Recent Reads — August 2019


Just some recent favorites!

BlogHotDogGirlHot Dog Girl by Jennifer Dugan: I grew up going to Walt Disney World roughly once a year, and I’m still a total Disney nerd, and at one point I seriously considered moving to Orlando so I could work at WDW. So how could I not be drawn to a YA contemporary about a group of teens who work at an amusement park (especially when the story includes a queer romance angle)? Back in the day I was part of an unsuccessful online push to keep Disney World from shutting down Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, and I’m still bitter about the Frozenification of Epcot’s Maelstrom attraction, so I had serious sympathy for Lou and her attempts to save her beloved Magic Castle Funland from closing. And how darling is that cover?

BlogDontDateRosaSantosDon’t Date Rosa Santos by Nina Moreno: A lightly magical YA contemporary set on the Gulf Coast of southern Florida? HI I NEED IT IN MY LIFE. I live in South Florida myself, right on the Gulf Coast, and I wish my city could be as bright and colorful and lively as Rosa’s beloved Port Coral. I’ve seen this book described as Gilmore Girls meets Practical Magic, and the best elements of both are definitely present here. I envied Mimi’s Florida room/greenhouse–if only I could figure out how to make gardening and herb cultivation work like she does in this climate. I read part of this book by candlelight during a blackout caused by a roaring thunderstorm, and it was the most Florida thing ever. Absolutely lovely.

BlogNatalieTanNatalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune by Roselle Lim: I took a brief break from YA for this one. Natalie’s a talented chef with an opportunity to reopen her grandmother’s San Francisco Chinatown restaurant and a habit of quitting and running away when things get serious or complicated. The recipes and luscious descriptions of her cooking made me so hungry, and her emotional journey was extremely relatable. The depiction of her late mother’s mental illness is handled with sensitivity, and the touches of magic and fantasy throughout the narrative are utterly charming. This book is a delight that’ll leave you with a craving for perfect dumplings.


Recent Reads – July 2019

BlogJuneReads2019Just another roundup of recent favorites! I seem to be developing a habit of reading multiple books at once. Kid Jill the anxious completionist, with her habit of devouring one book at a time before tearing into the next, would be horrified. Or impressed. Or both.


The Wise and the Wicked by Rebecca Podos: Ever have that experience where you’re reading a book and you suddenly realize you didn’t know how much you wanted this story until you were neck-deep in it? This was one of those for me. I jumped in knowing relatively little about it, not having read any in-depth summaries, and I’m glad I did–discovering the secrets of the Chernyavsky family along with Ruby was a delight. The story’s LGBTQ+ elements are handled with gentle, deft sensitivity (I don’t want to say too much because there was one reveal I didn’t see coming, having not read up on the book first, and it was so well done), and I loved the concept of this strong, imperfect matriarchal family in which things are seldom as they seem. I’ve seen some criticism of the end, but its standalone open-endedness worked well for me while still leaving plenty of room for a possible sequel. The author has addressed that possibility on Goodreads.

The Devouring Gray by Christine Lynn Herman: First of all, can we yell about how gorgeous this dust jacket is for a second, with its glossy raised letters and its mattified metallic sheen? I swoon. And as a Stranger Things fan, I really enjoyed this story. A group of teens figuring out their powers? A deadly monster trapped in another dimension? Family secrets? Complicated feelings and friendships? Bring on the sequel!

You Asked for Perfect by Laura Silverman: OH HELLO THERE HIGH SCHOOL ANXIETY, I REMEMBER YOU WELL. Senior Ariel Stone throws everything he has into making sure his grades and extracurriculars are enough to get him into Harvard, but when the competition’s this fierce, one bad grade might be enough to ruin everything and something’s going to have to give. This was so relatable–I was the same kind of perfectionist in high school, although compared to what Ariel feels like he needs to accomplish, I suppose the stakes were a little lower back in the mid ’90s. I studied like mad, hyper-focused on grades, and stopped taking some of the classes I most enjoyed because earning an A in them lowered my weighted GPA. (How freaking SAD is it that weighted GPAs work like that??) I just want to hug Ariel and gently suggest to his parents that he might benefit from therapy, because his narrative felt like an anxiety disorder to me.


Recent Reads

I recently blogged about ways to deal while playing the publishing industry’s waiting game, and one of my suggestions was, of course, reading. I mean, let’s reframe the situation. Are you waiting for news, holding your breath, caught up in some level of publication limbo? Nah, you’re enjoying the rare opportunity to tackle some of that TBR pile before it grows to unstable heights, tumbles down and crushes you under the weight of a thousand unread treasures.


I’ve spent a lot of 2019 revising my second current WIP, but I’ve also been waiting on certain things. I’m still waiting on some of them. In the meantime, here’s some of what I’ve been reading:

Sadie by Courtney Summers: The story of a teen girl out for revenge spliced with clips of the podcast investigating her disappearance. This was one of the best YA novels I’ve read in a long time. It was gripping. Shattering. And I loved the format–the narrative jumps between Sadie and the podcast kept the plot thrumming and the mystery intense. This story left me frustrated in the best of ways.

Sea Witch by Sarah Henning: An imaginative retelling of The Little Mermaid. I picked this one up based on a recommendation from Destiny Murtaugh, and I’m so glad I did. I was a pretty intense fan of Disney’s take on TLM for a long time, and I really enjoyed the nods Henning made both to Hans Christian Andersen’s original (including all the Scandinavian details), and to the Disney version. Plus, there’s a sequel coming out in August 2019, and now I . . . kind of need it?

On Writing by Stephen King: Half memoir, half writing class. The last time I read this book was in 2000, when it first came out, and I decided to give it a reread before rewriting WIP #2 (a feminist YA horror story). Some of King’s examples of top-notch writing haven’t exactly aged well (lots of old white male authors, huh), but a lot of his advice is still really solid, especially for those of us who don’t plot and outline and plan every detail before we start writing. I’ve been reading King since I was eleven, and his work had a huge impact on the evolution of my narrative voice, so I’ve got a soft spot for Uncle Stevie. (And no, he’s not telling you you can’t use adverbs! He just wants you to be aware of them and avoid using them if they’re not necessary. And a lot of them aren’t. There’s often a better, stronger, more direct way to say what you’re trying to say.)

(Don’t) Call Me Crazy: 33 Voices Start the Conversation About Mental Health edited by Kelly Jensen: An anthology of essays and other pieces about mental health, mental illness, and the discussions we need to be having, both with others and with ourselves. I’m not quiet about the fact that I have an anxiety disorder. I think it’s integral to be open about these things when we can, to counter and subvert the stigmas related to mental health, so I truly appreciate projects like this. The amount of raw truth Jensen collected and curated here is staggering. Gemma Correll’s comics are delightfully relatable, and I was especially drawn in by “Black Hole” by Victoria “V.E.” Schwab about the onset and evolution of her anxiety and the safe harbor she’s found in writing.

The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw: The curse of three long-dead sisters causes annual terror and heartache in a small Oregon town. I’ve been on a creepy-YA kick, and this one definitely fulfilled my expectations in that regard. It was also far more wistful than I expected, in a really lovely way, and it had such a satisfying, bittersweet conclusion. Ernshaw’s descriptive style is both vivid and atmospheric, pulling the town of Sparrow and Penny’s nearby island into existence with skill and care.

AprilReads2Scripted Unscripted by Kristina Miranda (out May 14 2019): Hey, I blurbed this one! 😀 Here’s what I said:

“SCRIPTED UNSCRIPTED is a charming YA contemporary about family ties, compromise, and finding what it takes to be authentic while surrounded by carefully-crafted fantasy. Animal lovers will embrace Ellie’s clever canine references and the story’s stance on pet rescue, and the Hollywood settings will delight teens with dreams of making it big.” -Jill Baguchinsky, author of MAMMOTH

How about you? Read anything good lately? Feel free to toss recent or upcoming creepy YA recs my way–I’ve still got several in the TBR pile but I’m always looking for more!


December Reading Round-Up

After tackling ALL THE WRITING in November (50k words for NaNoWriMo, another 25k words of extensive revision–and that was all on top of launching Mammoth), I promised myself plenty of reading time in December. My TBR pile was reaching approximately halfway to the sun, so it was time to catch up a little. Did I read as much as I hoped to? Of course not, because life happened and eyestrain is a hideous delight. But here’s some of what I did read.


Jack of Hearts (and Other Parts) by L.C. Rosen: Jack is a gay teenager in NYC who writes an anonymous sex advice column online. When a secret admirer starts sending notes that get increasingly creepy and threatening, Jack has to figure out the truth before he’s forced to sacrifice who he really is. This book is incredibly bold, frank, and sex-positive. It tackles a lot of subject matter that YA fiction doesn’t typically reach, and Jack’s focus on consent and safety was powerful. Can we have a companion book that’s a compilation of Jack’s columns?

Now a Major Motion Picture by Cori McCarthy: I wonder if Kate McKinnon has any idea that she’s thanked in the acknowledgements of more than one YA novel published in 2018 (I also included her in Mammoth’s). This was an insta-buy as soon as Cori mentioned that it references Holtzmann from the 2016 Ghostbusters reboot. (One character has a Holtz tattoo. I also have a Holtz tattoo. I felt seen.) Seventeen-year-old Iris spends a few weeks with her little brother on the set of the troubled movie adaptation of their famous-author grandmother’s series of fantasy novels. I loved all the film-set details like the daily sides, and the story’s characters were diverse and authentic. There was some great commentary on feminism, too, especially from director Cate Collins.

Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand: I was in the mood for something darker, and this story of three girls coming together to battle a mysterious evil delivered. So much of the language is darkly lush and gorgeous, like this quote about Marion from the first chapter: “I’ll tell you what I’ve lost, she wanted to say, and then open up her chest so they could see the hollow pit where her heart used to live. It was stuck in a state of collapse, this pit–a tiny, organ-shaped singularity, sucking down the bleeding ravaged bits of who she used to be.” I savored those descriptions, and I enjoyed the connections that formed between the main characters. Also, there were moths. So many moths. As a crazy moth lady (I occasionally raise lunas and other moths), I knew I needed to read this book as soon as I saw all the moths on the cover art, and I was not disappointed.

Here’s to more reading (and less eyestrain) in 2019!

5 Things I Love About, Reading

5 Things I Love About…Love, Hate & Other Filters

Time for a new blog series featuring my favorite things related to some of my recent reads!

Warning: While I won’t reveal any major spoilers, some of the details I list could be considered minor spoilers.

Here I am striking a Maya pose to celebrate the release of Love, Hate & Other Filters!

First up is Love, Hate & Other Filters by Samira Ahmed. Samira’s debut has been getting tons of attention since its highly-anticipated release in January, and it deserves every bit. It starts off as a sweet/fluffy YA contemporary about Maya, an Indian-American Muslim teenager caught between her dreams and her parents’ overbearing expectations while also juggling the onset of a love triangle.

Then an attack ignites a storm of Islamophobia that affects Maya and her family, and everything changes.

It’s jarring. It’s relatable. Maya’s voice is genuine and honest, and I truly enjoyed getting to know her.

Five things I love:

  1. Maya is an #ownvoices character, and that comes through in the narrative. She’s so authentic. The #ownvoices movement is bringing attention to some brilliant and very deserving voices in YA fiction, and LH&OF is a great example of that.
  2. Maya’s use of her video camera as a shield between her and the rest of the world. “The camera gave me distance and something to hide behind.” SO RELATABLE. I often feel like I need a shield too, and I’d definitely need one in the sort of boisterous family wedding scenario Maya describes.
  3. Speaking of weddings, the book opens with a an Indian-American wedding that’s just… SOMEONE ADAPT THIS BOOK INTO A MOVIE RIGHT NOW JUST SO I CAN BE DAZZLED BY ALL THE COLORS IN THIS SCENE PLEASE. It’s so vivid and gorgeous and I can’t even.
  4. Hina, Maya’s aunt. I adored her! I’m a bit of a sucker for cool aunties (Natalie has one in MAMMOTH, too), so I was already biased. Hina is so awesome and supportive, and her refusal to follow tradition gives Maya a more balanced perspective:BlogLoveHate2.jpg
  5. The fact that Phil remembers the barfi story from when he and Maya were seven years old. Come on, how cute was that?? ❤

Those were my top five, but there’s plenty more to love about Love, Hate & Other Filters!


The Enormous Egg

I’ve been sorting through a lot of long-buried possessions, and I recently came across this book about a boy who finds and hatches a mysterious egg (SPOILER ALERT IT’S A DINOSAUR EGG YEEAAAHHHH!!!):

The Enormous Egg
That chicken is not having any of this.

I was six or seven when I got this. I remember being intimidated because although it looked like other chapter books, the print inside was so much smaller than I was used to — but I loved dinosaurs, so I jumped in. Years before I read Jurassic Park, I encountered my very first fictional paleontologist, Dr. Ziemer:

Dr. Ziemer

The Enormous Egg was originally published in the 1950s, and some elements of the story haven’t aged that well, but I’m still fond of it as a product of its time, and I still adore the illustrations. And I still want an Uncle Beazley of my own:

Baby Beazley

I’m not someone who normally has a lot of maternal instincts, but show me a teeny baby triceratops and suddenly I’m all:


Of course, large dinosaurs don’t make particularly good pets.

Big Beazley

So, I mean… I guess that dream’s ruined. Still, as a kid, I always hoped I’d stumble across a mysterious egg, just like Nate did.

(Okay, I admit it. To this day, I still kind of wish that could happen.)