Sunday, September 13, 2015

What I've Been Reading - September 2015


Last month, I finally finished my Summer Reading Challenge, which focused on reading books that had been gathering dust on my shelves. During that time, there were so many ARCs and recommendations for books I could not WAIT to read.

Hello, Goodbye, And Everything In Between by Jennifer E Smith

I love Jennifer E Smith, and even had the awesome privilege to interview her on my blog. I admire her writing style, which is 3rd person, present tense--an extremely hard combo to write in! Her stories are always fun and swooney. Hello, Goodbye, And Everything In Between follows the last night Clare and Aidan have together before they leave for college. Jennifer did such an excellent job capturing the last minute doubts and nerves before leaving for college, while also showing the strains the college process can take on families and friends, as well as the teen. I finished this book with a heavy heart and a goofy smile. I'd love to put this in the hands of every graduating high school senior. Hello, Goodbye, And Everything In Between is out now.

The Shadow Queen by C. J. Redwine

I've also had the opportunity to interview C.J. Redwine on my blog and was really excited for this ARC (which I stole from Jodi Meadows when I went to stay with her a few weeks ago). Going in, all I knew was that there were dragons and it was a Snow White retelling. 

What I was not expecting was for this to be such a high-energy, thrilling story. Lorelai was a brave and fearless main character, who took on her evil stepmother's magic with the powerful force of her own.

What really made this book exciting was Kole, a reluctant king who needs help in protecting his half-dragon, half-human kingdom from ogres. I loved the descriptions of his two hearts (one human and one dragon), and how one overpowered the other.

I'm excited for this series, which is several retellings that stand alone. The Shadow Queen comes out in February 2016.

I'll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios

You know it's a good book when you mention that you're reading it, and you get this reaction on Twitter.

I'll Meet You There combined some of my favorite things: a wounded Marine, a feisty girl, a lower-middle class setting, and blue collared jobs.

I'm not sure what there is to say that most haven't already. It's become a favorite with many readers in my circle, so I'm late to the party with this one. It came out in February 2015.

What's Up Next

Una LaMache is one of my favorite authors. I loved Like No Other, and was super excited about Don't Fail Me Now, which is about two teens who live in Maryland (my home state) and go searching for their dying father.

Also highly recommended has been A Million Miles Away, which is an Alloy-developed romance about a twin girl stepping into her deceased sister's shoes when her sister's boyfriend comes home from Afghanistan. 

Sunday, September 6, 2015

For Your TBR Pile - The Nightmares! Series

Nightmares! and Nightmares! The Sleepwalker Tonic
by Jason Segel and Kirsten Miller
Random House
Published September 8, 2015

Jason Segel and Kirsten Miller's Nightmares! series has been on my TBR pile ever since it debuted last year. I was super excited when Random House asked me to review the sequel, The Sleepwalker Tonic. I fell in love with this series. Charlie Laird is a fantastic protagonist for both kids and adults.

In Nightmares! we meet Charlie after his mother has died and his father has remarried and moved them into his stepmother's purple mansion down the street. Charlie is sure his new stepmother is probably a witch, and battles terrible nightmares with her every night. Refusing to sleep, he's cranky with his Captain America-loving little brother, Jack and finds extra trouble for himself at school.

After crossing over into a portal into the nightmare world, Charlie faces his fears with the help from his friends (both human and not-so human).

Nightmares! - The Sleepwalker Tonic is a fantastic sequel to the world Segel and Miller have built. When sleepwalking zombies take over the neighboring town, Charlie knows where he can find the culprits.

What is awesome about this series is how easily the talents of Segel and Miller come together to create a powerhouse writing team. The characters are fun, quirky, and hilariously developed. The story has a lot of heart that will appeal to both kids and parents. This is a great series to read aloud.

Bonus: if you get the audio book, Jason Segel reads and has a variety of fantastic voices. Along with his involvement in the Muppets movies, the Nightmares! series shows that Segel knows how to develop awesome stories for children and parents alike. I'm excited to see what he'll continue to do in this space.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

September 2015 Check In

Hello, hello!

Wow--I can't believe this summer is completely over. It started in such a strange space for me. I left my job in advertising to concentrate on writing. I was really frazzled and scared and completely freaked out to take such a huge risk. Now I feel much more settled and am really proud to have a lot of new accomplishments under my belt. 

My writing is going well. I finished a manuscript that I'm really proud of and started a new one last month. I took an entire month to outline and brainstorm--something I don't typically do. Usually, I start a new WIP by diving in headfirst and not really worrying about things like PLOT or STRUCTURE. This time, though, I put in the time and have something really, really solid. If I can manage to write 1-2 chapters a day, I can finish a first draft in 3 weeks. I have no idea if that's actually going to happen, but it's a really great position to be in.

I've been chronicalling some fun stories this summer. You can find them here:
The Birthday When I Almost Died
How I Got Stranded In The VA Mountains

And there was also Pitch Wars! Stephanie Scott and I picked an awesome contemporary YA written by Jenn Kompos. I'm so excited to sink my editing teeth into this MS and help make it awesome for the agent round.

I've been reading everything and anything I could get my hands on. In May I started a Summer Reading Challenge and picked 11 books that had been collecting dust on my shelf for way too long. I ended up reading 29 books total this summer. A few ARCs popped up for review and I strayed a bit from my list at times. 

2015 Reading Challenge

2015 Reading Challenge
Valerie has read 63 books toward her goal of 100 books.

I'm still going to yoga about 2-3 times a week and I absolutely love how it helps me clear my head. I've always been a hater of all things exercise and have been anti-movement of any kind. Yoga helps me feel strong and centered. I wish I'd found it a long time ago.

And, of course, I'm still super into Big Brother. I'm completely Team Johnny Mac and absolutely hate almost everybody else left in the house. This season has been really fun and the cast members have been really vicious and brutal. Can Vanessa just leave already? She's such a villain and her crazy switch makes me super nervous. I miss Meg and James and Jason--all the good ones got voted out. *sigh*

Fall is going to be double awesome. I can't wait to get my basic on and start picking apples and wearing Uggs again. See you in October!

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