Reviews (Plus: What Should I Read Next?)

flame in the mistFlame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh | As the self-proclaimed biggest fan of Ahdieh’s The Wrath and the Dawn series, I was so, so, SO excited to read her next series. Flame in the Mist is a re-telling (of sorts) of Mulan: although this book is set in feudal Japan, not in China. Mariko is on her way to be married to one of the princes when her caravan is attacked. She ends up cutting her hair, dressing as a boy, and joining a group of outlaws, a la Robin Hood style.

This book was super interesting and very romantic. One of the things I liked best about it was that it was not immediately apparent to me who Mariko’s love interest would be. Indeed, she and that person had such a unique relationship that was so not stereotypically romantic that it made it all the more hot when they fell for each other. Very excited to see how this story ends. It’s a duology and the second book doesn’t even have a publication date listed yet. (Patience is not my strong suit.)

5 to 15 to 1 by Holly Bodger | This book was so unique! I purchased it after I was on a writers panel with the author, and when I finally had the chance to read it, I tore through it so fast! Set in the future in India, it takes India’s current issues with gender selection and female infanticide and reverses them: now that there are 5 boys to every 1 girl, society is run by women and men must compete to be worthy of marriage. The book is told in alternating chapters: poetry for the young bride watching the “Tests” and prose for Contestant 5, who is competing– but who does not want to win.

I enjoyed the story very much, and it definitely made me think!

art of writingThe Art of Writing and the Gifts of Writers by C.S. Lewis | This was an audiobook collection of Lewis’s shorter essays and talks on writing, and it was super enjoyable! Ralph Cosham/Geoffrey Howard, the narrator, is the familiar voice from the audio versions of Lewis’s Space Trilogy, and so it’s easy to feel like you’re listening to Lewis himself. This was an intriguing and useful set of essays, advice, and criticism on various aspects of writing, including fairie stories, writing for children, and thoughts on his friend J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. If you’re a fan of Lewis (or any of the Inklings), this will be a fun and fast read for you!

the names they gave usThe Names They Gave Us by Emery Lord | In this book, Lucy– at her mother’s request– agrees to spend the summer as a camp counselor for kids from at-risk backgrounds. This is a deviation from her usual: the Bible camp just across the lake, where her mom and dad will be. What makes it even harder is that Lucy’s mom’s cancer has just come back, which has shattered Lucy’s faith and has her living in fear.

There were so many things that felt SO familiar to me, who was a volunteer camp counselor (at a Bible camp, no less!). I really liked the ending, when ends (that I didn’t even know were loose!) started getting tied up. The ending is also abrupt, but in the best way.

shrillShrill by Lindy West | This book. This. Book. I loved it. So much. It spoke to me on so many levels– as a woman, as a curvy girl, as a feminist, as a writer. I laughed aloud. I cried real tears. I felt empowered.

I went to my therapist on Thursday, and– no joke– spent about 90% of the time talking about this book and how it impacted me, all the things I am learning.

Please. Read this. Then let’s get coffee to discuss.


Recent Reads

all the bright places2All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
This book. You guys. This book. In it, we meet Violet Markey as well as Theodore Finch, who stole my heart and broke it. The characters in this book were phenomenal and layered, and I value that so much. Great characters are my #1 thing, even more than beautiful writing. If you give me great characters, I’ll be a slave to your writing prowess. I was so, so captured by these characters and their beautiful and heartbreaking story. Let’s just say that both Violet and Finch are hurting souls, and the opening scene is them meeting on the ledge of the school bell tower, both on the verge of jumping. Go. Read. This. Book. I need to be able to talk about it with someone.

i'll meet you thereI’ll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios
This book was pretty un-put-downable. I tore through it. The reviews have been nothing but raving, and I’m pleased to say that I loved it as well. It’s a story about Skylar “Sky” Evans, who wants nothing more than to escape her hometown, and about Josh Mitchell, a Marine who returns home without his leg. There are a couple of Ultimate No-No’s that characters can do in books that are sort of “unforgivable” for me … and this one had one. But I still really loved it. A lot. And highly recommend that you read it.

peter panPeter Pan by J.M. Barrie
What a treat this book is! I’ve long known the story of Peter Pan, Wendy Darling, Captain Hook, the lost boys, and all the rest … but knowing the story didn’t prepare me for the gem of this book. It was delightful. The voice is incredible and fascinating and clever. It reminded me a little of Alice in Wonderland in the way it made me think– but it was even more enjoyable! I tore through this novel breathlessly … even though I already knew what would happen. Find a copy of this sweet story for your own.

forgive me leonard peacockForgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick
This book is essentially a day in the life of high school student Leonard Peacock– in particular, the day he has planned to kill one of his classmates and then himself. It is dark, heavy stuff– but there are lots of moments of good, lighter times too. I don’t want to say a lot about this one except that I’m really glad I read it (I listened to the audio version), and you should read it too.

All the LightAll the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
I’m still sorting out my thoughts on this book, which has been called “the most important book of 2014”– in another place on the internet, I’ve heard it called “the most important book of the decade.” It’s a World War II story, alternating perspectives of a young, brilliant French girl and a young, brilliant German boy. I felt quite at home with this book for adults, since the characters were young people, just like in the YA stories I typically read. This book was more literary, slower, very beautiful, but very sad. I … liked it. I did not love the way it ended. In fact, I nearly chose to stop reading with only about thirty pages left. But I’m glad I did. This book is lovely, important, beautiful, well-written, and I’m glad I read it. I don’t want to say much more. It was its own experience reading this story. I am ready for more YA now. 🙂

Recent Reads

I sort of binge-read Maggie Stiefvater last month. Long ago, I had read the first book of her Wolves of Mercy Falls series, Shiver, but this was during the years of the Twilight fury, and I was sort of annoyed by the general idea of werewolves mixed with romance, so I didn’t finish the series. Since then, Maggie wrote a companion novel to the series as well, so I read that too.

Reviews below without spoilers.

lingerLinger by Maggie Stiefvater
Lots of lovey-dovey, ultra-sweet romance from Sam and Grace, the main characters, that almost seems out of character for the Maggie Stiefvater I have come to know through The Scorpio Races and The Raven Boys series, not to mention her Tumblr. The awesome thing about this book is that we are introduced to Cole St. Clair, a suicidal rock star asshole whom I love.

foreverForever by Maggie Stiefvater
The original series conclusion– and, actually, even though there’s a companion novel, this really still stands as the conclusion. High stakes, and more lovey-dovey from Sam and Grace. More sass and awesomeness from Cole and Isabel, who interest me far more than Sam and Grace.

sinnerSinner by Maggie Stiefvater
YES. A companion novel all about Cole and Isabel!! And though it was interesting that the other books took place in Minnesota (also, so interesting to hear Stiefvater’s characters say things like, “We’re going to St. Paul,” when I feel like everyone just says, “the Cities” … and they went to Duluth while I was reading the novels in Duluth), I loved that this one was set in L.A. And here Stiefvater SHINES. This book is all the funny, clever, lyrical writing that I expect from Maggie. To me, it was clear that this book came later, after she’d grown tremendously as a writer. Not to say the other books weren’t very well done (they were), but this one just excelled. SO. GOOD.

please remain calmPlease Remain Calm by Courtney Summers
This is a companion novella to her novel This is Not a Test, which I first read (and loved) back in 2012. Courtney is such a talented writer and such a lovely person. I’m such a huge fan of who she is. The novella? Loved it too. I don’t want to reveal too much because

please remain calm2

please remain calm3

Bookish Superlatives!

Jamie at the Perpetual Page-Turner is at it again!  I love her fun bookish surveys.  You should do one too.



Most Likely To Change The World

Aslan from Narnia
(Is that cheating? :-))

Cutest Couple

Will Trombal and Francesca Spinelli from Saving Francesca and The Piper’s Son

“Come here,” she says.
“No, you come here.”
“I said it first.”
“Rock paper scissors.”
“No. Because you’ll do nerdy calculations and work out what I chose the last six times and then you’ll win.”
Will pushes away from the table and his hand snakes out and he pulls her toward him and Tom figures that Will was always going to go to her first.

However, Eleanor and Park sure applied the pressure.

Class Clown

Jace from The Mortal Instruments series

Most Likely To Become Famous For Their Athletic/Musical/Artistic Abilities

Athlete: Rudy Steiner from The Book Thief
(Go, Jesse Owens!)

Musician: Joe Fontaine from The Sky is Everywhere
(“This is what happens when Joe Fontaine has his debut trumpet solo in band practice: I’m the first to go, swooning into Rachel, who topples into Cassidy Rosenthal, who tumbles into Zachary Quittner, who collapse into Sarah, who reels into Luke…”)

All Around Good Person

Webb from Jellicoe Road

Biggest Flirt

Joe Fontaine from The Sky is Everywhere

Most Likely To Be Fought Over

Joe Fontaine from The Sky is Everywhere

Mostly Likely To Be Friends Forever

Chaz and Raffy from Jellicoe Road
Frankie and Justine from Saving Francesca and The Piper’s Son

Most Likely To Have Their Own Reality Show

Conner and Risa from Unwind.  It would be called “Inside the Graveyard.”

Most Unique

Stargirl Carraway from Stargirl and Love, Stargirl

Most Likely To Survive An Apocalypse

Katsa and Po from Graceling

Most Likely To Be A Villain

Tom Riddle from Harry Potter
(or Dolores Umbridge!)

Biggest Wallflower

Conrad from Ordinary People

Most Likely To Break Your Heart

Augustus Waters from The Fault in Our Stars

Most Changed

Froi from The Lumatere Chronicles

Most Likely To Get Arrested

Jonah Griggs from Jellicoe Road

Self Proclaimed God/Goddess

Jace from the Mortal Instruments series

Best Person To Bring Home To Mom & Dad

Will Trombal from Saving Francesca and The Piper’s Son


Most Likely To Make You Cry

Duh.  The Fault in Our Stars.

Dares To Be Different (in world, plot, storytelling, etc.)

Everyday by David Levithan (fascinating, gender-bending premise!)

Best Dressed (pretty cover!)


Most Likely To Make You Swoon

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

Loveliest Prose

The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson
tied with
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
tied with
The Last Unicorn by Peter Beagle
tied with
Peace Like a River by Leif Enger

Most Likely To Be A Favorite Of 2013

(Very much anticipating the following:)
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider
Aimless Love by Billy Collins

Most Likely To Change The World (or change your life)

The Fault in Our Stars really *did* change my life because it showed me that I wanted to write YA fiction!

Book You Are Most Likely To Keep Putting Off


Most Likely To End Up As Christmas Gifts For Everyone You Know

Jellicoe Road for everyone!

Most Likely To Be Thrown


Most Likely To Be Reread More Than Once
(I’m an avid re-reader!) (No, really.)

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
The Chronicles of Narnia
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
The Last Unicorn by Peter Beagle
Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

Most Likely To Make You Read Through An Earthquake Because It’s THAT Engrossing

Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

Most Likely To Be Passed On To Your Children


Most Likely To Break Your Heart Into A Million Pieces

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Most Likely To Brighten Up Your Day

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
(There has to be a reason I’ve read it six times in the last six weeks, right?)

books books books

Just finished …

Quitter by Jon Acuff | I don’t review a lot of non-fiction on this blog, but this book was fantastic.  It’s about how to turn your day job into your dream job, and it was very wise … and funny.  Jon Acuff is the man behind the hilarious Stuff Christians Like blog!  If you’re in a funk at your day job, you should definitely pick up this book.  Acuff spoke at the university where I work this past fall and was wonderful, so when NoiseTrade gave a free audio download of Quitter, I jumped at the opportunity (even though I’m actually not in a funk at my day job … but I wish I’d read this book last summer!).

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness | I was excited to read another Patrick Ness book, since I liked A Monster Calls so much!  The Knife of Never Letting Go features protagonists a little younger than I usually like (Todd is about 13-14 … their years have 13 months, sooooo …), but I really loved it.  Todd lives on New World in a place called Prentisstown, where men can hear each others’ thoughts.  There are no women or girls; the plague that made men’s thoughts into noise killed off the females, Todd is told.  There’s a dark secret to Prentisstown, and as Todd approaches becoming a man, he finds himself on the run from a savage army.  Along with a girl, because, yup, they’re not actually all gone.  I’ve already started the second Chaos Walking book, The Ask and the Answerand I’m loving that one as well!

Across the Universe by Beth Revis | This book got rave reviews from teens, who chose it as a YALSA Teens Top Ten Book for 212.  It’s about a girl named Amy, who is cryogenically frozen with her family, who are all to be unfrozen when they reach Centuri-Earth, about 350 years later.  But Amy is unfrozen early and finds herself on spaceship run by lies.  It was interesting, for sure, and I’m intrigued to find out what happens in the rest of this trilogy, but I have to say that I wasn’t terribly impressed with the writing.  Also, it kinda features an annoying insta-love, leaving me wondering if Elder likes Amy for anything more than her amazing red hair.  Sigh.  Still, I think I’ll tarry on.  Just got the second book, A Million Suns, from the library.

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker | A little different from my normal YA, this book is an adult novel about 12-year-old Julia, set in a time when the rotation of the earth began to slow.  It’s a very interesting take on the “disaster book”: instead of some calamitous event like a giant asteroid smacking into earth, what if the disaster is tiny and slow-going?  At first, the slowing of the earth only adds a couple extra minutes onto each day, but over the course of a year, daylight (and nighttime) stretch out much longer.  Great writing.  Fascinating concept.  A little slower than my usual, but that’s okay.  I still recommend it!

Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris | I love David Sedaris so freakin’ much.  The only book of his I didn’t really love was his one book of fiction, but I adore all his memoir!  This book doesn’t fail to delight as readers are treated to Sedaris’s dry and incredible humor as well as stories about the hilarious Sedaris family.  I recommend!

Chopsticks by Jessica Anthony and Rodrigo Corral | This book was fascinating because it wasn’t made of text but of photos and paraphernalia such as music programs, text messages, and postcards.  From that, I learned the love story of Glory and Frank.  I can’t wait for another friend of mine to “read” it so that we can compare stories and see if our interpretations were the same!

Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi | Okay, so I read this one in 19 hours, and that included 11 of them sleeping, ha!  So, yeah, I tore through this one.  It’s about a girl named Juliette whose touch is lethal.  This has always made her a freak, an outcast, and the story starts with her locked up in an asylum.  When a corrupt new government decides to use her power as a weapon, Juliette is thrown into a new world where it’s hard to know whom to trust.  But there is Adam.  Yeah.  He’s awesome.  The book is not without its faults though.  It’s distracting to always have her use actual numbers instead of spelling them out (3 vs. three), and I don’t love how she repeats repeats repeats words quite often.  Everything is a metaphor (I didn’t know there could be too many, but yes, I guess there can!).  There’s a lot of sexual energy in the book, as you might imagine would be true for a 17-year-old girl who can’t be touched.  All said, it’s not a perfect book, but it did draw me in– and quickly!  I can’t wait to read the next book, Unravel Me.  The third book doesn’t come out till February 2014 though!

David Small and Sarah Stewart were keynote speakers at a Children’s and YA Writing Conference I recently attended, and so sparked an interest in me for picture books.  I was quite pleased and impressed with Extra Yarn (written by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Jon Klassen), One Cool Friend (written by Toni Buzzeo and illustrated by David Small), and The Friend (written by Sarah Stewart and illustrated by David Small).  And it was a joy to re-read Imogen’s Antlers, written and illustrated by David Small, so many years after I’d originally read it.  I have a new appreciation for picture books and all the steps it takes to pull text and illustrations together into a beautiful, cohesive unit!

I also just finished reading through The Chronicles of Narnia.  Mmm, always Narnia.

Currently reading:

The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness

A Million Suns by Beth Revis