Friday Reads: “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed and “Eren” by Simon P. Clark

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Happy August! I don’t know about you, but it seems like July simply flew by. I can’t believe we’re on the home stretch of summer—and of the YA Buccaneers’ Summer Reading Challenge! Here’s what I read this week:

UnknownCheryl Strayed’s memoir WILD has been on my list for a while, and I’m glad I finally checked it off! Once I got into it, I had a hard time putting this one down. WILD follows Strayed’s 1995 hike on the Pacific Crest Trail, from southern California to the Oregon-Washington border. She was 26. Her mother had recently passed away, and Strayed was in a downward spiral. She cheated on and then divorced her husband. She tried drugs. At the point when the memoir begins, she’s a broken shell. She thinks that maybe going into the wilderness alone for a few months and doing this impossible hike will be what heals her. And it does, to an extent—though it also breaks her down a lot along the way. Strayed is a woefully unprepared backpacker, which gives some levity to what is otherwise a fairly somber book. I also read reviews stating that Strayed was a frustrating narrator, too self-centered and self-flagellating to spend time with. What kept me pushing forward at the start of the book was how unflinchingly Strayed writes about her past. She made a lot of mistakes, and she admits them. And, moving forward, she works to overcome them. I definitely recommend this book.

imagesI also got yet another Fearless Fifteener advance copy: Simon P. Clark’s EREN, which releases this September. (Yes, we have a few Fearless Fifteeners who are actually 2014 debuts; it’s too complicated to go into here!) This book doesn’t fit into the Summer Reading Challenge categories I have left, but I was too fascinated by it not to tell you a little about it here. This book is middle grade fantasy marketed to fans of Neil Gaiman. It’s about a boy, Oli, who discovers a creature in his attic—Eren—who seems to feed on stories. Oli has a lot going on in his real life, and talking to Eren feels like an escape. But there’s more to the sinister Eren than Oli realizes. This book is about the stories we tell, and it’s written in a format that tells stories within stories within the main story. It’s a slim volume, but not a fast read; the pace is deliberate, forcing you to savor each story as it unfolds. And where it ends up is unexpected—at least, it was for me. This is a thoughtful, slightly creepy meditation on the power of storytelling, and if you’re a Gaiman fan, you will probably enjoy this book as well.

Here’s where my Summer Reading Challenge bingo board stands as of today, August 1:

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Until next week… Happy Reading!

~Kathryn

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Friday Reads: “Landline” by Rainbow Rowell (Plus Some Mortal Instruments…)

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This past week, I plowed through two *very* different books. One was written for adults, the other for teenagers. One was (mostly) realistic, the other the height of urban fantasy. One was fairly concise—I read it in a single evening—and the other was more than 700 pages long. And, um, only one counted toward my Summer Reading Challenge goals.

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So we’ll start there. I read Rainbow Rowell’s Landline as my non-YA book because, well, I love her work, and I couldn’t wait to read this one—which came out in early July—and that’s where it fit on the bingo board. And it did not disappoint! Landline is about a couple whose marriage is on the rocks. Georgie knows things aren’t good between her and her husband, Neal, but she doesn’t know how to fix them. When she gets a great career opportunity that happens to conflict with a long-planned trip to see Neal’s family for Christmas, she chooses her job—and Neal takes their daughters to Omaha without her.

UnknownAnd then she can’t reach him. At all. He either doesn’t pick up when she calls, or he’s just stepped out, or it goes straight to voicemail. Wracked with guilt as the days pass, she finally gets through on the landline, calling from her old bedroom at her mom’s house to his parents’ home phone. The catch: the Neal that answers the landline is Neal from 15 years ago, right after the first time they almost split up. What I loved about this story is that it isn’t really about the supernatural element at all. It’s about the relationship between two people who have lost each other and want to find each other again. In speaking to past-Neal, Georgie remembers what brought them together in the first place—and realizes everything she has to lose if she doesn’t fight to get him back. But she also knows how much she’s hurt him over the years. Would it be better and kinder to save him from all of that by breaking up with him before they get married?

Truly, I can’t recommend Landline—and all of Rowell’s books—enough. Go buy them. I’ll wait.

Unknown-1When I finished that one, I picked up Cassandra Clare’s MASSIVE City of Heavenly Fire, the sixth and final book in The Mortal Instruments series. I raced through the first half of this series a little over a year ago, and so I was definitely excited for this last book. And it (mostly) lived up to my expectations! What I loved most was seeing all of the threads Clare introduced in TMI books one through five—and in her prequel trilogy, The Infernal Devices—come together in this finale. I love big, epic, sprawling stories where the world keeps growing, many different characters get to have their say, and small details and characters that were introduced in book two or a prequel become important players in the plot later on. Clare does that well, and it’s what will most likely make me pick up her next series. (Especially since she basically set up the premise for the next set of books at the end of this one!) Are The Mortal Instruments books great literature? Nope. Do the characters sometimes behave in truly frustrating and irrational ways? Yup. But they’re pretty addictive books nonetheless.

Now I’ve started Cheryl Strayed’s Wild, which will be my Summer Reading Challenge memoir. More on that next week…

~Kathryn

Friday Reads: “The Summer I Wasn’t Me” and “Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda”

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Another week, another two books checked off the Summer Reading Challenge bingo board! This week I took care of “Read a book with ‘Summer’ in the title” and “Read a book with LGBT themes or main characters.” (Though really, both books I read fit into the latter category…) Check out my previous Summer Reading Challenge posts HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE.

Look! I'm one non-YA book away from getting a bingo!

Look! I’m one non-YA book away from getting a bingo!

Unknown-5Jessica Verdi’s The Summer I Wasn’t Me isn’t your typical summer camp story. It’s about a girl, Lexi, who gets sent to a camp that promises to change her sexuality. Finding out Lexi likes girls practically destroyed her mother, who was already fragile after the recent loss of Lexi’s father to cancer. To try to make things right—to rebuild her broken family—Lexi agrees to give “de-gayifying” a shot. But of course, once she gets to New Horizons, it’s not as easy as she’d hoped. The camp’s views seem antiquated at best, and harmful at worst. And there’s the matter of Carolyn, the gorgeous blonde who’s in Lexi’s support group…

This was a fascinating read. Verdi does a great job of showing the various motivations behind the campers’ desire to change (or at least to try), even while condemning the camp directors’ delusional and occasionally cruel methods. The most interesting point to me was that, unlike in the other book I’ve read with this setting (Emily M. Danforth’s The Miseducation of Cameron Post), Lexi goes to New Horizons genuinely wanting the treatment to work. Her inner conflict kept me turning the pages.

Unknown-6Book #2 this week, Becky Albertalli’s Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda (a spring 2015 release that I got to read as part of the Fearless Fifteeners ARC tour), was charming, sweet, funny, and hopeful. With this one, the reason I kept turning pages is because I so badly wanted Simon to get his happily ever after! The book is You’ve Got Mail for the modern age, with two smart, articulate boys. Simon has been corresponding over email with a boy he knows only as Blue when another boy, Martin, sees their emails on a school computer. Martin likes Simon’s friend Abby, so he blackmails Simon into helping him score a date. Anxious about being outed, and even more about outing Blue, Simon agrees. Hijinx ensue.

Simon is a great narrator, quippy and snarky and heartfelt. He wears his heart on his sleeve in his emails with Blue—the first guy who’s really made him want to open up. I definitely don’t want to spoil the surprise of who Blue turns out to be, but I will say that I was smiling pretty much nonstop near the end of the book. The romance is that sweet. Add this one to your TBR for 2015! I can’t wait to buy my own copy and read it again.

That’s it for now… what are you reading this summer?

~Kathryn

Friday Reads: Summer Reading Challenge, Freebies Edition

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Over the past week and a half, I’ve read three books…and none of them fit any of the specific categories I have left on the Summer Reading Challenge bingo board, so I’m calling them all Freebies!

1402966739620But before I dive in, here’s what I’ve accomplished so far, with links back to my posts about each one:

Read a book that’s been on your TBR a long time: Corey Ann Haydu’s OCD LOVE STORY

Read a book with a male protagonist: V.E. Schwab’s VICIOUS

Read a book by a debut author: Dahlia Adler’s BEHIND THE SCENES

Re-read an old favorite: Nicole Krauss’s THE HISTORY OF LOVE 

Since rekindling my love affair with THE HISTORY OF LOVE, I managed to finish FIRE WITH FIRE by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian, which I had out from the library; read Becky Wallace’s THE STORYSPINNER as part of the Fearless Fifteeners’ ARC tour; and race through Leigh Bardugo’s SHADOW AND BONE, which people have been telling me to read for what feels like forever. I really enjoyed all three, and for very different reasons!

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One thing all three of these books have in common is that they’re not the end of their story! FIRE WITH FIRE is the middle of a trilogy—and I swear, I thought the third book, ASHES TO ASHES, was already out. Imagine my disappointment to find that it won’t be available for me to read until September! Meanwhile, THE STORYSPINNER is the start of a new fantasy series—and given that the first book doesn’t hit shelves until March 2015, I know I will have a long wait to find out what happens next. Luckily, I waited to read SHADOW AND BONE, which is the first book in the Grisha trilogy, until the third book is out. I plan to buy and race through the next two as soon as possible.

So, what are these books about?

In FIRE WITH FIRE, three girls are plotting to right the wrongs people have inflicted on them. Unfortunately, not everything goes according to plan. (This edgy series started with BURN FOR BURN.) This is a Young Adult revenge thriller, with a supernatural twist that I don’t want to give away.

In THE STORYSPINNER, a young storyteller finds herself at the center of a power struggle between the rulers of her kingdom and their magical neighbors. The thing that impressed me most about this book is that the story is told from many different perspectives, so it has a truly epic feel.

And finally, SHADOW AND BONE is a fantasy set in a Russian-inspired world where a magical upper class, the Grisha, wield power and influence. Alina, a young peasant, discovers that she herself may be a Grisha, and gets sucked into a dangerous power struggle led by the mysterious and alluring Darkling, the most powerful Grisha of all.

And now, on to the next books! 😀

What are you reading? Anything blowing your mind?

~Kathryn

 

 

Friday Reads (on Thursday): The History of Love by Nicole Krauss

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I mentioned last week that this week’s contribution to the YA Buccaneers Summer Reading Challenge was going to be one of my favorite books. I’m pleased to report that I found Nicole Krauss’s THE HISTORY OF LOVE every bit as lovely and thought-provoking and heartbreaking the fourth (or fifth?) time around as I did on first read. If you haven’t read this book, go get it now! It’s a relatively slim novel that is so packed with beauty and meaning that you’ll want to read it again and again—like I do.

Unknown-1THE HISTORY OF LOVE is a book about a book, also titled The History of Love. The novel-within-the-novel is magical realism, full of love stories that always come back to a single girl: Alma. Krauss tells her story from multiple points of view: a lonely old man, Leo Gursky, who escaped from the Nazis and made his way to New York City; a teenager from Brooklyn, named Alma after the character(s) in The History of Love, the book that brought her parents together; Alma’s little brother, Bird; and a third-person narrator who gives more detail about The History of Love‘s author, Zvi Litvinoff. Each voice is unique and flawless.

I don’t want to reveal all of the ways in which these stories intertwine, but everything starts with the book. For instance, Alma’s father has passed away from pancreatic cancer, leaving her mother a shell of her former self. When her mother gets a commission to translate The History of Love into English, Alma decides to learn more about the man asking for the translation, and then to learn more about the book and its author. THE HISTORY OF LOVE twists and turns, bringing its characters together in unexpected ways and giving new meaning to seemingly inconsequential details right up to the end. And that ending…the last few pages make me cry every time. They’re just so lovely.

Since this book is a reread, I have to mention how the story opens up more with each pass through it. One new facet that became more clear to me this time around is the way Jewish culture pervades the story. Leo uses an array of Yiddish expressions. Thanks to my husband and his family, I now understand those terms and their emotional interpretations much better than I did the first time I read the book. Similarly, Alma’s mother and father met in Israel, and thanks to my trip to that country a few months ago, I felt like I could visualize and understand those references better, as well. Each time I pick up THE HISTORY OF LOVE, it’s like I uncover another layer, and this time, with the Israel trip still fresh in my mind, I couldn’t escape the spiritual and secular Jewish themes.

I don’t know what else to say, other than: Read this book! 

(And yes, the first chapter, from Leo’s point of view, can be a challenge. Push through it. I promise, you won’t regret it!)

~Kathryn

Friday Reads: VICIOUS by V.E. Schwab and BEHIND THE SCENES by Dahlia Adler

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It’s the end of week two of the YA Buccaneers’ Summer Reading Challenge, which means it’s time to check in! This week, I crossed two more books off my list: Vicious by V.E. Schwab and Behind the Scenes by Dahlia Adler.

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HERE, you’ll find what you need to know about the Summer Reading Challenge. Last week, I wrote about a book that had been on my TBR list for far too long. This week, I’ve got my debut taken care of, in Behind the Scenes, and I have…a bit of a wild card. Vicious could count as a non-YA book. It’s also got a male protagonist. (Actually, two.) So I might cheat a little and see where it needs to fit in as I move forward with the challenge!

UnknownV.E. Schwab’s Vicious was a really interesting read. It’s the story of two men, Victor and Eli, who start researching EOs—or ExtraOrdinary people, those with unique abilities—in college, only to become EOs themselves. They also become mortal enemies. The book opens with Victor having just escaped from prison, after a decade behind bars. His mission: find his former friend…and kill him. But the cool thing about Vicious is that even though this is a story about people with the kinds of abilities you see all the time in comic books, the lines between hero and villain are truly blurred. Victor is ostensibly the villain of the piece, but he’s more sympathetic—and maybe the evil things he’s done are justified. Eli is ostensibly the hero—but he’s killed more people than Victor, many of them innocents. Does it matter if he believes he’s on a righteous mission? I don’t want to spoil anything else, so I’ll finish by saying: if you enjoy seeing superhero tropes subverted and reaffirmed and subverted again, don’t miss this book.

behind-the-scenes-adler-coverAfter Tuesday’s post, I hope you aren’t tired of hearing me talk about Dahlia Adler and her debut Behind the Scenes, because I’m going to gush about her book now! I started reading it on the ride home from Dahlia’s launch party on Monday night, and was finished by Tuesday evening. I won’t recap the plot—you can learn more about that on Goodreads. What I will say is, how delicious is this book? I laughed, I swooned, I felt all the feels. Ally is a fun, snarky, maddening, and moving character, and Liam is…well, pretty much perfect. (Seriously, does that boy have a flaw?!) I also enjoyed getting a glimpse into the life of someone on the Hollywood fringes—BFFs with a rising star, and yet treated like a complete nobody in Hollywood circles. Ally’s insecurity about her place in that world—in Liam’s world—was as believable as it was heartbreaking. This is a fast, fun, sweet, and sexy read.

More books next Friday! As for what I’m reading now, I’ll give you a teaser: It’s in the “Re-read an old favorite” category, it’s adult literary fiction, and it’s one of my absolute favorite books. I’m loving it just as much this time, and I can’t wait to share it here.

~Kathryn

Going Behind the Scenes to Celebrate BEHIND THE SCENES!

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BehindtheScenesBlogTour3DahliaAdler (533x640)I’m excited to be part of the blog tour celebrating Dahlia Adler’s YA debut Behind the Scenes, which releases today! I met Dahlia online (through my friend Ghenet), and I can honestly say she is one of my social media idols. Not only are her tweets constantly cracking me up, she’s also a passionate and prolific blogger and a die-hard advocate for YA literature and its authors. I was able to attend her super-fun book release party last night, and I am now the proud owner of my very own autographed copy of Behind the Scenes! I started it last night, and so far, I’m in love.

Learn more about Dahlia on her website and blog.

Here’s what you need to know about Behind the Scenes:

behind-the-scenes-adler-coverHigh school senior Ally Duncan’s best friend may be the Vanessa Park—star of TV’s hottest new teen drama—but Ally’s not interested in following in her BFF’s Hollywood footsteps. In fact, the only thing Ally’s ever really wanted is to go to Columbia and study abroad in Paris. But when her father’s mounting medical bills threaten to stop her dream in its tracks, Ally nabs a position as Van’s on-set assistant to get the cash she needs.

Spending the extra time with Van turns out to be fun, and getting to know her sexy co-star Liam is an added bonus. But when the actors’ publicist arranges for Van and Liam to “date” for the tabloids just after he and Ally share their first kiss, Ally will have to decide exactly what role she’s capable of playing in their world of make believe. If she can’t play by Hollywood’s rules, she may lose her best friend, her dream future, and her first shot at love.

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In honor of her book’s release, Dahlia has asked a bunch of people to give a “behind the scenes” glimpse into our own lives. All of the YA Buccaneers are sharing info about our writing spaces and routines this week. (My post is HERE! Read about the other Buccaneers’ writing spots HEREHERE, and HERE.) So, I figured for my personal blog I’d branch out and take a look at the other big passion in my life: dance!

I’ve written a little bit about being a contemporary dancer, and have shared some recent performance photos (for instance, HERE and HERE), but I haven’t gotten down to the nitty gritty. And before you freak out and run away at the idea of seeing my dancer-feet up close and personal, I promise that I’m keeping the calluses and bunions under wraps! There are a few things that just don’t need to be photographed and shared on my blog. 🙂

Let’s kick things off with a shot of me sophomore year in high school. This is from an outdoor performance my ballet company did at the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina. (It ended up pouring down rain, thus the tent.) We were dancing to a selection of choral pieces by Brahms, sung live. Even (*ahem ahem*) years later, this is still one of my favorite performance memories!

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Flash forward: I haven’t taken a ballet class in a couple of years, and I keep meaning to get back to the barre. I do, however, take between two and four modern/contemporary dance classes a week, depending on my schedule and my mood. (I also take a yoga class or two a week, and all of that plus writing books and writing for work equals a pretty packed schedule.) Why do I keep at it? It isn’t just that I love to perform, and need to stay in good shape to look my best onstage. It’s also that I’m more productive with my writing if I take a break to fit in movement at some point in the middle of the day. Dancing takes me out of my head and puts me in my body. When class is over, I’m able to sit back down at the computer exhilarated, refreshed, and ready to focus. (And sweaty. Sorry, fellow coffee shop patrons!)

One of my favorite teachers, with whom I’ve been training pretty regularly since 2008, is Diane McCarthy. She was kind enough to let me take some photos in her class at the Mark Morris Dance Center in Brooklyn a few weeks ago. Yes, they’re a little blurry. But this is behind the scenes, after all!

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Blurriness aside, let me tell you how tickled I was to see that pointed bottom foot on the top left!

The new book I’m working on is about a teen dancer, which means all of my professional worlds are finally coming together. I’m drawing on my own experiences in the dance studio—especially my teen years performing with a regional ballet company—as well as things I’ve learned as a dance magazine editor and freelance dance writer over the past decade. I can paint my character’s emotions, her physical sensations, and her studio environment on the page, because I’ve been there—and because I’m still there, as often as possible. Despite everything the character is going through in the book, I hope my love for dance shines through.

So there’s your glimpse behind the scenes! Buy Dahlia’s book!

And who am I kidding? It’s not a behind-the-scenes-in-the-dance-studio post without a picture of my feet. But because I love and respect you all, I kept the socks on.

This is what I do to socks.

This is what happens when I dance in socks.

~Kathryn

Friday Reads: OCD LOVE STORY by Corey Ann Haydu

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I’m kicking off the YA Buccaneers’ Summer Reading Challenge by finishing a book that has been on my to-be-read list for WAY too long: Corey Ann Haydu’s OCD Love Story. Corey is a fellow New School MFA grad, albeit a few years after me, and I think this book, her debut, has been out for just about a year. From the first time I heard about it, it seemed like something I’d be interested in: a girl struggling with newly diagnosed obsessive-compulsive disorder starts to fall for a guy in her OCD therapy group. So why didn’t I pick it up sooner?

The short answer is: too many books, too little time.

51C3FHrW5lLBut I’m so thrilled I finally got to it, because it was fabulous! Bea’s voice was so raw and real. It was fascinating to be inside her head, to read her internal monologue and experience her compulsions as they popped up and became more difficult to ignore. Her growing frustration and desperation were palpable as her problems started to snowball completely out of her control. It’s interesting that one of Bea’s compulsions has to do with safe driving, because as the book went on, it started to feel like she herself was a vehicle hurtling down a highway toward an imminent crash. After a certain point, it was pretty much impossible to put the book down.

One of the things I loved most about this book was Bea’s complicated relationship with Beck, the boy she first meets during a blackout at a school dance and who then appears at her new OCD therapy group. The way they carefully navigate each other’s compulsions is surprisingly sweet. Bea’s relief at finally being understood by someone who is going through something similar is both beautiful and sad. At the same time, her worry that if Beck gets better, he’ll no longer want to be with someone crazy like her is an undercurrent in all of their scenes together. Getting all of those emotions to coexist, especially alongside Bea’s various internal and external OCD symptoms, was a true feat. Well done, Corey!

I’m not sure what’s next on the reading docket, but as I mentioned on Tuesday, I plan to check in each week with my progress toward getting a Summer Reading Challenge bingo! And as we get into some of the harder categories, I may ask for recommendations (favorite novels-in-verse, anyone?), so I need you to be ready in the comments.

Happy Friday!

~Kathryn

Summer Reading Challenge!

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When I was a kid, summer vacation didn’t just mean time away from school. It also meant having time to read even more books! And needless to say, my parents supported that endeavor wholeheartedly. Summer vacation involved weekly trips to our local public library, as well as to our favorite local chain bookstore (RIP, Davis-Kidd Booksellers)—and both places offered summer reading challenges for kids in our area. We’d receive a treasure map marked with different pieces of treasure to collect—aka types of books to read. We’d be handed a jungle safari guidebook listing genres instead of animals, or a map of the solar system with books on each planet. The challenge: read a book in each category in order to win a prize at the end of the summer.

The prize, of course, was usually a gift certificate to buy more books. And so it goes. 🙂

Anyway, when the YA Buccaneers team started talking about doing our own Summer Reading Challenge, I was in 100%. And not just because the idea is giving me major nostalgia for those long summer days where all I had to do was sit under the big tree in our backyard and read. I love challenges where you’re asked to read outside your comfort zone. How easy is it to get stuck in a rut, reading only things you know you like? Why not explore other genres, or pick up a book by a new author, or re-read one you didn’t love as a kid to see how you feel about it as an adult? This challenge will ask participants to do just that:

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Check out our introductory blog post HERE to learn more about the challenge! I’m really looking forward to broadening my reading horizons this summer, and I’ll be sharing the books I read here as I cross them off my list. Who’s with me?

~Kathryn

Friday Reads: Playing Catch-Up

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It looks like my last Friday Reads post was in early April, so it’s definitely time to play catch-up! I’ll keep the intro short and sweet and get right to sharing a few of my recent favorites:

Panic — Lauren Oliver

UnknownI tend to like just about everything Lauren Oliver writes (and I can’t wait for her first adult book, Rooms, which comes out this fall!), and this book was no exception. The story follows two small-town teens as they play Panic, a dangerous thrill-ride of a game that consumes the town’s graduating seniors each year. The game: face your fears in a series of ever-crazier stunts and challenges. The last person standing takes home a pot of cash collected from students over the course of the previous year. Heather is playing Panic for the money, to try to make a better life for herself and her sister. Dodge is in the game for darker reasons—including revenge. They both find their strength and their resolve put to the test, as it seems like the game is getting out of control fast. This book is a page-turner—I had a hard time putting it down!

Midwinterblood — Marcus Sedgwick

Unknown-1I only read Midwinterblood a little over a month ago, and I’m already tempted to give it a reread. This book surprised me in so many ways. It’s made up of a series of interconnected stories, all set on the same mysterious Scandinavian island, with each story going back further in time. The stories are told in wildly different voices and styles, and yet they still feel like part of the whole. The second story (the only one set in the present) is about an archaeologist, and the book truly feels like an excavation, with each story revealing more clues until you finally discover the whole truth. And that truth…well, without spoiling too much, it involves Vikings, and ghosts, and magical orchids, and blood sacrifices, and a love story that transcends time. I highly recommend this one.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe — Benjamin Alire Sáenz

AristotleDante_PuraBelpre1-397x600Two Mexican-American boys—loner Aristotle (Ari) Mendoza and sensitive know-it-all Dante Quintana—meet one summer and forge an intense friendship…and then something more. That’s the book in a nutshell, but it’s so much more than that. Ari’s voice is so authentic and unique. He’s sad, angry, confused, frustrated, sullen—and funny. His brother is in prison, and his parents won’t talk about it. His dad is still haunted by the Vietnam War (the book is set in 1987)—another thing no one will talk about. Ari has few friends and no outlet for everything he’s feeling—until he meets Dante. Where Ari is closed off, Dante is open. Where Ari has no idea who he is or who he wants to be, Dante is self-assured and comfortable in his skin. This is a beautifully written, heartfelt coming-of-age story about two boys who save each other.

We Were Liars — E. Lockhart

Unknown-2This book has been heavily hyped on Twitter over the last few months, so I was excited to pick up a copy when it came out. And it didn’t disappoint! I bought it in the Nashville airport, after my visit to my family in May, and I’d finished it by the time I landed at BWI for the next round of family visits. I definitely don’t want to give too much away about this one, because true to the title, not much is as it seems. The story centers around a wealthy, privileged New England family, the Sinclairs, who summer on a private island. The (unreliable) narrator is Cadence, who is suffering from amnesia and severe headaches after something happened two summers ago. Now, she’s back on the island, and starting to remember the truth. If you like plots that twist and turn, pick this one up.

I’ll Give You the Sun — Jandy Nelson

Unknown-3I was lucky enough to get my hands on an advance copy of this book, which goes on sale in September. Jandy Nelson’s debut, The Sky is Everywhere, was captivating and heartbreaking—and gorgeously written. So obviously I couldn’t wait for her follow-up to come out! I’ll Give You the Sun is narrated by twins in alternating chapters: Noah tells the story from when they’re thirteen, while Jude’s half is set three years later. The difference in the twins in those three years is striking, and Nelson takes her time explaining what happened in between. The twins have distinctive voices, and both characters jump off the page. Whether she’s writing about grief, art, or physical/emotional attraction (and there’s plenty of all three in this book), Nelson’s prose is vivid and explosive and exuberant. She really is a spectacular writer.

Whew! That’s all you get for now—five great books. But stay tuned, because I have more great reads to share coming up!

Happy Friday,

~Kathryn