young adult books

Cover Reveal for Torn by Kate Sparkes

I am excited to share the release date and cover for Torn by Kate SparkesKate and I are friends in the twitterverse, and she's a great up and coming fantasy writer. Torn is the second in the Bound Trilogy. I sincerely enjoyed Bound and look forward to reading Torn. Torn releases on March 31, 2015 (the same day as I release The Evolution of Lillie Gable) . Great minds think alike! Check out the cover and more details on Torn below! Plus, you can pick up Bound on sale now!

Aren Tiernal knows that safety is an illusion, that his cruel and powerful brother Severn will never forgive his betrayal. Still, returning to Tyrea to challenge Severn for the throne would be suicide. It’s not until Severn himself comes to collect what’s owed to him that Aren decides to risk everything in an attempt to bring down the most powerful Sorcerer Tyrea has ever known. It’s a mission that seems doomed to fail, but it’s Aren’s only chance to save himself, his country, and the woman who thawed his heart.

Rowan Greenwood has troubles of her own. Though she has potential to become a great Sorceress, years of being closed off from her magic have left her unable to control her incredible power. When a pair of ominous letters arrive from her home country, Rowan has to choose between her new life and a chance at saving a family member’s life—and just maybe changing an entire country’s beliefs about the evils of magic.

Torn apart by separate quests, Rowan and Aren will have to discover untapped strengths and confront their darkest fears in order to overthrow a ruler determined to destroy them both.

Available for Pre-Order on Amazon. 

The Evolution of Lillie Gable Cover Reveal and Release Date

I'm excited to announce that The Evolution of Lillie Gable, my second full-length young adult novel releases on March 31, 2015! Lillie's character is much different than Rachel Brandt in The Photograph, and I'm excited to share her story with the world. If you want a preview of the book, check out the sneak peek snippets section on the blog along with the blurb below. I will let you know about pre-order information in the coming weeks, along with more teasers about the novel.

Meet Lillie Gable–

high school sophomore, outgoing, beautiful, athletic, and funny...

She is the life of any party. Her boyfriend, Jake, is a smoking hot senior, and Lillie is on track to be a starter on the varsity girls' basketball team this year.

But trouble looms behind the façade. Lillie's home life is a wreck. Her father is hiding a secret, and Lillie is determined to find the truth, even if it tears apart her family.

While she searches for the truth about her father, the last thing Lillie needs is a feud with Angela Barrett, the brass, bleached blonde senior who is the queen of the rumor mill. Angela is determined to ruin Lillie's reputation because she has set her sights on Lillie's boyfriend, Jake.

Heartbroken and humiliated, Lillie can't return to the life she once knew. Does she have the strength and resolve to forge a new path now that everything is changing?

January Book Spotlight: Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry

For the past couple years, my routine is to post my monthly book reviews on the blog. In 2015, I'm changing my reading routine, and therefore, the monthly book review posts. In the past year, my reading habit was centered on finishing as many books as I could, and I wasn't enjoying some of the books I read. This year, I'm slowing down the amount of books I read. I also am focusing my reading to authors I love and some books I've read before. Since I may only read 2 books a month, I am shifting away from the monthly book reviews. Instead, I will highlight a book or two each month. This month's book spotlight is Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry.

Katie McGarry has been on my author radar for several months now. She writes contemporary young adult romance, but her novels are much more than love stories. I picked up Pushing the Limits and blazed through the book in a few days. The novel  switches point of view with each chapter between Noah and Echo, the main characters. Noah and Echo are both dealing with issues in their past. Noah lost his parents, and Echo had a traumatizing event with her bipolar mother. Their school counselor sets their romance in motion by assigning Echo to tutor Noah.

I loved this book. I know it follows many young adult and romance tropes, but you can't help but love Echo and Noah. You are rooting for them to figure out their lives together. But this novel is much more than a romance. The characters are battling inner demons and learning how to let go and move forward. The author does a great job of bringing forth the emotion of the characters. I was in tears at the end of the book.

Pushing the Limits is the first in a series by McGarry. The next books in the series follow secondary characters from Pushing the Limits. I'm excited to read how she connects the dots between the series, especially since my contemporary young adult follows the same pattern. Katie McGarry is definitely on my list for this year. 6 out of 7 stars

What are you reading in this snowy, cold January?

Kristen's Favorite Books of 2014

Every year, I take a look back at the books I read throughout the year to pick some of my favorites. I have a hard time ranking the books because each stands on its own for different reasons. Therefore, my list of nine books is broken down into a few categories. Also, my reading list in 2014 was littered with young adult novels, so many of the books listed below are young adult. In 2015, I plan to read more outside the YA genre and also read more nonfiction. Finally, my list below is from books I read in 2014, not books that released in 2014.

My Favorite Book of 2014

Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson - This was an easy favorite to choose for me. I love fantasy, and the writing is brilliant.

Here's my review: The only disappointing part about Words of Radiance was knowing the next book in the series won't be out until Fall of 2015. Words of Radiance is the 2nd in the ten book epic fantasy series titled the Stormlight Archive. Words of Radiance is perhaps the best book I will read this year, and better than its predecessor. Whereas The Way of Kings focused almost entirely on world building and character development, the second book dives into story and action. But the world building continues in breathtaking fashion with more depth and layers added to the main characters as well. Since I knew what I was getting myself into, I didn't mind the length at all, and the pacing of the story was great. I often had to force myself to shut off the Kindle every night to get sleep. If you like epic fantasy and haven't read the Stormlight Archive yet, do yourself the favor and start reading.

Series I loved in 2014

The Matt Archer Series by Kendra C. Highley - I read all five books of this series in 2014 and loved them. Matt Archer is a young adult urban fantasy series. The series is action packed, funny at times, and heart wrenching at other moments.

Here's my review of Redemption, the conclusion to the series: With Redemption, Kendra Highley did something great–she finished a young adult series well. The storyline is tied up by the last chapter. Even though you want to see more from the characters, you don't need it. The story is complete.

If you have read the previous Matt Archer novels, Redemption follows the same pattern. It has plenty of action, but humor laced in the dialog to ease the tension. By book five, you are rooting for the characters so it's tough to lose any of them, but it's an epic battle of good vs. evil, and Highley isn't afraid of characters making the ultimate sacrifice.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone Series by Laini Taylor - I would classify this series as one that surprised me. I didn't expect to enjoy a book about devils and angels as much as I did. The first book in the series is a love story, but the series moves beyond the love story into a complicated tale of war and two worlds wrapped up in it. The real beauty of this trilogy is the writing. Taylor's prose is breathtaking and reason enough to read the books.

The Final Formula by Becca Andre - The Final Formula series is fun. I love reading these books because they are a great mix of fun and laughs with action and tension. I've read the first two novels and the two novellas. The first novel is free so check it out.

Here's my review from second full-length novel in the series. The Blood Alchemist is the follow up to The Final Formula, and just like the first in the series, this book is very enjoyable. The book is packed with explosions, magic, and murders. Addie, an alchemist, works with her element friends to solve the seemingly random murder of magical people using bullets designed by Addie. Throughout the mystery and action, the character relationships continue to develop and evolve, and I really enjoy the snappy dialog between the characters.

Young Adult Books to Tug on Your Emotions

I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson - My review is below. I adored this novel as an adult who loves reading young adult. My only concerns of the book dealt with the intended audience of this book. But, the story is so good. So Good.

Here's my review: I loved The Sky is Everywhere, Jandy Nelson's debut novel, so I was excited to read this one. It didn't disappoint. The story is stunning. I adored the dual point of views from the varying time periods. I also liked the element of mystery to the novel and figuring out exactly what happened to Noah and Jude. But most of all, I loved the story of Noah and Jude. It was so good. I did feel a little bogged down with the long chapter lengths (especially since it's YA), and some of the quirky language. I also wonder if teens are truly the target audience of the book. It just didn't sit with me as a novel teens will flock to reading. Maybe too literary? Either way, I liked it. You probably will too.

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell - I'm waiting for this one to be made into a movie.

Here's my review: I'm sorry it took so long for me to read this book. It's been on my to-read list for awhile, and I finally got an audio book copy through overdrive. I don't do audiobooks often–I simply enjoy reading more than listening, but Eleanor & Park was a great audiobook. The narrators were fantastic. I loved the dueling point of views. It really added depth to this book. Eleanor and Park are adorable and their love story is much different than many of the YA books I've read. I don't want to give too much away, so just read the book.

The Most Imaginative Book

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman - The Ocean at the End of the Lane is my first Neil Gaiman book. It won't be my last! First, his writing is stunning. He is able to create beautiful pictures with his words without bogging the page down with big words and long sentences. I could read it over and over simply for this reason. With its 7-year-old protagonist and shorter length, the book reads more like a kids' or YA book. (Think Narnia or A Wrinkle in Time) But I loved the imagination of the story and how it addressed themes of sacrifice, loss, and good vs. evil.


An Oldie but a Goodie

The Book Thief by Marcus ZusakThe Book Thief is a book that has been on my to-read list for a long time, but I kept putting it off because it was another WWII book. I listened to the audio book version of The Book Thief, and I found myself drawn in right away. It was a refreshing change of pace from some of my recent reads. I loved Death as the narrator, and the author using Death to create an omniscient point-of-view. I loved the theme of the power of words, and the questions the novel brings up about morality, war, our words, and more. The Book Thief is a worthy read for teens and adults.

My Favorite Book on Writing of 2014

Wonderbook by Jeff VanderMeer - Wonderbook is a great guide to help creative writers (especially those in the fantasy or sci-fi realms). The book is very dense–I will need to read through sections a few more times. But it's worth buying a copy and keeping around the house if you are a writer. I especially loved all the illustrations and visuals throughout the book.



What were your favorite reads of 2014?

Sneak Peek Snippet: The Evolution of Lillie Gable

I am busy revising and editing The Evolution of Lillie Gable, but I'm at the point where I can start sharing snippets. So here's one from Chapter 3!

Lillie grabbed a beer from the cooler and walked inside. The house was quiet, but she looked through the house to make sure she was alone. She returned to the kitchen and opened the fridge. When she saw the small red bottle of hot sauce, she grabbed it. She poured out a third of the beer and then poured a small stream of hot sauce in it. She put the hot sauce back and walked outside.

Lillie took a long way around the patio to approach Angela and Jake from behind. She took one step at a time, careful to not draw attention to herself. When she was within striking distance, she paused. Jake was laughing at Angela’s words. Lillie switched the beer cans so the hot sauce beer was next to Angela. With Angela’s beer in hand, she walked away and circled back to the front of the patio.

“Need another beer?” Lillie asked as she approached Jake and Angela. Jake shook his head, so Lillie turned to Angela. Angela lifted her beer in the air.

“No I’m good,” she said, taking a sip. Angela started coughing and gagging. She stood and hurried into the yard. Lillie saw her bend over, heave, and empty the contents of her stomach into the grass.

September 2014 Book Reviews

This month I'm trying something new, so here's my September book reviews by video! If you aren't a video person, my written reviews are below. Happy Reading! [youtube]

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor - I enjoyed this book more than I expected because I don't consider myself a big fan of paranormal young adult books. Here's what I loved: the stunning imagery and the strong female lead. The romance was a little tropey (is that a word?), but I love the world building and the story arc this first book sets up. I can't wait to see where the author takes this series. Since I am several years behind in reading this book, I get to cruise from one to the next! 6 out of 7 stars

The Book Thief by Markus ZusakThe Book Thief is a book that has been on my to-read list for a long time, but I put it off for an unknown reason. I saw the movie a month or so ago and finally decided to read the book (even though I don't think the movie does the book justice). I listened to the audio book version of The Book Thief, and I found myself drawn in right away. It was a refreshing change of pace from some of my recent reads. I loved Death as the narrator, and the author using Death to create an omniscient point-of-view. I loved the theme of the power of words and the questions the novel brings up about morality, war, our words, and more. The Book Thief is a worthy read for teens and adults. 6 out of 7 stars

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart - I always scan the reviews of a book after I finish reading, but before I write the review. This time I was surprised to see that the top reviews on Goodreads and Amazon were either 5 stars or 2 stars. Apparently this book polarizes reviewers, but I'm going straight down the middle for my review. On the positive side, I enjoyed the short choppy sentences and using language in a fresh new way, along with the fairy tale chapters. I didn't see the big twist coming, although I was a little disappointed with it. What can I say? I like happy endings. I think the book makes readers reflect on issues of materialism, socio-economic status, greed, and of course, love. On the negative side, I never really grew to love the main character Cadence. Plus, I'm not a fan of characters with amnesia-it just seems a little played out. The emotion of the story didn't hit me either, but it could be great for you. If you like twisty, contemporary stories, I'd read it. 4 out of 7 stars

The Splendour Falls by Susanna Kearsley - The Splendour Falls is a mix of mystery, romance, and history in a beautiful setting. Emily, the main character, is on holiday in Chinon, France. She is supposed to meet up with her cousin, but he never shows. She ends up befriending others staying at her hotel. Together they discover a long lost treasure hunt and learn the history of those who lived in Chinon many years before. The story was good, albeit a bit predictable at times, so I found myself reading to finish the book, not reading because I was excited about the book. This is the first I have read by Kearsley, but I realized this was one of her early novels, written in 1996. Reviews state her most recent works have more depth and mystery to them, so I will probably try another by Kearsley to satisfy my historical fiction craving. 4 out of 7 stars


Rating System Guide

7 stars = Phenomenal book – one of the  best books I’ve read

6 stars = Great book – worth your time to read

5 stars = Solid book, if you like the genre pick it up

4 stars = Okay book, maybe lacking something in the way of language, character development, story

3 stars = I probably should have stopped reading this book.

1 or 2 stars = Serious issues with plot, structure, language, or not a book for me.

Author Spotlight with Amy Martin

After I read a great self-published book, I contact the author and ask to spotlight them on the blog. 90% of the time the author responds right away with an affirmative yes. So thanks to the indie writing community for the willingness to answer a few questions for me and the blog! This month I interviewed Amy Martin, author of the In Your Dreams series. I read and reviewed the first in the series last month. Amy tells us a little bit about her dreams, being a semifinalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, and balancing work with writing.

BookCoverImageInYour Dreams

Tell us a little about yourself and your writing.

I’m originally from Missouri, but I currently live in Lexington, KY with my husband and cat, and I work in higher education. When I’m not writing, I like to watch sports and movies, and I spend way too much time on social media (usually just lurking rather than participating). The In Your Dreams novels are my first published novels, although I’ve been writing off and on for my whole life.

The In Your Dreams series, in a sentence, is about a basketball-playing girl nicknamed Zip who meets a boy named Kieran who suffers from a strange narcolepsy-like condition that brings trouble and adventure to the two of them and their families.

What draws you to write young adult fiction?

I’ve worked with young people my entire adult life, so I feel like I know more about the 17-24 age group than I do people my own age. :) And as many of my friends’ daughters are becoming young adult readers, I wanted to put stories out there that feature strong heroines—heroines who can fall in love and be vulnerable but who can still maintain their lives and interests and not sacrifice everything to their relationships.

What does a typical work day look like for you? How much time do you spend writing fiction compared to marketing, blogging, working another job, etc?

Unfortunately, I still work full-time, so my writing and marketing time ends up crammed into those corners of my life in which I’m not working or taking care of things around the house. I try to write a little every day, but sometimes after a long day at work, it’s just not feasible. I really struggle with balance, and it’s something I hope to get better at this year.

In Your Dreams was a semifinalist in the 2012 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. Tell us a little about the process and the benefits for you from reaching the semifinals.

I submitted an early version of In Your Dreams along with a pitch (a version of the book description that currently appears on the book’s for-sale pages). Amazon reviewers first judged the book solely on the pitch and then on the first five-thousand words. Once I progressed to the semifinal round, a Publishers’ Weekly reviewer read and reviewed the entire book. I didn’t progress any further, but comments from the reviewer and other readers gave me the confidence to revise the novel and self-publish.

Last month, I read your novel In Your Dreams. As the title suggests, the novel explores the dreams of one of the characters. I’ve always found dreams fascinating and have some pretty strange dreams. Do you have a strange dream of your own that you are willing to share?

I have trouble remembering my dreams (much like Zip—at least at first), but I do know that one of the strangest things that always happens in my dreams is that I’ll be in a place I remember from growing up, and people who aren’t supposed to be there show up. For example, I’ll be running around my high school as an adult (I haven’t been back to my high school in years) and people I went to college with will be there.

What is on the horizon for your fans this year?

I’m working on the fourth and final book of the In Your Dreams series—tentatively titled Beyond Your Dreams—which I’m hoping to have out this summer. After that, I’m hoping to put out a new adult title later on this year, and I’ve got ideas for other young adult books that I hope to start working on before the year is out.

Finally, I'm always looking for recommendations of great self-published books and indie authors. What are a few of your favorite self-published fiction books?

I really enjoyed the Deck of Lies series by Jade Varden—I read that in one day. Honestly, my “to read” list is so long at this point with both self-published and traditionally-published books, I’m not sure I’ll ever dig my way out. I think I may need some recommendations to help me sort out my list. :)

Thanks again to Amy! You can check out her books on Amazon by clicking the images or find her on social media via the below links.

Connect with Amy on her website.

Follow Amy on Twitter.

Like Amy on Facebook.

BookCoverImageInYour DreamsBookCoverImage-As You WakeBeforeYouSleep-Amz

February 2014 Book Reviews

This month I enjoyed three great Young Adult books. All three were sitting on my kindle for a few months and in between packing, moving, and unpacking I managed to read these three. I am excited for next month with a wide open calendar to read lots of books!

Matt Archer: Monster Hunter by Kendra C. Highley - I reviewed Sidelined, a contemporary YA novel by Kendra a couple months ago. I enjoyed it, so I picked up the start of her Matt Archer series, a horror/urban fantasy series.  Matt Archer is an ordinary boy who gets picked by a magic wielding knife to hunt monsters in the middle of Montana. The concept sounds a little crazy, but if you are willing to suspend disbelief with the magic and fantasy in the backdrop of a modern society, this is a great book. The book is written so well- perfect for the younger teenagers which is the target audience. But even adults can enjoy the fun of this book. I can't wait to continue the series! 5 out of 7 stars.

In Your Dreams by Amy Martin is a solid YA debut. I love the character of Zip (although that may be just because of my love of basketball). She is a strong young teenage girl. When she meets Kieran, a new kid for the first time, she is intrigued by him, his story, and his narcolepsy. They quickly become friends and Amy discovers Kieran's secret- his dreams predict the future. I enjoyed how the author took this concept of dreams and put a fresh spin on it. I enjoyed the character development and interaction, along with the mystery and intrigue of the story. It's a great debut and worth the read if you are a sucker for good YA books. (Like me!) 5 out of 7 stars and it's free on Amazon Kindle.


Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson - I absolutely loved this book. It was action packed, yet full of great themes to make you think. The characters were authentic and the world building was intriguing. The YA novel is set in a near future where ordinary people have gained super powers (think the TV show Heroes). These people are called Epics, but the Epics are terrible power hungry killers. The novel is centered on David, a seventeen year old boy, eager for revenge against an Epic named Steelheart, who killed his father. He joins up with the Reckoners, the only group of humans who fights against the Epics and they attempt to take Steelheart down. Like I said, the book is great- superbly written with a great plot. It's worth reading! 6 out of 7 stars (maybe deserves 7 stars, I'm still debating it.)

Rating System Guide

7 stars = Phenomenal book – one of the  best book’s I’ve read

6 stars = Great book – worth your time to read

5 stars = Solid book, if you like the genre pick it up

4 stars = Okay book, maybe lacking something in the way of language, character development, story

3 stars = I probably should have stopped reading this book.

1 or 2 stars = Serious issues with plot, structure, language, or not a book for me.

December 2013 Book Reviews

This month was a big reading month since I had some free time around the holidays. I read 5 full length books and one short story. I decided to take the time around the holidays to read The Hunger Games trilogy again. I finished Catching Fire as I write this post, with plans to finish Mockingjay by Midnight on New Years Eve so I reach my Goodreads goal of 52 books read in 2013. In a week or so, I will write about my favorite books in 2013. It will be hard to choose! Anyways, happy new year and enjoy the book reviews. Allegiant by Veronica RothAllegiant isn't on my list of favorite young adult books, but it does wrap up the series well. I was not a fan of the point of view switching between Tris and Tobias. It felt disjointed to me and didn't allow me to get into the story as well as the first two. I also found the world of factions intriguing so I was disappointed the last book took place outside the faction society. However, I think Roth concluded the series well by wrapping up the story well without leaving tons of loose ends. In that way, I was a satisfied reader. Overall, the Divergent series is worth reading through the finish. It's a fun, action packed series that makes you think. 4 out of 7 stars.  The Way of Kings by Brandon SandersonThe Way of Kings is the first book in an epic fantasy series by Brandon Sanderson. The book is definitely epic in length at a dense 1000 pages. Sanderson builds a complex and intriguing fantasy world in the first book. We learn about the landscape, the cities, the battles, and the people. The character development was great; you truly get inside the heads of the characters and I was never lost switching between the various viewpoints. But at times, I felt the book had too much world building and setup, especially in the first half. I wanted to get to the action. However, the book finishes spectacularly and I was disappointed to learn the second in the series isn't available until March of 2014. If you like LOTR or Game of Thrones, this is a series to check out. 5 out of 7 stars.

Vampire Zombie Claus by Randy Shaffer - Vampire Zombie Claus is a fun twist on the story of Santa Claus. I enjoyed reading the short story and the creative spin on Kris Kringle using the vampire lore. The story was well-written and the ending left me  wanting more. For only $0.99, pick it up for a fun read. 6 out of 7 stars.

The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins - After seeing the first two movies, I found my respect for the filmmakers and the author both grew. I really think the film adaptations are great. Of course, they had to cut some material and make it work for the screen, but the core story remains the same. Well done Hollywood.

As for the books, I find Katniss much more vulnerable and likeable. I also think Peeta is a stronger character in the books (although in the second movie they do a better job with him). The storyline is fantastic. Love these books. Worth reading again and again! 7 out of 7 stars.

As always, I'm always up for book recommendations and would love to know what you are reading!