Monday, December 28, 2015

My Favorite 2015 Books

Hello, again!

In case you missed my last post, I already chose my favorite backlist books I read this year (meaning, books that published in 2014 and before). This time around, I'm going to be sharing my favorite reads that released this year.

There was a lot of good ones, y'all.

So I won't delay any longer. Here are the books that came out this year that stole my attention, my imagination, and my heart:



For the Record, by Charlotte Huang

This book is just so much fun. I read it in one day. It's the perfect light contemporary for music fans. There's a dash of romance, but mostly, the interesting part of the book is Chelsea's budding music career. I was especially fascinated by all the details of life on the road, which Charlotte is a great person to write about, since her husband works in the music industry. This is one I would put in the hands of YA contemporary fans who are ready to break away from the dark, depressing reads.




Salt & Stone, by Victoria Scott

I absolutely loved Fire & Flood last year, the first book in this series, so I was really looking forward to this one. Thankfully, it didn't disappoint. The action is there, the romance is there, the characterization is there - everything is on point with this book. No wonder Kirkus gave it a starred review!




Of Dreams and Rust, by Sarah Fine

I mentioned the first book in this duology, Of Metal and Wishes, in my previous post (about favorite backlist titles), but I think I actually liked this one even better. The drama came to a perfect head, and because it was less based on Phantom of the Opera than the first novel, it was less predictable. I also really shipped this romance, like whoa. And the characters are all so flawed and wonderful. This is one of my favorite YA duologies.




Oblivion, by Kelly Creagh

FEELS, y'all. Feels. I've waited so long for this book. The publication date kept getting pushed back and back, and I was starting to think it would never release. But I have to say that it was totally worth the wait. This is a huge book, with a ton going on, and it absolutely delivered. It's an amazing series ender, and I was happy with everything. This is SUCH a good series!




The Wrath & the Dawn, by Renee Ahdieh

I'm pretty sure this is going to be on a lot of favorites lists this year. It's gorgeously written, with vivid descriptions and flawed characters that you really root for. I was completely hypnotized by this book, and I'm dying for the sequel. More Shazi and Khalid please!




Lion Heart, by A.C. Gaughen

This is another series ender that I actually started reading the series this year. I devoured this trilogy, reading them all back-to-back, which never happens with me. But I couldn't get enough of these characters and this world. I'm dying for any new books by Gaughen. Seriously. This woman could make anything and anyone interesting, I'm pretty sure.




I Am Her Revenge, by Meredith Moore

I had no idea I was going to love this book as much as I did. Typically, contemporary thrillers aren't my thing, but Meredith did such an amazing job with this book, that I was riveted from page one. She mixes classic literature with original story in a perfect combination that made my inner literature nerd so happy that I might have squealed a few times reading. I'm not sorry.




Daughter of Deep Silence, by Carrie Ryan

This one seemed pretty polarizing - either you loved it or hated it. Thankfully, I was in the "love" camp. The writing in this book is on. point. Seriously. And the tension is just so high, even I was anxious. The ending was not at all what I was expecting, and I loved that the story didn't go the traditional route. This is definitely a book to talk about!





The Winner's Crime, by Marie Rutkoski

OMG this book. Has there ever been a more painful book than this one? Maybe Clockwork Princess, by Cassandra Clare. But that's it. Rutkoski slaughtered me with this book, and I'm still reeling. The Winner's Crime was *almost* my favorite read of the year, but it was edged out by one of my most anticipated books of all time, which was...



Favorite Book of 2015



Winter, by Marissa Meyer




This book is perfect. The end. Marissa's series is probably my favorite YA series ever. She pulls together all these plots and all these characters, and they come together in a way that both makes sense and is also exciting. I bow down to Marissa's amazing author skills.

That being said, I'm SO sad that this series is over. Like...what about Scarlett and Wolf and Cress and Thorne and OMG I'M GOING TO MISS THEM SO MUCH!

This book is so much win.

So.

Much.





Those were my favorite 2015 books!

Hope you read some good books this year, too.

Can't wait for 2016!


Wednesday, December 16, 2015

My Favorite Reads of 2015 - Backlist


Hello, lovelies!

It's been a while since my last update, but it's that time of year again, and I'm excited to share with y'all all the wonderful books I read this year. December was always my favorite time in the blogosphere, as everyone is sharing the book love about all the great reads they had.

Like I said, I read some great books in 2015. But not all of them were '15 releases. So today, I'm going to share my favorite backlist titles, meaning books that were published in 2014 and earlier.

Here are the books that I was late to the party reading and am so glad I finally picked up:



Fortune's Pawn, by Rachel Bach

I had been hearing so much about this book but was never in the mood to pick it up. Earlier this year, though, I was looking for an adult space opera, and this immediately came to mind. I'm so, so glad I started this series, because it's fun and fresh and the perfect crossover for YA fans. I'm desperately hoping that Rachel Bach (or, as she goes by when she writes fantasy, Rachel Aaron) writes more books!



Of Metal and Wishes, by Sarah Fine

This one started off slow for me, but wow, did it end with a bang. This book is gorgeous and haunting, just like its source material, The Phantom of the Opera. I thought the sequel was even better and *cough* look for it in my list of 2015 favorites *cough*.



The Martian, by Andy Weir

I know I'm not the only one who read The Martian for the first time this year. I was really blown away by Andy Weir's writing, not only because of the insanely technical aspect of the novel but also because of his ability to weave humor into a story that could have been incredibly depressing. This was a real standout for me this year, and I can't recommend it enough.



Enclave, by Ann Aguirre

I'm not sure how I missed this one the first time around. I think it was the cover that just didn't appeal to me, but I'm so glad I took a chance on this series. It's fast-paced and exciting, and I really enjoyed the relationship between Deuce and Fade. This actually ended up being one of my quickest reads of the year. I couldn't put it down.



The Falconer, by Elizabeth May

I was really surprised by how much I loved this one. Steampunk is really hit or miss for me, but this one was a total winner. It's another fast-paced read, full of action, with a sassy protagonist that has great chemistry with a certain fairy. It's also set in Edinburgh, which is doubly amazing.



Partials, by Dan Wells

I read this entire series this year (or, rather, I listened to it on audio) and thoroughly enjoyed every minute. Apparently, sci-fi was my genre this year, because I couldn't get enough of post-apocalyptic and space books. This series really built and got better as it went, which was great, since most series seem to lose steam in the middle. I also definitely shipped the romance in this one, even though it totally sneaked up on me.



The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman

I'm constantly amazed at Neil Gaiman's creativity, and The Graveyard Book really put that creativity on display, I thought. While nothing has managed to top the Sandman graphic novels as my favorite Gaiman creation yet, this is definitely a contender for my second favorite. I loved how all the characters are so unique and different, and how the chapters almost read like short stories. Also, the "Jack of All Trades" thing was so clever I literally laughed out loud when I got to that part. Well played, Gaiman. Well played.




Scarlet, by A.C. Gaughen

This is another series that I read in its entirety this year. I even read them all back-to-back, which I *never* do. I was so engrossed in Scarlet's world and could. not. put these down. This is my favorite YA historical series hands down, and this would have topped my list as favorite backlist title if not for one other book...



Favorite Backlist Read of 2015



The 5th Wave, by Rick Yancey

OHMYGOSHHHHHHHHH



This is the book to end all books. My favorite YA read, possibly ever. I had no idea how much I was going to love this series until I started it, but I only had to read one chapter to know it was going to be a new favorite.

Basically, all I have to say about The 5th Wave is...





So those are my favorite 2015 reads! If you haven't tried some of these, definitely check them out. And happy reading in 2016!



Monday, October 12, 2015

Four Months Later and What Feels Like an Overdue Apology



It's been more than four months since Hello, I Love You hit shelves, and it's been a bumpy ride, to say the least. There have been some amazing moments in my publishing journey but also some really difficult ones, as well.

It's no secret that my debut novel received some bad reviews. It's also not a secret that, because of negative feelings about the book and me as the author - directed at me personally - I decided to leave social media. I haven't talked much about this because I felt like it wasn't my place to intrude upon the reader's space, but I think now that it's been four months, it's okay to say something.

First and foremost, I'd like to apologize personally to anyone I might have unintentionally offended with Hello, I Love You. It makes me more sad than I can express to think that something I wrote hurt people. I can assure you that was never my intention.

My intention with the book was to portray a character that's flawed, who undergoes major changes through the book. While writing and editing, I felt like I was being true to the character to include Grace's judgmental behavior and comments. I was hoping that the reader would see her evolution as a character as she grew and changed into a better person.

However, a number of reviewers felt that the change wasn't significant enough. And while my pride would like to argue, I honestly can see where those reviewers are coming from.

I can also understand the reviewers who couldn't stick with Grace through her blatantly critical phase. I'll admit that, as the author, I also found her quite harsh, and it was difficult for me to write opinions that I didn't share.

None of this is in any way a defense of the book. I leave it up to readers to decide their own opinions about Grace and her story. Looking back, would I change things about it? Definitely. I'm happy that I was able to change a number of things after ARCs were printed, so that the finished copies don't include a number of the passages that people found the most upsetting. I was extremely grateful for that opportunity, but there are still things I would change, even now.

When I first started hearing about the negative reactions to the book, I was horrified. When I began to receive criticisms directed at me personally, I was ashamed - not only of the book but of myself. I wished I'd never written it, that I could go to every bookstore in the country and pull every copy off the shelves. I can't tell you the number of times I was moments away from sending my agent an email, telling her I was quitting writing.

Unfortunately, Hello, I Love You published at a very tumultuous and emotional time in my life, and I'm sad to say that the book made it even more difficult. And when I had that realization, a part of my writing dream died. I was no longer enamored by the idea of the writer's life or producing stories that people would hold in their hands. I just wanted to leave it all behind, because clearly, I had failed - and I was a failure.

I won't bore anyone with the details of my angst and regret. This is all to explain why I decided to leave social media. It's also to explain why I haven't responded to any criticisms about the book. But I think I've spent enough time worrying and feeling sorry for myself.

I don't know what the future holds for me, in terms of writing. I don't know if I'll stay in YA. I don't know if I'll even publish another book. But I do know that, even with the challenges, I'm grateful for this experience. I learned a lot - about myself, my own obliviousness to issues I've never had to face (like racism), and my own insecurities.

Do I think Hello, I Love You has flaws? Yes. But does it also have its merits? I like to think so. At the end of the day, I wanted to write a story about hope and change. About facing the ugliness inside you and discovering that it's okay to admit your mistakes and become a better person.

So I'm taking a play out of Grace's handbook and admitting that I made some mistakes. I hope that readers will see that I'm human and flawed, just like everyone else. And again, if you were personally offended or troubled by the book, my deepest regrets and apologies for hurting you.

On the other hand, if you did like the book, wonderful! I'm happy that you joined Grace and Jason (and me) on this rollercoaster and enjoyed the ride. I hope you took away the same truth Grace did - that there is always hope, even after the darkest grief.

Thanks for reading to the end, lovelies. And thank you for being a part of my chance to live my dream. No matter what happens now, I've written a book that people have read, and that's enough for me.




Monday, August 17, 2015

So What Happens after Hello, I Love You?

Photo from @thelyonwriter on Instagram




Since the release of Hello, I Love You, I've had quite a few people send me emails and messages asking if there will be companion novels that focus on the other characters, like Sophie and Yoon Jae. While I hate to tell you that HILY is a standalone, I'm hoping that it lessens the blow when I tell you that I do know what happens to everyone.

And I'm going to tell you!

Now, just a warning: There are spoilers in this post. A lot. If you haven't read HILY and don't want to know what happens in the book, then don't read this. Also, if you have your own ideas about what happens to the characters and feel like my thoughts will spoil that, don't read this.

Because even though these are my ideas about post-HILY happenings, this isn't a book and therefore not canonical (if we're getting all technical). And sometimes, as a reader, your own ideas are better than what the author thinks.

But for those of you who do want to know, think of this as what I would add to an "epilogue" if you could fast-forward ten years.


Begin spoilers ------------------------------>



The summer following the end of Grace's senior year, she moves to Seoul. She and Sophie get an apartment together. In the fall, Sophie goes to university, where she's pre-med. Grace gets an internship with a record company in college while getting a music degree.

Meanwhile, Jason still struggles with his label about his music. He ends up leaving that label after another year and signs on with a much smaller label, where he's able to have more creative license with his music. Many of his fans remain loyal, and he becomes that new label's top-selling artist.

Tae Hwa leaves the music industry and goes to work for his father's construction company. He keeps in touch with Jason and Sophie, but when he moves to Busan, they drift apart. He and Sophie meet-up a year after they graduate high school, to see if there's still a spark between them, but mutually decide they aren't right for each other. He meets a girl on a blind date set up by his parents, and they end up falling in love and getting married.

Yoon Jae's career with the new band really takes off, and they become one of the hottest groups in Asia. He and Grace are still friends, and while he doesn't want her to know, he still likes her.

After finishing her junior year of high school in America, Jane moves to Seoul to live with Grace and complete her senior year there. She connects with Yoon Jae through Grace, and he allows her to tag along with him sometimes, where she fangirls over his life and everyone he knows. She crushes on him the entire time, but he never returns her feelings. When she graduates, she goes back to the States  and gets a college scholarship to play soccer at University of North Carolina.

Yoon Jae gets over Grace and decides that he can't afford the distraction of a girlfriend, anyway. He makes the tabloids by dating a number of famous Korean actresses and singers, but he never settles down. His career continues to skyrocket until he's one of Korea's favorite celebrities; he ends up leaving his band and going solo as a pop artist, where he tops the charts.

Grace and Jason continue their relationship while she's studying. They break up once her junior year, when he starts drinking pretty heavily after his father dies. But with some counseling, he cleans himself up, and they realize that they want to spend their lives together. They get married a year and a half later. Jason quits being a singer so he can become a songwriter, while Grace (who's finally learned Korean) becomes his songwriting partner. Together, they write and produce songs for some of Korea's most famous artists - including Yoon Jae.

Grace's parents never visit her in Korea (not even for the wedding), but she still goes back once a year to see them. They never understand why she chose to live abroad, but each year, the relationship between Grace and her mother softens a little. They'll never be friends, but Grace no longer fears talking to her.

Nathan, Grace's brother, is honored by the Country Music Hall of Fame two years after his death, and Grace is there to accept the award in her brother's place.


-------------------------------------------------------------------- the end



So that's what I think! Hope you enjoyed this little post. Maybe you have better ideas. I'd love to hear them! You can email me with what you envisioned for the characters' futures at katiemstout [at] gmail [dot] com.



Photo from @books.music.life on Instagram



Photo from @teensatvpl on Instagram



Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Best Books of 2015 (So Far)



It's the end of July, which means we're halfway through the year. I don't know about y'all, but thus far for me, 2015 has offered some amazing reads. I've read some great '15 releases as well as some backlist titles that I'm so happy I picked up.

So I thought I'd share my top 10 books I've read in 2015 (so far). It's a mix of 2015 releases and backlist titles.

Hope you find something that grabs your interest!



Champion, by Marie Lu

I started this one at the end of December but didn't finish it until January, so I'm counting this one as a 2015 read. Interestingly, I didn't like the first book in this series, Legend; it never truly grabbed me. I picked up Prodigy on a whim, but it totally shocked me with how amazing it was, and Champion was even better.

This book wrecked. me. In a good way. That epilogue was so intense and amazing. I listened to this on audio, and I was at the gym trying to mask my sniffling as labored breathing on the elliptical when I finished this one. SO good!




The Infinite Sea, by Rick Yancey

I know a lot of people didn't enjoy this sequel to the acclaimed The 5th Wave, but I absolutely did. Rick Yancey's writing blows me away, and this book totally slaughtered my emotions. I ripped through the pages of this short book, and the ending left me desperate for book three...which I'm still dying for.

Is it 2016 yet?!




The Wrath & the Dawn, by Renée Ahdieh

Everyone has been talking about this book - and for good reason. It's fabulous. The writing is atmospheric, the characters complicated and well-developed, and the setting lush. I wanted to live inside these pages with these characters.

Also, this is another book that left me DYING for the sequel. I gotta know what happens to Shazi and Khalid like right now!




Salt & Stone, by Victoria Scott

I've recently really discovered thrillers, in part because of Victoria Scott. I love this series! The MC, Tella, is everything I love, and the plot is fast moving and exciting. I was really looking forward to this one after finishing Fire & Flood last year, and this totally didn't disappoint.




The Falconer, by Elizabeth May

Steampunk is really hit-or-miss for me. Sometimes, it does nothing for me, but other times - like with The Falconer - I eat it up. This book is fierce and thrilling. The characters are fiery, and the plot moves at a rapid pace. But most of all, The Falconer is just a ton of fun. I loved it, and - yet again - I'm counting the days until I can get my hands on book 2.




Daughter of Deep Silence, by Carrie Ryan

This book really took me by surprise. It wasn't on my radar at all until I saw some blogger friends of mine reading and really loving it. I bought it on Audible as a total impulse buy, and I'm so, so glad I did. Daughter of Deep Silence is like crack. I couldn't put it down. I had to know what happened next.

I also really loved Carrie's writing. It's gorgeous and so on point I can't even. The book ended in a place that left me with tons of questions, but I actually sort of loved the open ending. That hardly ever happens with YA books, and I'd totally love to see more of that.




Reawakened, by Colleen Houck

It's no secret that I'm a huge Colleen Houck fan. This woman has an amazing ability to write romances that totally slay me and every emotion I've ever possessed. Needless to say, this was possibly my most anticipated book of 2015. And while I didn't love it with the undying passion that I hold for the Tiger Saga, it still clocked it as one of my favorite reads so far this year.

Reawakened has all the elements of the Tiger Saga and is actually very similar. In fact, I'd go so far as to say it's essentially the same thing but with Egyptian mythology instead of Hindu myths and legends. I didn't get the intense feels from this one that I did Tiger's Curse, but I can see this shaping up to be an amazing series that could be just as great as the Tiger Saga.




Oblivion, by Kelly Creagh

The award for longest wait for a series conclusion goes to Oblivion for sure. There was FIVE YEARS between the release of Nevermore and this book. Like...whaaaaa??? But I'm so happy to report that it was worth the wait. This book is amazing. My emotions are still basically in turmoil after finishing this, so I don't have words to express my love for these characters and this book, but I'll just say this: ISOBEL + VAREN 4 EVAH! < 3




I Am Her Revenge, by Meredith Moore

I really had no idea what to expect from this book, but it wasn't this. Meredith's debut is gorgeous, terrifying, and oh so thrilling. It's dripping with tension and is perfect for fans of classic literature. The setting is perfect, the characters are perfect, and basically everything about it all culminated to craft one of my favorite YA thrillers of all time. So much love for this book!




The Winner's Crime, by Marie Rutkoski

Like, can we just...

This is the best book I've read so far this year. It's everything I wanted and more. The Winner's Curse blew me away, but Crime totally shattered all hopes and expectations I'd had and was just...more. I don't think I've ever hurt so much for characters in a book before I read this. I was simultaneously angry and gleeful on every page. I couldn't stop thinking about these characters, and it basically gave me the biggest book hangover ever.



Best Read(s) of 2015 so far...



I'm totally cheating by adding not one or even two books to my top 10 list but three. But A.C. Gaughen's Scarlet trilogy totally warrants it. I binge read this entire series in May, and I've never been so happy with a reading decision ever.

I'd been holding onto Scarlet for years. I bought it a long time ago but hadn't picked it up. But when I was approved for Lion Heart on Netgalley, it kicked me into gear, and I literally devoured all three books. I don't normally like to read series books back-to-back, but I broke my rule for these. I've never loved a YA historical series so much ever.




Those are my favorite books I've read so far in 2015!

Hope you've read some great books too, lovelies!