Top Ten Tuesday: Best Feminist Young Adult Books

It’s Top Ten Tuesday! Since Sunday was International Women’s Day (click here for my blog post about “Strong Female Characters” on that day)–and since this month is Women’s History Month, it seems fitting to make today’s list fit that theme. Marissa Dubecky posted this lovely list on Bustle on Sunday: “12 Books For Young People That Will Turn You Into A Feminist At Any Age.” It includes classic favorites, like Jane Eyre, to modern hits, like The Hunger Games, and why they’re good representations of strong, capable women.

Click here for the list.

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What books would you add, readers? Men–do you enjoy these just as much as women do? I’d venture to say yes. I think the best feminist books are the ones that are great books that just happen to feature Strong Female Characters. 😉

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Excess & Sacrifice: Paczki Day + Top Ten Things People Are Giving Up for Lent in 2015

Excess and sacrifice–two polar opposites that enjoy global popularity this week. I find this both personally and culturally fascinating. How better to explore this than in a list?

“Top Ten Tuesday” is BACK! You know I can’t resist a holiday, readers. And while, yes, today is Mardi Gras, as well as Pączki Day (OK I may or may not have celebrated the latter but I couldn’t help it because someone brought in a huge box of fresh delicious pązki and I’m Polish and it’s in my blood to require them for sustenance on such a day, and, and…)
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Let me help you with those…

Ahem. While today is both of those holidays, it is also the last day before Lent for Catholics. And, actually, my personal resolution is directly related to Pączki Day–a last hurrah, if you will–which is exactly what it was designed to be.

The specific pązcki in question was sweet-cheese-filled with vanilla frosting. (In recollection of Pączki Days past, our friend described his personal encounter with the traditional rosehip-flavored type, which was an acquired taste, and a floral shock to his raspberry expectations. I was thankful only to be pleasantly surprised today.)

In slightly related news, our dad randomly found gourmet fudge today in the trunk from our parents’ recent trip to Wisconsin. We deemed it a Lenten miracle and gobbled it up before midnight.

Midnight, of course, marked the beginning of Lent. Personally, I find the tradition of minor sacrifice enlightening about myself. How hard is it for me to give something small up, versus someone who gave up everything? What about people who live in poverty and have nothing to give up? Interestingly, many religions (and even non-religious causes) practice similar self-deprivation to promote awareness. So, in addition to being a reminder and practice of my own religion, I find the tradition to be beneficial in many ways.

One of these ways is my health. Every year around this time, my stomach breathes a sigh of relief (and my sweet teeth–for they are, all of them, sweet–sob) for forty days.

My standard is to give up sweets. It is both difficult (sweet tooth x 32) and easy–it’s fairly easy to eat around them.

Then I wondered–what do most people give up? I’ve read of people giving up sleeping in beds and doing major fasting during this time. But what’s the norm? Obviously, Twitter has the answer. OpenBible decided to index the top Lenten sacrifices users posted on Twitter, ranging from silly to serious. It’s an interesting sociological examination:

The project, now entering its sixth year, pulls from the Twitter firehose to index mentions of Lent and various iterations of the phrase “giving up.” It’s the brainchild of Biblical Web guru Stephen Smith, who in his day job runs engineering for the massive Christian site BibleGateway.com. The list updates every 10 minutes, so it’s apt to change. —Caitlin Dewey, The Washington Post

Without further ado, I present:

Top 10 Things Given Up for Lent 2015

(34,520 Tweets During the Week of February 15, 2015)

Rank What Number of Tweets
1. twitter 1,568
2. social networking 1,429
3. chocolate 1,418
4. school 1,035
5. alcohol 1,024
6. soda 635
7. sweets 619
8. swearing 609
9. fast food 585
10. coffee 416

Interesting, no? #1 and #2–ironic or sarcastic? #4–obviously a joke. All the rest? I believe them. Add me to #7–make that 620 tweets. 🙂

How about you, dear readers? Do you practice Lent or any other type of deprivation/sacrifice–what, if anything, do you think it tells us? What do/would you give up?
Food for thought–since that’s the only consumption of sweets I’ll be allowing myself till Easter. 😉 😥

BIAIL Fashion Show + Top 10: Favorite Things About Having My Blog After One Year

Hello, dear readers! I hope you had a fabulous weekend! I had the honor and pleasure of modeling for the Brain Injury Association of Illinois’s Annual Fashion Show for the second year in a row. As a TBI survivor, disability awareness has become really important to me, and I was so happy to help with such a great cause. The organization is a special one to me, and this event–run so well by heads Philicia Deckard and Ginny Doran Lazarra–always brings together compassionate people and organizations, making it fun to network and socialize (not to mention dress up in pretty outfits). This year, I got to model three gorgeous dresses from Pink Slip Boutique.

Models on the runway

I loved getting to see and chat with Alicia Roman again this year. (I am unashamedly name-and-photo-dropping.) She is a meteorologist for NBC5, and she was the emcee again for the event. She does a great job of being warm to the crowd and models (even asking me over the mic if I was OK when my shoe got stuck in the runway–yes, graceful me) as well as being impassioned about the cause.

Alicia and me after the show

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This weekend was also important to me for another reason:

It marked the one-year anniversary of the creation of my blog! In some ways, I can’t believe it’s already been a year. However, when I look back at my entries over the past year, I realize I’ve put a lot of work and pride into my blog. I am so grateful to all of you, dear readers, for impelling me onward to continue posting. Every comment and view is a validation of my work–so thank you for making it worthwhile. ❤

As happy nostalgia washed over me, I realized this would make for a great Top 10 for this week (my last Top 10 till May!). Below, please enjoy my Top 10 favorite bloggy things. 🙂 Tomorrow marks the beginning of my double-challenge for April: NaPoWriMo + A-to-Z, which means a poem each day (except Sunday), focusing on consecutive alphabetic topics (or forms). I will do my best to complete all 26, but I’m also working on my novel plus my memoir plus, you know, life–but I look forward to the challenge. It was a productive blast for me last year. 🙂

Top 10: Favorite Things About Having My Blog After One Year

1. Making new friends

One of the most unexpected perks of having my blog has been meeting fellow bloggers (or commentators) who have become my friends. I’ve really enjoyed connecting with so many of you, whether it be through writing about similar topics, participating on blog tours together, comments, etc.

2. Keeps me writing

Having to keep up with my blog keeps my writing sharp, and it’s really helped me to develop my voice. My “blogging voice” has settled somewhere in the intersection of the tones of my critical essay, memoir, and conversational writing. My readers’ responses have helped me to nail that down–so again, thank you. ❤

3. Free writing workshops!

It is beyond awesome to receive feedback on my writing from readers who are actually interested in my work. Getting different viewpoints and constructive criticism helps me to tighten my work (often helping me to eliminate those flowery-sappy holes I can fall into and not notice on my own 😉 ). Similarly, I also enjoy offering feedback to other writers. It’s like an online version of a classroom workshop.

4. Opens up my perspective on memoir, etc.

I’ve discovered I often find news or literary items I have an emotional response to that I want to write about on my blog. In the past, I might have an emotional response and not explore the depths of it like I have here. That exploration has deepened my own understanding of how my life or societal events have shaped me, which is very helpful, indeed, for writing my memoir.

5. Online portfolio

I love having a collection of my work all housed on my URL, where I can point people who want to see my work. The site is all mine, and the work I show is how I wish to represent myself as a writer. If, a few years later, I look back and wonder how I could ever have been so SAPPY, for instance, I can simply take it down–it’s a comfort granted when you choose to bare yourself to the world (lending us bloggers a bit of courage). 🙂

6. Experience as a book blogger

When I began my blog, I thought I’d write a little about my opinions on books, but I didn’t imagine I’d be an official Book Blogger. I’ve had the wonderful experience of being an official book reviewer for Novel Publicity & Co., which has been terrific. In addition to being able to use my blog as an official reviewing platform, I’ve also been exposed to books I never would have picked up on my own, broadening my perspective and taste. Receiving free books and publicity have been great perks, too. 😉

7. Challenges

Blog challenges (like NaPoWriMo) have pushed me outside of my comfort zone as both a writer and a reader, which invariably leads to my growth. Having a network of people doing the same thing gives us inspiration and encouragement to persevere, even when it’s tough!

8. Organization of my life’s events and writings–and how they intertwine

In reviewing my last year of entries, I realized another unexpected benefit of having my blog was seeing how my life’s events, writings, and cultural responses (like reviews I wrote) all intertwined and influenced each other. It’s kind of like a personal version of that introduction section in book anthologies that explain what was going on in society when an author wrote a work–“No man is an island,” and it’s neat to see where my inspirations have come from.

9. Able to share (give and get!) advice as TBI survivor & writer

I’ve always hoped to be a disability advocate, especially since my own Traumatic Brain Injury. Happily, I get to do that at my job at Marianjoy when I write patient stories and other articles. However, I’ve also enjoyed doing it right here on my blog. It’s nice to be able to write about issues that are important to me–even more so when I get a response that my writing has touched someone in some way. I’ve learned in addition to teaching, too–I really appreciate when people respond with their own life experiences, lending their perspective. The community broadens me as a person.

10. Pushes my creativity

This blog constantly pushes my creativity, impelling me to expand the way I think about writing. The nature of blogging has caused me to think in a much more “multimedia” fashion, once I realized how graphics can enhance a blog’s message. Also, I’m always having to think about writing new things in new ways to maintain–hopefully, increase–reader interest (I hope I’m doing a good job!) 🙂

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I hope you enjoyed my list as much as I enjoyed everything on it, dear readers–and you’ve made it all possible. Thank you.

Please join me tomorrow–and throughout April–for my A-to-Z and NaPoWriMo writings!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day: Top Ten Quotes from Irish Authors

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, dear readers! Pardon the pause in entries here–I’ve been sick and busy and finally well again–but I missed you! ❤

St. Patrick’s Day is a beloved holiday, celebrating the patron saint of Ireland on the date of his death in the 5th century. I had no idea how much mythology had eclipsed the facts in popular customs, and that evolution of how stories grew into beliefs is just as fascinating as the stories and facts themselves. Many traditions actually began in America, some as a way for Irish immigrants to celebrate their nationality. Check out History.com’s brief video on that evolution here.

One of the traditions that started centuries ago was wearing green clothing on St. Patrick’s Day. As you know by now, I can never resist an opportunity to dress festively, so here was my business version of that today–complete with Facebook’s “emerald” filter:

Jennifer and I are 1/8 Irish–from our dad’s side–and our family usually celebrates rather casually with an Irish feast (thanks, Mom!) and watching The Quiet Man (my late grandpa’s favorite movie). It’s kind of neat to have a special day meant to celebrate that part of our heritage.

In honor of the holiday, I thought it would be fun to make this week’s Top 10 a list of literary quotes from Irish authors. If you have any favorites of your own–that is, Irish quotes or St. Patrick’s Day traditions–please share in the comments below!

Top 10 Quotes from Irish Authors

 

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1. 

(shared by PenguinRandomHouse)

2. 

(shared by trippsonfire)

(Two for Wilde because I couldn’t choose–shared by bebeneleben)

3. 

Bram Stoker (shared by Mortisia)

4. 

(shared by nuclearheartquotes)

5. 

(shared by harrypotterhousequotes)

6. 

(shared by rainebowstarsd)

7. 

(shared by artistiq-ue)

8. 

(shared by 2013yearoflettering)

(Two for Swift, too–shared by goddesswithinyou)

9. 

(shared by leilockheart)

10. 

(shared by trilliansthoughts)

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I hope you liked the list! I also hope you had a wonderful St. Patrick’s Day and avoided getting pinched by any leprechauns. Have a lovely week!

National Grammar Day: Ten More Common Grammar Myths, Debunked

Happy National Grammar Day, dear readers! I think it’s no small coincidence that the holiday falls on the same day as Mardi Gras this year. It ramps up the celebratory factor for both! I’d love to try earning some beads by diagramming sentences.
As you’ve probably realized by now, I’m utterly fascinated by grammar. I think language is our most powerful tool, and just as important as a rich vocabulary is the way it all fits together. I love studying the grammar of other languages–namely, Spanish and Old English (which is so different from modern that I’m going to call it a separate language). However, modern English is such a lovely, frustrating, evolving hodgepodge that one can never truly be done studying it.
With all of the grammar classes I’ve taken throughout my academic career, one of my favorite lessons was the concept of, “OK, these are the traditional rules, and it’s important to know them, because THIS is the effect when you subvert them.” So as a writer, it’s awesome to discover the power that breaking the rules in such a way creates.
So while I may be a member of the “grammar police”…like, every day (sorry, world)…I also like the reminder that our language is ever-changing, and that there are different ways to use it. I really liked this post by blogger Motivated Grammar, which takes a progressive look at the English language in celebration of the holiday. I hope you enjoy it, too. 🙂

Motivated Grammar

Every time National Grammar Day comes around, I’m struck with a spot of dread. Any of my friends or acquaintances might, at any moment, spring upon me and shout “Hey! It’s totally your day! So don’t you hate when people use the passive voice, since you’re all into grammar?” And then I will be forced, as the crabby old coot I am, to meet their well-meaning inquiry with the level of vitriol normally reserved for a hairdresser who’s decided to treat your head as a testing ground for a new theory of hair design. “No,” I’ll shout, “that’s not it at all! I love the passive, I love variation! Grammar isn’t about telling people what they can’t say; it’s about finding out what people do say, and why they say it!” And through that outburst, my Facebook friend count will be reduced by one.

My problem with National Grammar…

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Top 20 Wintry Reads

This Frozen meme was too funny and relevant not to share. The Elsa/Snow Queen jokes have been flying around as abundantly as the snowflakes here. If Elsa truly is holding out for that Oscar, hopefully we’ll only have a little over a month of this left (seeing as Frozen will DEFINITELY be getting at least one Oscar, right?!).

I’m not usually a fan of winter, but this year has been particularly bad. We’ve seen nearrecord-breaking temperatures and snowfall. This week, my friend’s car stopped dead on the road because a part froze (while she was driving!), and another friend’s pipes froze completely in his house. Luckily, this has generally been the extent of my personal suffering:

One keep-warm tactic that’s popular with bibliophiles is curling up with a good book, perhaps next to a roaring fireplace or space heater. Or this:

If you’re afraid that you’ll miss celebrating the season while you’re between the pages, you’re in luck: the lovely ladies of Epic Reads have again come through for us, this time with a list of Top 20 Wintry Reads, shared below. This way, you can enjoy all the magic(?) of the outdoors from the comfort and safety of your favorite armchair.

Reading in a Winter Wonderland with @EpicReads

01/03/2014 5:04PM | Posted by: TeamEpicReads

This winter, snuggle up with these twenty snowy, icy, frosty young adult books! Each book is set either during winter or in a snowy locale and are the perfect read for when your real world is a little bit frozen. A complete list of all the books (with links to Goodreads) can be found below the infographic!)

A special thanks to all of our Twitter followers who helped us craft this list!

20 Winter-Themed Young Adult Books

––> Click here to view the infographic at the fuller, high-quality size! (Right click + ‘Save As’ to save the image and print it!)

20 Wintry YA Books via @EpicReads

Complete List of Books

(Each link will take you to the books’ Goodreads page!)

First Row

Unearthly by Cynthia Hand (HarperTeen)
Frozen by Melissa de la Cruz, Michael Johnston (Putnam)
The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth LaBan (Knopf)
Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater (Scholastic)
The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin (Ace)

 Second Row

The Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson (Greenwillow)
Trapped by Michael Northrop (Scholastic)
Blankets by Craig Thompson (Top Shelf)
Far From You by Lisa Schroeder (Simon Pulse)
Wintersmith by Terry Pratchett (HarperTeen)

 Third Row

Towering by Alex Flinn (HarperTeen)
The Gathering Storm by Robin Bridges (Delacorte)
Lovely, Dark and Deep by Amy McNamara (Simon & Schuster)
Unravel Me by Tahereh Mafi (HarperCollins)
Snow-Walker by Catherine Fisher (Greenwillow)

 Fourth Row

Love on the Lifts by Rachel Hawthorne (HarperTeen)
Bittersweet by Sarah Ockler (Simon Pulse)
Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo (Henry Holt & Co.)
After the Snow by S.D. Crockett (Feiwel & Friends)
The Vanishing Season by Jodi Lynn Anderson (HarperTeen)

Thoughts on the list

This list is far and away from being complete. There are so many books we could have included, it was truly difficult to narrow it down to twenty. We wanted to focus on books that have cold, wintry, snowy settings that aren’t holiday related. That’s why these two obvious books, Let It Snow! by John Green and company and Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn are left out. We also excluded Harry Potter because that’s kind of just a given. Harry Potter is a given for any and all lists. So what you see here are some books you haven’t read it or haven’t heard of!

It is also worth nothing that The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin is not technically a young adult novel, but it is a classic fantasy novel that we highly recommend young adults and adults alike read. Finally, The Vanishing Season by Jodi Lynn Anderson is on this list but the book doesn’t go on sale until July 1st, 2014. We wanted to include it because Team Epic Reads is overly obsessed with Jodi’s books and we can’t wait to get our hands on a copy. So keep this one on your radar!

We hope you enjoy the list!

What other wintry YA reads would you add to this list?

(Show us your #WinterYA reads –– snap a photo of your collection and upload to Instagram and use that hashtag so we can see!)

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What do you think, dear readers? Did your favorites make the list–what would you add? The Bitter Kingdom, Shiver, and Shadow and Bone have all been on my to-be-read list, but after seeing this list, I think I need to add more!

I hope you stay warm and well-read! ❤

Top 16 Most-Anticipated YA Books of January 2014

Hello, dear readers! I hope the week has been treating you well. Mine has been busy, interesting, productive, and even fun, so I suppose I couldn’t ask for a better mix. 🙂 I hope to share some stories with you about it soon.

For now, though, it’s time for this week’s Top Ten post–except this week, it will be 16! Epic Reads, HarperCollins’s fun young-adult literature online community, posted a list of this month’s most-anticipated YA book releases. I’m glad they did, because I hadn’t heard of a lot of these, and my to-be-read pile has grown even larger (can’t wait for that new seven-foot-long bookcase…). I’m especially excited for Cruel Beauty (#9), a dark reimagining of my favorite fairy tale, Beauty and the Beast; Infinite, a fantasy dystopia; and Defy, a fantasy adventure that was a runner-up for the “Top 15” list. Click the titles to take you to their Goodreads entries, where you can read more about them as well as purchase them. (Blurbs are from Epic Reads and Goodreads.)

The 16 Most Anticipated YA Books Publishing In January

(Most anticipated = most YA books added on Goodreads as of December 12th, 2013 when we collected the data. View the entire list and see how the rankings have changed here.)

1. Into the Still Blue by Veronica Rossi

On sale January 28th

Perfect for fans of the Hunger Games and Divergent series, Veronica Rossi’s trilogy has been called “inspired, offbeat, and mesmerizing” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review) and “incredibly original” (Seventeen.com). Brimming with romance and danger and building to a climax that will leave you breathless, Into the Still Blue brings this “masterpiece” trilogy to an unforgettable close (Examiner.com).

2. Hollow City by Ransom Riggs

On sale January 14th

In 1940 after the first book ends, Jacob and his new Welsh island friends flee to London, the Peculiar capital of the world. Caul, a dangerous madman, is Miss Peregrine’s brother, and can steal Peculiar abilities for himself. The Peculiars must fight for survival, again.

3. Evertrue by Brodi Ashton

On sale January 21st

In this stunning conclusion to the Everneath trilogy, Brodi Ashton evokes the resiliency of the human spirit and the indomitable power of true love.

4. Uninvited by Sophie Jordan

On sale January 28th

From New York Times bestselling author Sophie Jordan, Uninvited is a chilling and suspenseful story about a girl whose DNA brands her as a killer, perfect for fans of The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer and Confessions of a Murder Suspect.

5. Enders by Lissa Price

On sale January 7th

Someone is after Starters like Callie and Michael – teens with chips in their brains. No one is ever who they appear to be, not even the Old Man. Determined to find out who he really is and grasping at the hope of a normal life for herself and her younger brother, Callie is ready to fight for the truth. Even if it kills her.

6. Infinite by Jodi Meadows

On sale January 28th

The stunning conclusion to the Incarnate trilogy, a fantasy series about a girl who is the first new soul born into a society where everyone else has been reborn hundreds of times. Romantic and action-filled, the rich world of Infinite is perfect for fans of epic fantasy like Graceling by Kristin Cashore and The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson, while Ana’s courage to expose the cracks in society and fight for what is right is ideal for fans of dystopian novels.

7. Unhinged by A.G. Howard

On sale January 7th

Glimpses of Wonderland start to bleed through Alyssa’s art and into her world in very disturbing ways, and Morpheus warns that Queen Red won’t be far behind. If Alyssa stays in the human realm, she could endanger everyone she loves. But if she steps through the rabbit hole again, she’ll face a deadly battle that could cost more than just her head.

8. Erased by Jennifer Rush

On sale January 7th

Jennifer Rush delivers a thrilling sequel to Altered in a novel packed with mysteries, lies, and surprises that are sure to keep readers guessing until the last page is turned.

9. Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

On sale January 28th

The romance of Beauty and the Beast meets the adventure of Graceling in a dazzling fantasy novel about our deepest desires and their power to change our destiny. For fans of bestselling authors Kristin Cashore and Alex Flinn, this gorgeously written debut infuses the classic fairy tale with glittering magic, a feisty heroine, and a romance sure to take your breath away.

10. Her Dark Curiosity by Megan Shepherd

On sale January 28th

Inspired by The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, this tantalizing sequel to Megan Shepherd’s gothic suspense novel, The Madman’s Daughter, explores the hidden natures of those we love and how far we’ll go to save them from themselves.

11. The Unbound by Victoria Schwab

On sale January 28th

Imagine a place where the dead rest on shelves like books. Each body has a story to tell, a life seen in pictures that only Librarians can read. The dead are called Histories, and the vast realm in which they rest is the Archive. With stunning prose and a captivating mixture of action, romance, and horror, The Unbound delves into a richly imagined world where no choice is easy and love and loss feel like two sides of the same coin.

12. The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson

On sale January 7th

For the past five years, Hayley Kincaid and her father, Andy, have been on the road, never staying long in one place as he struggles to escape the demons that have tortured him since his return from Iraq. Will being back home help Andy’s PTSD, or will his terrible memories drag him to the edge of hell, and drugs push him over? The Impossible Knife of Memory is Laurie Halse Anderson at her finest: compelling, surprising, and impossible to put down.

13. Avalon by Mindee Arnett

On sale January 21st

For fans of Josh Whedon’s cult classic television show Firefly comes a fascinating and fast-paced sci-fi thriller from author Mindee Arnett, about a group of teenage mercenaries who stumble upon a conspiracy that threatens the entire galaxy. With pulse-pounding action, a captivating mystery, and even a bit of romance,Avalon is the perfect read for hard-core sci-fi fans and non–sci-fi fans alike.

14. Vitro by Jessica Khoury

On sale January 14th

On a remote island in the Pacific, Corpus scientists have taken test tube embryos and given them life. These beings—the Vitros—have knowledge and abilities most humans can only dream of. But they also have one enormous flaw. Sophie and Jim are about to find out what happens when science stretches too far beyond its reach.

15. Fragile Spirits by Mary Lindsey

On sale January 23rd

In a stunning story about the beauty of fate and the power of secrets, Mary Lindsey returns to the world of Shattered Souls with a breathtaking thrill-ride of a novel. [The author notes Shattered Souls takes place one month before this book’s plot, but is not a required read for this one–same world, different story lines.]

16. Defy by Sara B. Larson

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A lush and gorgeously written debut, packed with action, intrigue, and a thrilling love triangle. With hidden foes lurking around every corner, is Alex strong enough to save herself and the kingdom she’s sworn to protect?

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So, dear readers, did you add any of these to your “to read” shelves? Which debuts are YOU most excited for?

Forecasts are predicting chilly temperatures and more snow (at least for the weather-battered Midwest!), so stay warm and check back this weekend for more posts. I hope you have a lovely weekend, yourself!