“Underrated” is pretty much an Estelle buzzword. I love talking and sharing books with people but nothing gets me more excited than sharing a less known title and author, and having others fall in love with them too. Almost 4 years into the blog and it’s still the best high in the blogging universe. So I’m back for Top 10 Tuesday by the brilliant folks at The Broke and the Bookish!
Today I’m talking contemporary young adult (so dear to my heart) and decided to divide my list in half: books and authors. I can’t wait to discover some new writers and books this week, and — fingers crossed — hope this list does the same for you! xoxo
(five) underrated authors
1. Miranda Kenneally: I’m still shocked when I hear readers haven’t picked up a book in the Hundred Oaks series. Is it the titles? Is it the book covers? I have no idea. I’ve reread the books for the third time through this year, and I was even more amazed by how sex positive they were, how much they had their characters exploring their beliefs in tough, sometimes self-destructive ways, and, especially, strong imperfect female characters. Miranda’s writing continues to get stronger as the series goes on and her latest, Breathe, Annie, Breathe, is one of the best books I’ve ever read. Period. It’s a book I believed in so much that I gifted it to 4 people who don’t read a ton of YA but I thought would get something out of it. (I’ve heard from 3 of the 4 so far and it’s been a hit; if that doesn’t say something then I don’t know what will.) From friendship to healthy family to moving on to college and dealing with all the pressures of teenage life? This series has you covered. (Tip: you don’t necessarily have to read these in order.)
2. J.H. Trumble: If you are looking for some seriously great, multi-dimensional gay characters who feel like they are practically your best friends at the end of of your reading experience then I can’t recommend J.H. Trumble enough. Her books are addicting, and I love how her characters explore love, sex, complications with family, and making friends. Like Hundred Oaks, all the characters tie into each other but they don’t necessarily have to be read in order. I am dying for an announcement about her next book.
3. Jessica Martinez: The Vow, about two best friends who decide to marry so one can stay in the country for senior year, blew me away last year. I went back and read Virtuosity, and I can anxiously awaiting Kiss Kill Vanish. I don’t see too many people talking about Jessica, and I’m not sure why. First of all, her tweets are honest and amazing and second, she brings such depth and a fresh voice to the young adult genre. You want diversity? Read The Vow. You want focused, strong female characters? Read The Vow or Virtuosity. (I haven’t read her second book, but I swear it’s on my list.)
4. Terra Elan McVoy: Terra has written a lot of books, and I’ve read four of them and have a fifth sitting on my bookshelf. The Summer of Firsts and Lasts, Being Friends with Boys, Criminal, and this year’s In Deep? She’s a genius because each of her books are so different, and keep me captivated just the same. Her characters are well-developed, imperfect in the most relatable way, and you can see (especially if you read them back to back) how much she challenges herself in each piece. I love that because it also means she is making her readers work too. I am so jealous of all of you who get to read her for the first time.
5. Tara Altebrando: YOU GUYS. I went to Coney Island for the second time in my life last weekend, and all I could think about was Dreamland Social Club — this gorgeous book that Tara wrote years ago. This year, she wrote a middle grade (loved it) and last year she wrote an amazing in-between senior year and college book with Sara Zarr called Roomies. Her books hit me right in the heart. I love the writing, the characters, the lessons, the relationships. I want all of her books in my collection and I want her to write forever.
(five) underrated books
1. Starstruck series by Rachel Shukert: 1930s Hollywood, different female perspectives, well-researched, and so readable. I just realized I shifted from contemporary to talk about a historical YA but oh well. I talk this one up as much as I can because I think Rachel takes this glam time (fashion! stars!) and manages to integrate the political nature of the time too. It’s a very smart book, and does not talk down to its readers.
2. Bumped series by Megan McCafferty: Whoops. I messed up again. Yes, this is young adult. But it’s also dystopian. The author known for the Jessica Darling series took a leap writing about two girls with such varied beliefs stuck in a world where having a baby super young is the way to be because people are buying babies right and left, and glamorizing the whole thing like you wouldn’t believe. In our internet, celeb-saturated world, McCafferty provided some interesting commentary on who we are today and where we can go.
3. The Comeback Season by Jennifer Smith: I cringe when I hear/read that Jennifer Smith’s debut was The Probability of Love at First Sight because no dammit, The Comeback Season is and it is ah-mazing. Jennifer parallels the history of the cursed Chicago Cubs with a young girl dealing with the delayed grief of her dad’s passing, as she meets a boy (a fellow cubs fan). The prose I have come to love from Smith is so superb here; I read the book in close to one sitting and it cemented by ultimate devotion to this author and her work. For baseball fans, for those who love some gorgeous, visual writing, you must check out this gem.
4. Past Perfect by Leila Sales: This book needs a new cover. Pronto. I never reviewed this book on the blog, but it was a lovely birthday present from Hannah (So Obsessed With) and I loved the dialogue between the two best friends, the historic village summer job wars, great romance, and ugh — I flew through it, marking a ton of quotes I loved. Read it, read it, read it. It’s my favorite Sales book (and I was a huge fan of This Song Will Save Your Life).
5. Uses for Boys by Erica Lorraine Schiedt: Another one I didn’t review but oh my god, if you love really crisp, amazing, emotional writing styles, Uses for Boys is a must for writers. Yes, it’s painful and heartbreaking and we don’t always understand why the main character does what she does (I mean, do you understand all the decisions your friends make) but I like to think the main character was searching for home, searching for a place where she could be herself. She took a lot of detours but I couldn’t put the book down. The language was beautiful despite all the darkness of the story.
I could probably keep adding and adding to these lists until I have an ungodly number of recommendations.
So basically, it’s just a little taste. (But if you want some more check out Marisa Calin, Jason Myers, Colleen Clayton…)
Attention, friends, attention! Today is such an exciting day for Alexa, Rachel, and me. Rites of Passage is a review book we were all so, so lucky to receive review copies of. I DEVOURED IT. And recently, Rachel visited Austin, TX (where I live) and we could not stop talking about this book. We’re each spotlighting fun things about this incredible book (on Wednesday, I’ll do a full review for y’all) because RITES OF PASSAGE IS OUT TOMORROW. That’s right — plan a trip to your local bookstore tomorrow. You won’t be sorry.
Rites of Passage by Joy N. Hensley
Publication date: September 9, 2014
Publisher: Harper Teen
Target Audience: Young Adult
Keywords: Military Academy, sexism, hazing and bullying
Format read: ARC received from the Publisher. (Thank you!)
SYNOPSIS: Sam McKenna’s never turned down a dare. And she’s not going to start with the last one her brother gave her before he died.
So Sam joins the first-ever class of girls at the prestigious Denmark Military Academy. She’s expecting push-ups and long runs, rope climbing and mud-crawling. As a military brat, she can handle an obstacle course just as well as the boys. She’s even expecting the hostility she gets from some of the cadets who don’t think girls belong there. What she’s not expecting is her fiery attraction to her drill sergeant. But dating is strictly forbidden and Sam won’t risk her future, or the dare, on something so petty…no matter how much she wants him.
As Sam struggles to prove herself, she discovers that some of the boys don’t just want her gone—they will stop at nothing to drive her out. When their petty threats turn to brutal hazing, bleeding into every corner of her life, she realizes they are not acting alone. A decades-old secret society is alive and active… and determined to force her out.
At any cost.
Now time’s running short. Sam must decide who she can trust…and choosing the wrong person could have deadly consequences.
I had this grand, grand idea of doing a Parent’s Weekend Survival Kit for Sam, but without saying too much, once I reflected back on some events in the book, I realized that just didn’t seem true her story. But of course I still wanted to window shop. I challenged myself to create a Military-themed bootcamp wardrobe because this is so outside of my norm. I don’t own anything like this in my current wardrobe, but after pulling this together, that might change. Enjoy!
- Dr. Martens — Can anyone else remember wearing these in middle school or high school? Anyone? I was OBSESSED. When these showed up during my search, it was like a time warp. How are these coming back in style?! They’re so heavy I hold them soley responsible for my back problems.
- Nice Guise Leggings — If these leggings PROMISED to hide and disguise my thighs, I would buy them in a heartbeat. Right?
- Bomber Jacket — Something I’ve always, always wanted to add to my collection, but seems to always be out of my budget. This Forever 21 version has definitely caught my attention, though!
- Military Dog Tags — It’s undeniable that dog tags had to be part of the wardrobe. I love the font used on these. While I know they aren’t identical to the military ones, I think this is a nice nod toward the originals.
- Aviator Sunglasses — My favorite pair of aviators I’ve owned were from Fossil (like many of my favorite wardrobe staples), but these Ray-Bans are so quintessentially military. I love the variety of colors they come in, too!
- Rucksack Fossil Bag — This bag is listed under the men’s section, but I think it’s the perfect companion for quick trips and would be so easy to pack for a little getaway. (And the interior is orange, which I love!)
Add Rites of Passage to Goodreads | Buy on Amazon | Buy from Barnes & Noble
Stop by Alexa’s Blog for Military Style | Listen to Rachel’s Playlist
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Shhh. I’m going to let you in on a little secret. I haven’t always, always been a wedding photographer. I technically went to college for Interior Design. Though I’m not working in that industry anymore, I still have a strong pull to good design and my heart sure does pitter patter pretty rapidly when I’m inspired by something. In today’s instance, that’s Heir of Fire, Sarah J. Maas’s latest installment in the Throne of Glass series.
Heir of Fire (#3) by Sarah J. Maas [website | twitter]
Previously Reviewed: Throne of Glass (#1) | Crown of Midnight (#2)
Publication Date: September 2, 2014
Target audience: Young Adult
Keywords: Assassin, Queen, Magic, High Fantasy
Format read: ARC received from the Publisher. (Thank you!)
Summary: Lost and broken, Celaena Sardothien’s only thought is to avenge the savage death of her dearest friend: as the King of Adarlan’s Assassin, she is bound to serve this tyrant, but he will pay for what he did. Any hope Celaena has of destroying the king lies in answers to be found in Wendlyn. Sacrificing his future, Chaol, the Captain of the King’s Guard, has sent Celaena there to protect her, but her darkest demons lay in that same place. If she can overcome them, she will be Adarlan’s biggest threat – and his own toughest enemy. While Celaena learns of her true destiny, and the eyes of Erilea are on Wendlyn, a brutal and beastly force is preparing to take to the skies. Will Celaena find the strength not only to win her own battles, but to fight a war that could pit her loyalties to her own people against those she has grown to love?
I’m participating in the Thirteen Days of Ash and Fire: Heir of Fire blog tour and really wanted to do something that would just say more than HEY THIS BOOK IS AWESOME AND YOU SHOULD READ IT. (But I mean, you should. You absolutely should.) I’m going to highlight a few bullet points (spoiler free, of course)about Heir of Fire and then we’re going to talk design and arrows. Two of my most favorite things.
+ Heir of Fire picks right up where Crown of Midnight left off. This is amazing because you won’t feel like, “Blah, blah, blah, backstory, blah.” However, if you’re like me and your schedule is so intense you need a little refresher and can’t pick up the previous to books for a much-needed re-read, you should check out the Recaptains recap for Crown of Midnight and Throne of Glass. (Beware, this will spoil everything if you haven’t read the books yet.)
+ The point of view switches between so many characters — Chaol (!!), Celaena, Dorian, etc. My point is, you constantly know what’s happening with all of the characters and get vague ideas of what’s about to go down if you can fit the puzzle pieces together. But sure enough, there were MULTIPLE times I was left so incredibly shocked. (Come on, the ending? Yeah. Killed me.)
+ It’s one thing to go into a third book already loving the main character, Celaena, like whoa, but another entirely to adore her tenfold after this book. Her transformation! Holy smokes, y’all. Expect lots of growth from her. She struggles and she hurts and things aren’t always easy for her (wait, um, have they ever been?!), but you’ll want to embrace her even more.
+ There’s more layering and character development and the whole world blossoms. Up until this point, I have had a pretty vague idea (but great picture) of the whole world. Maas really zoomed out and introduced even more to really give us the complex details of what’s happening. I was imagining new characters in my head and really felt like my imagination was on fire. (ha, an Heir of Fire book pun).
I’m going to stop here before I ruin anything about this book for you. Just… PLEASE READ IT. ASAP.
I’m well aware that Celaena doesn’t use a lot of arrows personally, but they do have their significance in this story. I have a major obsession with arrows and feel like someone could dedicate an entire room (or, ahem, their whole house) to Heir of Fire inspiration. Let’s take a peek at a few of my favorite things:
- Anthropologie Arrow Wall: I walked into my local store shortly after meeting my daughter, whose room has many arrow-releated decorations, and just knew I needed to figure out how to make these for our home. I’m actually thinking if I hung one vertically it could be a growth chart in her room over the coming years, but OMG I LOVE THIS.
- Country Living Wallpaper: I found this via Pinterest. It looks like someone just scanned this image in from the magazine, but how badly do you want to track this wallpaper down and plaster it all over your walls? SO PRETTY.
- Handpainted Arrows (from etsy): Good golly, Miss Molly, I adore these. I would like a set of three, and very particularly would like the one with the golden arrow.
- DIY Wooden Arrow Display: My mom sent me the link to this on Pinterest after I visited Anthropologie that day. It doesn’t have the same eye-catching affect, but it’s still pretty solid. I love that it seems so simple and easy to accomplish too. (Especially impactful if installed like this.)
- A Bundle of Arrows: K, so let’s be honest. I don’t exactly know where to purchase or find arrows, but if I did, I would have one of these (very out of reach for the little lady) somewhere in our home. I love the the little pop of color they provide!
- Mint Stripes and Arrows Duvet: And how much do we love this color combination PLUS the hint of arrows? Goodness. I think this was designed specifically for me. I want!
Oh, and guess what? You can enter to win a copies of Throne of Glass, Crown of Midnight, Heir of Fire, The Assassin’s Blade, a signed print of Crown of Midnight, and a Throne of Glass tote! Open internationally. Good luck!
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Charlie Glass’s Slippers by Holly McQueen ( web )
Publication Date: August 5, 2014
Publisher: Simon & Schuster/Atria
Target audience: Adult
Keywords: London, parents, half sisters, body image, career changes
Format read: ARC sent to me by a friend. (Thank you!)
Summary: After sacrificing her career to take care of her ailing father, Charlie is shocked to find out upon his death that she has been granted control over his designer shoe company. Determined to be taken seriously by her father’s ex and two half sisters, she takes a trip to California and returns to London refreshed, 30 pounds lighter, and armed with a killer idea to get her dad’s pride and joy back to where it was years and years ago. But with a sly Diana, unhelpful sisters, and everyone treating her differently because of her new look, can she be successful?
Any book that falls right under 500 pages is going to be intimidating but I can assure you that once you get hooked on Charlie, you are not going to want to put this novel down. I loved the appeal of a modern day Cinderella set in London. With a writing style similar to Jane Green and Lucy Robinson, I was fully invested in the new life Charlie was trying to make for herself: mind, body, and soul.
Immediately, Charlie was someone I wanted to be friends with. I could understand why she felt so insecure about her business sense when it came to taking on a substantial role in her father’s company. She’s never been the most fashionable and she doesn’t have a lot of experience in PR, sales, or marketing. What she does have is nostalgia: memories of her father working in the shop when she was little, her deceased mom’s collection of some of his best shoes, and hands on knowledge of how much her father’s job meant to him.
Healthier and prepared to wow Diana, her dad’s ex, with the reemergence of the classic Elroy Glass shoe line (affordable to boot), Charlie has a lot if work to do to make this dream a reality. Now there’s the added complication of Jay, a sought after bachelor, who can’t seem to get enough of her, a best friend living with a miserable man, and the unfinished business between her and Ferdy, an old family friend (a.k.a crush) who owns an ice cream shop and is currently dating a sweet psychopath.
You couldn’t help but root for an underdog like Charlie. She was still coming to terms with her dad’s behavior when her mother died, trying to triumph over Diana (who has never liked her), and dealing with the emotional baggage stemming from her weight loss. I was really glad that McQueen included that last detail because so many times a character will still have body image insecurities post-loss and it was important that Charlie dealt with these.
With so much going on, McQueen still dedicated a lot of the book to the friendship between Charlie and her longtime best friend, Lucy. When other things (men, waxing, running) start to take up Charlie’s time, it was interesting to see how their relationship changed and had to be reconfigured. I loved how they cared about each other and tried to be honest even when it was hard. Plus the both had moments where they took each other for granted. Something I think happens in a ton of friendships. Here, it was explained well and you could certainly see both sides.
There is so much to enjoy about Charlie Glass’s Slippers. A few other details: cute English slang, an adorable ice cream shop with creative flavor names, and so many laugh out loud moments. Best of all, happily ever after meant more than finding romance. It focused on all the areas of life we are trying to figure out in our 20s: family, friendship, career, and feeling good in our own skin.
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“I might be a little scared.”
“No, it’s not,” I said.
“Yes, it is, because you can only be brave if you’re scared.”
- from The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson
Last week, I flew through The Impossible Knife of Memory (why did it take me so long to read it??) and after I finished, I couldn’t stop thinking about the above passage. So today of all days, when tons of kids will be starting a new year of classes, teachers will be learning a whole new set of kids, and when I will be starting a new job, it helps to hear that because scared is a good thing.
In fact, it’s a bit of advice I’ve heard over and over in the past few weeks. You’re nervous because you care. Or because you want to do a great job. These are all acceptable reasons for being a little shaky the first day? Okay, well. That’s good. Because I am. All of the above. Looking back at the first days of school, I was always the kind of person who stayed up all night, unable to sleep because all the anticipation. Some years, this carried onto Sunday nights too. I’m a natural born worrier; that’s definitely a part of it. On the other hand, I’m a major perfectionist so I’m sure that had a hand in it too.
As self-admitted bookworms, I don’t think I’m alone when I say I rely on books a lot during these times of change. Practically all the characters we meet are working through some version of newness, dealing with a bit of insecurity, wondering if they have what it takes, and if they will fit in. Silly as it might sound I find myself thinking “if they can do it, I can do it!”. Fully aware, my confidence boost is coming from fictional characters in fictional scenarios.
So I thought I would share a few of those titles today. Just in case you need a little cheerleading too.
Me Before You by Jo Jo Moyes | Things I Can’t Forget by Miranda Kenneally | Only Everything by Kieran Scott
Disneylanders by Kate Abbott | Nantucket Red by Leila Howland | There Will Come a Time by Carrie Arcos
Like No Other by Una LaMarche
Truth be told, it was difficult to narrow down this list because there are so many books that have given me support at one time or another. But I think these are a fantastic start. (Plus I read all of them in 2014 so there’s that.) Here’s hoping you have a wonderful start to your September, knowing support comes from all places in your life. Even your bookshelf.