Top Ten Books of 2015 So Far

Top Ten Tuesday is run by The Broke and the Bookish.

Yeah, yeah, more than ten again this week. Whatever, we're talking about our top reads of the year so far so I think I can get away with listing as many as I want because isn't that the whole point of what we do here as book bloggers? Talk about the books we love? (Also, sorry it's a little half-assed this week - I just got home from Europe and am back at work and I didn't have a ton of time but I still wanted to share my faves!)

So without further ado...

The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough

All the Rage by Courtney Summers

I'll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios

Anna and the French Kiss/Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

The Orphan Queen by Jodi Meadows

Nil Unlocked by Lynne Matson

Last Will and Testament/Behind the Scenes by Dahlia Adler

The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman

Fairest by Marissa Meyer

Liars, Inc. by Paula Stokes

Skandal by Lindsay Smith


Devoted and Delicate Monsters Blog Tour

I'm so excited today to be part of Raincoast's blog tour for Jennifer Mathieu's Devoted and Stephanie Kuehn's Delicate Monsters. I've previously read each of these authors' debuts so I was thrilled to get the chance to be part of the tour for Jennifer's follow-up and Stephanie's third book.

To start off, here's a little bit about the books:

Devoted by Jennifer Mathieu

Published June 2, 2015 by Roaring Brook Press.

Goodreads Synopsis:
Rachel Walker is devoted to God. She prays every day, attends Calvary Christian Church with her family, helps care for her five younger siblings, dresses modestly, and prepares herself to be a wife and mother who serves the Lord with joy. But Rachel is curious about the world her family has turned away from, and increasingly finds that neither the church nor her homeschool education has the answers she craves. Rachel has always found solace in her beliefs, but now she can’t shake the feeling that her devotion might destroy her soul. 

Delicate Monsters by Stephanie Kuehn

Published June 9th, 2015 by St. Martin's Griffin.

Goodreads Synopsis:
From the Morris-Award winning author of Charm & Strange, comes a twisted and haunting tale about three teens uncovering dark secrets and even darker truths about themselves.

When nearly killing a classmate gets seventeen-year-old Sadie Su kicked out of her third boarding school in four years, she returns to her family’s California vineyard estate. Here, she’s meant to stay out of trouble. Here, she’s meant to do a lot of things. But it’s hard. She’s bored. And when Sadie’s bored, the only thing she likes is trouble.

Emerson Tate’s a poor boy living in a rich town, with his widowed mother and strange, haunted little brother. All he wants his senior year is to play basketball and make something happen with the girl of his dreams. That’s why Emerson’s not happy Sadie’s back. An old childhood friend, she knows his worst secrets. The things he longs to forget. The things she won’t ever let him.

Haunted is a good word for fifteen-year-old Miles Tate. Miles can see the future, after all. And he knows his vision of tragic violence at his school will come true, because his visions always do. That’s what he tells the new girl in town. The one who listens to him. The one who recognizes the darkness in his past. 

But can Miles stop the violence? Or has the future already been written? Maybe tragedy is his destiny. Maybe it’s all of theirs.

I got to ask each of the authors one question about their books.


I asked: How do you approach writing about a topic such as religion, like in Devoted, or the toxicity of slut-shaming rumors, like in The Truth About Alice, without turning your story into an "issue book"? How do you manage to help keep these complex topics so grounded, real, and non-"preachy" in your novels?

Jennifer said: Great question! Honestly, I can't stand issue books mostly because I hated them as a teenager, too. Teenagers are so much smarter than we give them credit for, and they roll their eyes when they read a book that's so obviously trying to Teach A Lesson. I think I try to avoid issue books or being preachy by creating fully formed characters.  Alice in The Truth About Alice isn't just a stand in for any bad girl. She has a distinct personality (I hope!). The bullies in Alice are archetypal, but I don't think they're stereotypical. I try to create characters who don't fit a mold. I also try to acknowledge nuance. It would have been very easy to make the bullies in Alice all awful and bad or only show negative images of religious people in Devoted, but I consciously chose not to do that. By showing the bullies' motivations for their behavior or having Rachel attend a new church where people are more welcoming and moderate than her childhood church, I'm trying to add layers to the reader's experience. Hopefully it's working.

Delicate Monsters

I asked: You clearly don't shy away from deep subject matter and tough scenes in your books. How difficult is it to write that material and what, for you, makes these hard topics so naturally integral to your storytelling despite how tough they may be?

Stephanie said: I think every teen’s story deserves to be told, no matter how hard or uncomfortable
that story may be. That’s my perspective when I’m writing: to reflect the realities we don’t always want to see, and to reflect them with the utmost honesty and empathy. I try and remember this when writing really difficult scenes or ones that make me sad or upset.

I plan on writing up full reviews for both of these books once I'm home and settled from vacation but here are some quick thoughts on each book:

I actually found myself getting a lot more out of this book than I'd thought I would. As someone who doesn't really connect with religion, and hasn't in a long time, I didn't anticipate connecting with the book. However, Mathieu's storytelling and the way she presented the main character, Rachel, made it so easy for me to understand her and become invested in the story and in Rachel's life and choices. Rachel is presented as a very sympathetic character but that doesn't leave everyone else in her life as "evil" or "wrong" Christians. Mathieu does a great job at portraying the way different kinds of faith are right for different kinds of people as well as showing that everyone is struggling with something - with the average person, we're not just "good" or "bad" people based on any part of our lives, including what we believe in. This is a great examination of faith and humanity and discovering yourself and how those all intersect in one young girl's life. 

Delicate Monsters:
I have to start by saying that Stephanie Kuehn has such a specific writing style that works incredibly well for the way she tells the stories she tells. It's very crisp and really captures a lot of the starkness present in her stories and characters. In Delicate Monsters specifically, the three main characters, Sadie, Emerson, and Miles, are each struggling with something inside them that seems to really be beyond them completely - emotions that seem like they should so far beyond the realm of teenagerdom that it's crazy that these three are each dealing with them they way they do. However, these things are indeed emotions and struggles that teens deal with and Kuehn brings them forward through her characters in such striking and real ways that you really get sucked in. While there isn't a ton of action throughout the story, the narrative from the characters and the build-up towards what could be the breaking point for one or all of them is where the tension and sense of gripping discomfort I often felt came from. If, as per her answer to my question above, Kuehn was trying to portray an uncomfortable truth with "honesty and empathy," I'd say she's done well with this one.

If you're familiar with the books by either of these authors, I have a feeling their newest releases won't disappoint you. I think Mathieu has done an even greater job this time around with creating that emotional connection to the main character, and Kuehn has written another book filled with uncomfortable but gripping tensions. Both are well worth a read, especially for previous fans of their respective works!


Top Ten Most Anticipated For the Rest of 2015

Top Ten Tuesday is run by The Broke and the Bookish.

There are totally more than ten books on this list... oops. It's actually twenty (I managed ten per list... but it's split into two lists). SORRY I CAN'T CONTAIN MY EXCITEMENT.

Ones I Now Own

(Mostly thanks to BEA!)


Legacy of Kings by Eleanor Herman 
The Accident Season by Moira Fowley-Doyle


Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson 
Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman 
The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow 
Dumplin' by Julie Murphy 


The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness 
Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin 
Illuminae by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff


Soundless by Richelle Mead 

Ones Yet To Acquire 


The Heart of Betrayal by Mary E. Pearson


Maid of Wonder by Jennifer McGowan


This Monstrous Thing by Mackenzie Lee


The Rose Society by Marie Lu 
Velvet Undercover by Teri Brown 
Dreamstrider by Lindsay Smith 
A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis


Just Visiting by Dahlia Adler 
Ten Thousand Skies Above You by Claudia Gray


Their Fractured Light by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

What are you most excited about for the rest of the year? Have you read any of the ones on my list? Let me know!

ETA: UM DUH, HOW DID I FORGET BASICALLY THE BOOK OF HONOUR, WINTER (which we have to wait until November for)???


BEA '15 Recap

WHEW! My trip to New York City for BEA this year was a whirlwind 6 days that left me totally exhausted but also very reinvigorated about books and blogging and this entire, wonderful community. I'm glad I get a chance to relax now (for a bit... I leave for Europe next week!) but I also loved the chance to spend time with some of the most fantastic people in US publishing. I was terrible about taking pictures because there was always SO MUCH HAPPENING but I borrowed a couple from my friend and BEA buddy Ciara of Lost at Midnight for this post (unless otherwise credited, all photographs are hers).


I arrived in New York on Tuesday afternoon and my roomies (Ciara, EmilieKatherine, Kathy, and Kaley) and I all basically dumped our stuff in our rented apartment and turned back out the door to head to Teen Author Carnival, which took place at one of the NY Public Library locations that night.

There were two panels running concurrently and then two more concurrent ones following, so I got to attend two of the four that night.

Panel 1 was about the concept of time in YA and featured Lance Rubin, Adi Alsaid, Marieke Nijkamp, Tommy WallachLeila Sales, and Jennifer E. Smith, and was moderated by Rebecca Serle.

Panel 2 focused on world building and featured Melissa Grey, Virginia Boecker, Alex London, Jennifer L. Armentrout, Alexandra Bracken, and Susan Dennard, and was moderated by Claire Legrand.

Afterward there was time for some book signing where I met amazing authors like Susan Dennard (hey Sooz, we didn't die getting Truthwitch, just like we promised we wouldn't!), Katie McGarry (with whom I gushed over her characters), Dahlia Adler (finally! Just as awesome in real life as on the internet, which is pretty damn awesome), and Adam Silvera (who is the most wonderful person and also super tall), among others.

Me and Adam posing nicely (in which he is so tall and I am so short) and then being silly so I could be the tall one for once! (These pictures are mine)

Katherine and me Dumplin' posing for Julie Murphy after Teen Author Carnival on Tuesday 


Wednesday marked the beginning of BEA with the half-day, which kicked off with some serious Truthwitch madness as everyone scurried to Macmillan as the floor opened to snag a golden ticket (literally) to be able to get this one. This was probably the most intense thing I took part in at BEA, though I heard there were some similar reactions to Alexandra Bracken's signing of Passenger the next morning. Aside from that crazy entrance, though, Wednesday was a great day and I loved getting to see Sooz again (also oh my gosh I am so excited to start Truthwitch!). In the line, waiting for a few hours like the dedicated fans we are, I met Hazel (who did my blog design!) and Louisse, who both came to BEA from the Philippines! Talk about dedicated!

That night was the Epic Reads party, which I felt so lucky to be invited to (shoutout to Suman at Harper Canada for scoring us Canadian girls invites - you're the best!) At the party I met and actually got to chat a bit with some of the lovely Harper people, including Margot, briefly, as well as some Harper authors like Corey Ann Haydu, Patrick Ness (who signed my awesome book shimmy tote because he's great), and Maggie Lehrman. We all also went home with an awesome goodie bag containing some printouts of the cool Epic Reads posters (like their retellings bubble map and their 365 days of YA graphic), some yummy treats (below), and a fall Harper ARC (I got Ice Like Fire!). Such a fun night, overall!

 Epic Reads' epic rice krispie treats! 

Ciara and me after Epic Reads


Thursday was a little more of a quiet day, wandering around the floor, stopping by some signings (I finally got to meet Sara Raasch) and chatting with people, including finally getting to meet Ksenia, formerly of Macmillan publicity, who is now working at Simon & Schuster and who is amazing.

Later on in the day I got to meet up with Shae of Shae Has Left the Room and we got to sit in the park and catch up, which was wonderful. It's always so great to finally get to sit and chat in person with the people you're friends with online, so I loved getting that chance.

Shae and I then headed to the Fierce Reads party at the Strand where we got to mingle with some amazing people. I met authors (I got to chat briefly with Marissa Meyer (!!!), Leigh Bardugo, and Sandy Hall, plus Leila Sales and Josephine Angelini, who are both even more unfairly gorgeous in person were there) and the amazing Macmillan team, including Brittany and Mary, who are both so sweet. I also got to meet Christina and Gaby, met and spent some time with Bekka and Ashleigh, and got to chat with Lili and Gillian. We also each went home with an awesome Fierce Reads tote bag with a book from each author inside!


BEA finale day (because no way was I braving BookCon) and the day I spent the most time in autographing lines because I got to meet, among others, MarcyKate Connolly (who is so sweet! Hugs next time, MarcyKate), Julie Murphy (where Ciara and I got to spend some time with another Julie, who is wonderful), I.W. Gregorio, and Marcy Beller Paul. I also stopped in line for Corey Ann Haydu's new middle grade, Rules for Stealing Stars; Dahlia had her signing for Under the Lights, which I was first in line for because I was NOT missing that, and I managed to hop into Alex Bracken's line for In the Afterlight.

Ciara and I were also first in line for Patrick Ness (signing his upcoming title The Rest of Us Just Live Here), whose line basically exploded out behind us and grew to be about five rows of people deep, so... good decision-making on our part to be early.

SO MANY PEOPLE. Except for the group behind the black rope in the back, everyone in that open space is all there for Patrick Ness. And that wasn't even everyone. I think this is when it was only around 3 rows deep. 

Friday night was our blogger dinner, which was a lot of fun. I got to meet and chat with Holly, Shannon and Val, who are all lovely and totally my kind of people. Afterwards, the roomies and I plus Tiff and Sarah all made a trip to The Strand, where I was almost completely overwhelmed by books but managed to be reasonable and not go over my spending limit, of which I am very proud. But seriously, if I lived in NYC, The Strand would have all my money, always.


Saturday was basically the only free time we had, so we all headed out to do some New York things. Emilie and I did a little shopping and then saw Finding Neverland on Broadway starring Glee alum Matthew Morrison and So You Think You Can Dance alum Melanie Moore, who were both wonderful. This show was so fantastic - definitely see it if you get the chance. It totally had Em and I both in tears at one point.

Then that evening was the Paper Lantern Lit party in Brooklyn which was lovely and very mingle-friendly (I got to see Adam again and finally meet Tara, who was so nice and gave us all ARCs of the next big PLL & Harlequin title, Legacy of Kings, which I am really looking forward to - thanks so much, Tara!) and had the most delicious punch courtesy of Lexa, who the party was also for in honour of the launch of her debut, Proof of Forever.

And that's it! I left NYC Sunday afternoon totally wiped and lugging crazy heavy bags but so happy I did it.

Finally, getting back to the books (because that's what this really is all about, right?), to give you an idea of what kind of book talk you can look forward to from me in the coming months, here are the books I picked up at BEA that I'm the most excited about.

Any of these you think I should get to right away? Let me know! I don't know how else I'll possibly choose what to dig into first. 


Review: This Shattered World by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

This Shattered World by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner.

Starbound Series #2.
Published: December 23, 2014.
Published by: Disney-Hyperion.
Source: Borrowed from Kathy. Thanks Kathy!

Goodreads Blurb:
The second installment in the epic Starbound trilogy introduces a new pair of star-crossed lovers on two sides of a bloody war.

Jubilee Chase and Flynn Cormac should never have met.

Lee is captain of the forces sent to Avon to crush the terraformed planet's rebellious colonists, but she has her own reasons for hating the insurgents.

Rebellion is in Flynn's blood. Terraforming corporations make their fortune by recruiting colonists to make the inhospitable planets livable, with the promise of a better life for their children. But they never fulfilled their promise on Avon, and decades later, Flynn is leading the rebellion.

Desperate for any advantage in a bloody and unrelentingly war, Flynn does the only thing that makes sense when he and Lee cross paths: he returns to base with her as prisoner. But as his fellow rebels prepare to execute this tough-talking girl with nerves of steel, Flynn makes another choice that will change him forever. He and Lee escape the rebel base together, caught between two sides of a senseless war.

My Review:

I really loved These Broken Stars, the first in the Starbound trilogy, which led to me going into This Shattered World with some pretty high hopes. I probably should have controlled those hopes a little more because after such a great first story, this one unfortunately ended up being a bit of a let down in a few different ways. I still enjoyed it, but it wasn't everything the first one was for me.

I can't help but compare the two books, so that will be a constant theme throughout this review, even though I know I should probably try to see this book on its own. However, since they're marketed as a series, I think it's only fair to assume that people will read this one coming off the last one, and thus it's also fair for me to review it like that. It's funny because I remember thinking that the plot of the previous book was a little slow since Tarver and Lilac spend quite a bit of time walking around, but for some reason the plot of this one also felt really slow despite the fact that I think there was more action happening. Maybe that's an indication of the Kaufman/Spooner combined writing style more than anything if it seems to be a constant, but while it worked for me in the last one, here I felt like there should have been more action and excitement. When there was, though, I was totally into it. It had the kind of space politics and rebellion action that I was excited about once those moments actually came up. I think it's also worth noting that I found the flashbacks kind of unnecessary in this one. They didn't really add enough for me to make them feel worthwhile here when I found I felt like they pulled me out of the action a bit.

On their own, I definitely liked both Jubliee and Flynn. Jubilee was the more memorable of the two to me and she is a total kickbutt, take-no-prisoners type who I absolutely loved to watch in action. Flynn I enjoyed as well, as he is an unusual hero but has a smart grasp on what he is trying to do for his people and makes a very respectable leader. I appreciated that neither of them were perfect and that they both struggled with that, but I still found it a little hard to connect to them completely. They just didn't feel as open to readers as Tarver and Lilac did. One of the things I really appreciated about both main characters, though (and with Flynn especially), was their convictions. Their beliefs and loyalties run deep and watching them balance those with things that question and counter their ideas all while trying to maintain their sense of who they truly are and what they stand for was really interesting.

However, I do have to say, again comparing this one to These Broken Stars that the dual narrative was not as good this time around. I found that while Tarver and Lilac had had different voices so that I could nearly always tell who was talking without needing their name attached, Jubilee and Flynn tended to blend together too much and I often found myself flipping back to where it identified who was narrating the chapter. I wish they had come across as more individually distinct voices.

I loved that Tarver and Lilac had a little cameo in this one; it was a lot of fun and it's so great to get to check in on the old characters and get a glimpse of what they're up to. However in this case, it only served to remind me how much I fell for their romance (I came to ship them so hard) and in contrast, how much I wasn't connecting with the idea of Lee and Flynn together. I mean, I liked them together, don't get me wrong. And I appreciated the hate-and-distrust-to-like trope and the way it was used here, as well as the way each of their feelings made both themselves and the other feel. I enjoyed watching them struggle with those feelings. But I didn't feel the same inescapable draw for them to be together. I didn't feel as much tension as I think the authors were going for. I think part of that came from the fact that they didn't banter like Tarver and Lilac did, and banter is one of the best ways to get me to fall for a couple. I just didn't see the couple here clicking, I guess, as much as the couple in the last book.

I wasn't able to connect with This Shattered World in the same way as I did the first one, whether in plot or in characters or in romance, which was a little disappointing. On its own, it's a good book with an interesting story and some great action. However, reading it after These Broken Stars and knowing what Kaufman and Spooner together are capable of, it didn't completely meet my hopes for it.


Top Ten Books I'd Love To See On Screen

Top Ten Tuesday was created by (and topics are given by) The Broke and The Bookish.

We did this topic back in 2013 (here are my picks from then, which I still stand behind... especially my GOT-scope Lunar Chronicles show), so all of these picks are going to be books I've read since then. And, as in that case, this takes place in a perfect world in which any TV or movie adaptation would be a flawless one, because I will not accept less.

Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman
Seraphina was on my list last time as a movie adaptation to make up for the Eragon train wreck, but after reading Shadow Scale, I would like to see an entire TV show based around Seraphina and her world. It's intricate and it has so many unique and interesting characters to explore, plus the politics would add a lot of conflict and tension throughout. Another one that could be incredible in Game of Thrones scope.

Rites of Passage by Joy N. Hensley
This would be an awesome movie like Cadet Kelly (Hilary Duff DCOM) but with darker undercurrents and more intense drama. I would be all over a visual representation of this story of girls entering the boys' club and taking down the misogynistic secret society that plagues it while proving that they're just as badass. How empowering and exciting would that movie be?

The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place by Julie Berry
A group of young Victorian girls trying to solve a murder while hiding its occurrence from all the adults around them? Can you imagine the crazy shenanigans that would take place in that movie? I'm picturing some Matilda and Home Alone elements but with a fun historical flair.

Nil by Lynne Matson
This could be an awesome Lost style TV show with teens trying to survive and escape Nil. Beginning with Charley's arrival and spanning at least through the end of the sequel, Nil Unlocked (and maybe even through the as yet unpublished third book), we could have a fantastic cast of characters and some high stakes, heart pounding drama as they try to solve the island's mysteries as some teens arrive and some leave... one way or another.

Maids of Honor series by Jennifer McGowan
Maid of Secrets and Maid of Deception are the first two books in the series, each following two different members of Queen Elizabeth I's special circle of five young women who act as her personal spies. Seeing their spy work would be fun and exciting, and watching their interactions with each other, with members of the court, with their supervisors, and with Elizabeth herself would create some fantastic dynamics to grow with. Plus there would be plenty of gorgeous costumes and hot guys, à la CW's Reign, so... win-win.

Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee
I think that this story of a growing friendship in a time of desperation would be a powerful and moving one as two young women disguise themselves as boys to run away from their lives and take on the Oregon Trail. I also think it would be a fantastic look into that time in history. The cast of characters is so great (especially Samantha, Annamae, and the little group of cowboys they meet), there's plenty of adventure, people seem to love "journey" movies, and I always want more visual content set in the past because I love seeing it come alive. Plus how awesome would it be to have a movie led by two young women of colour? Seriously.

The Orphan Queen by Jodi Meadows
A princess who has lost her kingdom and must infiltrate another while working with a group of fellow orphans from her old homeland to try and get her throne back, all while she keeps crossing paths with a mysterious vigilante? Oh yeah, and there's magic, too? Holy awesome story. This one might make a good movie (as long as there's a sequel!) or could be a really cool miniseries, depending on how they worked it. The miniseries would give more opportunity to flesh things out, which might be ideal since there's so much going on here and even things I wished had been explored more in the book. Either way, I want.

The Young Elites by Marie Lu
Similarly to The Orphan Queen above, this one has so much going on and such a rich fantasy world to pull from that it could also make an incredible movie series or TV miniseries. It would be dark and gritty but would also have incredibly visually beautiful moments. It has conflicted characters as well as muddled motivations and goals. There's so much storytelling potential here as well as a ton of visual opportunity. I'd love to see it come to life!

The Starbound series by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner
These Broken Stars and This Shattered World, plus the upcoming Their Fractured Light could, I think, make up a really cool show kind of in the scope of The 100, following different groups of people at different times as they face interconnected and largely unknown troubles across planets as they all fight against the "big bad" of LaRoux Industries in different ways. The timelines would have to be shifted a little to make it work as a TV show but hey, they've done that before.

Vicious by V.E. Schwab
I want a Vicious movie so bad, guys. So bad. I want Dane DeHaan as Victor Vale and I want Dave Franco as Eli Ever. I want to see their relationship grow and their science develop and then I want to see it all crash down around them. I want to see their powers. I want the shades of grey that they both embody so well. I want the dark, super not-hero-but-not-quite-villain movie that this could be.