Tag Archives: YA

My 10 Most Recent 4.5-5 Star Reads

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is 10 Of My Most Recent 5 Star Reads. Since I don’t hand out a lot of 5 stars, I decided to expand it to 4.5 stars as well. The list starts from the most recently read. I read the first three this year, and the latter seven last year.

1. Salt to the Sea by Ruta Septys

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As you’ll see again, I have become a Ruta Septys fan this year. She writes such moving historical fiction about pockets of history that are very well-known. I will admit I was a little confused in the beginning of this book, but I got to know these characters and their stories and that made the journey for me. Loved it.

2. The Fixer by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

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This was enjoyable for me all the way through and the ending legitimately shocked me! I’m looking forward to The Long Game!

3. Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Septys

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Again, just seriously heartbreaking but good. The ending of this one felt abrupt for me, but upon further reflection I understood why she chose to end it as she did.

4. Killer Instinct by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

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While I enjoyed The Naturals, the pacing for Killer Instinct was on-point the whole time!

5. Winter by Marissa Meyer

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While still not my favorite of the series, nor what I believe to the strongest book of the series, Winter was a satisfying ending for The Lunar Chronicles.

6. Don’t Touch by Rachel M. Wilson

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Even though in hindsight I see Don’t Touch more as a four star read, I reviewed it with a 4.5 star rating, and I did really enjoy it as I read it. It’s definitely underrated in the YA book world, and I think it’s worth a read if you have any interest in YA fiction exploring mental health.

7. On The Fence by Kasie West

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Kasie West is all about the fluffy contemporary, though this one did have a more serious undertone towards the end. What I enjoyed most about it, however, was the friendship-turned-romance between Charlie and Braden.

8. The Last Time We Say Goodbye by Cynthia Hand

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Sucker punch to the gut, in the best way possible.

9. The Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson

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THAT ENDING. How did Brandon Sanderson make me love it and hate it but mostly love it all at once?

10. The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord

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If you’ve read my blog ever, you know how I feel about this one. Slow burn, nerdy banter, friendship… yes please!

What are some your latest 5 (or 4.5) star rated books (or new favorites if you don’t rate)? If you’ve read any of these books, did you also rate them high?

SE YA Fest 2016 Recap

We have a few authors who live in Nashville and we have a few come for signings. Since I don’t live in Nashville proper though, getting to these events on weeknights just doesn’t happen (at least, not for any of the authors who have come so far. I would make an exception for Marissa Meyer FOR SURE and probably for Brandon Sanderson as well). But to have a huge event with so many authors so much closer to home in SE YA Fest was just a thrill! It was a non-stop day of panels and signings (not to mention I still had a lot going on after it was all over)! It was the first time we had this event here, and it seemed to be a hit, so I hope it’s not the last!

First I’ll recap my experience, and then I’ll share some things you should know before going to a book festival like SE-YA Fest!

The way this worked was that there were multiples panels happening starting from 9 going into the afternoon, with signings happening at the same time and in between. There were three different panels at 9, and I actually didn’t have a super strong interest in any of them so I initially thought I might not try too hard to make it to one of them, but something came up and I wanted to leave the event a little earlier than I originally planned, so I decided to make the most of my day and go first thing. So the first panel I decided to go to was with Helene Dunbar, Bethany Griffin, Katie McGarry, and CJ Redwine. I haven’t read any of their books but some of them sound interesting to me, and I thought it was about time I see CJ Redwine since she lives in Nashville. I had also actually seen Bethany Griffin and Katie McGarry on a panel before at the SCBWI Midsouth conference.

IMG_1168Highlights of this panel:

  • When asked to describe their books in one word, Helene Dunbar chose intense, Bethany Griffin chose dark, Katie McGarry chose raw, and CJ Redwine had no idea, but someone suggested real and she seemed satisfied with that.
  • CJ mentioned that she actually got her agent with an adult manuscript and they tried for two years to sell to that market. When that wasn’t working, she thought of how much she loved YA and wrote for it instead.
  • Katie lives out her research. She has done mixed martial arts and hung out with motorcycle clubs just to get a feel of the culture in her books.
  • Katie also said she is quite the planner and will have her entire book mapped out, but her characters always kidnap her and do their own thing with the story.
  • Each shared stories about the author experiences that meant the most to them, and they all were along the lines of someone being touched by their story or someone getting into reading because of them.

After that panel I got my book signed by Sharon Cameron, and wandered around a little bit.

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The next panel I went to was Maggie Stiefvater, Tessa Gratton, and Brenna Yovanoff. All three of these ladies were funny, but Maggie truly had us all laughing, plus she’s fascinating!

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Highlights of this panel:

  • We learned a lot about Maggie: She loves really fast cars, she played bagpipes in college, and she has a lot of goats and other animals on her land in Virginia.
  • All of Tessa’s writing is born out of her anger.
  • Brenna loves pink, but also monsters.
  • The three of them are critique partners and have two books with a novella from each of them with commentary about the writing called The Curiosities.
  • Stiefvater is Maggie’s husband’s last name that she took.
  • Maggie said it’s hard for her to say for sure which her favorite of her books is because she loves everything about The Dream Thieves, but it doesn’t stand alone, and she also absolutely loves The Scorpio Races.
  • While Maggie does not usually cry over books and movies, reading The Time Traveler’s Wife for the second time made her ugly-snot-cry, and from that she decided her goal in life was to write a book that made other people ugly-snot-cry.

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I went back to the signing lines and then I hit up a panel with Sharon Cameron, Linda Sue Park, and Tracy Barrett.

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All three have written some variation of historical fiction, so much of the panel focused on that.

Highlights:

  • Linda Sue insisted that if you find the right historical fiction, anyone can come to love the genre.
  • All three, but especially Linda Sue, insisted the importance of writing what you loved and are passionate about. Tracy and Linda Sue have written about periods in history that aren’t very popular or well-known, but their stories have sold and resonated with readers.
  • Sharon talked about the writing process that has worked for her when she doesn’t always have a set, consistent schedule to devote to writing is to steal every moment available for writing.
  • All three ladies said that historical fiction is important because history repeats itself, and we should be aware to try to not make all the same mistakes again. Plus, people hundreds of years ago lived similarly to how we do now in terms of desires and such.

Then I had a quick lunch before I headed out to my last panel for the day, which I had to leave a little early, but I still got some good info from, with Victoria Schwab, Gwenda Bond, Beth Revis, and Kristin O’Donnell Tubb.

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They went through a lightning round of silly questions before they got to audience questions. From these we learned…

  • If they had to choose between still having cheese as an option for the rest of their lives but not chocolate, choosing chocolate over cheese, or allowing someone to die, Victoria and Beth would let someone die. Gwenda said cheese and Kristin said chocolate.
  • Victoria just got a Master’s degree in Edinburgh that is basically in Monsters (she explained what it actually was but I don’t remember the exacts).
  • When asked about the one super power they would like to have… Victoria said time, but she has no desire to meddle with the past, she just wishes she could control the timing of the future. Gwenda wanted teleportation. Beth wants to be a Time Lord so she can time travel and have teleportation. Kristin wanted invisibility, and Gwenda said only sneaks want that.
  • Gwenda has a fasicnation with the circus, which is why she wrote Girl on a Wire.
  • When asked about their self-care routines, they all laughed and Victoria actually face-planted onto the table.

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Now, things you should know before you go to a book festival like this one:

  • Bring lots of water! I was smart enough to bring one bottle of water, but I really should have brought two, or tried to find a water fountain instead of buying another overpriced bottle. As long as you can figure out how to keep it with you without it being a burden, something like a Nalgene would also be great.
  • Bring snacks! This is one I didn’t do and wish I had! I ended up buying a snack at the bookstore to help carry me over when I ended up with a late lunch. Which brings me to…
  • EAT SOMETHING. Due to the craziness of me trying to leave a little early, I pushed back my lunch until about 1:30 and that was tough. The snack I bought helped but I would definitely recommend eating closer to your normal time if you can (which for me would have been noon). This is really a good rule for life in general, but when you’re doing something like this you don’t want a screwy blood-sugar level.
  • Have a plan but be flexible. I had a game plan of what I wanted to do which kept me on task, but things didn’t always move as quickly as I anticipated (some of those signing lines are long!), and had I been more flexible by keeping the afternoon open, I could have probably enjoyed myself a little more by spacing out my signings and eating earlier (though don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy myself!).
  • Dress for comfort, not style. I wore tennis shoes, jeans, and a casual shirt and I’m so glad I did. It was a pain to haul around the rain jacket I ended up not needing, but with a 50% chance of rain I felt I couldn’t be too careful (side note: it was nearly perfect during the event, but later in the day it was pouring, so we were fortunate!). Also, Victoria Schwab actually commented that she liked my shirt, a totally unexpected compliment that made me happy!
  • Have something to say to the authors. I’m completely the worst at this, and thankfully they were pretty good at keep the conversation flowing themselves since do this on the regular. But the best conversation I ended up having with an author during the day was with with Sharon Cameron, because when I told her I had seen her at SCBWI conferences, we immediately had something in common to talk about outside of the normal “I like your books.”
  • Get to know the area if possible. This wasn’t something I didn’t even have to think of because the venue was at my Alma Mater so I was very familiar with it, but after having to help out someone from out of state, I understood why it might be best to try your best to familiarize yourself with the venue beforehand. It would have been difficult to do at this festival, apart from the map and maybe scoping out the buildings before everything began.
  • Have fun! That’s the whole point of the event, of course!

The books I got signed!:

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Have you been to an event like this one? What did you learn from it? Which fact about these authors that I shared surprised you most?

The Top 10 Swoon-Worthy Book Couples

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is a Valentine’s Day themed freebie! Two years ago I did the top 10 book romances that make me swoon, but I have several new favorites now so I wanted to do it again. In no particular order…

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(Excuse me while I go cry my eyes out now.)

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(Though Rachel Hartman proceeded to crush my heart in Shadow Scale.)

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All photos that are not from movies are from Unsplash

Who do you feel are the most swoon-worthy book couples?

Top 10 Tuesday: In Another Time…

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is Top Ten Historical Settings You Love/ Ten Historical Settings You’d Love To See or Top Futuristic Books You Love/Ten Futuristic Societies I’d Love To Read in Books. I wanted to do a mix of historical settings and futuristic ones, so I wasn’t sure how best to sum this up in a catchy title. But here are ten settings I’d like to see from other periods of time in books… be it past or present. And if you know of something in said settings, please feel free to recommend them to me!

1. The 1950’s

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Thanks to a fifties dress up day at school once upon a time, I fell in love with poodle skirts and become obsessed with the 1950’s for a while. While my love for it isn’t quite as strong now, I still find it an interesting time period and would love to read a YA novel set in 1950’s America!

2. Future a la Gattaca

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There are two things I love about the movie Gattaca in terms of its futuristic setting. One, it’s about a time in which society only views those who have been genetically engineered as capable of taking on the larger roles of society, while those who have not been engineered are doomed to a life of servitude. It’s a fascinating concept and Gattaca only scratches the surface with it. The second is that it has such a classic, timeless feel to it even though it’s set in the future. It’s a mix of, ironically, a 1950’s classic style with the sort of sleek/steel looks we often associate with the future. I don’t want to see a book completely rip off Gattaca and I’m not looking for a novelization of it either, but something that draws inspiration from it would be interesting to see.

(FYI, if genetic engineering and its consequences fascinate you I would recommend the YA duology For Darkness Shows the Stars and Across a Star-Swept Sea. It’s set in a different world and the consequences are surprising!)

3. French Revolution

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I never had an interest in the French Revolution until I watched the movie Les Miserables. Something about watching Marius and these other young men and boys risking their lives for their cause in such a ragamuffin way was really interesting to me. Now I would love to see a YA book where the French Revolution served as the backdrop of the story.

4. Space Station/Spaceship Living

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I have read a couple of books with spaceship living, and my WIP actually has a space station setting for part of the book, but I want to see more YA books that feature families living in space.

5. World War II

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There are already a lot of WWII books out there, but it’s period in time that fascinates me. And with these three books above, they explore three very different experiences and there’s so much more to be told.

6. Alternate History of any Time

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The only alternate history I have read so far is the Leviathan trilogy by Scott Westerfeld and it was interesting! It’s fun to explore “what if” scenarios when it comes to events in our past.

7. Spy Story 1960’s Style

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I presume because of the Cold War, spy stories were big in the 1960’s. Last year I randomly wanted to see/read some spy stuff a la the 1960’s, though I never got around to seeking it out (I would have probably watched The Man from U.N.C.L.E. but I wasn’t pleased with how it looked like the woman’s role was going to play out). I still would be intrigued to see something of this nature in YA format.

8. Clones

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I know there have been books with clones, but very few have actually appealed to me (though if you have any recs, please share). This is another interest I have had for a while in science fiction though and would love to see it well-done in the YA world, something probably akin to Orphan Black (though I haven’t actually watched the show so I can’t say for sure, but the idea seems right)!

9. American Revolutionary War

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Any other American Girl fans out there who remember Felicity? She lived during the Revolutionary War, and I think it would be interesting to see a YA novel set during the time period. There would also definitely be a forbidden romance between a Loyalist and a Patriot.

10. A Future of Technology Dependence

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This is a theme that has been explored before, and in this day and age I think it’s worth continued exploration. We live in a time where toddlers can operate smart phones. How will this affect them as they grow up? What will future generations glued to their screens mean? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not anti-technology (clearly since I have a blog), but it’s important to consider the ramification of technology with moderation. Free to Fall did a pretty good job of this, and I’d be interested in more YA fiction with similar themes.

What time settings, past or future, would you like to read about?

Top 10 New-To-Me Favorite Authors I Read For The First Time In 2015

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is Top 10 New-To-Me Favorite Authors I Read For The First Time In 2015. This week’s list is in no particular order.

1. Rachel M. Wilson

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I’ve been getting a little more into contemporaries this year, and Don’t Touch was one that I really enjoyed. I hope Rachel M. Wilson will set some more of her future books in the South!

2. Sharon Cameron

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Fun fact: Sharon Cameron is local to me and I didn’t even realize it until AFTER I had just seen her at a writing conference (as an attendee) AND asked for Rook for my birthday. Maybe next year at the conference I’ll tell her how much I enjoyed Rook.

3. Renée Ahdieh

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Even though it took me some time to get into this book, once I got into it I really loved the cinematic writing and the complicated characters. I’m looking forward to the sequel!

4. William Ritter

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I haven’t read Beastly Bones yet, but I thought Jackaby was a fun read. I look forward to more of Ritter’s books.

5. Cynthia Hand

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I found Cynthia Hand’s The Last Time We Say Goodbye compelling, and while I probably won’t be diving into her paranormal books, I do hope to read more contemporary from her in the future.

6. Shannon Hale

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Austenland was a fun, light read for me, and I think I would enjoy reading more of Shannon’s works in the future.

7. Emery Lord

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I LOVED The Start of Me and You ridiculous amounts, and it has made me very excited about future Emery books! I admit I’m still not sure if I want to read Open Road Summer though, since the characters don’t sound as likable. But I am all about When We Collide when it comes out!

8. Cristin Terrill

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Her debut is one of the best YA sci-fi books I’ve read, that was also filled with elements of contemporary, thriller, and dystopia, but came together so well. I need more by Cristin Terrill!

9. Annie F. Downs

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I don’t read much non-fiction, but I will be reading more Annie F. Downs in the future. Reading her book was like having coffee with a friend.

10. Ally Carter

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I read two Ally Carter books this year: All Fall Down and the first Gallagher girls. I liked the former more than the latter, but plan to continue both series. Ally Carter is definitely a new-to-me go-to for quick, fun reads, with just a little dash of danger.

Who are your new favorite authors you discovered this year?

Also, random side note: In case you have missed it, my Twitter handle has changed from @acps927 to @acshawYA. This is also my name for all social media now: Tumblr, Pinterest, and now my new Instagram account! Definitely be sure to follow me on Instagram if you haven’t already!