By Your Side by Kasie West

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Honestly, there’s nothing Kasie could write that I wouldn’t want to read. She’s an auto-buy author for me, and I’ve never been disappointed.

In By Your Side, we get to live vicariously through Autumn, who gets stuck in the library after closing (could there even be any better situation for a book lover?) when she runs back in to use the restroom. Somehow her group of friends doesn’t realize that she’s not with them (thanks to multiple cars), and they take off for their weekend adventures. It’s not long before Autumn realizes she’s not alone, either – she’s stuck with Dax, who’s known as a troublemaker. There are a whole lot of situations that line up perfectly to make it so they’re truly stuck in the library over a long weekend, but all of it adds up to a fun story with a classic Kasie West sweetness.

Check out By Your Side here on Amazon or at your favorite book store. Enjoy!

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The Great Shelby Holmes by Elizabeth Eulberg

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I am always, always, always up for a good Sherlock Holmes retelling, and Eulberg’s Shelby Holmes story is a perfect middle grade entry into the Sherlock world.

In it, Shelby Holmes is a 9 year old sixth grader with all the brains, sass, and social awkwardness you’d expect from a character based on Sherlock, and John Watson has just moved into the building. John, whose military parents have just gone through a divorce, is in need of new friends and sort of falls into Shelby’s crime solving world when a classmate of theirs discovers that her prize-winning dog has been stolen.

Shelby and John are both well-written characters who work together in their own quirky ways, and they have depth to them that goes far beyond the crime to be solved. With John’s family situation and Shelby’s trouble making friends, there’s plenty here for readers to identify with and cheer the characters through.

The mystery itself is both clever enough to be worthy of a 9 year-old Holmes and solvable enough for a middle grade audience. The Great Shelby Holmes would be perfect for readers as young as 4th grade and I can see its appeal going up through middle school. Also, for those adults (like me!) who love Sherlockian literature, it’s a really fun look into the classic characters as modern day kids. Elizabeth confirmed for me that there will be at least two more Shelby Holmes books, and I’m already looking forward to them!

 

P.S. I Like You by Kasie West

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In P.S. I Like You, aspiring musician and generally awkward Lily Abbott falls into an anonymous pen pal relationship with a fellow Chemistry class sufferer. She and the pen pal hit it off and Lily’s having fun wondering who it could be… if only she could get her best friend’s ex, Cade Jennings, to leave her alone she’d be happy. Somehow they end up in verbal battles everytime they’re near each other. When Lily finally discovers the identity of her letter writer, she’ll have to take a step back and figure out how she really feels about everything. As usual, this book is not JUST a contemporary romance – there are family issues and big dreams and lots of real, relatable themes for teens. 

It’s no secret that I love everything Kasie writes, but I swear she gets better and better with each book she writes. I started reading P.S. I Like You one evening and couldn’t put it down… I did eventually fall asleep, but finished the story quickly the next morning and thought about Lily and Cade all day long.

I found this excerpt on GoodReads and had to share. Enjoy it, and check out this book!

“I nodded toward Cade’s wrist. “I’m sorry.”

“It’s fun. I get a man bracelet.”

I smiled. “I don’t think you get to keep it. She’s just using you as her model.”

“Her model?”

“It’s a fact, not a compliment.”

“Because if you gave me a compliment you might have a stroke.”

I laughed. “Probably not a stroke, but my brain would definitely revolt in some way.”

He didn’t laugh along with me, just looked at the cording on his wrist.

“Oh, stop, you don’t need me to tell you that you’re hot to know that it’s true.”

“Are you okay? Did that hurt your head?” Cade asked.

I kicked his foot with mine and he laughed.

“So you think I’m hot?” Cade’s eyes sparkled.

“Doesn’t every girl?”

It surprised me when his cheeks turned a light shade of pink. I wasn’t sure why that embarrassed him in any way. I was positive he already knew it. He ran one hand through his hair. Then he said, almost too quiet for me to hear, “You’re not every girl.”

― Kasie WestP.S. I Like You

The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson

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As summer winds down and back to school sales take over the stores, I find myself wanting to cling to summer for as long as possible.

One great YA title that might help us all hold fast to summer days is Morgan Matson’s The Unexpected Everything, a seriously cute and heartwarming novel that showcases everything there is to love about YA literature.

In it, Andie is a teenage girl with a very clear plan for her summer, for college, and for life in general. She’s the daughter of a politician, so her childhood has been lived under public scrutiny, and she strives for perfection. She hardly sees her dad, and since her mom passed away when she was young, she has basically raised herself. She’s fiercely independent and has very little relationship with her father, but somehow she’s satisfied with the way things are. She has her plans for the future, she has her friends, and she knows where she’s going.

But what will Andie do when a very public political scandal sends those plans sailing out the window? How will she deal with her lost summer internship? What will her unexpected summer be like when she had so many clear expectations that just won’t happen?

After she answers a help wanted ad that turns out to be for a dog walking service, all kinds of unexpected things pop up: a dad who’s suddenly in town a whole lot more than usual, a part time job without the prestige of a medical internship, a seriously great group of friends, a cute boy who keeps popping up, and so much more. What I love about The Unexpected Everything is that it’s fun and authentic (the text conversations, complete with emojis, are fantastic), but it still has strong themes of family and friendship and the power of change. We, along with Andie, get to see that sometimes beautiful things happen when life veers off the path we’ve decided it should stay on.

This novel is perfect for teenage girls and grown up women alike, and it’s especially fitting for these days when we’re still sort of in our summer state of mind but also making plans and looking ahead to the fresh opportunities that a new school year brings. Check it out, and enjoy!

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A Little Harry Potter Fun

Just because the whole world seems to be reading this new Harry Potter story and I’m curious to know what people think…

Have you read the Cursed Child yet? What did you think?

What Hogwarts House would you be sorted into?

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The Selection Series and a HUGE Giveaway from OwlCrate!

the selectionI’ve heard people describe The Selection series as The Bachelor meets The Hunger Games, which is a pretty accurate description in terms of the entertainment value of the series, but it’s really so much more than that. For one, the “bachelor” in this case is a gorgeous prince (and don’t most of us dream of that at least a little bit?) looking for his bride. For another, the main character, America Singer, is far more amazing than most of the backstabbing women we love to hate on The Bachelor.

In the world of The Selection, there’s a caste system in place designed to keep the peace in an unsteady future (though not a crazy sci-fi future) through a hierarchy of its people. Royalty are 1s, nobles are 2s, and so on and so forth, with wealth and power reducing with each step down. America Singer, a 5, has grown up in a family with very little resources. She’s had a secret love with a childhood friend, Aspen, that has little hope of surviving because he’s a 6 and she’s expected to marry higher. When the royal family announces a Selection to find Prince Maxon a princess, America registers in the hopes of being chosen and having the chance to earn some money (the girls are compensated for their time) for her family. She is shocked to find herself among the 35 candidates chosen to come live in the castle as Maxon chooses a wife.

The 35 girls make both friends and enemies while largely staying out of the politics of running a country, but America isn’t like most girls. She’s feisty and intelligent and catches Maxon’s eye right from the beginning. America is driven by a desire not just to improve her own family’s situation, but to shed light on the weaknesses of the caste system and how it negatively impacts the lower levels. I absolutely loved her character for her strength and determination.

There is bit of a love triangle happening between America, Aspen, and Maxon, but it’s very well done and I love the resolution of it. I enjoyed the dreaminess of the royal setting and the realistic feeling of the political climate, and I am always, always, always a sucker for a story that showcases a teenager standing up for what’s right in an effort to make their world a better one. I should also mention that this is a pretty clean series as far as content goes; I’m totally comfortable having this in the middle school library, though its appeal reaches much higher in age groups.

Now, this IS a series, but the good news is that the final book came out recently so you can easily binge-read them all this summer. From The Selection, the girls are narrowed down to a field of eight in The Elite, and then even further in The One. The story of the next generation is continued in two additional books, both of which are also out, so you don’t have to wait for those either. I definitely recommend reading all the way through to the end – Kiera Cass is an excellent writer and she wrapped the whole series up amazingly in the final book, The Crown.

Now, OwlCrate: Another thing I’m loving right now is subscription boxes. It’s just fun to have a happy thing show up in my mail box alongside the bills and junk mail, you know? So, I’ve done some research on YA Lit boxes and found one I’m really excited about – OwlCrate. I love their boxes, which are built around a monthly theme and include one great YA title and related swag. And guess what June’s theme was? ROYALTY. It’s perfect.

So, the wonderful people at OwlCrate have decided to give THREE of those Royalty boxes away over on SheReads, so GO THERE and enter! Winners will be chosen by the end of the week, so hurry!

2016 Debut Authors Bash: K.C. Held and HOLDING COURT!

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I should start out by telling you all that, when I read the blurb for HOLDING COURT, I e-mailed the publisher immediately and begged for a review copy because it sounded just that perfect. When I got the review copy in the mail, it came with one of the coolest swag packs I’ve gotten, and you get a chance to win one! You can see what it looked like, and why I love this book SO MUCH, here. Also, here’s the link to purchase HOLDING COURT on Amazon.

Now, I’m happy to turn this post over to K.C. as she tells us about her favorite mystery influences and how they helped shape HOLDING COURT!

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Hi Melissa! Thanks so much for hosting me!

I’ve always been a huge mystery fan, and my taste runs the gamut, but in crafting HOLDING COURT I was definitely influenced by Janet Evanovich’s STEPHANIE PLUM series. I wanted to see if I could take this wacky idea I had about a character who blurts out random statements that turn out to be premonitions and mold it into a YA mystery featuring colorful characters involved in potentially ridiculous hijinks.

Rounding out my top five favorite mystery influences are:

Elizabeth Peters and her ability to “mingle intelligent whodunits with sheer lunatic hilarity.” I’m fascinated with art history and have a background in historic costume (which came into play in HOLDING COURT) so her art historian sleuth Vicky Bliss is a particular favorite.

Agatha Christie, the grand dame of mystery fiction. I devoured her books as a kid. I’d be hard pressed to pick a favorite but I’ll always have a soft spot for Miss Marple, who gets a shout-out in HOLDING COURT.

Meg Cabot and her MEDIATOR series. Much like Suze, Jules has a special ability that leads to unusual challenges and hilarious situations. Meg also wrote a blog post on the anniversary of 9/11 that had a huge impact on me. “Why I Write Funny Books” transformed the way I saw myself as a writer and validated my natural instinct to write things that make people laugh.

Ally Carter for writing funny “clean teen” books like the GALLAGHER GIRLS series that fill a niche for in-between readers and anyone who likes to read funny/and or sweet YA, like me!

Thanks again for letting me visit Pimples, Popularity, and Protagonists!

I hope you have a killer summer! ;)

K.C.

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CHECK IT OUT: a Rafflecopter giveaway for a HOLDING COURT swag pack (magnetic prophecy kit, signed bookplate, bookmark, coloring postcard w/multi-colored pencil, and castle pin), open to US & CAN.
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