Friday Fifteen

Holy cow, this week got away from me. Let’s settle down with some book reviews in fifteen words or under.

1. Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein
Wein does it again. Stunningly written, compelling history, all the feels ever.

2. The Grim Grotto (A Series of Unfortunate Events #11) by Lemony Snicket 
Always a fan of undersea adventures, but this added too much mystery before the end.

3. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by J.K. Rowling
One way I can pretend I’m a Hogwarts student with a summer reading list.

4. Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! by Mo Willems
Even as a grown-up, I want to do read-alouds of this book.

5. Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee 
I was more interested in everyone surrounding the main character, which made for a slog.

Friday Fifteen

Happy Friday, everyone! Let’s kick things off with some good ol’ book reviews in fifteen words or under.

1. This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales
Fun (especially the DJing), but I think my expectations were too high for this one.

2. Madeleine L’Engle Herself: Reflections on a Writing Life by Madeleine L’Engle
Mostly quotes, but lots of thoughtfulness from a stellar writer.

3. Alphabet Under Construction by Denise Fleming
Two things kids love combined; which I’d thought of it.

4. Golden Boy by Tara Sullivan
All the feels for Habo. Super lucky to be in Tara’s crit group!

5. Don’t Make Me Stop Now by Michael Parker
Mostly bought for one story as told through community college essay; worth it.

The No-Guilt Approach to Reading YA

Every so often, people write disparaging articles about YA and the adults who enjoy the category. One such article came out recently, in which the author claimed that adults should feel guilty for reading these books and that they don’t approach literature the way books for adults do. (Not going to link to said post here, because it’s click-bait-y and I don’t want to give them more traffic.)

This month at Ploughshares, I tackle the issue of YA as a literary genre and why readers shouldn’t feel guilty to reading wonderful books, no matter what their target age audience is.

Also I get to make references to both Faulkner and Mean Girls.

I’m sure all of my readers already know this, but no one should make you feel guilty for reading things you enjoy, whether that’s YA and children’s literature or graphic novels or sci-fi or romance or anything. Life’s too short to read books you don’t love.

My Interview with the Fearless Fifteeners

Today I’m at the Fearless Fifteeners blog, talking with my wonderful agent-sister and 2015 debut author Anna-Marie McLemore about The Chance You Won’t Return, writing, romance, neurological differences, and what I’m not afraid of.

Anna-Marie asked some fantastic questions, and I’m excited to share the interview with you all. We actually had to cut some material because we talked too much. But here is a little of the extra Q&A:

I’ve heard you say that one of your favorite writing tips is not to develop writing rituals. How has this proven good advice for you?
I know I would use rituals as a crutch (“I only write at night!” “I need to have coffee while I write!”) so telling myself that rituals don’t get the work done means that I can potentially sneak in writing time anywhere/anytime. Not that I always do, but at least it’s one less excuse. ;)

Do you have any writing rituals that have crept in anyway? A favorite time of day to draft? A favorite drink or snack while revising?
As much as I love coffee and tea, my favorite writing beverage is lots and lots of water. Woohoo hydration! I also tend to like drafting at night, but that might be because I do the day job thing so most of my writing time is in the evening. My biggest ritual is probably having carefully crafted playlists for each project. I can write without them, but I love having a book soundtrack playing in the background for inspiration.

Make sure to check out the Fearless Fifteeners blog for the full interview, and get to know some awesome 2015 debut authors like Anna-Marie.

2014 48 Hour Book Challenge Finish Line

photo (7)Another 48 Hour Book Challenge completed and another wonderful weekend of reading. I went into the weekend without major plans for joining the challenge, but I’m so glad I did. I got to try out our porch (a great reading spot, if coated in pollen), check out some new series and authors, and take a few more books off my “to read” list. The final stats:

  • 12.5 hours read
  • 1556 pages read
  • 5 books finished
  • 2 cups of iced coffee consumed

So overall less than last year’s totals, but I’m still calling it a success.

The Books

Books veered more toward the unreal this year–three were some kind of fantasy (Linger, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, and September Girls) and one was sci-fi (Adaptation). A Crooked Kind of Perfect was the only realistic book I read. The last few books I’d read were realistic, so this was a nice change of pace. And three (Linger, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, and Adaptation) are part of a trilogy, so I have even more of those characters and worlds to look forward to.

I think a weekend of reading was just what I needed. Things have been kind of hectic and stressful lately, so it was nice to take some time to focus on something I really love and something that (unfortunately) can easily get put on the back burner.

Thanks to Mother Reader for hosting such a great event and to Hannah for inspiring me to join this year’s challenge!

Update #5: 48 Hour Book Challenge of 2014

Finished one more book for the challenge.

photo (5)Update #5:

  • 2 hours reading time (12.5 total)
  • 240 pages read (1556 total)

The Books

Review #5:

I’d started September Girls by Bennett Madison a little while ago and figured that, since I didn’t have a lot of time left in the challenge, I might as well use my time to finish it up. It feels like Madison took Catcher in the Rye, “America’s Next Top Model,” and Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid, put them in a blender, and the result was September Girls. And that’s a pretty interesting smoothie right there. At time I really dug the voice and sense of sadness and desperation. At other points it kind of dragged, and I never really connected with Sam. But I think this is less of it not being a good book than it is it not being the book for me.

Update #4: 48 Hour Book Challenge of 2014

Another book down for the challenge.

photo (4)Update #4:

  • 3.5 hours reading time (10.5 total)
  • 402 pages read (1316 pages total)
  • 1 iced coffee (2 total)

The Books

Review #4:

After Daughter of Smoke and Bone, I was in the mood for something similarly exciting but outside the fantasy realm. Adaptation by Melinda Lo was always on my radar, but for some reason I hadn’t checked it out yet. Definitely glad I did! I was hooked immediately–planes crashing, government cover-ups, weird genetic experiments–and enjoyed that Lo also focused on the characters themselves. Lo handles Reese’s feelings toward both Amber and David with sensitivity, and I appreciated a cast of supporting characters (like Julian and her mom) who felt real as well. Another book in a trilogy (that seems to be the theme for my 48 hour book challenge), I’m interested to see where this story goes.

Note: this one I got as a library download this morning. Holla to electronic library resources!

Update #3: 48 Hour Book Challenge of 2014

An afternoon of reading on the porch was the perfect way to spend a Saturday.

photo (5)Update #3:

  • 4 hours reading time (7 hours total)
  • 418 pages read (914 pages total)
  • 1 break for sushi

The Books

Review #3:

This morning at writing group, Tara lent me Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor. Even though Tara and others had told me it was awesome and that I had to read it, I didn’t know much about it. Which ended up being a huge benefit to my reading experience, because I got to dive into a wild world and enjoy it without any preconceived notions. I loved the lushness of the story and the mythology, the beauty of the setting, and the expansive cast of awesome and memorable characters. (A blue-haired heroine was kind of made for me.) I would have been ob-freakin’-sessed with this book as a teen. Can’t wait to get Days of Blood & Starlight!

Welcome, Ladies and Gentlemen, to the 48 Hour Book Challenge!

Because I don’t tend to plan stuff and life’s been busy lately, I forgot about the 48 Hour Book Challenge until I saw Hannah’s post about it this morning. It got me thinking about what a great reading weekend it was last year and how I haven’t devoted that length of time to reading in a while. So I decided to jump in with the 2014 48 Hour Book Challenge. Here we go, readers!

Start time: June 6, 7:00pm

unnamedUpdate #1:

  • 2 hours of reading time.
  • 285 pages read.
  • Outfit: Ogontz Camp hoodie and shorts

The Books

Review #1: I read Shiver for last year’s 48 Hour Book Challenge, so it seemed like a good choice to start this year’s challenge with the sequel, Linger. It was great to get to return to Mercy Falls and characters like Sam and Grace. Although I think Linger meandered a bit more than Shiver, it kept me intrigued both character-wise and plot-wise. I especially liked getting to see the POVs of Isabel and Cole. I also dug Cole’s theories about what exactly was going on medically with the wolf-shifts. Even though I would have accepted “so there are werewolves,” I like that Stiefvater is concerned about the logic of the world in which her characters exist. Also lots of great swoony bits. Looking forward to finishing up the trilogy–hopefully earlier than next year’s challenge!

Ten Reasons Why You Should Read…Open Road Summer

Around this time of year, I start craving summer vacation, even though I’m way out of high school. Even if I can’t take a summer off, I can turn to some awesome summer vacation-y reading. One of my new favorites? Open Road Summer by Emery Lord. I’d been looking forward to this one for a while and it so delivered. Here are a few reasons to read Open Road Summer.

1. Not a Nice Girl
There are a lot of nice girls in YA–girls who are shy and do what they’re told and wish things could be different. Reagan O’Neill is not a nice girl and I love that. Don’t get me wrong–she’s loyal and funny and the kind of best friend you want around. But I love that she’s also bold and fierce and funny and flirty and makes mistakes. She’s the kind of girl I wouldn’t have expected to be friends with in high school, and would have found myself totally drawn to before realizing “Of course we’re friends!”

2. Nice Guys
Matt Finch, y’all. Meet your new YA crush. Matt’s a former child music star who’s trying to make it as an adult in the music industry. He’s talented and funny and and sweet and open. I just love his chemistry with Reagan.

3. Best Friends Forever
The romance in Open Road Summer is fantastic, but it’s just as much about friendship, which is so refreshing. Reagan and Dee feel like girls who have known each other forever and will always be in each other’s corners. Dee is such a fun character in her own right, too–she doesn’t exist just as a plot device for Reagan, which is how so many “best friend” characters end up feeling. She’s got her own stresses and struggles to deal with, like trying to figure out how to balance wanting a career as a musician with wanting a regular life at home with the guy she loves. (Okay, maybe I need a Dee sequel.)

4. Music and Lyrics
Emery Lord, are you secretly a country-pop-folk music guru? Music pervades Open Road Summer, which makes sense as the main characters are all on a cross-country music road tour. Usually I feel like music lyrics in books fall flat, but Emery seriously nails them. Whenever characters are singing/playing/listening to music, I felt like I could hear the song myself. The only other time I can really think of this happening was with The Commitments by Roddy Doyle. This is major praise coming from me, guys.

5. Road Trip
Reading Open Road Summer was like getting a mini-vacation. The characters cross the country, hitting Memphis and LA and Charlotte and Chicago and lots of stops in between. Even (especially?) if you’re not taking your own road trip this summer, this book will give you all those good travel vibes.

6. Behind the Scenes
Emery does a great job of looking at the life of a rising musician and what challenges, excitement, and stresses go along with that. We get to see the good things, like adorable fans who are just so freaking excited to hear their favorite songs, and the bad things, like pregnancy rumors and being trapped in a photoshoot without getting to eat any of the craft service food without risking makeup ruin. I love that Dee understands that this life has major ups and downs, and her frustrations never feel whiney.

7. Family Ties
For a book largely about friendship and relationships, there are also a lot of awesome family dynamics in here. From Reagan’s complicated family situation to Dee’s supportive family to Matt’s situation with his mom, there are a lot of interesting looks at what it means to be a family and how we connect when times get tough. A majorly pleasant surprise.

8. Photo Opp
Dee’s not the only talented friend in the relationship–Reagan’s a photographer who documents her time on the road. I loved this aspect of her personality, and also that Reagan mentions things like particular types of cameras and having taken classes at school and photo editing. It wasn’t a major plot issue, but it made Reagan feel that much more real.

9. YA/NA
“New Adult” has been a phrase that’s been batted around a lot over the last couple of years, and I feel like reading Open Road Summer made me think “oh, this is kind of what it is.” Dee and Matt are navigating their careers, and Reagan is figuring out where her life is going next. Although I’d still classify Open Road Summer as pretty clearly YA, I can see it having a lot of crossover appeal to slightly older fans, and I think it’s a good indication of what New Adult could be.

10. Emery Lord Is Awesome
Emery and I are agent-sisters (yay Taylor Martindale!) and she was one of the first people I interacted with post-signing. From the first email exchange, Emery has been one of the sweetest, funniest, most genuine people in the YA world. I’m so excited for readers to experience her lovely book and to see her career grow.

Open Road Summer is available now, so make sure to add it to your summer reading list!