Monday, September 30, 2019

Reading Roundup: August 2019

Well, I'm finally caught up on these monthly reading roundups! At least until tomorrow:)

1. SKYLARK AND WALLCREEPER by Anne O'Brien Carelli An informative MG historical set in a small French town during World War II. Certainly worth a read.

2. ALL THAT MAKES LIFE BRIGHT by Josi S. Kilpack A novelized account of the early years of Harriet Beecher Stowe's marriage to Calvin Stowe. This story was hard to read at times, as, in Calvin's mind, Harriet never seemed to measure up to his late wife's legacy, but I appreciated their keep-trying attitude. I also appreciated Harriet's preference for writing over cooking and cleaning:)

3. EVER THE HUNTED by Erin Summerill The first in Ms. Summerill's YA fantasy duology, EVER THE HUNTED follows the outcast daughter of the king's favored--and recently murdered--bounty hunter. When the king's adviser tells her that the crown's prime suspect is her father's longtime apprentice--and Britta's longtime crush--she sets off to hunt him down. This could have gotten bogged down in a flat journey motif, but Britta's main objective shifted relatively often, so it kept things interesting.

4. MISS WILTON'S WALTZ by Josi S. Kilpack The last in my most recent flurry of Josi S. Kilpack requests, this sweet historical romance was also the hardest to remember. I read it as quickly as the others, though, so I must have enjoyed it:)

5. THE LAND OF FORGOTTEN GIRLS by Erin Entrada Kelly Ms. Kelly is the queen of heartbreaking MG reads, and this one was no different. It might not be the right book for kids who've grappled with abandonment or verbal abuse, though.

6. BLOODLEAF by Crystal Smith I liked this one a lot more than I expected to. The first chapters reminded me of Mary E. Pearson's THE KISS OF DECEPTION, but even though the twists were easier to see coming, the plot diverged enough from THE KISS OF DECEPTION's that it very much held my interest. I'll have to keep an eye out for its sequel, GREYTHORNE, which comes out next year.

7. VOW OF THIEVES by Mary E. Pearson Speaking of Mary E. Pearson, her sequel to DANCE OF THIEVES came out this month, and it didn't disappoint! I very much enjoyed this duology.

Did I really only read seven books in the month of August? Clearly, I've been slacking!

Monday, September 16, 2019

Reading Roundup: July 2019

Here's the second installment in my reading roundup catch-up!

1. INSIGHTS FROM A PROPHET'S LIFE: RUSSELL M. NELSON by Sheri Dew Russell M. Nelson, the current president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has been in the spotlight for as long as I've been in alive. Still, Ms. Dew managed to compile a pretty vast collection of lessons and anecdotes I'd never heard (or just forgotten). I liked learning more about his early career as a pioneering heart surgeon and the Christlike service he's performed in the United States and around the world. (Interesting side note: Ms. Dew is the president and CEO of the book's mainstream publisher. I wish I were the president and CEO of a mainstream publisher:) )

2. ONE DARK THRONE by Kendare Blake The cliffhanger ending--almost literally--of THREE DARK CROWNS sent me scrambling for this book, but I ended up liking it a little less than I liked the first. That might have been because my favorite of the triplets, Katharine, was wildly different in this sequel. (She had a very good reason to be different, and yet I, along with Pietyr, still missed the old Katharine.)

3. TWO DARK REIGNS by Kendare Blake Perhaps unsurprisingly, I liked this third book in the series a little less than I liked the second. Whereas the first book's plot felt tight and expertly crafted, I thought this one's plot meandered. It made me wonder if the books were victims of their own success (i.e., if the publisher asked Ms. Blake to stretch them out).

4. ARCHENEMIES by Marissa Meyer A fitting sequel to RENEGADES. These books are super long, but the world is detailed enough--and the characters and their relationships are conflicted enough--that their overall page counts just let you sink into them.

5. WE HUNT THE FLAME by Hafsah Faizal I'd been looking forward to this YA fantasy for months (at least in part because Ms. Faizal designed this website!), and the opening chapters were super promising. But once the book settled into its unfortunately generic journey motif, it had a harder time holding my interest.

6. HER GOOD NAME by Josi S. Kilpack A Christian romantic suspense that reminded me of the sorts of books I read as a young teenager. Hooray for nostalgic reads!

7. DIPLOMATIC IMMUNITY by Brodi Ashton A YA contemporary that poses an intriguing question: what shenanigans do diplomats' children get away with in our nation's capital? Ace reporter Piper Baird, who just won a scholarship to one of DC's top prep schools, is determined to find out. I thoroughly enjoyed Piper's voice and read this one pretty fast.

8. THE LAST WORD by Samantha Hastings I got to hear Ms. Hastings and several of her fellow Novel Nineteens talk at my local B&N, and this book sounded so fun that I had to pick it up. It didn't disappoint!

9. UNDER LOCKER AND KEY by Allison K. Hymas This MG contemporary was a rollicking read about a self-described retrieval specialist and a job gone wrong. I thought it was reminiscent of DON'T VOTE FOR ME in both setting and tone, and I think David and Jeremy would be the best of friends:)

10. THE LADY OF THE LAKES by Josi S. Kilpack A novelized account of Sir Walter Scott's in-real-life romance(s) that I quite enjoyed. (Did you know Walter Scott was knighted after discovering a cache of long-lost Scottish jewels? Because I sure didn't!) The book included chapter notes that separated fact from fiction, but I returned the book without remembering to read them. Still, the general premise made for a compelling story.

Have you read any of these, and if so, what did you think?

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Reading Roundup: June 2019

I've fallen woefully behind in these reading roundups, but I'm going to try to catch up over the next couple of weeks. Read on for June's reviews!

1. TURTLES ALL THE WAY DOWN by John Green If John Green wrote a mystery, it would sound just like this book. *pauses to listen to earpiece* Ladies and gentlemen, I've just been informed that John Green did write this book, so there you have it. I was right. I know Mr. Green is sometimes criticized for writing teenage characters who are far wittier and engaging than, say, actual teenagers, but I'd rather read a book with characters who say cool stuff than characters who, you know, don't.

2. STELLA BY STARLIGHT by Sharon M. Draper A delicate MG historical with a message that's still timely (since we can't seem to figure out how to treat one another with kindness and respect). Ms. Draper mentioned that this book was loosely based on her grandmother's childhood, which is super sweet, but the storytelling may have suffered because she was trying to be true to a factual account instead of a made-up one.

3. THREE DARK CROWNS by Kendare Blake I FLEW through this book. Though the premise seems far-fetched--three triplet princesses with competing supernatural powers must kill each other off if they want to take the throne--Ms. Blake totally sold it.

4. THE BEAUTY OF DARKNESS by Mary E. Pearson I LOVED Ms. Pearson's DANCE OF THIEVES, so imagine my delight when I learned she'd penned other books in the same well-thought-out world. The first half in particular completely sucked me in, and I must admit that I fell for Ms. Pearson's trickery hook, line, and sinker.

5. THE EMPEROR'S OSTRICH by Julie Berry No one does MG absurdity quite like Ms. Berry. Though I probably enjoyed THE SCANDALOUS SISTERHOOD OF PRICKWILLOW PLACE a little more, this was still a ton of fun.

6. THE KINGDOM by Jess Rothenberg One of my local librarians loves to talk books with me every time I check out, and this was one of her recent recommendations. I probably didn't love it quite as much as she did, but it was a diverting read.

7. FIELD NOTES ON LOVE by Jennifer E. Smith A contemporary romance with a ripped-from-the-headlines high-concept hook, this one's right up there with THE COMEBACK SEASON, THIS IS WHAT HAPPY LOOKS LIKE, and HELLO, GOODBYE, AND EVERYTHING IN BETWEEN on my list of Ms. Smith's favorites. (What can I say? I have a LOT of favorites...)

8. RENEGADES by Marissa Meyer This was a blind pickup at my local library, and it turned out to be a hit! Though the plot does move methodically, especially at first, I found both the characters and the world to be wonderfully developed. A much more nuanced look at a world controlled by superheroes than your average summer blockbuster.

What have you been reading lately?

Monday, June 17, 2019

Reading Roundup: April and May 2019

I'm a month behind again, but better late than never, right? Read on for my readlist (a term I'm totally trademarking)!

April

1. PAPER CHAINS by Elaine Vickers A thoughtful MG contemporary about family and friendship. I especially liked the hockey angle and the fact that Katie was adopted. As an adopted kid myself, I think we may be an underrepresented demographic in children's literature.

2. THE GLASS SPARE by Lauren DeStefano An adventurous YA fantasy with a super intriguing concept, this book stars Wil Heidle, a princess whose touch turns living things into gemstones. Sometimes I thought the plot took a backseat to Wil's relationship with an equally cursed prince, so if you don't like your fantasy with a healthy dose of romance, this might be one to skip.

3. FAME, FATE, AND THE FIRST KISS by Kasie West Ms. West always gets an automatic read from me, and this book might just be my new favorite of hers. I loved spending time on the set of a campy book-to-film adaptation of a best-selling vampire romance, and I also loved that Lacey's love interest turned out NOT to be her costar.

4. INTERNMENT by Samira Ahmed This near-future YA contemporary imagines a world in which our government has rounded up Muslim Americans for no other reason than that they're Muslim American and incarcerated them in so-called relocation camps. I'd really, really like to think we as Americans learned our lesson when we did this very thing to Japanese Americans in the 1940s, but if anti-Semitism is on the rise in Germany, I guess anything's possible.

5. KING OF SCARS by Leigh Bardugo I read SHADOW AND BONE years ago and never made it past that book. Then I picked up SIX OF CROWS and was completely blown away. KING OF SCARS, in my opinion, was somewhere between the two--not as intricately plotted as SIX OF CROWS and its sequel, though the writing was pretty great. I got the impression as I was reading KING OF SCARS that the main characters were reprising roles from the Shadow and Bone trilogy, and when I looked it up after the fact, that appears to be the case. That said, I didn't have a problem following the action even though I never read SHADOW AND BONE's sequels.

6. THE LAST VOYAGE OF POE BLYTHE by Ally Condie The first chapter of this book really took me by surprise, and then the rest of the book also kept me on my toes. I never knew where it was headed, which definitely kept me turning pages. The setting, a mining ship, was also super interesting.

7. THE GILDED WOLVES by Roshani Chokshi Set during the Roaring Twenties, this YA historical fantasy is definitely my new favorite of Ms. Chokshi's. The plot was multilayered, the characters leaped off the page, and the rich historical setting was a character unto itself.

8. THE CURSED SEA by Lauren DeStefano A fitting sequel to THE GLASS SPARE. I especially liked how Ms. DeStefano allowed the relationships between her characters to drive the story's conflict.

May

9. THE LIGHT OVER LONDON by Julia Kelly I'm a sucker for World War II epics, and I particularly enjoyed this one. Though they took some time to get to, my favorite scenes involved Louise and her anti-aircraft unit. The guns they set up around London to take down the Luftwaffe were manned in large part by women. They required a whole team to operate--spotters, calculators, and, like, coordinate inputers--and though, legally, only men could fire them, women often served in every other position. Who knew?

10. CONTAGION by Erin Bowman If you've been looking for a fast-paced sci-fi thriller, look no further than CONTAGION. The first couple of chapters were a little slow, but the rest of the book more than made up for it. I flew through this one.

11. THE LAST YEAR OF THE WAR by Susan Meissner Ms. Meissner is another of my go-to, must-read authors; the fact that this latest book was also a World War II epic was just the icing on the cake. I didn't enjoy this one as much as SECRETS OF A CHARMED LIFE, perhaps because I was already familiar with the plight of Japanese Americans during World War II, but it surprised me to learn a handful of German Americans also found themselves imprisoned in these relocation camps. My favorite part was the last third, in which one of the main characters was repatriated to Germany (despite being born in Iowa).

12. THE KISS OF DECEPTION by Mary E. Pearson I read Ms. Pearson's DANCE OF THIEVES a few months ago and absolutely adored it, so imagine my delight when I discovered that new series was a spin-off of The Remnant Chronicles, which started with this book. I enjoyed this one, too, though not as much as DANCE OF THIEVES. (Also, like THE GLASS SPARE, if you prefer the romantic subplots in your YA fantasies to remain subplots, this might not be the book for you.)

13. THE HEART OF BETRAYAL by Mary E. Pearson The sequel to THE KISS OF DECEPTION. I liked this one even better, as the plot was more detailed.

14. DRY by Neal Shusterman and Jarrod Shusterman This YA thriller scared the living daylights out of me, as I can imagine a metropolis in the American Southwest running out of water someday. Well worth a read.

15. FUZZY MUD by Louis Sachar Not as memorable as HOLES or as wacky as SIDEWAYS STORIES, but this MG sci-fi could definitely hook reluctant readers, as it's a quick and easy read.

16. LOVELY WAR by Julie Berry This World War I epic has a most unusual frame: Hephaestus, the Greek god of fire, catches Aphrodite, his adulterous wife, red-handed and puts her and Ares, the Greek god of war, on trial in a Parisian hotel room. As a part of her defense, Aphrodite tells the stories of a pair of star-crossed couples who met during World War I. I was indifferent to the frame, but I thoroughly enjoyed the stories of our pair of star-crossed couples. In fact, I enjoyed them so much I went and bought this book after turning the library's back in.

17. CHARLIE HERNÁNDEZ AND THE LEAGUE OF SHADOWS by Ryan Calejo A fun MG adventure built around various elements of Hispanic mythology. The voice was also great. I think kid readers will really love this one.

18. MERCI SUÁREZ CHANGES GEARS by Meg Medina I really enjoyed this MG contemporary. I don't generally think of MG contemporaries as page-turners, but this one was for me. I guess that Newbery committee really does know what they're doing:)

Have you read any of these books? If so, what did you think? If not, what are you reading? Anything I need to add to the stack on my nightstand?

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Want to Win a Copy of THE MULTIPLYING MYSTERIES OF MOUNT TEN?

If you're reading this, then I assume you do:) Head over to friend and critique partner Michelle Mason's blog for your chance to win (and there's an interview to boot)!

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Five Fun Facts About THE MULTIPLYING MYSTERIES OF MOUNT TEN


Want some behind-the-scenes tidbits about THE MULTIPLYING MYSTERIES OF MOUNT TEN? Then check out the five fun facts I shared with YAYOMG! But some of them will make you work. For instance, can you figure out which two classic MG mysteries most inspired mine?

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Happy Book Birthday to THE MULTIPLYING MYSTERIES OF MOUNT TEN!

They say you should write the book that only you can write, and if that's true, then this is more my book than any of the others. I solved my first logic puzzle when I was, like, ten years old, so I guess you could say that I've been writing this book for a long, long, long, long, long time:)

About THE MULTIPLYING MYSTERIES OF MOUNT TEN:

"Twelve-year-old painter Esther can't wait to attend Camp Vermeer, the most prestigious art camp around. But when her stepdad accidentally drives up the wrong mountain, she lands at Camp Archimedes--a math camp!

"Determined to prove herself to the other campers, she tackles a brain-teaser that’s supposed to be impossible--and solves it in a single day. But not everyone is happy about it...someone wants her out of camp at any cost, and starts leaving cryptic, threatening notes all over the camp’s grounds. Esther doesn’t know who to trust--will she solve this riddle before it’s too late?

"Featuring tricky logic puzzles readers can solve along with the characters and starring a unique, smart, and crafty young heroine, this story has just the right mix of mystery, humor, and wit."


If you'd told ten-year-old me that I was going to major in either math or English, I would have guessed English all the way. And yet I think my math degree made me an even better writer, and if it gave me the confidence to write this story down, then I couldn't be gladder.

“The isolated setting provides the perfect backdrop for this fast-paced mystery
by Van Dolzer starring a quirky crew of well-drawn characters.”
--Publishers Weekly

“It's a lot of fun as readers participate in Esther's journey and solve puzzles alongside her... 
The ending successfully twists readers' expectations,
and those who like thought puzzles will enjoy this book.”
--Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

“Esther herself is solid and earnest, the math aspect is engaging,
and the exuberant energy of the story is contagious.”
--Kirkus

"A good middle school mystery that includes, art, literature, logic, and multiple subplots.
...Compares well to CHASING VERMEER and THE WESTING GAME.”
--School Library Connection

I'll host a giveaway or two either here or on Twitter over the next couple of months, but in the meantime, you can order THE MULTIPLYING MYSTERIES OF MOUNT TEN from all the usual suspects:


So get out there and math it up!

Friday, April 5, 2019

Reading Roundup: March 2019

Time for another reading roundup! Here are the books I read last month, with a thought or two on each:

1. THE SOMEDAY BIRDS by Sally J. Pla Contemporary MG at its finest, this heart-breaking book has one of the sweetest MCs I've encountered in a while. A must-read for birders and MG lovers alike.

2. LOVE À LA MODE by Kate Stephanie Strohm If I were an agent, I would have pitched this book as ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS meets Top Chef. Of course, I would have had to pitch it AFTER reading it at once and e-mailing Ms. Strohm to offer her representation, but I would have done just that, because I loved it that much.

3. THE DARKDEEP by Ally Condie and Brendan Reichs I don't generally read horror, MG or otherwise, but when I do, I read the stuff written for ten- to twelve-year-olds:) This one held my interest, though I wished the kids had learned more about the Darkdeep's origins. Maybe they will in the sequel...

4. ARU SHAH AND THE END OF TIME by Roshani Chokshi This one reminded me of Sayantani DasGupta's THE SERPENT'S SECRET (though the characters in this one spent more time in the real world). Other readers have reported that the plotting in both books feels kind of random and haphazard, but I don't really know enough about Indian storytelling to make that kind of judgment call. Not that my reluctant reader cares. I passed the book to him as soon as I was done with it, and the first chapter reeled him in. He's been learning about Greek and Roman mythology in school, so this is a nice complement.

5. CHECK ME OUT by Becca Wilhite Though this book was billed as sweet romance, I might have liked it a lot more if they'd made the MC younger and just billed it as YA. Her voice read really young to me, and she came across as immature.

6. DANCE OF THIEVES by Mary E. Pearson I ADORED this book. Honestly, I could probably gush for several paragraphs (at least), but I'll say just this instead: the characters' goals were so well-drawn and so at odds with one another that, when one of the MCs was faced with a terrible choice, I had no idea how the scene was going to play out because I couldn't picture her NOT making either decision.

7. THE SECRET OF THE INDIA ORCHID by Nancy Campbell Allen Part historical romance, part Mission: Impossible-style thriller, this book was kind of a departure for the author and the publisher. Though I applaud Ms. Allen for thinking outside the box, I often found myself wishing we could focus on the romance OR the hunt for the NOC list stolen British documents. Because it wanted to be both, I think it ended up as neither.

And that's it from me! What have you been reading lately? Anything I need to add to the stack of books on my nightstand?

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Reading Roundup: January and February 2019

As you've probably noticed, I haven't been the best blogger in the last few months years (decades?). I LOVE interviewing writing folks and hosting blog contests, but those things take a lot of time, so I've had to cut back. Cut WAY back.

The one thing I haven't cut back on is reading. I LOVE reading maybe even more than I love writing, and staying up on market trends and what publishers are looking for can't be anything but helpful. What I'm trying to say is, I read quite a few books, and since we're all about books, I thought it might be nice to share.

I'm going to try to post a reading roundup once a month (and if we're REALLY lucky, I might be able to post something else in between, too). So without further ado, here are the books I've read since the beginning of the year, with a few thoughts on each:

January

1. BOY BITES BUG by Rebecca Petruck I loved, loved, LOVED Ms. Petruck's debut, STEERING TOWARD NORMAL--you can read my recommendation, if you feel so inclined--and like that book, BOY BITES BUG tackles a tough topic in an age-appropriate way. If you like MG contemporary that balances humor and heart, this one is worth checking out.

2. FULL TILT by Neal Shusterman Not the best of Mr. Shusterman's I've read, but he did write this book quite a while ago. (I found it at the library while I was browsing the YA section.) If you like gut-punching YA contemporary, try BRUISER or CHALLENGER DEEP; for amazing YA sci-fi--or amazing YA anything--definitely start with SCYTHE.

3. NOT IF I SAVE YOU FIRST by Ally Carter I don't know how I missed this one, as Ms. Carter is one of my go-to authors, but I'm so glad Michelle Mason put this one back on my radar! It was a fun mix of romance, adventure, and suspense.

4. THE CROWN'S FATE by Evelyn Skye I wasn't overwhelmed by THE CROWN'S GAME, this book's predecessor, but when I saw this one on the shelf at my handy-dandy library, I remembered it fondly enough to pick this one up. Happily, I enjoyed this one even more. Tsarist Russia lends itself so well to YA historical fantasy.

5. RESISTANCE by Jennifer A. Nielsen An insightful read about the work of Jewish couriers during the Nazis' occupation of Poland. Though I didn't connect as deeply with the fictional characters as I wanted to, I thought the story itself was extremely important.

6. REAL FRIENDS by Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham I won this one in a giveaway and couldn't have been more excited, as I have a graphic novel fan who also happens to struggle with making the right friends. I got through this book in only a couple of sittings and immediately shared it with him.

7. FLAME IN THE MIST by Renee Ahdieh I enjoyed this book way more than I thought I would. Though the characters spent more time thinking than I would have liked, there was still plenty of plot, and their personalities really popped. (And in Ms. Ahdieh's defense, I HATE writing introspection, so my gripe probably says more about the quality of MY writing than it does about hers.)

8. SMOKE IN THE SUN by Renee Ahdieh The sequel to FLAME IN THE MIST, as you probably surmised:) I liked this one, too (though, since I read these back to back, I can't really separate them now).

February

9. DARE MIGHTY THINGS by Heather Kaczynski The concept here is great: several dozen young adults are vying for a single spot on a manned mission to...somewhere. Though the plot did develop slowly, it mostly held my attention (once I got over the fact that the characters are too old to be in a YA novel).

10. ONE GIANT LEAP by Heather Kaczynski The sequel to DARE MIGHTY THINGS, as you probably surmised again. This one was very different than DARE MIGHTY THINGS, as the climax of that book sends the concept spinning off in a whole new direction.

11. THE VANISHING STAIR by Maureen Johnson My mother-in-law took me to B&N for my birthday (hooray for mothers-in-law!), and this one was the book I picked. After tearing through TRULY DEVIOUS a few months ago, I knew I wanted THE VANISHING STAIR as soon as I saw it. (Thank goodness I didn't discover TRULY DEVIOUS until its sequel was about to come out!) I tore through this one, too:)

12. PROMISES AND PRIMROSES by Josi S. Kilpack A sweet historical romance that delivered on its promise (no pun intended). If you like this genre as much as I do, this one is worth a read.

13. WISHTREE by Katherine Applegate A quick read with an underlying message that's sorely needed right now. I even liked the tree-as-narrator motif.

14. IF THIS WERE A STORY by Beth Turley This MG contemporary was a little hard to read, as I could guess what was going on and my heart went out to the MC. Ms. Turley's repeated uses of the title phrase did get a little old, but on the whole, this one kept me turning pages.

15. CHILDREN OF BLOOD AND BONE by Tomi Adeyemi I thought this YA fantasy was kind of disappointing. That said, if the plot and characters had been as unique as the world-building, it would have been an awesome read.

16. A HINT OF HYDRA by Heidi Lang and Kati Bartkowski This sequel to A DASH OF DRAGON was just as fast-paced and action-packed as its predecessor. In fact, I think I liked this one even more than the last.

17. LIES JANE AUSTEN TOLD ME by Julie Wright This contemporary romance reminded me of Shannon Hale's AUSTENLAND. It wasn't as good as that one, but I still enjoyed it.

Have you read any of these books? If so, what did you think? If not, what have you been reading lately?