Monday, October 3, 2016

September Reads

I feel like September was an outlier month for me. Not only did I not read as much as I usually do, what I did read was outside of my normal reading wheelhouse. Few reasons for this:

 I started listening to a new podcast a few months ago called What Should I Read Next (check it out when you have a chance, but warning: it's addictive!) and it's influenced my reading lately. She does a lot of thriller and literary novels, and makes me need to read them NOW.

Also, I got hooked on Poldark and spent a healthy chunk of time binge-watching season 1 to prepare for season 2. If you haven't watched it yet, go forth and watch. PBS.org or on Amazon Prime. You will thank me later.

Small Gods (Discworld, #13)

SMALL GODS--This was the book club book pick for this month. Fantasy isn't a genre I'm drawn to in general (unless there's a heavy dose of romance to go with it..., which this one doesn't) but I do love having the chance to stretch outside of my reading comfort zone. This book explores what it means to have meaningful worship and religion and I think is going to make a fantastic book club discussion. 

Bossypants

BOSSYPANTS--I'm trying to listen to audio books more often because I don't seem to have as much time lately to sit and read, and audio books would be so convenient!! I picked this one because it was read by Tina Fey herself, which really added to the experience. There were parts that were hilarious and brilliant (the entire chapter about her father!) and other's that felt strange and overly-long (anything that devolved into "self help" or musings on the industry rather than focusing on her own story.) I'm learning that a good narrator makes all the difference!

I Let You Go

I LET YOU GO--So this is a book that I learned about on the What Should I Read Next podcast. It was on sale for Amazon, so I snatched it up and started reading right away. It's about a little boy who is killed in a hit and run accident. It's part thriller and part police procedural as everyone tries to figure out who hit this little boy and then leave. The beginning was a little slow, and I struggled to get my footing with the English terms for a little bit, but I stuck with it because Anne said she loved it so much. And I'm so glad I did! This book is broken up into parts, and something happened right at the end of Part 1 that made me yell: WHAT??? And then I was completely hooked. So you have to have a little bit of patience with part 1, but then it pays off later. 

The Husband's Secret

THE HUSBAND'S SECRET--I kept hearing about this one on the podcast as well. I've been hearing about it for years, and have it on my Kindle, so I pulled it up to read. And could not put it down. It hooked me from page 1. Moriarty is a fantastic storyteller. This one three women in a small Australian town--one of whom discovers a secret about her husband that changes all of their lives. I bought Big, Little Lies, and I'm excited to read that one soon.

Pretty Baby

PRETTY BABY--I kept hearing things about The Good Girl by Mary Kubica, but my library didn't have that one on the shelf and I didn't want to wait for reserve, so I grabbed this one instead. This was another book with a slow beginning, but I found the premise so interesting I kept pushing forward. One day a woman riding on the train notices a homeless teenager with a baby and is compelled to help her. She brings the girl home with her, but they both have their secrets, and it's only a matter of time before things get dangerous. This book was a little dark for me. I was compelled to finish it to discover what happens, and everything fit together perfectly. One of the things I'm learning while reading this genre is how the author wraps clues in ordinary details so that when the big reveal happens, everything makes sense, even if you didn't see it coming (I will say, that I DID guess the ending on this one, but not until I was past the half-way point.)

In the Woods (Dublin Murder Squad, #1)

IN THE WOODS--Another book I learned about in the What Should I Read Next podcast. She actually suggests skipping this book and going straight into book two of the Dublin Murder Squad series (which is an oft-mentioned book by her), but I didn't want to start on book two of a series! Yet as I read this, I understood maybe why she gave that advice. This is a book about a detective who's two best friends were killed in the woods, while he survived (but he can't remember anything about that night.) Now twenty years later, another young girl has been murdered in the woods and it seems like the two cases could be connected. This book reads like a literary thriller. It's beautifully written and detailed, and the main character's development is just as much a part of the story as the mysteries are. It is a really dark book, though, and talking about the murder of children is always something that turns my stomach. But I will say that she completely surprised me with who the killer was, which I can very much appreciate.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

My Best of YA (so far...)

I miss doing my monthly posts of what I read that month, and I'm way too behind to catch up for the year, so I thought I'd do a few posts that are just the "best of" from the year so far.

Just to give you a mental picture of how much I read: I've read 74 books so far this year, of which 30 have been young adult books.

Since I just finished a young adult book a couple of weeks ago (co-written with the fabulous Ranee S. Clark) and sent it off to first round readers, I will do a Best of YA--So Far list in honor of that.

In no particular order...

Calvin

Calvin by Martine Leavitt. 

This book is beautifully written and thought provoking. I heard Martine speak at a writers conference a few years ago, and it was one of the most inspiring speeches I've ever heard. Although her books aren't very long, they deal with heavy subjects. This one tackled mental illness--schizophrenia, specifically.

Love, Lucas

Love, Lucas by Chantele Sedgwick

I wish this book had been around when I was a teenager. It is sweet, romantic, and atmospheric in a way that will make you want to go to the beach. It deals with death and grief, but focuses on the healing. I would hand this off to any teen at church in a heartbeat.

Everything, Everything

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

I'm pretty sure I read this book in one sitting. It is fun, romantic, fast-paced and Yoon put her characters in what seemed like an impossible situation, and I was excited to see how they were going get out of it. It had a modern fairy-tale feel (I won't say which one, though...) I read this one a while ago, but I'm pretty sure it has some language in it and deals a little with teen sexuality.

The Start of Me and You

The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord

I bought this one when it was on sale for Kindle because I've been wanting to read something by Emery Lord. It was adorable and light and the perfect evening read.

First & Then

First and Then by Emma Mills

This one is for the people who love Jane Austen retellings with a twist. This is a loose retelling of Pride and Prejudice. And while I loved the cousin relationship, I wished there was more romance. Still, it was a fun take on P&P and I enjoyed the read. (I think there was some content in this one as well, but I don't remember any specifics.)

Since You've Been Gone

This is another one of those authors that I've been meaning to read for a while, but just haven't gotten around to it. When this book went on sale, I snatched it up and read it quickly. It was a sweet contemporary read about a girl who has to find herself after her best friend disappears.

Tell Me Three Things

This may be my favorite YA book I've read so far this year. This one made me think a lot about what I'm doing in my own writing, and how uncomplicated things can be to still have a good, solid plot. Romantic, fun, cute and would appeal to fans of Jenny Han or Stephanie Perkins.

Adorkable

I was in the mood for something light and fluffy and a quick read, and this one totally fit the bill. I There wasn't much new here as far as the friends to more trope (or the faking a relationship one) but it was presented in a cute way.

I'll Be Yours

A sweet book that was entertaining and that flowed nicely. I'm pretty sure Jenny Jones is a Christian author (there may have even been references to it in the book... I can't remember.) This was a quick, nice read.

Love and Other Foreign Words


I nearly read this book in one sitting. It had great voice and a fun premise, and the sister relationship was spot-on. It was light and fun and exactly what I was in the mood for. I would read another book by this author.

The Passion of Dolssa

This one is lovely and lyrical and tells a story of friendship and loss and redemption and faith and did it in such a beautiful, intricate way.

The Wrong Side of Right

I thought this was really readable and had great voice. (But I will say that it gets quite political, so I'm sure sure that I'd recommend it for everyone.)

The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You

I loved this Shakespeare retelling of Much Ado About Nothing. It was witty and funny and embraced fandom without being too over a non-fan's head. It didn't get lost in unrealistic references and characters that felt like caricatures. It had a great plot and good flow and I enjoyed it a ton. I would read something by Lily again in a heartbeat.

P.S. I Like You

So great and sweet. It reminded me a lot of the books by Jenny Han (To All the Boys I've Loved Before) only a little lighter and I would hand it off to a younger reader a lot easier. Lily was a fun, quirky character and I loved her for her awkwardness.  And Cade had a heart-wrenching back story and made for a good match. This was the perfect (clean) YA romantic comedy read.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Interview with author Melanie Bateman

I'm thrilled to be interviewing Melanie Bateman today who has a new book out.




KAYLEE: Hi Melanie! I'm so glad you're here on my blog today! How long did it take for you to write The Time Key?

MELANIE: I finished writing the first draft within six months, but the ideas and background behind the book are a compilation of short stories and world building that I started in high school. So to put a time frame, it took me at least a decade to write this story.


Wow! I love that you incorporated ideas that you've had since high school. I'd love to hear your publication story. 

To be honest, it’s very uneventful. I finished the book and sent it to a few competitions, but nothing happened. One or two publishers rejected it, but gave me good feedback. I left it alone for over a year before I submitted it to Cedar Fort, and was very surprised when two weeks later they offered me a contract!

That's exciting! Where did you get the idea for this book from?

A lot of ideas from over the years went into writing The Time Key, but it really all came together just before my daughter turned one. My husband and I were having a discussion and he mentioned that if anything ever happened to our daughter and me he would probably turn into a miserable drunk. That’s when Stanley came to life for me, and the rest of the plot just came along as I wrote.

What are you working on next?

Really I’m just trying to build a stronger portfolio for my illustration. As far as writing, I’m starting the research stage of a story I’ve wanted to tell since high school. There are a lot of doodles, but no solid storyline yet. I will say it follows a minor character in The Time Key and a lot of it takes place during a similar version of our own World War I.

Sounds intriguing. Tell me a little bit about yourself.

I’m a dairy farmer’s wife and a mother of two. I was born in Venezuela and came to the US at the age of nine. I studied illustration and it is my absolute passion. I live in Utah and love to find places to hike and be outdoorsy with my family.

What is your favorite writing snack?

Honestly, I don’t snack when I write. But since I do my writing late at night, I do keep a 12 oz Mt. Dew on my desk to keep me awake.

What are your top 3-5 favorite books?

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon.

The Inkheart Trilogy by Cornelia Funke.

The Book Thief is one of my favorites, too! Thanks for joining my blog today, Melanie. I loved learning more about you and your process!

Click here to learn more about Melanie and her books.
Click here to purchase The Time Key.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

What I've Been Up To...

I love this time of year. Not only is the weather beautiful here in Arizona, but I get to make goals and lists, which rank up there next to eating refrigerated Twix and watching Amanda Bynes' old romantic comedies on the list of things that make me happy.

A contemporary Twelfth Night? Yes, please.

So here's my mish-mashy list of what I've been up to in December and January and some of my goals for 2016:

WRITING:

  • I finished a contemporary YA novel that I'm in love with. It took me over a year to research and write, and then another seven months to revise and edit. It stretched me in all the best ways, and I can't wait for everyone to read it.
  • A few months ago, Jolene Perry and I were chatting about how I wanted (and kind of needed) to write something that was no-pressure, fun. She'd been writing her "Almost" Fairy Tale books and suggested I write one of those. So I did. It's in the revision stages, but it is everything light and fun and romantic that I hoped it would be.
  • As for current WIPs, I'm working on a contemporary romance with the kind of book hero that I always love, and I'm doing research for my next YA novel that is in the outline stage right now.

COMMUNITY:

  • I'm on the conference committee for the LDStorymakers conference over the agents and editors along with the fabulous Michelle Wilson. It's been a lot of work pulling this all together--and the hardest of the hard work is still to come--but it's exciting to be a part of such a fabulous organization. 
  • I am also on the Whitney Awards committee, contacting publishers to let them know that their author's books have been nominated. A bug chunk of my January was devoted to reading and emailing for this, but I love that we do this awards program and I love being involved.
GOALS:
  • I bought a journal and a lovely gel pen and I've been trying to write in it every day. There's just something so nice about handwriting after I do so much typing in the day. I used to do an online journal, but I found myself going back and editing prior posts, and I don't want my journal to be the edited version of me, I want it to be the REAL me.
  • Be more positive/understanding/helpful and less critical of others. It's too easy to judge people's decisions without knowing the whole story and I'm trying to be purposefully generous in my thoughts and always give people the benefit of the doubt. I'm naturally a non-cynical person, but even more than non-cynical, I'd love to be the kind of person who jumps in and helps regardless of circumstances.
READING:
  • Here are the January reads that I loved:
Everything, Everything

This is everything I enjoy about YA. Short, snappy chapters, lovely prose, a sweet romance, and the plot keeps you turning the pages to see what's going to happen next. 

The Mistress of Tall Acre

Someone suggested this for book club, and even though it didn't get picked, I wanted to read it. I love a good historical romance, and this one delivered. Laura's attention to historical detail is phenomenal.


My Fair Gentleman

One word for this one: Smile. Because that's what I did the entire time I was reading it. If you are a fan of Sarah Eden, grab this book. Fun banter, hilarious situations, and a romance that made me want to sigh.

What are some of your goals this year?