Jen’s Top 10 “How Have You NOT Read This” YA Books

It seems lately whenever I bring up one of my favorite books/series, people respond with a blank stare, a careless shrug, or, worst of all, an “I’ve never heard of it” type of comment. AHHH! So, I decided it’s time for me to give you the heads up on some books you MUST read if you haven’t.

Jen’s Top 10 “How Have You NOT Read This?” YA Books

1. Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor

8490112On average, I read a book a week. AKA, I read a lot. However, no matter how many pages I turn, or how many stories I finish, Daughter of Smoke & Bone remains one of my favorites of all time. And it’s troubling how few people are even aware of it. No offense to Hunger Games  or Twilight, or even Divergent, but I wish the mass population would revere this story. Simply put, it’s awesome. Daughter of Smoke & Bone has everything a reader craves: intrigue, romance, humor, and, of course, adventure.

So go read it! And be sure to spread the word how awesome it is.

Check out my full review here!

2. The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer

11235712Sighhhhh…Just…God, just go read this series, okay? I can’t even begin…I can’t even tell you…AHHH! Just read it. Goooo.

Check out my full review here!

3. Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

136251Believe it or not, there are still people in the world who haven’t read Harry Potter. *cue gasps* Every time I encounter one of these rare beings, they usually tell me, “Well, I tried watching the movies, but I just wasn’t into them.”

…That’s all I have to say about that.

*clears throat*


4. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

19063-1When people ask me, “What’s your favorite book?” I first glare at them, and then I tell them I don’t have a favorite (what book nerd does?). Then, when they still won’t leave me alone, I spout off a handful of memorable titles. The Book Thief is always on the list. Always. And it should be on yours!  I promise, it’s a tale you’ll never forget.

Check out my full review here!

5. Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

6050678Barking spiders! You haven’t read the Leviathan series? Are you mad? What’s not to like? A round-the-world adventure? A would-be heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne? A commoner girl disguised as a boy? Daring deeds? Fun? AMAZINGNESS!

Hey, all you sods, I can fly and you can’t! A natural airman, in case you haven’t noticed. And in conclusion, I’d like to add that I’m a girl and you can all get stuffed!

…Hmmm, I think even I need to go read this–again. So much fun!

Check out more about Leviathan here!

6. Legend by Marie Lu

9275658Amongst all the dystopian books out there, Legend is my favorite. Think Les Miserables set in the future with a deadly virus, two badass protagonists, and lots of rip-roaring action.

In a nutshell, Legend is…

Read more about Legend here!

7. The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

16101128Have you ever read a book as slow as possible? Because you’re dreading the end? Because you know when you turn that last page, the story will be over and you’ll be sad for days and days? Well, that’s how I felt while reading The 5th Wave. Although I’m not a huge fan of stories revolving around aliens, this one is both awesome and terrifying. It actually made me stop and think, “Oh crap. What if this actually happened?”

Dun, dun, dun…

I dare you to read it…Okay, forget the dare. I’m telling you to read it. Scoot, scoot.

Check out my full review here!

8. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

16068905Rainbow Rowell is officially one of my favorite authors of all time. In fact, I had a difficult time choosing which of her novels to recommend. The truth is, I recommend all of them (Fangirl, Eleanor & Park, and Attachments). Rowell is a master at character development and writing stories that have meaning and relevance. Trust me, you won’t be the same after experiencing one–or all–of her books.

Check out my full review for Fangirl here!

9. The Infernal Devices by Cassandra Clare

7171637Adventure. Wit. Tears. Mystery. Romance…The Infernal Devices has it all! This prequel series to Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments is a MUST-READ! Especially if you’re looking for a new giddy book crush.

Oh, Will Herondale

“How rude. Many who have gazed upon me have compared it to gazing at the radiance of the sun.”

Jem still had his eyes closed. “If they mean that it gives you a headache, they aren’t wrong.”

Read more about The Infernal Devices here!

10. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

1217100I could easily list thirteen reasons why you should read this book, but I’ll only give you one: it’s life changing. So read it!

Check out my full review here!

Okay, I have about a hundred more books/series I could list, but I’ll end things here. Just take my word for it, these are books you MUST read! You won’t regret it.

What about you? What books make your “How Have You NOT Read This” YA book list?

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Book Review: Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

8909152Attachments by Rainbow Rowell


“‘Hi, I’m the guy who reads your e-mail, and also, I love you . . . ‘
Beth Fremont and Jennifer Scribner-Snyder know that somebody is monitoring their work e-mail. (Everybody in the newsroom knows. It’s company policy.) But they can’t quite bring themselves to take it seriously. They go on sending each other endless and endlessly hilarious e-mails, discussing every aspect of their personal lives.
Meanwhile, Lincoln O’Neill can’t believe this is his job now- reading other people’s e-mail. When he applied to be “internet security officer,” he pictured himself building firewalls and crushing hackers- not writing up a report every time a sports reporter forwards a dirty joke.
When Lincoln comes across Beth’s and Jennifer’s messages, he knows he should turn them in. But he can’t help being entertained-and captivated-by their stories.
By the time Lincoln realizes he’s falling for Beth, it’s way too late to introduce himself.
What would he say . . . ?”

Jen’s Review

<<Jennifer to Beth>> You are a complicated woman.

<<Beth to Jennifer>> No. Doy.

<<Jen to Reader>> Oh my gosh! I just read an AMAZING book!!!

<<Reader to Jen>> Yeah? What?

<<Jen to Reader>> Attachments by Rainbow Rowell! I couldn’t put it down. It. Was. So. Ahhh-dicting. Seriously, Rowell is officially one of my favorite authors.

<<Reader to Jen>> Wow, really? Why?

<<Jen to Reader>> Well, besides writing good stories, she knows how to write fabulous characters. She makes them feel so real, so relevant, so relatable. I swear, my life is a Rainbow Rowell novel. It’s like she knows me. The problems her characters face, the thoughts they have, the fears they deal with–all me! It’s creepy, but in a cool, “whoa” way, ya know?

Oh, and don’t even get me started on the guy in this book, Lincoln!…siiiigh

<<Reader to Jen>> Spill!!!

<<Jen to Reader>> I don’t know. He’s just so darn cute! Sweet and endearing and polite. I just wanted to wrap him up, take him home, and keep him forever. I mean it, he’s the kind of guy you wanna meet and fall in love with in real life…Where are you Lincoln??? Where, where, where…

<<Reader to Jen>> Um, you do know you sound a little crazy now, right?

<<Jen to Reader>> …yes.

<<Reader to Jen>> Okay, good. Just checking. So Attachments is really good?

<<Jen to Reader>> YES!

<<Reader to Jen>> Better than Fangirl and Eleanor & Park?

<<Jen to Reader>> Well, I wouldn’t say “better”, per se. Just different. In my opinion, Attachments was lighter and more fun as a whole. But, don’t get me wrong, it still had its dramatic, epiphany-filled moments. They just didn’t seem as intense or prominent as the other two novels.

<<Reader to Jen>> Okay, so I guess that means you’d definitely recommend it?

<<Jen to Reader>> Duh!

<<Reader to Jen>> Okay, okay! Sheesh.

<<Jen to Reader>> Sorry! I get pushy when I find a book that I love, and I LOVED Attachments. Let’s just say as you near the end, you’ll start to feel anxious and sad, because you won’t want it to end.

b9d10050302e88e870291e52c4ada5bf<<Reader to Jen>> Fine, fine. I’m heading to the bookstore now.

<<Jen to Reader>> Good! Trust me, you won’t regret it!

“I think I missed my window,” he said.
“What window?”
“My get-a-life window. I think I was supposed to figure all this stuff out somewhere between twenty-two and twenty-six, and now it’s too late.

Jen’s Rating 

5 Star

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If it wasn’t for you: A thank you to the women authors who’ve inspired my writing

“The best readers are the best writers.”

A friend spoke these words to me years ago, back when I was still a “closeted writer” who feared her lack of an English/writing degree would prevent her from being accepted in the official “writers club”. At the time, I didn’t really get the meaning of this quote. I mean, I definitely liked it: “The best readers are the best writers.” Well, that’s great, I thought, because I read. A lot. Like, a lot, a lot, a lot!). Yet, as the years have gone by, and my stack of read books has grown taller and taller, I’ve finally come to understand it.

Reading = Knowledge

Reading = Inspiration

Reading = Writing

More Reading = Better Writing

It’s true. Well, at least for me. Reading books  has taught me how to write (and, yeah, sometimes how not to write). There’s no doubt in my mind that books have strengthened my storytelling skills, expanded my creative horizons and given me a plethora of inspiration (oh yeah, I totally just used the word plethora). Now, I can’t tell you exactly how many books I’ve read (500? 1,000? 10,000?), but I can tell you which authors have impacted me the most.

Today, in honor of celebrating women in fiction (#ReadWomen2014), I’d like to pay tribute to the female author’s who’ve effected me the most. If it weren’t for their various inspirations, I wouldn’t be the writer I am today.

Patricia BeattyThe Dream Starter

9780688066871What a young person reads becomes part of his or her mental luggage forever! This is the learning time, short but vital to the future adult. That mental luggage deserves to be filled with the best stuff only, not pap. It may have a long, long way to go.” – Patricia Beatty

The day I picked up “Charlie Skedaddle” by Patricia Beatty was the day I became a book fanatic. It was also the day I realized I wanted to be an author when I grew up. After reading and absorbing Beatty’s novels (multiple times), I nervously began writing my own. Admittedly, most of this “writing” took place in my daydreamin’ head, safe and sound where nobody but me could experience them. However, a few made it into a notebook I kept hidden under my pillow, and one even made it onto a computer when I was in 6th grade (a 32-page story about a girl who traveled back in time to the Civil War era…Yeah, it was awesome.). Despite my terror to admit to the world I wanted to be a writer (that confession wouldn’t come for years, after I graduated college), I was able to admit my creative passion to myself. Even though I was only 10-years old, I knew I wanted to spend my life telling stories.

So, thank you, Patricia Beatty. If it weren’t for you, I wouldn’t have fallen in love with reading, and I wouldn’t be pursuing my dream of being a published author.

Marie LuThe Style Guru

9275658One of the up’s (and down’s) of reading a lot while you write is you accidentally mimic the author you’re currently reading. This happened to me while I was devouring Marie Lu’s “Legend”. Suddenly, my writing became clearer and more precise, my characters more likable and endearing, my plot faster and tighter. Ever since that happy accident, I’ve aspired to keep writing in a fashion similar to Lu’s. To use my words and sentence structures in a way that draws the reader in and keeps them there. To weave simple, yet complex story lines around my audience–around and around–until they’re trapped and can’t break free, even after they’ve finished the book.

So, thank you, Marie Lu. If it weren’t for you, I wouldn’t understand what good storytelling looks like and how to ensnare an audience.

Maureen Johnson & Cassandra ClareCleverness & Wit

17334064And if we get caught, I will claim I made you go. At gunpoint. I am American. People will assume I’m armed.” – Maureen Johnson, “The Name of the Star”

People tell me I’m a funny person. And I’ve been told I can be a funny writer, too. However, I don’t like to write comedy. I just don’t. My comfort zone tends to be in the suspense/horror/thriller categories. Yet, despite my preference to write about tenser subject matters, Maureen Johnson and Cassandra Clare have shown me even dark genres need to be lightened up every now and then. Adding dashes of cleverness and wit to a story can add surprising depth and meaning to a plot and its characters.

So, thank you, Maureen Johnson and Cassandra Clare. If it weren’t for you, I wouldn’t understand how humor can give any story layers and make it more memorable.

Let me give you a piece of advice. The handsome young fellow who’s trying to rescue you from a hideous fate is never wrong. Not even if he says the sky is purple and made of hedgehogs.” -Cassandra Clare, “The Infernal Devices”.

Laini TaylorWeirdness is Goodness

8490112“I write books for youngish people, but they can also be read and enjoyed by oldish people, aka grown-ups. You know grown-ups? They tend to be a little bigger and hairier than kids. But not always.” -Laini Taylor

Okay, I admit it. I can be weird (hellllo, I’m a writer; we all have a weird screw inside of us, right?). Well, it wasn’t until I read Laini Taylor’s “Daughter of Smoke & Bone” that I was able to confidently infuse that weirdness into my writing. Taylor taught me that being quirky–saying things, thinking things and creating things that make the reader go, “Huh?”–can be a wonderful and powerful tool. For example, rather than having a protagonist with brown hair and blue eyes, why not have a protagonist with blue hair and brown eyes?

“Think outside the box!” Taylor’s writing shouts when you read it. “Like way, way outside the box. Do it, do it, do it!” So, I try. Every time I sit down at my desk, I think, “Be odd. Be different. It’s okay. Laini Taylor said so.”

So, thank you, Laini Taylor. If it weren’t for you, I wouldn’t have embraced my eccentric tendencies and breathed them into my stories.

Marissa Meyer: The Delightful Contortionist 

11235712Even in the Future the Story Begins with Once Upon a Time.” -Marissa Meyer, “Cinder”

I’ve always prided myself on being a writer that likes to brainstorm concepts that are as original as possible. I’m always sniffing around the misty alleys of my mind, trying to find an idea that just might be “the next big thing” in the YA market. I’ve never been a fan of taking already written stories (like a fairy tale) and putting a unique spin on them. Then I began reading Marissa Meyer’s “Lunar Chronicles” and my entire outlook changed. Her crazy sci-fi contortion of “Cinderella” totally sold me on the unoriginal-original concept. Why not put a new twist on an old story? Why not embrace a solid foundation and build your own–original–world on top of it? Being a writer means being creative, and if I can create a spectacular story using a tried and true formula, you should. Why not?

So, thank you, Marissa Meyer. If it weren’t for you, I wouldn’t be willing to open my eyes and see there are stories all around me that can be bent, shaped and warped into something fresh and dazzling.

Rainbow Rowell: Character Jedi Master 

16068905Eleanor was right. She never looked nice. She looked like art, and art wasn’t supposed to look nice; it was supposed to make you feel something.” -Rainbow Rowell, “Eleanor & Park”

One of my biggest weaknesses as a writer has always seemed to be my characters. And I think I’ve finally figured out why: Until 2013, I’d never read a Rainbow Rowell book. Guys, if you want a “how to” lesson on character building, this is your teacher. In her novels like “Attachments” and “Fangirl” Rowell has inspired me to dig deeper and reach higher when it comes to my characters. She’s shown me characters shouldn’t be 2-D individuals who entertain an audience. They should be 3-D humans who punch through a black and white page, straight into a reader’s heart. Characters should be likable, relatable, convincible. Characters should leave a dent even after the last page is turned.

So, thank you, Rainbow Rowell. If it weren’t for you, I wouldn’t even know how to begin writing  better, deeper, truer characters.

Kathrynn Stockett: The Cheerleader

4667024If you ask my husband my best trait, he’ll smile and say, ‘She never gives up.’ But if you ask him my worst trait, he’ll get a funny tic in his cheek, narrow his eyes and hiss, ‘She. Never. Gives. Up.‘” -Kathryn Stockett

 When people ask me what I do for a living, I joke and say, “I’m in the Industry of Rejection.” Sadly, it’s a true statement for most writers. I began sending query letters back in 2009 after I finished my first real manuscript. I was so excited, so certain I’d written a story that would get me an agent…Then I got my first rejection letter, and ooouuucchhh! That was followed by a second, and oooh, eeks! Then a third, a fourth, a tenth, a twentieth…That’s when I realized I’d chosen a career that wasn’t only hard, but could very well break my spirit.

“I loved your story, but…”. “Unfortunately…”. “Your story still needs work…”. “We regret to inform you..”. “Thank you for your submission. However…”. “Best of luck with this project and all your endeavors.”

Yeah, let’s face it, rejection hurts. Every. Time. And, I’ll be honest, after a particularly harsh round of “Thanks, but not thanks,” responses from agents, I’ve considered throwing in the towel (or maybe even smothering myself with a pillow). The biggest reason I haven’t though is because of Kathryn Stockett, author of the wildly popular novel, “The Help”.

Did you know Stockett’s bestseller was rejected 60 times before an agent finally gave her a chance? 60. Times! And, yet, after each stinging rejection, she didn’t give up. She went back, revised and then sent out more query letters. That’s how much she believed in her story. Despite the “Unfortunately”‘s and the “Best of luck”‘s, she refused to quit. Stockett’s never say die attitude has taught me that rejection isn’t the name of the game. Determination is. If you believe in your story, you should never give up on finding it a home. Keep writing, keep fighting! (Read about Stockett’s relentless journey here).

So, thank you Kathryn Stockett. If it weren’t for you, I may have given up on my dream a long time ago. And if it weren’t for you, I may not have the stamina to keep going now!

Thank you to all the women authors who’ve inspired me. This short list doesn’t even come close to naming all of you out there. But, trust me, if it weren’t for each and every one of you, I wouldn’t be the writer I am today.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Book of the month – February

In honor of Rainbow Rowell receiving a Printz honor, I’m dedicating this month to Eleanor & Park. And you know what? It’s just romantic enough to cover the Valentine’s Day holiday, too!

15745753Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell


It’s 1986 and two star-crossed teens are smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try. When Eleanor meets Park, you’ll remember your own first love–and just how hard it pulled you under.

 A cross between the iconic ’80s movie Sixteen Candles and the classic coming-of-age novel Looking for Alaska, Eleanor & Park is a brilliantly written young adult novel.”

Jen’s Review

After reading Fangirl a couple of months ago, I knew I had to read everything ever written by Rainbow Rowell. So, I put a hold on Eleanor & Park at the library, and after waiting forever, I finally got my hands on it. And it hardly left my hands in the two days it took me to read it. What a great story! Sweet and endearing with a tough edge. Rainbow Rowell definitely knows how to build characters that want to be heard and remembered. And I’ll always remember Eleanor and Park. Although I couldn’t relate to their story as much as I can to Cath’s in Fangirl, I can visualize it and feel it all the same.

Eleanor & Park is an addictive tale that takes the reader on a roller coaster of emotions. Anger. Humor. Fear. Love. I’ve never read a contemporary romance quite like this one. It was a perfect combination of reality and fantasy. Of life sucks and life rocks. Of “Oh, my god.” and “Oh my God!” You go from smirking at Eleanor and Park’s resentful start, to grinning at their magical connection, to holding your breath at their uncertain future.

In a nutshell, it’s awesome. It is!

If you haven’t read Eleanor & Park yet (or any of Rainbow Rowell’s books for that matter), then it’s time to get in the game. Don’t miss out on these wonderful plots and memorable characters!

Jen’s Rating

4 Star