Friday, May 10, 2019

Happy May! We hope your spring is full of warm sunny days and lots of good stories. Here is a look at the books we’ve been reading over the past month:


I didn't have much time for reading this month, because I've been determined to finish my current writing project by the end of April. But I did manage to finish Exile by Shannon Messenger, the second book in the Keeper of the Lost Cities series, and I loved it so much. I'm really enjoying all the mind powers in this world.


April was a slow reading month for me too. I did finish SO YOU WANT TO TALK ABOUT RACE by Ijeoma Oluo, though. It was an extremely worthwhile read, and equipped me with valuable tools and language to help dismantle systemic racism, both in myself and in others. Then I read the digital novella OPAL by Maggie Stiefvater. In her usual one-of-a-kind style, Stiefvater gives us a brief but enjoyable glimpse into the summer after the events of The Raven Boys series, focused primarily on Ronan and Adam (and Ronan's dreamthing Opal, obviously).


Spring Break gave me a good two weeks to laze about with books. I finished the brilliant COURTING DARKNESS by Robin Lafevers and THE PRIORY OF THE ORANGE TREE by Samantha Shannon, which easily took up most of my spare hours and has tucked itself into my top reads shelf. Definitely need to re-visit and re-read this one because it's just fantastic. I read LAMENT by Maggie Stiefvater and am now reading BALLAD and it feels a bit like time travel to the beginning of the YA renaissance. Remember when asked what made a book YA and people in the know would reply: voice. This early series is bursting at the seams with voice and that's why I love it.


Since our last check-in back in February, I've read the following: STARFISH by Akemi Dawn Bowman, THE UNTETHERED SOUL: THE JOURNEY BEYOND YOURSELF by Michael A Singer, UNBECOMING by Jenny Downham, TRUE WEST by Sam Shepard, NOTHING LEFT TO BURN by Heather Ezell, and LONG WAY DOWN by Jason Reynolds. What a rich, diverse set of stories to consume in a matter of weeks! I ventured outside my contemporary ya comfort zone to devour a novel in verse, a play, and a spiritual exploration of Enlightenment. I was swept away by the strong female relationships in UNBECOMING, disheartened and then rejuvenated by the emotional journeys of the MCs in STARFISH and NOTHING LEFT TO BURN, and devastated by the hard truths in LONG WAY DOWN. My literary well is full!

Monday, March 4, 2019

Spring is fast-approaching, and we're almost out of the dark. Remember, the best way to stay warm is by being active, so keep turning those pages! Here are the books that kept us warm this past month:


Wow, I've read a lot since our last check-in!

In YA, there was MARCELO IN THE REAL WORLD by Francisco X. Stork, THE LAST BEST STORY by Maggie Lehrman, and THE HATE U GIVE by Angie Thomas. Of the three, my favorite was actually The Last Best Story, because I was totally a newspaper nerd in high school, and because I think the novel does a lot of difficult things well. (Including wit, tension, alternating perspectives, and remaking/updating an old story.) But Marcelo and T.H.U.G. were both very good too; I completely understand why they are so lauded. (In particular, I loved the voices and characters from Garden Heights.)

In non-YA, I read HERE AND NOW AND THEN by Mike Chen, a sci-fi novel that's really a father-daughter story at heart, as well as EXIT WEST by Mohsin Hamid, which follows a couple as they are forced to migrate around the world. I enjoyed both, so yeah, it's been a great month of reading!


This month I started the Keeper of the Lost Cities series by Shannon Messenger, read The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert, and finished off A Winter's Promise by Christelle Dabos. Of the three, The Hazel Wood was the one that stood out the most to me. It was dark and twisty, and I loved the fairytales within this story. After I finished it, I was poking around on YouTube and found this video of Melissa in conversation with Holly Black, which makes me think their books might be similar in style/tone? So I finally went out and bought a copy of The Cruel Prince for next month.


This month I lived and breathed WINTER OF THE WITCH and there were some absolutely perfect moments that I can’t stop thinking about. I haven’t been this enamoured with a witchy character since CHIME.


In February, I thundered through the Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer, finishing up SCARLET, racing through CRESS, and wading knee-deep into WINTER. I also sneaked in a classic — REBECCA by Daphne du Maurier — and was swept away by the voice, story, and gorgeous setting. Finally, I stumbled across WILD BIRD by Wendelin Van Draanen while browsing online, ordered the book, and read it in two sittings. It's the story of 14yo wild-child Wren, who is sent to a wilderness therapy program for troubled teens in the Utah desert. It's exactly my kind of book — high on emotion and introspection, doesn't shy away from tough issues, and always maintains a slice of hope.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Happy February! We hope your year is going well so far and that you are greedily reading all the things. Here is what we've read in the past month as well as what are goals are this year. (If we have goals. Spoiler alert: not all of us do!)



For the past several years, I’ve aimed to read 50 books a year. I’ve never once reached that goal. But this year is going to be the year! (Although, if not, that’s okay. This is all for fun, right?) I would also like to be less reliant on audiobooks this year and spend more time reading physical books.


This month, I started the year off strong. I finished The Train of Lost Things by Ammi-Joan Paquette, which I started last fall. I read Legendary by Stephanie Garber, the sequel to Caraval. I am in love with this series and can’t believe I have to wait until May for the next book! I also read City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab. This is actually the first of her books I’ve read to completion, but now I need more! The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden took me by surprise. It’s so beautifully archaic that it felt hundreds of years old — in the best way. My quickest read was a collection of poetry, The Princess Saves Herself in This One by Amanda Lovelace, which I finished in just two days.



I do have a reading goal, mostly because it feels fun to set a "challenge" on GoodReads and then watch it get tracked throughout the year. This year my goal is 24 books, or 2 per month on average. Since having a kid, I've only managed to read 10-15 books per year, but I like pushing myself a little bit. This year I happen to be interested in a lot of Middle Grade titles, which might help me meet the quota, since they tend to be a little shorter than YA and adult works.


So far I've read two books this year. First I finished THERE THERE by Tommy Orange, a much heralded (perhaps too much?) literary debut about life for modern day, urban Native Americans. It was powerful and interesting, but intense. Then I devoured ALL YOU CAN EVER KNOW by Nicole Chung, a writer I've admired for awhile. The book is about her search for her birth family, intertwined with her becoming a mother. I found it extremely moving.



Last year I set a reading goal of 40 books (twice as many as I'd read in 2017), and I reached it by the skin of my teeth! I hope to read close to 40 again in 2019 but I'm not setting a hard and fast challenge. My goals this year are centered around writing deadlines instead. That said, I read four books last month so I'm off to a pretty good start.


The first book I read in January was EDUCATED, a memoir by Tara Westover that was absolutely fascinating. Next, I read HERE WE ARE NOW by Jasmine Warga, a compelling coming-of-age novel about discovering your roots and accepting yourself. Plus: lovely writing. Finally, I gobbled up CINDER and SCARLET, the first two books of the Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer. They were both endearing and entertaining, and I have a newfound love for sci-fi/fairytale retellings (thanks, Marissa!).



I have no reading goals; there isn't a number or a type of book that I'd like to tick off a list. I like the spontaneity of choosing and having the freedom to re-read, which I do a lot. Putting a goal on my reading seems like putting on a tie. A very tight and tiny tie. Maybe next I'll read a book on analogies...


I’ve read THE WICKED KING twice and thought it was perfect. I’m now in the middle of THE WINTER OF THE WITCH. As usual, Fantasy dominates my reading choices.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

And just as we like to close each December with books, we also like to start each January with... books! Here are a few of the reads we are most looking forward to this year:


The Wicked King by Holly Black - Enough said.


The Summer of '69 by Todd Strasser - This is historical fiction based in a time period I was slightly obsessed with when I was a teenager...the 60s. In this novel, the MC deals with the Vietnam War draft, true love, free love, family dysfunction, and life choices—and it all culminates at the Woodstock festival.

On the Come Up by Angie Thomas - Love the cover of this book and loved The Hate U Give, so of course I'm gonna read this!

Again, but Better by Christine Riccio - Straight-laced girl spends a semester abroad in London. She's going to right all her college mistakes: make friends, pursue boys, and find adventure! Sounds like a fun read, which I definitely need mixed in between all the dark, heavy stuff I typically choose.

Serious Moonlight by Jenn Bennett - This book has so much that appeals to me-- nighttime jaunts in Seattle, romance, a mysterious reclusive author, and an introverted MC who wants to break out of her shell.

Heroine by Mindy McGinnis - Addiction is an issue I repeatedly tackle in my own books, so I'm always interested in reading about this particular problem. Plus, I loved Female of the Species and definitely appreciate books (and writers) that don't sugarcoat the darker aspects of life. Plus: check out the cool cover.

Call It What You Want by Brigid Kemmerer - From Goodreads: 'This captivating, heartfelt novel asks the question: Is it okay to do something wrong for the right reasons?' Well, this is one of the big questions I explore in All Out of Pretty, so I'm interested in reading this novel based on that simple description. Also, I loved Letters to the Lost (see favorite reads of 2018), so I already love Brigid's writing style.


I'm a little behind the times with what books are coming out, but I've got a few new-to-me books on my nightstand I'm excited about. I received The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss for Christmas, which I've been meaning to read for a long time. Then I got Cozy Minimalist Home by Myquillyn Smith in a white elephant exchange. I also just downloaded Becoming by Michelle Obama on audible.

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo - This will be my first read of the year, and I'm listening to it on audio, because my friend Alice recommended it, and the author has experience with spoken word poetry, so I trust her to do a bang-up job with her own novel in verse. So far it's fantastic!

A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi - I love that after all her success in fantasy and dystopia, Tahereh Mafi is turning inward to a quieter contemporary story. Breakdancing + Muslim culture + romance? I'm so there.

Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga - Jasmine is a friend, yes, and that makes it even more special that I love her writing so much. This book is her first turn toward Middle Grade, and I'm looking forward to seeing her explore this new voice and territory: a Syrian refugee girl coming to the Midwest US and redefining her ideas about home, family, and self.

Summer of a Thousand Pies by Margaret Dilloway - PIE. Need I say more? Okay, fine. This story (by another friend of mine who happens to be fabulous writer) tackles a lot of big topics -- grief, homelessness, immigration -- with heart and humor. I can't wait to dig in!

Stealing Home by Becky Wallace - Two disclaimers: (1) Becky is ALSO a friend (I'm so lucky! such wonderful and talented friends) and (2) my husband used to work for a minor league baseball team, so I definitely feel a personal connection to this story. But really, who WOULDN'T love a sporty rom-com?

* * * * *

What books are YOU looking forward to in 2019?

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about us

Stephanie, Ingrid, Sarah & Kristan — we read, write, discuss and celebrate Young Adult lit.



on the shelf

The Bitter Kingdom
Wild Awake
The Raven Boys
Mind Games
Eleanor and Park
The Shattered Mountain
The Shadow Cats
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
The Fault in Our Stars

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