BONE and SIEGE & STORM by Leigh Bardugo -- Last but not least, the Grisha Trilogy. The world of Ravka is so utterly unique, and the Darkling such a standout character/villain.

STEPHANIE

DAYS OF BLOOD AND STARLIGHT by Laini Taylor -- This came out last year, but I didn't get to it until early this year. There were so many twists and turns I didn't expect. It had me on the edge of my seat from page one. The mounting tension driving everything toward book three was perfect, and I felt every bit of the nostalgia and homesickness that Karou was feeling.

THE BITTER KINGDOM by Rae Carson -- This was my favorite book of the trilogy. I loved all the adventuring through the woods and the mines, loved reuniting with these characters who I've become so invested in, and I loved the way it ended. It was much more complicated than good verses evil, as life always is.

Days of Blood & Starlight (Daughter of Smoke & Bone, #2) The Bitter Kingdom (Fire and Thorns, #3)

There you have it, folks! That's what's on our Best of 2013 list.

And what, pray tell, is on yours?

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Thursday, December 12, 2013
One of my favorite parts of the holiday season is all the stories. Fairytales, coming of age stories, hilarious movies — we unpack them and dust them off every year, and the magic never fades.

Here are a few of the holiday tales we enjoy:

Ingrid

A Christmas Carol — This one is just so timeless I had to include it. I took my kiddos to a staged reading of this last year, a little nervous that they wouldn't quite "get it." But they loved it and really embraced the message, which was wonderful.

The Grinch Who Stole Christmas (classic) — I have loved this story since I was a little girl. The idea of the mean old Grinch doing such atrocious things and then finally realizing the true meaning of Christmas... still gives me chills and makes my heart grow three sizes bigger!

I'm sensing a theme here... I obviously appreciate stories in which characters grow emotionally!

Sarah

Every year I re-read Louisa May Alcott's LITTLE WOMEN (and last year, Steph bought me an awesome purply hardcover edition that thrills me whenever I turn a page).  It's not a holiday story, necessarily, but the beginning chronicles what Christmas might have been like for a middle-class family during the Civil War.  Yes, they are a Northern family--a White family--yet want and poverty touches all walks of life.  These girls were thrilled to have an orange on the breakfast table and what they wouldn't do for a peppermint stick!  Or a new pair of stockings or gloves that were the right size and without holes in.  Puts things in perspective, even from a place of privilege.  And if there's one thing I need in a good book, it's perspective.

Some people enjoy Will Ferrell's sense of humor, others tolerate him.  Still others want to punch him in the face to make him shut up.  I'm in the camp where Will Ferrell grazes in the pastures of my spirit animal.  He is the part of me--the ten-year old boy who laughs at farts--that I keep carefully hidden away (mostly).  ELF is, therefore, a masterpiece of a Christmas story.  It never fails to tickle me.  It's probably my favourite Christmas movie besides RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED REINDEER because, hello, childhood.

High-brow and Low-brow perfectly sums me up.  Xx

Kristan

One of my all-time favorite holiday stories is the movie Love Actually. I know a lot of people hate it or think it's over-hyped, but I think it's such a great spider web of intersecting lives and stories, loves and lies, hopes and bittersweet realities -- all centered around Christmas! (Hm, but it is a shame that none of the other major holidays/religions are represented...) My favorite storyline is the one with Colin Firth as a stymied writer and his Portuguese maid. But I also adore the little boy in love for the first time (and the little girl's rendition of "All I Want For Christmas," dang!), and the heartbroken wife listening to Joni Mitchell, and the poor woman who can't hookup with the office hottie (Rodrigo Santoro) because she has to take care of her special needs brother. Is it all a bit contrived? Sure. But does it speak to the holiday spirit? To family and giving and love and loss? You bet your gingerbread cookies!

Stephanie

My favorite holiday story is the Nutcracker, specifically the ballet. I remember, when I was growing up, PBS used air my favorite version of the ballet every Christmas Eve at midnight. I would wait until the presents had been set out and my parents had gone to bed, and I would sneak out of my room to watch it. It was my own little tradition, just me sitting cross-legged on the floor in front of the TV with the tree lights twinkling in the background. There was something magical about that.

***

What are some of your favorite holiday stories?
Tuesday, December 10, 2013
Thursday, December 5, 2013

With all the crazy holiday shopping going on this month, we decided it just wouldn't be right for our beloved book characters to miss out on the gift-giving fun. So this week, Kristan, Stephanie, Sarah and I came up with a few ideas of what we'd like to give some of our fictional friends...
 
Kristan:
1. I am giving Levi (FANGIRL by Rainbow Rowell) an iPod loaded up with some great audiobooks. I am also teaming up with Cath to make recordings of her reading all her Simon Snow stories, so he can finish her entire repertoire on his own time. I suspect they'd rather do other things when they're together. ;)

2. This is a cheat, but if I could, I would go back in time and take a photo of Verity and Kittyhawk together (CODE NAME VERITY by Elizabeth Wein), and make two copies so that they could each carry one forever. Failing that, I am at least framing a large print of the Real Fauxtographer's interpretation of Queenie for Maddie to have.

3. Totally lame, but I am buying clothes for all the kiddos in the Lumatere Chronicles by Melina Marchetta, because I bet they are totally cute babies/toddlers, and because tiny widdle clothing with animal ears and soft fabrics and adorable prints are just irresistible! I have no idea how Target stuff will hold up in the wilds of Charyn, or the mountains of Lumatere, but oh well!

Ingrid:
1. I wish I could give her one of her sister's old paintings, but instead I'm giving Kiri (WILD AWAKE by Hilary T. Smith) a new synth, a new bicycle, and some replacement azalea bushes because, sheesh, things seems to get busted up around this girl. I'll also throw in a new radio for Skunk because anyone worthy of the term "love-bison" just needs to be showered with gifts.  
 
2. There are so many things I'd like to give Carey from IF YOU FIND ME by Emily Murdoch in
order to help her transition back to a normal life. Mostly, I think I would purchase my 20 favorite contemporary YA novels for her so that she wouldn't feel so alone and different. I'd also hire her a top-notch defense attorney to help with any upcoming legal issues.
 
Sarah:
1. ELEANOR AND PARK by Rainbow Rowell
A proper mix tape for Eleanor--Park's taste is somewhat questionable, a new Walkman, and LOTS of batteries. (Did they have Costco in the 80s?)

2. WINGER by Andrew Smith
I'd like to give Winger some Arnica cream to help with bruising and swelling, and some extra Sponge Bob Band-aids. (I'm a Mama, what can I say?)

3. THE RAVEN BOYS by Maggie Stiefvater
Some high-tech dousing sticks for Gansey, and maybe a Mr. Gray bobblehead for the Pig. Adam wouldn't accept any gifts, so I'd have to bake him some cookies.

Stephanie:
1. THE BITTER KINGDOM by Rae Carson
I think Elisa could have used a cup of hot cocoa and a pair of earmuffs for all that trudging through the snow.

2. WHAT HAPPENED TO GOODBYE by Sarah Dessen
I would give Mclean a spice rack. Temporary living situations are no excuse for bland food.
 
 
So... what would you buy for your favorite book characters? Please share!
 
 
Tuesday, December 3, 2013
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Stephanie, Ingrid, Sarah & Kristan — we read, write, discuss and celebrate Young Adult lit.


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on the shelf

The Bitter Kingdom
Wild Awake
The Raven Boys
Mind Games
Eleanor and Park
The Shattered Mountain
The Shadow Cats
Transparent
Froi of the Exiles
Days of Blood & Starlight
Every Day
Jellicoe Road
Finnikin of the Rock
Guitar Notes
The Dead-Tossed Waves
The Crown of Embers
New House 5: How A Dorm Becomes A Home
Bitterblue
The Fault in Our Stars
Pretties


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