Thursday, December 18, 2014

Class of 2014 YA Superlative Blogfest: Day 4--Best In Show

The Class of 2014: YA Superlative Blogfest (hosted by Jessica LoveTracey NeithercottAlison Miller, and Katy Upperman) runs Monday, December 15th through Thursday, December 18th and will highlight favorite books published in 2014 using a variety of fun superlative categories. See the host's pages for the categories of each day and to join the link-up!

My 2014 Reads This Year: 
We Were LiarsIndependent StudyBlue Lily, Lily BlueUnmadeBrown Girl DreamingConversionOne, Two, ThreeEverything Leads to YouPush GirlFar From YouDon't Even Think About ItThe Impossible Knife of MemoryIsla and the Happily Ever AfterControlA Death-Struck YearThe One

Best in Show, Thursday, December 18th

Favorite Cover


So I think Control  was my winner last year, even though the book hadn't been published yet when we did this.  But of the rest of them--I do love One, Two, Three but I may be biased because I saw that coming together.  I also love the dreaminess of Everything Leads to You.

Cutest Couple--Emi and Ava, Everything Leads to You.  I mean, they aren't a couple per se for most of the book but their relationship is at the center of the story and I really love them together.  (I also loved Becca and James from One, Two, Three and (no spoilers) everyone who ended up together in Unmade.  

Most Likely to Succeed (Pick a Printz Winner)--Brown Girl Dreaming has already won the National Book Award, and also it's amazing, so this feels a little like cheating.  But We Were Liars could definitely make a run at it, too.

Most Likely to Make You Miss Your Bedtime--So many of these books did make me miss my bedtime that it's not even funny.  But I think the award has to go to the impeccably plotted, funny, suspenseful, terrifying Blue Lily, Lily Blue.

Best Repeat Performance (Favorite Sequel or Follow-Up)--Blue Lily, Lily Blue.  I'm not used to a series lasting four books, and I was a curious about what a third-out-of-four would look like.  Apparently, there is no end to the magic Maggie can do: somehow it felt satisfying and also left me dying for the next installment.  Maggie managed to keep spooling out bits of plot and even introducing new characters while also continuing to develop the twisty, complicated plot and characters from the first two books.  Love.


Favorite Finale or End of Series Novel--Unmade and Isla and the Happily Ever After.  Two very, very different endings.  But both were completely satisfying and made me cry.

 Romance Most Worthy of an Ice Bath--Nata. And. Tonio.  (From One, Two, Three.)  I mean...Tonio is involved ;)



Best Old-Timer (Favorite Book Published BEFORE 2014)--Charm and Strange by Stephanie Kuehn and Forge by Laurie Halse Anderson.   Two very different and totally unputdownable books. 

Favorite Outlier (Best 2014 Picture Book, MG, NA, or Adult Novel)--Picture book: The Jacket by Kirsten Hall, illustrated by Dasha Tolstikova.  I've been paying attention to picture books for the last few years because I became a step-aunt when my mom remarried and it's so much fun to hunt down new books for my little niece and nephew.  This one is a sweet, funny story that reminds me of Corduroy...if Corduroy himself was a book.  MG: When Audrey Met Alice by Rebecca Behrens.  I loved this glimpse of feisty, kick-ass first daughter Alice Roosevelt through the eyes of a more modern (fictional) first daughter. And I'm going to add one--Comic Book: Hawkeye by Matt Fraction, David Aja, and Annie Wu.  I've started getting into comics this year, entirely because of the humor, heart, and weirdness of this run of books.  (It helps that there are two Hawkeyes, Clint Barton and Kate Bishop--apparently this is quite a thing with superheroes--and they play off of each other really well.  It's one of those great almost-entirely-platonic-but-not-quite things.

Create Your Own Superlative: What is the 2014 release you are most excited to read after participating in this blogfest???

(My list: I'll Give You The Sun, Complicit, Panic, Let's Get Lost, The Winner's Curse)

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Class of 2014 YA Superlative Blogfest: Day 3--Elements of Fiction

The Class of 2014: YA Superlative Blogfest (hosted by Jessica LoveTracey NeithercottAlison Miller, and Katy Upperman) runs Monday, December 15th through Thursday, December 18th and will highlight favorite books published in 2014 using a variety of fun superlative categories. See the host's pages for the categories of each day and to join the link-up!

My 2014 Reads This Year: 
We Were Liars, Independent Study, Blue Lily, Lily Blue, Unmade, Brown Girl Dreaming, Conversion, One, Two, Three, Everything Leads to You, Push Girl, Far From You, Don't Even Think About It, The Impossible Knife of Memory, Isla and the Happily Ever After, Control, A Death-Struck Year, The One

Elements of Fiction – Wednesday, December 17th

Most Formidable World--Brown Girl Dreaming.  If you'll allow me a serious moment at a festive time of year: one of the things that Brown Girl Dreaming does really well is reveal the gaps between the ways laws have changed and the ways people haven't.  Progress doesn't happen nearly as quickly or cleanly as we hope it would, and given the events of the last few weeks and months in America, I think it's safe to say that we still have a long way to go.  The world of Brown Girl Dreaming is our world, and our world feels pretty formidable at the moment.

Most Wanderlust-Inducing--Everything Leads to You.  I thought about Isla, because that book is full of amazing places...but in the end, Everything Leads to You was the book that made me actually want to visit LA.  For someone who hates driving and heat as much as I do, that's a real feat.  Emi clearly loves LA so, so much that I've been won over.

Loveliest Prose--The Raven Boys (on the technicality that Brown Girl Dreaming is poetry!)  Maggie.  No one is surprised.

Best Performance in a Supporting Role--Jesse Dittley, Blue Lily, Lily Blue.  BECAUSE I HAVE A WEAKNESS FOR CHARACTERS WHO TALK LIKE THIS. (And "ANT"!!!)

Best First Line--We Were Liars.  The whole opening, in fact:
Welcome to the beautiful Sinclair family.
No one is a criminal.
No one is an addict.
No one is a failure.
The Sinclairs are athletic, tall, and handsome. We are old-money Democrats.  Our smiles are wide, our chins square, and our tennis serves aggressive.

Most Dynamic Main Character--Hayley Kincain, The Impossible Knife of Memory.  Hayley's growth isn't magical or instantaneous, but it is striking.  And she's such a vibrant character, with an incisive wit (that seems to be what Laurie Halse Anderson does best!)

Most Jaw-Dropping Conclusion--Isla and the Happily Ever After.  I liked this book, but the end was maybe my favorite thing I've read all year.  It was such a satisfying payoff to not one but three stories and it made me so, so happy.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Class of 2014 YA Superlatives: Day 2--Popularity Contest

The Class of 2014: YA Superlative Blogfest (hosted by Jessica LoveTracey NeithercottAlison Miller, and Katy Upperman) runs Monday, December 15th through Thursday, December 18th and will highlight favorite books published in 2014 using a variety of fun superlative categories. See the host's pages for the categories of each day and to join the link-up!

My 2014 Reads This Year: 

Popularity Contest – Tuesday, December 16th 

Class Clown--Noah, The Raven BoysAt least occasionally.  And those are the parts I choose to focus on.

Villain I Love to Hate--Rob Lynburn, Unmade. Classic evil dude.  UGH.

Fashion King and/or Queen--Kami Glass, Unmade.  I love that Kami is smart and weird and loud and has the cutest clothes, all at the same time.  (Of course, that's par for the course with SRB.  Like I said.  Hella feminist.)

Favorite Parental Figure--Jon Glass, UnmadeWho are we all going to choose for this category next year?

Most Likely to Start a Riot--Jared Lynburn/Ronan Lynch, Unmade/Blue Lily, Lily Blue--Um, especially if they were in the same place at the same time.  I'll let you imagine that scenario.  You're welcome.

Coolest Nerd--Zelia, Control--Zelia is an old-school nerd--she spends a lot of time in a lab, working with DNA.  But she's doing it to try and save her sister--what's cooler than that?


 Character I’d Most Want For a BFF--Becca, One, Two, Three--I think I've written before about my love for Becca.  She's got her own life and her own issues, but she always makes time for Nata, even when Nata is prickly.  

Character I Wish I’d Dated in High School--Jack, Push Girls--Jack is a sweet boy with a brain full of trivia, who loves Kara and thinks she's beautiful--full stop.  Who tells her how great she is and looks out for her (because he cares about her, not because he thinks she can't take care of herself) and is a great all-around cheerleader?  Why didn't he live in Schenectady, NY circa 2001?


Most Likely to Become President--Charlotte, Everything Leads to You--Charlotte is my kind of gal.  She's super-organized, professional, and all-around awesome.  I know she plans to work in museums, never know.  
Quirkiest Character--Toby, Everything Leads to You--Even though we don't see much of Toby, he pops.  His love of films, his special iced tea arrangement with the Ethiopian place around the corner, his demand that Emi does something epic while she's borrowing his apartment--quirky to a T.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Class of 2014 YA Superlative Blogfest: Day 1--Head of the Class

The Class of 2014: YA Superlative Blogfest (hosted by Jessica LoveTracey NeithercottAlison Miller, and Katy Upperman) runs Monday, December 15th through Thursday, December 18th and will highlight favorite books published in 2014 using a variety of fun superlative categories. See the host's pages for the categories of each day and to join the link-up!

My 2014 Reads This Year: 

Head of the Class 

Favorite Dystopian--Independent Study by Joelle Charbonneau

I'm seeing some conflicting release dates for this one but at least one was in 2014, so let's go with it.   I think the dystopian deluge has let up a bit, but I did read this one and I really enjoyed it. It's pretty standard dystopian fare, plot-wise, but I thought it was well-executed and it held my attention even though I've read more than my fair share of dystopians over the last few years.

Favorite Science Fiction--Control by Lydia Kang

This is technically a 2013 release, but it came out after the YA Superlative Blogfest last year so I'm including it.  This is a science fiction that's heavy on the science in a totally fascinating way.  Her main character lives with a chronic condition known as Ondine's Curse--a real thing, in which your body doesn't remember to breathe on its own--and scientific research plays a large role in the story. (If you don't know Lydia, check out her Medical Mondays archives--she's answered a ton of medical questions for writers, and all the info is here.)

Favorite Fantasy--Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater

I guess this is where I'd class this?  I don't need to tell you about this book, you already know.  But it brought me boundless joy and much agony.  (There was a scene not too far in when I thought I had finally answered the question of "Which Raven Boy do I love the most?" because something was just so adorable...and then, like clockwork, the magnitude of the terrible things that character was experiencing became apparent and my heart broke into a million tiny pieces.  MAGGIE.  YOU DID THAT ON PURPOSE. This is why I love you.)

Favorite Contemporary--Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour

 I had this in my classroom library but hadn't gotten around to it until recently, when a student read and recommended it.  I'm so glad I made time for it because I loved it.  It's a great, slowly-unspooling romance between Emi, a brilliant young set designer learning the ropes in Hollywood, and Ava, a baker-actress-Home Depot employee with a mysterious past.  I love Emi and Ava; I also love their respective best friends, Charlotte and Jamal.  Emi's dedication to her career is fantastic and engrossing, and I love the glimpses we get of her family as well. 

**Honorable mentions to Push Girl and One, Two, Three--both awesome contemporaries about trauma and recovery, by the extremely talented and hard-working Jessica Love (and Chelsie Hill) and Elodie Nowodazkij, respectively!  I haven't been able to stop myself from a little bit of "I knew them when" whenever I recommend those titles to students!**

Favorite Historical Fiction--Conversion by Katherine Howe

I guess I can count this here--part of the book takes place in Salem, MA during the witch trials.  I got this book through my Oblong Insider subscription--it's a really fun YA book-of-the-month style subscription plan, tailored to your interests, and so far they have chosen very well indeed!  Conversion imagines parallels between a (real!) mysterious condition that caused symptoms in a large number of girls in one small town (not far from where I live) just a few years ago, and the mass hysteria of the Salem witch trials.  I couldn't put it down!

Favorite Mystery--We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

  Not so much a "whodunit" as a "what happened?" but it certainly had the suspense and twists of a mystery!  This is another one I don't think I have to say much about--but if you haven't read it, what are you waiting for?

I actually wept--like, not just teary eyes, but active crying-- with joy at the end of this one.  Is there a better criteria for a great romance?  I loved Isla and Josh but the return appearances from some old friends made this one of my very favorite reads of the year.  (And BOY do my students agree; this series has gotten more check-outs this year than the rest of my library combined, I think.)

Favorite Paranormal--Unmade by Sarah Rees Brennan

I loved this series so, so much.  It was funny, it was sweet, it was heartbreaking, it was beautiful.  And it was hella feminist.  Paranormal is not generally my jam but there's no resisting the Lynburn Legacy series.  I don't care if you think you will like a book with sorcery.  If you enjoy feeling human emotions you will like this series.  Trust me.

Favorite Genre Bender--Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson (memoir/poetry)

I finished this book at midnight last night--a school night, sorry kids, but it was just that kind of book.  This memoir in verse about Jacqueline Woodson's childhood in the '60s and '70s could go in the "historical" category, although suddenly the moments in which the molasses pace of America's progress toward equality becomes apparent feel startlingly current.  It could go under poetry, but it's more like a long song that hums in your head when you set it down.  And it's memoir but it's so inviting that it feels more like a storyteller leaning in to whisper to her audience than a slickly packaged life.  This is a gorgeous, necessary book and I'm so glad it's part of the conversation right now.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

What's Up Wednesday: NaNo Energy Edition!

What’s Up Wednesday is a meme started by the awesome Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk as a way to keep up with your writer/reader/blogger pals in a quick, fun way. Link up with other participants at Jaime's blog and make sure to leave some comments along the way!

I recently re-read The Raven Boys and The Dream Thieves to prepare for reading Blue Lily, Lily Blue. I'm in the middle of BL,LB and I'm loving it (duh).  I forgot how much I loved being immersed in that world. I also picked up Empress of the World by Sara Ryan yesterday (we had all-day parent/teacher conferences and I didn't feel like driving home on our two-hour break but also was too burned out to work; Empress was in my classroom library but I hadn't gotten to read it yet. I am super loving it and by the time this post goes up I'll definitely be done flying through it.)

I'm nearly 7K words into my NaNoWriMo project, and it feels amazing. I forgot how much fun it is to write every day. I have a pretty distinct feeling that this draft is truly awful so far--and I also really, really don't care. I'm loving every minute of it.

So far, my WiP has:
  • cast list day 
  • Shakespeare 
  • the boy next door 
  • lousy gym classes 
  • anxiety 
  • big brown eyes 
  • major flirting 
  • backstage sofas 
  • "would you rather" 


Writing with my students! I've got a dedicated crew of student writers working on their own novels; collectively, students at my school have already written 57,455 words! I had a lunchtime write-in in my room on Monday, and I'm going to keep those going as often as possible. I'm also hosting a twelve-hour write-in (8-8) at school on Sunday, so students can come in and out or spend the whole day writing. I imagine I'll get a lot written that day!


I've started reading comic books (thanks to Mr. S) and I'm totally obsessed with the Hawkeye run that's currently in progress (by Matt Fraction, with a few different artists). You may know about Hawkeye from The Avengers (if you saw the movie, he's Jeremy Renner, aka that one guy who shot an arrow one time) but it turns out there are TWO Hawkeyes (superhero identity tends to be fluid, I guess?) and the second one is a lady. So for Halloween, Mr. S and I both went as Hawkeye; he was Clint Barton and I was Kate Bishop. (Bonus: we both own purple Converse now!) I'm also loving the beginning of Ms. Marvel--the new Ms. Marvel is a Pakistani-American Muslim teenage girl living in Jersey City. (Marvel seems to be figuring out this "diverse books" thing! And these titles are selling, so hopefully no dumb arguments about money will get in the way.)

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Cover Reveal: One Dream Only by Elodie Nowodazkij!

Today I'm excited to participate in the cover reveal for the prequel novelette to One, Two, Three!  Congrats to Elodie Nowodazkij on the lovely cover--I can't wait until the big release day!

 Cover designer: Derek Murphy of CreativIndie

Summary: Sixteen-year-old Natalya Pushkaya has only one dream: becoming the best ballerina ever. Dancing's always been who she is and she's working her hardest to land the main role of the School of Performing Arts' end of the year recital.

But...will she make it?

Within a week, Natalya's life will be changed forever.

Prequel novelette of One, Two, Three.
About the author: Elodie Nowodazkij was raised in a tiny village in France, where she could always be found a book in hand. At nineteen, she moved to the US, where she learned she'd never lose her French accent. She graduated with a bachelor's degree in Modern Language & Linguistics, and later earned master's degrees in German Cultural Studies and European Studies. Unbeknownst to her professors, she sometimes drafted stories in class. Now she lives in Germany with her husband and their cat (who doesn't seem to realize he's not human), and uses her commuting time to write the stories swirling in her head. She's also a serial smiley user.

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Monday, August 18, 2014


So this came guys, I cannot speak highly enough of Oblong Books.  Someday I will actually go to the store.  Someday.  In the meantime, I'm thinking seriously about signing up for Oblong Insider--it's a YA Book-of-the-Month type program. They seem so cool I figure their selections are likely to be excellent.  Anyway, if you're looking for indies to support, I've had very good experiences with Oblong in the past and today I lucked out and won this adorable tote with my pre-order of Isla.  Yay indies, yay swag, YAY ISLA!!!  Just what I want for my last few days of summer!