Google+ YA Romantics

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Just Finished Reading: Weird Girl and What's His Name

Weird Girl and What's His Name

by Meagan Brothers
To be published on October 13, 2015
by Three Rooms Press

Source: ARC from the publisher for review

Synopsis from Goodreads: In the tiny podunk town of Hawthorne, North Carolina, seventeen-year-old geeks Lula and Rory share everything—sci-fi and fantasy fandom, Friday night binge-watching of old X-Files episodes, and that feeling that they don’t quite fit in. Lula knows she and Rory have no secrets from each other; after all, he came out to her years ago, and she’s shared with him her “sacred texts”—the acting books her mother left behind after she walked out of Lula’s life. But then Lula discovers that Rory—her Rory, who maybe she’s secretly had feelings for—has not only tried out for the Hawthorne football team without telling her, but has also been having an affair with his middle-aged divorcee boss. With their friendship disrupted, Lula begins to question her identity and her own sexual orientation, and she runs away in the middle of the night on a journey to find her mother, who she hopes will have all the answers.
My take: As a blogger, it's fun to weigh in on all the same books everyone else is reading. But there's nothing more rewarding than being able to talk about a great book that might not be on everyone's radar. I've been a big fan of Meagan Brothers since her debut novel, Debbie Harry Sings In French.

My Meagan Brothers ARC collection!
I also read and enjoyed her second book, Supergirl Mixtapes. But I think that Weird Girl and What's His Name is her best book yet -- and my favorite.

Like Debbie Harry Sings in French, Weird Girl and What's His Name falls into the LGBTQ category (adding the Q because there's a good amount of Q in the book.) I'm always on the lookout for diverse books, and if you are too, this is a great pick. Also high on my list are YA books that draw on universal experiences and emotions.  Weird Girl and What's His Name deals with issues all readers can relate to -- identity and family, friendship and heartbreak.  Growing up, did you have a best-best friend? Someone you shared inside jokes with? Someone who got you the way no one else got you before or since? Rory and Lula are those kind of friends. They've bonded over the fact that they're both outcasts in their small town, and over The X-Files. I never watched the show, but still loved the way that it was incorporated into the story, and the way that Rory and Lula's changing relationship paralleled that of Scully and Mulder. I loved all the relationships in this book and there were so many great ones: best friends, mother-daughter relationships, student-teacher relationships, grandparents and step-parents, awkward almost-romances and bad-idea-romances and then a romance-with-possibilities.

I was reading this when along came someone I know who's .... well, let's just call her Picky Reader. She thinks a lot of YA is fluffy and not very well-written, and I'm constantly showing her books that make her reconsider her position. It's the least I can do...

Picky Reader: "What are you reading?"
Me: (Holds up Weird Girl and What's Her Name)
Picky Reader: (Takes book.) "Uh... that's a pretty strange title. And I don't love the cover..."
Me: "Just read a few pages."
Picky Reader: (Finally quiet) "Hey, this is good. Can I borrow it?"

Don't make Picky Reader's mistake. If you're a fan of moving, emotionally complex books about identity and friendship, books like Will Grayson, Will Grayson or This Song Will Change Your Life or Fangirl, you've got to try this! And then come back and tell me what you thought...

P.S. If you're an X-Files Fan, what do you think about the new episodes??

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Hot Off the Presses: New YA Releasing October 6-12

Hot Off the Presses -- brand new YA releases!

Welcome to Hot Off the Presses!  

Tuesday is book release day, so every Tuesday I tell you about all the great new YA books you can buy in the week to come. If you're a reviewer, you can also link your blog or Goodreads reviews of any YA book publishing in the current month so we can all check them out!

Enter the NEW October giveaway below! This month's winner can pick any book up to $15 on either Amazon (for US winner) or The Book Depository (for international winner.)

Enter by linking reviews of YA books that release that month or by commenting on other people's linked reviews.

Hot Off the Presses aims to include every traditionally published YA book. Please let me know about books that came out this week that I might have missed! Some titles may have different release dates outside the US.

Click on the covers to get to each book's Goodreads page!

We'll Never Be Apart Dreamstrider My Secret to Tell
We'll Never Be Apart by EMI Jean (HMH)
Dreamstrider by Lindsay Smith (Roaring Brook)
My Secret to Tell by Natalie D. Richards (Sourcebooks)

Carry On A Thousand Nights Future Perfect
Carry On by Rainbow Rowell (St Martins)
A Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston (Disney)
Future Perfect by Jen Larsen (Harper)

Spinning Starlight A Step Toward Falling Orbiting Jupiter
Spinning Starlight by R. C. Lewis (Disney)
A Step Toward Falling by Cammie McGovern (Harper)
Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D. Schmidt (Clarion)

The Detour Chess Queen Enigma White Rose
The Detour by S. A. Bodeen (Feiwel and Friends)
The Chess Queen Enigma by Colleen Gleason (Colleen Gleason)
The White Rose (The Jewel #2) by Amy Ewing (Harper)

The Rest of Us Just Live Here The Edge Illuminate
The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness ((Harper)
The Edge (Peak #2) by Roland Smith (HMH)
Illuminate (Light Key #3) by Tracy Clark (Entangled)

Gathering Deep An Inheritance of Ashes Madness So Discreet
Gathering Deep by Lisa Maxwell (Flux)
An Inheritance of Ashes by Leah Bobet (Clarion)
A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis (Katherine Tegen)

The Storm If You Wrong Us Romancing the Dark in the City of Light
The Storm (H20 #2) byVirginia Bergin (Sourcebooks)
If You Wrong Us by Dawn Klehr (Flux)
Romancing the Dark in the City of Light by Ann Jacobus (Thomas Dunne)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, October 5, 2015

Just Finished Reading ... My Secret to Tell by Natalie D. Richards

My Secret to Tell
by Natalie D. Richards
To be published on October 6, 2015
by Sourcebooks Fire

Source: eARC from the publisher for review

Synopsis from Goodreads: Emmie's had a crush on her best friend's brother forever. Deacon is the town bad boy who's always in trouble, but she sees his soft side when he volunteers with her at the local animal shelter. She doesn't think he's dangerous…until he shows up in her bedroom with blood on his hands. Deacon's father has been violently assaulted and Deacon is suspect number one. Emmie's smart enough to know how this looks, but she also knows Deacon's biggest secret—he's paralyzed by the sight of blood. She's sure he didn't do this. Or did he? Because even Deacon's own sister thinks he's guilty… 

My take: I love mysteries and thrillers, and have been a fan of Natalie Richards since her first YA thriller, Six Months Later. Overall, I was very impressed with My Secret to Tell. Mysteries are really difficult to write -- you have to execute all the other aspects of writing a novel, and then layer in all the clues and misdirection.

As a mystery, I thought My Secret to Tell was really well done. Yes, I did guess the culprit (the "who") but I enjoyed watching all the puzzle pieces fall into place as to the "why" and the "how." And the setting and overall feel of My Secret to Tell reminded me of one of my favorite Netflix series, Bloodlines. Yes, Bloodlines is set in the Florida Keys, not North Carolina, like My Secret to Tell, but both have a great, atmospheric Southern Coastal feel and involve a lot of interesting family drama.

The one part of My Secret to Tell that I wasn't completely satisfied with was the romance. The book sets up a "good girl/bad boy" dynamic that felt a bit forced to me at times. I think the book tried too hard to convince me that Emmie was helping Deacon because, given her volunteer work at the animal shelter, she has some sort of rescue obsession. To me, that gave an odd dynamic to their relationship. The two of them are also separated for much of the book, which didn't give their relationship time and space to grow organically. At times I wished they had gone on the run together, because that would have given them a chance to break out of their roles of rescuer and hard luck case.

But all in all, I thought My Secret to Tell was a well-crafted mystery with a fantastic setting. If you're a fan of thrillers, I hope you give it a try!

Friday, October 2, 2015

Q and A and Giveaway with YA Thriller Author Natalie D. Richards

Today I'm welcoming YA Thriller author Natalie D. Richards to the blog to talk about her about-to-be-released book My Secret to Tell. First, here's a little more about the book, which I'll be reviewing on Monday. And be sure to enter to win a bundle of Natalie's books!

My Secret to Tell
Natalie D. Richards
To be published on October 6th, 2015
by Sourcebooks

Synopsis: His smile is a crime. 

Emerson May is “the good girl.” She’s the perfect daughter, the caring friend, the animal shelter volunteer. But when her best friend’s brother breaks into her room, his hands covered in blood, she doesn’t scream or call the cops. Because when Deacon smiles at her, Emmie doesn’t want to be good… The whole town believes notorious troublemaker Deacon is guilty of assaulting his father. Only Emmie knows a secret that could set him free. But if she follows her heart, she could be trusting a killer…

You can’t always trust the boy next door.

About the author: After years as a professional paper-pusher, Natalie decided to trade in reality for a life writing YA fiction. She lives in Ohio (Go Bucks!) with her husband, three children, and a ridiculously furry dog named Yeti. My Secret to Tell is her third YA book, after Six Months Later and Gone Too Far. Visit her on Twitter @natdrichards or at

Ten Second Q and A with Natalie:

Jen: What are some some scary influences (books, movies, TV shows, real life phobias, etc.) that inspire you as you are writing?

 Natalie: I’ve always gravitated towards books, movies, and television shows with very high stakes, often a paranormal or scary element, and really fast pacing.  I also really enjoy books where you can’t figure out exactly what’s going on and you’re desperate to pull the different threads until something makes sense.  And I do like a bit of romance on the side, but none of those elements seem to guarantee my satisfaction.  I admit I’m picky, but it has everything to do with characters.

Jen: I definitely saw all those threads to pull in My Secret to Tell, and I loved the setting of this book too. Thanks for stopping by!

Excerpt from My Secret to Tell:

My name lands somewhere between a hiccup and a sob, and my feet stall out on the sidewalk in front of my house. I adjust my grip on the phone, hoping I misheard her tone. This doesn’t sound like Chelsea. This voice is breathless.
“I’m here,” I say. “What’s up? You don’t sound right.”
“I’m not.” She takes a shuddery breath.
My shirt’s sticking to my back and cicadas are click-buzzing the end of another blistering day, but I go cold. Something’s wrong.
Wrong, wrong, wrong.
“It’s my dad, Emmie,” she says. I can tell she’s crying.
I grab my chest. It’s too tight. Burning. “What happened?”
Her words all tumble out on top of one another, interrupted by shaky breaths. I try to pick out pieces that make sense. “He’s hurt—bleeding—we’re behind the ambulance and I can’t—he’s not—someone attacked him.”
I start climbing the porch steps, because she’ll need me. I’m her best friend, so I should be there. I need to change clothes and go. “You’re on the way to the hospital, right? They’ll help him there.”
Another sharp breath. “I don’t know if they can. He’s so bad. So bad.”
My heart clenches. “Where are you?”
“We’re almost there. Joel’s with me.”
“Okay, good. I’m coming,” I say, crossing my porch and hauling my front door open. “Let me just call Mom. I’ll borrow the car.”
Chelsea’s still crying when I storm down the hallway toward my bedroom.
“Emmie, I can’t find Deacon…”
“Your brother never answers his phone,” I say, pushing open my door. “I’ll run by the docks first and—”
“No. No, he was there. He was at the house.”
Chelsea makes a strangled sound, and I notice the liquid-thick heat in my bedroom. The kind of heat that tells me the air conditioner is broken. Or my window is open.
My gaze drags to my fluttering white curtains, to the dark smudge on the windowsill.
Chelsea’s voice goes low and raspy. “He ran, Emmie. God, he was there with Dad. He was in the house, but he ran.”
I swivel with an invisible fist lodged in my throat. My bathroom door is open, a red-black smudge beneath the knob.
My mouth goes dry, my pulse thumping slower than it should. Then I see the blood on the floor by my sink, and my heart tumbles end over end.
“We’re here. I’ll call soon,” Chelsea says and hangs up.
I see him, his back to my tub and his dark head bowed on one bent knee. Oh God.
He’s covered in blood. It’s on his legs, his hands. Dripping onto my white tile floor. He looks up, and my heart goes strangely steady.
I take a breath that tastes like purpose. “Deacon?”

Come back on Monday and hear more of my thoughts about this book! And enter to win a book bundle!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Mini-Reviews: Faceless and Dumplin'

 photo MiniReviews_zps77a64c62.jpg
Welcome to Mini-Reviews, a periodic feature in which I give you my (brief) thoughts on a few of my recent reads:

by Alyssa Sheinmel

Published on September 29, 2015
by Scholastic Books
Synopsis from Goodreads: Synopsis from Goodreads: When Maisie gets into a terrible accident, her face is partially destroyed. She's lucky enough to get a face transplant--but how do you live your life when you can't even recognize yourself anymore? She was a runner, a girlfriend, a good student...a normal girl. Now all that has changed. As Maisie discovers how much her looks did--and didn't--shape her relationship to the world, she has to redefine her own identity, and figure out what "lucky" really means.

My take: I'm not going to lie, Faceless was a difficult read for me in several regards. I started it and then had to stop. I mean, this is a tough subject: a girl who's so badly burned that she needs a face transplant. After a break, I re-tried it and was able to finish. And I have a mix of thoughts. On the one hand, I learned a lot about what transplant patients have to go through. And I especially liked the scenes with Maisie and her support group. On the other hand, while reading this I never was able to forget that I was reading a book -- and this could be due to either the extreme nature of the topic or my own emotional distancing.

by Julie Murphy

Published by Balzer + Bray
on September 15, 2015

Source: eARC for review from the publisher
Synopsis from Goodreads: Self-proclaimed fat girl Willowdean Dickson (dubbed “Dumplin’” by her former beauty queen mom) has always been at home in her own skin. Her thoughts on having the ultimate bikini body? Put a bikini on your body. With her all-American beauty best friend, Ellen, by her side, things have always worked…until Will takes a job at Harpy’s, the local fast-food joint. There she meets Private School Bo, a hot former jock. Will isn’t surprised to find herself attracted to Bo. But she is surprised when he seems to like her back. Instead of finding new heights of self-assurance in her relationship with Bo, Will starts to doubt herself. So she sets out to take back her confidence by doing the most horrifying thing she can imagine: entering the Miss Clover City beauty pageant—along with several other unlikely candidates—to show the world that she deserves to be up there as much as any twiggy girl does. Along the way, she’ll shock the hell out of Clover City—and maybe herself most of all.
My take: So much about Dumplin' was absolutely fantastic -- the irresistible, irrepressible main character and her fabulous voice were among my top two narrators of 2015 (Maddie in Everything, Everything would be the other.) I loved the messy, realistic way that Will's friendships and family relationships were portrayed, and the book's great messages about self-acceptance and not letting fear and shame and low self esteem and other people's negativity stop you from doing whatever you want to do. But I really wish there hadn't been a romance involved. Or if there had to be a romance, that there hadn't been two guys. I mostly wish that part of Willowdean's journey of self discovery had involved the idea that she didn't need to land the guy of her dreams to prove anything to herself or the world or anyone. But I think I'm in the minority on this opinion, so there you go...

If you're curious about Faceless, it will be up for grabs on Freebie Friday, so be sure to stop by!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Hot Off the Presses: New YA Releasing September 29-October 5

Hot Off the Presses -- brand new YA releases!

Welcome to Hot Off the Presses!  

Tuesday is book release day, so every Tuesday I tell you about all the great new YA books you can buy in the week to come. If you're a reviewer, you can also link your blog or Goodreads reviews of any YA book publishing in the current month so we can all check them out!

Today (Sept 29) is your lucky day: you can still enter the September giveaway -- you can scroll down to last week's post to do that -- AND you can enter the new October giveaway below. Each month's winner can pick any book up to $15 on either Amazon (for US winner) or The Book Depository (for international winner.)

Enter by linking reviews of YA books that release that month or by commenting on other people's linked reviews.

Hot Off the Presses aims to include every traditionally published YA book. Please let me know about books that came out this week that I might have missed! Some titles may have different release dates outside the US.

Click on the photos to get to each book's Goodreads page!

Six of Crows Sanctuary Zeroes
Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo (Henry Holt)
Sanctuary by Jennifer McKissack (Scholastic)
Zeroes by Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lasagna and Deborah Biancotti (Simon & Schuster)

Faceless Lost Girl Very in Pieces
Faceless by Alyssa Sheinmel (Scholastic)
The Lost Girl (Fear Street Relaunch #3) by R. L. Stine (St. Martins)
Very in Pieces by Megan Frazer Blakemore (Harper)

A Mad Zombie Party Young Man With Camera Madly
Mad Zombie Party (White Rabbit Chronicles #4) by Gina Showalter (Harper)
Young Man with Camera by Emil Sher (Arthur A. Levine)
Madly by Amy Alward (Simon & Schuster)

Untwine Daughters Unto Devils Becoming Darkness
Untwine by Edwidge Danticat (Scholastic)
Daughters Unto Devils by Amy Lukavics (Harlequin)
Becoming Darkness by Lindsay Brambles (Switch)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, September 28, 2015

Just Finished Reading: A Madness So Discreet

A Madness So Discreet
by Mindy McGinniss
To be published on
October 6, 2015
by Katherine Tegen Books

Source: eARC for review from the publisher

Synopsis from Goodreads: Grace Mae knows madness. She keeps it locked away, along with her voice, trapped deep inside a brilliant mind that cannot forget horrific family secrets. Those secrets, along with the bulge in her belly, land her in a Boston insane asylum.When her voice returns in a burst of violence, Grace is banished to the dark cellars, where her mind is discovered by a visiting doctor who dabbles in the new study of criminal psychology. With her keen eyes and sharp memory, Grace will make the perfect assistant at crime scenes. Escaping from Boston to the safety of an ethical Ohio asylum, Grace finds friendship and hope, hints of a life she should have had. But gruesome nights bring Grace and the doctor into the circle of a killer who stalks young women. Grace, continuing to operate under the cloak of madness, must hunt a murderer while she confronts the demons in her own past.
My take: There were things I really liked about A Madness So Discreet, and other things that frustrated me a little.

On the positive side: Grace is a strong, admirable heroine who goes through a lot in the course of the story. When the story begins, she's locked in an asylum in turn of the century Boston, a place with terrible conditions. As the synopsis indicates, Grace is also pregnant. The asylum scenes were really hard to read, but I think the real-life story of Nellie Bly shows that conditions for the mentally ill were definitely horrific at the time. A Madness So Discreet offers a lot of great feminist themes and storylines. 

However, for me the book also had some issues with consistency in its pacing and story goals. Grace got out of the asylum about a third of the way through the book, and I thought I'd be relieved to have the story move out of that dark place. But after Grace escaped, the plot started to drag. The story switched to a murder mystery, as Grace and some new associates tried to find the person responsible for the serial killings of string of young women. The plot did gain some tension again as Grace valiantly tried to protect someone close to her from harm, but in its last quarter, the book seemed to shift into something else yet again: a revenge story. Grace does something pretty shocking, something that made me wonder if she was mentally ill all along. It's possible that creating that ambiguity was the book's intent, but when the story spent two-thirds of its pages trying to convince me that Grace -- and many of the other asylum patients -- had been locked up unfairly, I was confused. Is Grace an innocent victim or a dark avenging angel? I think the book wanted her to be both, but I needed to see her trajectory more clearly. Overall, I wanted more cohesiveness from this story-- of plot, of pace, and of themes. 

Though A Madness So Discreet wasn't perfect for me, it definitely had its high points. If you've loved YA historical fiction with strong feminist themes like The Cure for Dreaming by Cat Winters or A Mad Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller, you should definitely give this book a try.
Blog design by Imagination Designs