Top 10 Tuesday: THE UNDERRATED (5 Books + 5 Authors)

top ten tuesday hosted by the broke and the bookish

“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.

Underrated YA Authors at Rather Be Reading Blog

(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.

Underrated YA Books from Rather Be Reading Blog

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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…)

On a Personal Note: Making Moves

Making Moves Rather Be Reading 1

“We just didn’t know what we wanted.”

My husband said this to me this weekend while we were hanging out on our couch. We realized this week would be the one year mark since we sold the house we lived in for three years, and decided to move into an apartment in the city. The main reason was his return to school to obtain a law degree, but in the months following, it sort of became our excuse to leave and find a place that we loved living.

Everything sounds like a fabulous idea when you don’t know what you want, exactly. Maybe people around you are telling you what you want, and it all seems so easy and so attainable. Until it’s all a bit out of control. I think that’s how my husband and I were feeling. We weren’t ready to make the decision between going to the beach and mowing the lawn. Watching all our hard-earned salary swallowed by a house that still needed more work, a train ticket with a less than reliable commute, and our time just ticking away. (Plus all our friends lived so far away. It was lonely.)

Making Moves Rather Be Reading 2

It would have been easy to stay and suck it up. Definitely. Maybe this was just a rut and in a few months or a year, we would have felt more settled or… something. But instead we decided to pack up our house, sell a lot of our belongings, store even more of them, and leave the house that both sets of parents had put so much time into to make it livable for us. I always liked the idea of that legacy for our home. Cleaned and disinfected and loved by our family as much as us, and in ways, that was the hardest detail to part with.

So many people think that young adult books don’t relate to real life. But I think they do so much, especially in this situation. So many times you meet characters who are unhappy with a part of their lives and just decide to stick it out. Maybe that works for them. Other times, characters take a chance, a huge leap because it’s the right time, because they can, or because they have no choice.

It’s been a year of learning how to be flexible when the husband’s schedule is ever-changing, finally figuring out how to budget (I am still not good at this), a lot of loss (oh the loss), and a lot less TV. (We only have one.) But you know what? This weekend and the weekend before I have been brimming with so much happiness. So happy to be on this adventure with my husband, knowing we made this decision ourselves, and positive that it was the very best move we could make.

Making Moves Rather Be Reading 3

When you’ve been with someone for 8 years or so, it’s difficult to believe that they could surprise you time and time again. But I have been just elated with my husband and his dedication to school and this sense of curiosity I don’t remember him having as much when we started dating. He wants to spend time outside, find new places to eat, look at new parks, and as long as it’s a subway away, all of these possibilities are right at our fingertips.

Even though I miss the space from our house or the backyard or even the nearby Target, I would not trade this new chapter for anything. Not only are we happier and inching closer to the lives we want for ourselves, but I know it’s okay if I don’t always make the right decision the first time around. There are ways to make things better, even if it takes some work to get there. You just have to go for it.

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RELATED BOOK SUGGESTIONS

This Song Will Change Your Life by Leila Sales | Nowhere But Home by Liza Palmer | Where You Are by J.H. Trumble

(Note on the pictures: I took them this weekend at a park in Long Island City overlooking Manhattan.)

Top 10 Tuesday: Happy Recommendations + Requirements

top ten tuesday hosted by the broke and the bookish

Happy Tuesday all! I am so in love with today’s Top 10 Tuesday topic from the Broke and the Bookish. As book bloggers and book lovers, I’m sure so many of us are also “book pushers”. It is all too frequent that I’m talking to someone and a book recommendation pops in my head. Or when my friends come to visit my apartment and I don’t let them leave without taking a few books from my shelves to read.

I had some much fun compiling my list — a list that could really go on forever. In almost two years of blogging, and maybe three years of reading book blogs, my to-read list has been utterly out of control. Here are a few stand outs from my own reading adventures. If you know that’s good for you, you’ll pick up all of these titles soon… or else. 😉

Paying it Forward Books I Was Forced to Read

Freefall + Live Through This by Mindi Scott: Quite possibly the best recommendations that Ginger from GReadsBooks has ever given to me. She was nice enough to send these both my way, and I was utterly blown away by Scott’s realistic writing (in unfortunate situations) and vibrant characters that I wanted to care for.

This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers: I love so many things about Magan but I love how she challenges to reach outside my comfort zone with my reading. Summers is a beautiful writer, even when she is telling a story about zombies. I couldn’t get over how much I connected to the story.

Don’t Let Me Go by J.H. Trumble: This one wasn’t much of a FORCED read but I felt forced to read it because of Book Chic Club’s amazing review back from December 2011. Since then I have read all of Trumble’s books, and I have Book Chic to thank. This book in particular is about a long distance relationship between two men, dealing with changes and homophobia and relationships and families. I couldn’t take my eyes away from this one.

Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling: Why is this on my list? Are you going to disown me? My oh my. Back when Harry Potter came out, I was just not interested. I saw one of the movies in the theater and I fell asleep. My sister never got into them. But I took a Children’s Literature class back at my first college and well, I had to do it for a grade and then I got obsessed. That class was memorable for so many reasons but a big part of it was introducing me to Harry, Ron, and Hermoine.

Alice in Zombieland by Gena Showalter: This title is a new development; I actually have a review coming up later this week. I’ve had it for a few months and I’m sure I would have kept passing it by if it wasn’t for Book Rock Betty and her enthusiasm for this story. Not exactly an Alice retelling but a unique interpretation of zombies, a bubbling hot relationship, and great voices for her characters. It was super fun and I’m so so glad I picked it up.

One Day by David Nicholls: An oldie but goodie. Rachel from Hello Chelly recommended this to me before we had blogs so I bought it for my honeymoon and absolutely devoured it. A grown up book about two young people through the span of many years, heartbreak, hardships, and love. It’s not a super fast-paced story but it’s completely well-written and I felt for these characters so much.

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins: Funny story but the gal who married James and I actually recommended this to me before anyone else. I was really turned off by the name and the original cover but I gave it a whirl anyway and fell madly in love with Stephanie’s writing and Anna’s story. I am so so thankful for my officiant (for many reasons) but bringing Anna into my life is definitely in the top 2. (I think you can guess what 1 is.)

Nowhere but Home by Liza Palmer: I hope you all know Cassie from Books with Cass. Not only is she one of the sweetest people you will ever meet but um, she is kind of bossy and sort of pushy and when she really loves a book, she wants the whole world to love it too. I have no idea how many people she got to buy Liza’s book but I was one of them. I’m so glad I carved out the time to read this and got to text with her about it as I did. Nowhere but Home is a beautiful book about second chances and learning to be happy. It’s very Hart of Dixie-esque and the writing is gorgeous. (Plus there’s a lot of cooking and football and a cute man or two!)

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote: Man on man. I had to read this for a Non-Fiction writing class at my second school, and it just blew me away. You want scary for Halloween? Try this because it was true. A whole family shot in their home. Terrible, terrible. I have a wild imagination and anytime I think about this story, I can freak myself out. Capote is a gorgeous writer (I love him to bits) and he crafts this horrific incident in such a way that you will be very surprised to see who you are feeling bad for. This book is classic and will forever be one of my favorites. (Plus you will not be able to stop researching the crime, and that opens a whole new can of worms.)

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I’m so excited to read everyone else’s Top 10 Tuesday this week!

Be sure to add some of these to your TBR. I’ll be watching…

roz from monsters inc.

Always watching.

Shelve It: September 15, 2013

weekly feature to share the books magan and estelle are adding to their bookshelves each week

Hi all! Hope you are having a great weekend so far. I think fall is finally happening in New York City. After a few days of crazy humidity, we’ve had our apartment windows open and it’s actually COLD at night and in the morning. Kind of insane. What’s also kind of insane is that James and I took an unplanned car trip out to the Hamptons yesterday.

I’ve been thinking about the Hamptons a lot lately. This fall marks 10 years since I started school out there, and while reading Fangirl last weekend, I pictured Cath’s campus just like my first one. You may not know but my school was in an incredible amount of debt and it closed after my sophomore year. We drove around the campus yesterday (which was bought over by a bigger university and that didn’t work out well) and it was sad to see it not brimming with students and life. Everything is basically falling apart.

Sigh. Anyway. We visited some of our old haunts (the spot of our first date, which according to a friend is closing in the fall for good?) and enjoyed all the picture taking opportunities. The clouds were amazing. Oh, and I tried the chocolate chai latte at Starbucks and it was pretty good.

Trip to Southampton

No v-log today but here is what is going on in my book world…

For review:

The Perfect Match by Kristan Higgins (Romance release for October 29!)
Something Real by Heather Demetrios (YA release for February 4, 2014 — no cover yet!)
Playing Dirty by Jennifer Echols (Romance release for October 29!)
Vintage Attraction by Charles Blackstone (Fiction release for October 22!)

Bought:

After a strong case from Cassie at Books with Cass, I went down to the Strand and bought Nowhere but Home by Liza Palmer. I can’t wait to read it! Some of my other favorite bloggers like Book Rock Betty and Hannah of So Obsessed With Blog loved it too!

During Labor Day weekend, I used a B&N coupon to buy Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets by Evan Roskos. I saw Evan read a part of this at a reading during the summer and I just loved the voice of the main character. I can’t wait to read it!

What I’m reading this week:

Jim Henson: The Biography by Brian Jay Jones — still working through this. Loving it so much. Nice to read some non-fic for a change.
The Boy on the Porch by Sharon Creech
Just Between Us by J.H. Trumble (release date: September 24, 2013)

Shelve It September 15 2013

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On the blog this week:

Magan’s thoughts on Jumped In by Patrick Flores Scott
Estelle’s review of Cherry Money Baby by John Cusick
Joint discussion of Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell! (No spoilers, we promise!)
Susan Mallery Cookbook review PLUS giveaway!
Estelle’s review of Jessica Darling’s IT List plus giveaway for TWO books!

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What’s up with you guys? Tell us!

Thanks again for stopping in this week. It’s always great to have ya!

Shelve It: Back from Texas (8/11/2013)

weekly feature to share the books magan and estelle are adding to their bookshelves each week

Your eyes are not playing tricks on you! I actually did one of these!! I did!

This summer was been so busy, friends. I’m sure you can relate. And because I hate to look like a total crazy woman in these v-logs, it’s sometimes hard to prep. But here I am! With some fresh reads, buys, and a recommendation!

It’s all so exciting, really.

P.S. My air conditioner does not make good company during vlogs like Magan does. Sadface.

Books I got in the mail:

The Truth by Michael Palin (Thanks St. Martins Press!) release date 8/13/2013

Just Between Us by J.H. Trumble (Thanks JH!) release date 9/24/2013

Books I bought at BookPeople in Austin:

Better Nate than Never by  Tim Federele

The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May and June by Robin Benway

The Space Between Trees by Katie Williams

Summer of the Gypsy Moths by Sara Pennypacker

Highly recommended + just finished:

Fixing Delilah by Sarah Ockler

And in case you missed it… on the blog this week:

Estelle reviews The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider
Magan reviews Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King
JOINT Shelve It from Texas: Oh the Fun
Sweet Summertime Reads: We craft and drink things.
A blog tour stop in Lorraine Zago Rosenthal’s NEW MONEY
Estelle reviews A Really Awesome Mess by Brendan Halpin + Trish Cook

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 Now it’s your turn! What’s been on your reading agenda? Do you like my Disney shirt? Tell me everything!

Estelle: Where You Are by J.H. Trumble

Where You Are By J.H. TrumbleWhere You Are by J.H. Trumble ( website | twitter )
Publication Date: December 24, 2012
Publisher: Kensington Books
Pages: 316
Target audience: Adult/mature young adult
Keywords:  bullying, social media, LGBT, student/teacher relationships
Format read: ARC from Publisher (Thank you!)

Summary: Robert may be a star student, a popular addition to the marching band, and absolutely comfortable with his sexuality. But his dad is also deteriorating from cancer, his aunts are taking over his home, and his boyfriend never wants to touch him. At 24, Andrew is Robert’s calculus teacher. He’s a father to a young daughter, and does his best to keep his private life private. But for some reason, he can’t help but reach out to Robert, especially as he sees this bright student fading into the background. Will they both be able to maintain their respected boundaries?

When I wrote my review of J.H. Trumble’s Don’t Let Me Go in March, I wrote about how I kept thinking of the main characters of that story like they were people I had actually known in real life.

Fast forward almost nine months later, and I’m standing in a store parking lot in the freezing cold, on the brink of what is going to be a difficult two days for my family, and I am thinking about Robert and Andrew in the same way. What are they up to? What are they thinking? If they lived in my hometown, would I be calling them to hang out right now?

I’ve wracked my brain trying to figure out how Trumble makes her characters so human — flaws and all — and I come up short every single time. Because it just happens. It is so natural how these characters live and breathe on the page, even when I disagree with their actions and especially when everything becomes right in their worlds.

For many of you, a little red flag is going to pop up when you see “student/teacher” relationship. I’m not here to talk about a moral code or the importance of maintaining boundaries. Because as soon as I started reading about Andrew and Robert, all of their labels seemed to dissipate and I was left with two young men who really cared for each other. Two men who needed each other in different ways, and two people who actively tried to keep themselves at a distance (time and time again).

One of the most fascinating details about these characters is just how differently they deal with their sexuality. Robert was very open, and frustrated with a boyfriend who would rather hang out with “his girls” and not bother to kiss him, while Andrew was very focused on keeping his private life private (those nosey teachers!), even if it meant allowing people to think he was attracted to women. As the novel goes on, this difference created many scenes of role reversal where Robert actually seems to be the older one and Andrew, the more giddy.

On the surface, Where You Are was this kind of epic love story but the author also developed complex and intertwining back stories that allow the reader  to dig deeper into these characters and help us to understand who they really are. I really loved Robert’s relationship with his mother (even the messy parts) and Andrew’s ex-wife, Maya, who always kept me guessing. (This is a good thing.) Trumble also skillfully integrated the influence of social media in our lives — from the accounts Andrew chooses to follow, secret fan pages, and a partner in bullying.

I read this book twice before I wrote the review (and I’ve only done that one other time this year with Marisa Calin’s Between You and Me) because I had to relive it again. I had to make sure I didn’t miss out on any one detail. Trumble has officially spoiled me with rich characters, feelings that make me feel everything, intricate details, the cool balance of family and school life, and a controversial topic that is dealt with so delicately and so passionately.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Trumble is an author to look out for.

(And I apologize in advance because if you react to this book like I did, you will not be able to get much done before you finish it.)

own it now -- highest ranking from Rather Be Reading Blog

Goodreads | Buy on Amazon