TTT: Our New Favorite Must-Read Authors

Welcome back for a new Top Ten Tuesday post! Today, the awesome ladies at The Broke and the Bookish are asking which authors were new-to-us this year. That doesn’t have to be limited to newly published authors, but it could be someone we’ve had on our radar for a long while and finally picked up their book. We’re tag-teaming for this post since we both fell in love with some pretty amazing authors this year!



Amy Spalding: Author of Ink is Thicker Than Water and The Reece Malcolm List

new author amy spalding

Amy explores really unique family situations with extremely in-depth character development. I adore how her character’s lives are so well-rounded and not focused on just one specific aspect with everything else left to question.

Andrew Smith: Author of Winger

andrew smith author

Have you guys noticed that I’ve recommended this book for just about every list we’ve created since I read Winger? I’m not kidding. It’s fantastic. I want ALL of Andrew’s books now.

Leila Sales: Author of This Song Will Save Your Life

recommendation for leila sales

I love books that really dive into finding your place and growing to accept who you are, even if you’re different than everyone else. This book is the epitome of that and though I didn’t always relate to Elise, I loved her journey.

Rainbow Rowell: Author of Fangirl and Eleanor & Park

recommendation for books by rainbow rowell

Full disclosure: Rainbow is an auto-buy. My husband has to accept that any books by her will be immediately pre-ordered. No questions asked.

Leila Howland: Author of Nantucket Blue

book recommendations for leila howland

As someone who has gone through some weird friendship mishaps, I felt Leila nailed the frustration and unease over a friendship disbanding. But then then there’s also the amazing setting and sexy love interest, too. 😉


For the record, Magan STOLE a few of my picks from me. HOW DARE SHE DO THIS? I absolutely loved Leila Howland, Andrew Smith, and Amy Spalding’s work this year too!

Elana K. Arnold: Author of Burning

Burning by Elana K. Arnold

With so many YA books out there, it’s hard to stand out but Arnold succeeded with Burning: two teenagers, who grew up in totally different environments (one in a soon-to-be extinct mine town and the other with a family of modern gypsies) and are trying to come into their own. Unique circumstances but genuine and true feelings at the core. I need to read the rest of Elana’s backlist.

Rachel Shukert: Author of Starstruck

Starstruck by Rachel Shukert

Historical young adult books make me nervous but Shukert has researched Hollywood of the 30s so well I felt like I was really there. It’s glamorous, it’s daunting, and each of the ladies in this story have to deal with a certain amount of roadblocks and expectations. Such a well-rounded story, and I can’t wait for the next installment. (Plus Shukert used to write recaps of SMASH for New York Magazine and she is hilarious.)

Bill Konigsberg: Author of Openly Straight

Openly Straight by Bill Konigsberg

Konigsberg has delivered some of the most memorable characters I have ever read — Rafe, oh Rafe, I want you to be my best friend. He’s trying to figure himself out, making mistakes left and right, but he has so much heart. Openly Straight is one of my favorite books this year (maybe ever) and made me a Konigsberg fan for life.

Corey Ann Haydu: Author of OCD Love Story

OCD Love Story by Corey Ann Haydu

It can’t be easy to write a character who thinks she is the “normal” one when really she is just as much of a work in progress as the rest of her therapy group. OCD Love Story made me feel so uncomfortable, but only in the best way. I was totally channeling Bea, and whew, was it a journey. Can’t wait for Haydu’s Life in Committee (spring release) and you know what? She’s the best tweeter too!

Tamara Ireland Stone: Author of Time Between Us series

Time Between Us series by Tamara Ireland Stone

Why oh why did I wait so long to read these? I haven’t reviewed them on the blog but Ireland’s time travel rules, the romance, the families, and all the love of music? It’s so so wonderful and incredibly addicting.

[ Bonus ] Katie Cotugno: Author of How to Love

How to Love by Katie Cotugno

From page 1, I was completely invested and enthralled in Sawyer and Reena’s story. I stayed up all night to read it, and I still can’t pinpoint what exactly it was about this book. Here’s a guess: gorgeous, well-paced writing, the mystery of second chances, and a great balance of friends, family, and obtaining those out-of-reach dreams.


Who were your standout authors this year?
Who should we be looking forward to reading books by in 2014?

Big Kids’ Table: YA/NA Authors Chat “Grown Up” Books

big kids' table - adult fiction feature on rather be reading

Happy Halloween, book lovers! Nothing too spooky going on around these parts, but I am so enthused to share this month’s Big Kids’ Table with you! (I’m down to the wire… on the last day of the month, but the wait is worth it, I swear!) Thanks to some brainstorming sessions with Cassie I decided to reach out to a few of my favorite young adult/NA writers and find out what grown up books they would recommend! Not only were the participants totally game but their final picks were as eclectic as their own books and that made me even more excited to share this feature with you!

Without further ado…

Tara Altebrando Author of Roomies Recommends Literature

author of Dreamland Social Club, The Best Night of Your Pathetic Life, and the upcoming Roomies (with Sara Zarr)

Big Kids’ Pick: One of the most breathtaking and heartbreaking books I’ve read about the adolescent experience is an “adult” book called “Wonder When You’ll Miss Me” by Amanda Davis. I read it in one day and at the end of the day I felt a sort of horrible sense of mourning that I hadn’t written it. I recommend it for older teen readers who like dark reads.

It will come as no surprise to readers of my novel Dreamland Social Club that I am fascinated with circuses and carnivals and the like, and “Wonder When You’ll Miss Me” sets the bar way high in terms of “running away with the circus” stories. It’s about 16-year-old Faith Duckle, who has been the victim of a brutal assault that caused her to attempt suicide. She loses a lot of weight while hospitalized but when she gets out nobody seems to notice how different she looks…except for the ghost of her former fat girl self who follows her around, taunting her. With no place to fit in, Faith joins up with a traveling circus, reinvents herself as Annabelle Cabinet, and finds a place among the misfits there while plotting revenge on her attacker and also trying to break free of the ghost of her former self.

The prose is electrifying, the story emotionally wrenching. And the reading experience made additionally bittersweet because the author, so very young when she published the book, died in a plane crash on her DIY book tour.

What’s next for Tara? As for what I’m up to these days, right now I’m gearing up to promote “Soundproof Your Life,” my story in One Teen Story magazine. And of course Roomies, which I wrote with Sara Zarr, comes out in December. My middle-grade debut, The Battle of Darcy Lane, follows soon after that in May. Busy times! In between doing website updates and Q&As and thinking about what to wear to book events I’m working on a new YA novel that is a sort of no-holds-barred thriller. It is not yet ready for prime time but hopefully I’ll share it with the world soon!

[ Follow Tara | My review of Dreamland Social Club | Add Wonder When You’ll Miss Me to Goodreads ]

Sabrina Elkins Author of Stir Me Up Recommends Adult Litauthor of Stir Me Up, October eBook release from Harlequin Teen

Big Kids’ Pick: The first book I’d recommend to anyone is Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises. This novel, Hemingway’s first and widely considered his finest, follows the story of Jake Barnes, a man rendered impotent by an injury he sustained in World War I. The story is, at one level, about a group of American and British expatriates who travel from the cafes of Paris to a festival and bullfight in Pamplona. But it is also about Jake’s unrequited love for the beautiful, unattainable and promiscuous Lady Brett Ashley. The story is powerful, and the characters are unforgettable. The lean writing style has been an inspiration for generations of writers, most definitely including myself. My favorite book of all time.

What’s next for Sabrina? Find out in her recent podcast appearance on Meet Us at the Diner.

[ Follow Sabrina | My review of Stir Me Up | Add The Sun Also Rises to Goodreads]

Jessi Kirby Author of Golden Recommends Adult Litauthor of Moonglass, In Honor, and this year’s Golden

Big Kids’ Pick: My “grown up” book recommendation is Deb Caletti’s debut adult novel, HE’S GONE.  I love her YA novels, so I was really curious to see what she would do in the adult realm, and what she did was brilliant! The way she weaves the history of the main character and her husband together with the mystery of his disappearance is so gracefully done and kept me turning the pages long past my bedtime!

What’s next for Jessi? My next book, which will be out Summer 2015, is still in the draft stage, but what I can say is that it’s definitely more of a romance than I’ve written thus far, it has to do with the heart, in all of its definitions, and my theme song that’s been on repeat the entire time I’ve been writing it is Taylor Swift’s “Treacherous.”

[ Follow Jessi | Magan’s review of Golden | Add He’s Gone to Goodreads ]

Bill Konigsberg Author of Openly Straight Recommends Literature

author of Out of Pocket and this year’s Openly Straight

Big Kids’ Pick: Book: Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin — When I was a teenager, I felt incredibly alone. I came out as gay as a teen, and it made me feel separated from my family. I picked up Tales of the City one day perusing a bookstore, and it changed my life. The makeshift family that comes together at 28 Barbary Lane felt like it became my family. They were straight and gay and old and young and they were accepted by each other. They were licking their wounds and having sweet and funny and dramatic adventures, and I was licking my wounds and doing the same. To this day, when I feel alone, I pick up that book and I don’t feel that way anymore. If you haven’t read this series yet, you need to buy the first book this very minute and start reading.

What’s next for Bill: Currently, I’m working on my third novel, The Porcupine of Truth. It’s an exciting departure for me, in that there’s a bit of a mystery at its core. It’s about two teens – a boy and a girl – who are thrown together and embark on a cross-country journey to solve a 30-year-old family mystery. Along the way, everything they’ve ever understood about family and friendship and the universe is tested. That may sound unlike my other books, but it is very much a Konigsberg novel in that it involves characters who feel isolated finding each other and finding ways to connect to others. It’s also funny, so if you enjoyed the humor in Openly Straight, you’ll like this one, too.

[ Follow Bill | My review of Openly Straight | Add Tales of the City to Goodreads ]


Big thanks to Tara, Sabrina, Jessi, and Bill for being so awesome! I’m so looking forward to picking up
these book recommendations and your new work!

What about you? Reading anything outside of young adult lately?

Estelle: Openly Straight by Bill Konigsberg

Openly Straight by Bill KonigsbergOpenly Straight by Bill Konigsberg ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: May 28, 2013
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic
Pages: 336
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: LGBT, boarding school, labels, friendship, lies
Format read: ARC paperback from TLA.

Summary: Rafe decides to spend his junior year on the East Coast at an all boys boarding school. What’s so crazy about that? Well, unlike his life in Boulder, he decides not to share with anyone that he is indeed gay in order to give him the chance to strip away all labels and give him the opportunity to be more than his sexual preference.

Openly Straight is a novel that encompassed so many of my favorite things: a flawed main character who felt a lot, supportive and enthusiastic parents, and heart-tugging friendship and romance. And best of all? It made me think.

Basically, I want to hug and squeeze this book until I can’t anymore.

Rafe is pretty lucky when he comes out to his parents. They are completely supportive; they barely blink an eyelash. The liberal town of Boulder, Colorado responds pretty much the same way. His teachers want his thoughts on the gay movement, he trains to give speeches to others about sexuality, and his family surprises him with an awesome coming out party. Life is pretty much hunky dory. We’ve all heard people’s hurtful experiences regarding coming out, so it’s kind of hard to believe that Rafe has anything to complain about, right?

Well. Wrong. He feels totally pigeonholed by his sexuality, and decides to go off to a boarding school on the East Coast in hopes of wiping the slate clean. He won’t exactly be back in the closet because he knows he’s gay… he just won’t really tell the peers in his all-boy school what his deal is.

The idea of going to a brand new place and being a whole new you is pretty tempting. Of course, part of it, especially in Rafe’s case, isn’t awesome because he is kind of lying in some instances. But in others, he’s finding out things about himself that he never knew. Like maybe the jock isn’t always “the jock” and maybe he can actually keep up with a bunch of guys playing football in the quad.

The challenges though… outweigh that lack of boundary Rafe feels. And as a reader, you are just waiting for everything to blow up in his face. His parents are confused by this “phase”, he’s making up stories about his closest girl friend, and this intimate friendship with Ben, a soft-spoken jock who loves to read and have deep conversations, is definitely in jeopardy, especially as he and Rafe continue to get closer. Is Ben gay? Are they just best friends? The lines are so blurred at times, that it was really hard for me to figure it out. The possibility of heartbreak is so palpable.

Konigsberg also included pieces from Rafe’s writing class — a great way for us to get this character’s back story but also to see him grow as a writer. (I adored the teacher’s comments so much because so many times what he was saying was criticism I have about what I’m reading: “show don’t tell!”) Mr. Scarborough also gives him room to think about his choices to be someone new at the school, and subtley offers some helpful perspective. He would definitely have been one of my favorite teachers too.

I feel absolutely so much love for this book that my heart is actually seizing up as I write this review. From Rafe’s refreshing narrating to watching him painstakingly make blunders and attempt to get himself out of them, Openly Straight unveils a different kind of journey towards self-discovery — one filled with laughs, love, late nights, and finding out how to balance all the parts that make you you.

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