Friday, July 14, 2017

15 Books to Read While You're Waiting for Orange is the New Black Season Six

I recently finished Orange is the New Black season five (I know, it took me long enough), and I am SHOOK. After crying nonstop through the last episode, I emerged with two goals: dismantle the prison industrial complex, and read and recommend OITNB-esque books. And while I can’t quite complete the former, I can certainly complete the latter.

Here are 15 books you should read if you can’t stand the thought of waiting another year for season six—or if you want some excellent reads about prison, morality, drama, revolutions, guilt, and innocence.

The Walls Around Us // Ghostly, haunting, suspenseful, and enchantingly immersive, this book about three (wrongfully?) incarcerated teenagers is one of my all-time favorites.

The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly // After escaping a fundamentalist religious cult—a cult that chopped off her hands after she rebelled—Minnow must question everything she once believed while locked in a juvenile detention facility.

Dangerous Girls // Nothing is what it seems in this obsession-worthy murder mystery about friendship, the power of persona, and guilt versus innocence.

Seven Ways We Lie // Seven distinct, equally-enthralling voices intertwine in this novel about small town scandal and the ways we lie to ourselves and others.

Salt to the Sea // This book features four unforgettable narratives that intertwine majestically—and it includes some of the best supporting characters I’ve ever encountered.

One of Us is Lying // Five students walk into detention. One of them, a notorious gossip posed to release dark secrets about four of his classmates, never walks out.

Moxie // In this empowering novel, the protagonist sparks a series of nonviolent protests, fundraisers, and more to challenge her high school’s deeply sexist administration.

All American Boys // I know you’ve heard about this book, but seriously: if you haven’t read it yet, you need to change that ASAP.

Wildthorn // Imprisoned in an asylum and stripped of her identity, this book’s protagonist must grapple with horrifying treatment—all while holding on to her dream to become a doctor and wondering whether or not she is truly mad.

Tiny Pretty Things // Dance, diversity, and drama form the cornerstones of this story about ballerinas who will do whatever it takes to be the best.

The Female of the Species // This book asks a seemingly simple but deeply troubling question: how far is too far when it comes to standing up for people you love?

Conversion // An unusual ailment is sweeping the student body at St. Joan’s, a private academy in Danvers, MA. Could the cause be cutthroat academic competition? Or are more magical forces at work—the same forces that were instrumental in the Salem Witch trials centuries ago?

Dear Killer // This book spotlights a highly-trained moral nihilist whose after-school job is to assassinate by request. I’ll leave you with that.

The Devil You Know // One boy could be the protagonist’s next love; the other could be a murderer. The only problem? She’s on a road trip with both—and she doesn’t know which is which.

The Naturals series // In this brilliant series, four teenage protégés collaborate to solve FBI cold cases—but soon cold cases become active killers, and members of their own ranks may not be worthy of trust.

Do you watch Orange is the New Black? Are you as angry about the ending of season five as I am? And what books would you recommend to fans of the series? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Eight Under-the-Radar BookExpo Titles You May Have Missed

When I attended BookExpo earlier this month, I was lucky enough to grab a handful of highly-anticipated YA novels—There’s Someone Inside Your House and Genuine Fraud, for example.

However, I also procured several under-the-radar titles, some of which I wasn’t aware of before showing up at the convention. Here are eight quieter books that were promoted at BookExpo—books that haven’t gotten quite as much hype as the new Stephanie Perkins or E. Lockhart but that should be on you TBR anyway.

Spotlighting a group of five vigilante teens committed to righting local wrongs through small acts of heroism, this “join the team” story promises to be full of friendship, romance, and good deeds. // Out June 6, 2017 from Little, Brown and Company

This novel tells the story of an Indian American immigrant family—from the perspective of three generations of women. Alternating between three teenage POVs, it sounds like a beautiful, sweeping tale perfect for fans of The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender// Out September 12, 2017 from Farrar, Straus, and Giroux

Privileged city girl Flora Goldwasser is sure she can woo her crush, Elijah Huck, by transferring to the farmlands Quaker school where he’ll be teaching next year. The only problem? Once the school year starts, he doesn’t show up. Told in a series of letters, emails, journal entries, and more, this novel is sure to be hilarious. // Out October 3, 2017 from Wednesday Books

This book is technically middle grade, but it looks like it will have plenty of crossover appeal for YA fans. Set in 1919, it tells the story of a girl named Henrietta, whose new estate is full of ghosts and surrounded by a mysterious forest. What lies within is up to her to discover. // Out October 31, 2017 from Chicken House

In this feminist, alt-history novel set in 2014 Nazi-controlled England, rule-follower Jessika faces a dilemma. How can she keep both her perfect life and her best friend and first love, Clementine, an outspoken radical who the regime has begun to notice? // Out November 14, 2017 from Candlewick Press

Set in a low-income rural area, this novel follows guarded, impenetrable Fishkill Carmel as she meets eccentric new girl Duck-Duck Farina. Fishkill has constructed protective emotional walls through years of abuse and hunger—but if she lets them down, Duck-Duck may be able to change her life forever. // Out November 14, 2017 from Candlewick Press

In Madison, a small town ensconced in the Mojave Desert, everyone gets one wish—and it always comes true. But wishes often result in heartbreak and chaos, so as Eldon’s turn to make his wish approaches, he begins to question what truly leads to a happy life. // Out January 2, 2018 from Sourcebooks

I have a feeling this meta fantasy book is going to be big, but I somehow hadn’t heard about it before BookExpo. It tells the story of Alice, who ventures into the world of her grandmother's favorite cult-classic dark fairy tales to rescue her kidnapped mother. // Out January 30, 2018 from Flatiron Books

What underrated upcoming releases—promoted at BookExpo or not—are you excited about?

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Forever Literary Takes on BookExpo 2017

As those of you who follow me on Twitter probably know, I attended BookExpo for the first time last week! I spent a glorious three days in New York before returning home on Saturday night, exactly one week ago, and I've been working on my wrap-up post ever since. It's fairly long and detailed (because I wanted to use it as a way for me to remember my trip as well), so feel free to jump to the last section if you're only interested in the books I got! But after a week of preparation, it's finally here—a summary of my time in New York and at BookExpo!

Wednesday, May 31

I woke up at 4 a.m. on Wednesday morning to catch my 6 a.m. flight to LaGuardia. It was my first time flying by myself, and I was so stressed, but I got there without a problem. After landing, I headed straight to Barnard, where I'd be staying with the wonderfully welcoming Willa in her summer dorm.

We took a two-hour nap (I felt like such an awful tourist, but we were both exhausted) before taking the subway to the Javits Center to pick up our badges. We didn't spend much time on the show floor on Wednesday; only a small section of niche exhibitors was open. It was interesting to walk through, but not a place where we needed to spend hours upon hours. We did however, find a table near the Javits Starbucks to page through the show guide, updating our list of signings to attend.

Once we felt prepared for the busy days to come, we left the Javits and headed toward Greenwich Village, where we ate pizza and stopped by Dō, a confectionery specializing in safe-to-eat cookie dough that I'd been wanting to try for months. Dō's food was as delicious (and its atmosphere as Instagramable) as I expected, but I probably wouldn't go back; if you don't fear salmonella, regular cookie dough tastes just as good for a fraction of the cost. Still, I enjoyed eating my one scoop of dough over the course of the next three days (I have such a low tolerance for sugar).

After that, Willa and I walked over to the Jefferson Market Library for BlogBound Con, a free mini-convention for book bloggers. There, I got to meet brilliant bookish people—some I've long admired and some I hadn't spoken to before: Vee, Michael, and Claire were just a few. I also attended two panels—one on finding and promoting #QuietYA novels, and one on talking about books in our toxic political climate—and I almost won a round of YA-themed trivia. I didn't do a good job of updating social media because I was too busy meeting new people and talking about books, but you can check out the BlogBoundCon Twitter for some snapshots of the panels and events.

After the event, Willa and I returned to her dorm, excitedly discussing ideas for future BlogBound-inspired plans (stay tuned!) and eagerly anticipating the day ahead.

Thursday, June 1

On Thursday morning Willa and I woke up at 6 a.m., grabbed breakfast at Absolute Bagels, and headed straight to the Javits Center in the hopes of grabbing tickets to Leigh Bardugo's The Language of Thorns sampler signing that afternoon. For most ticketed signings, publishers distributed tickets in-booth a few hours prior—but this was one of a select few high-profile signings that required you to show up first thing in the morning and wait in a long line in the lobby.

After spending almost an hour in a snaking, slow-moving line, we were disappointed to learn that tickets had already run out by the time we got to the front. But once we got in line to enter the show floor, we met up with Mary of Books in Her Head, who kindly gave us the extra tickets she had. (Side note: Mary is one of the most friendly, bubbly people you'll ever meet. If you haven't chatted with her, you won't regret checking out her blog or following her on Twitter.)

With Willa at the beginning of day one!
We snapped pictures on the stairs, double-checked our calendar of signings, and hit the show floor.

For the rest of the day, I primarily hung out with Willa, Mary, and Rachel of Read-Queen (who I had the pleasure of getting to meet that day, and who is another lovely human). We shared many of the same book interests, and we tag-teamed several signings and ARC drops, saving each other spots in line.

Another side note: everyone I met at BookExpo was so nice, and we all wanted to help each other get the books we wanted. Just one example? Willa and I wanted to go to Tamara Ireland Stone's signing for Click'd, but it started at the same time as the ticket drop for E. Lockhart's Genuine Fraud signing (which we obviously needed to make). So we got in line for the Tamara Ireland Stone signing, told the woman behind us we'd grab her an E. Lockhart ticket if she saved our spot in line, dashed off to join Mary and Rachel (who had secured a place at the front of the E. Lockhart ticket line), requested three tickets, and made it back just in time to meet Tamara and get signed ARCs of Click'd.

We'd never met this woman (the one behind us in line) before, but we immediately became teammates. At BookExpo, you're friends with anyone and everyone who reads and wants the same books you do—and that's what I loved most about the conference. It's fantastic if you have a group of friends to help you get the books on your wish list, but even if you don't, anyone you meet will help you out if you ask.

Meeting Queen Leigh Bardugo
That afternoon, I went to one of my most-anticipated events, Leigh Bardugo's The Language of Thorns sampler signing! It was especially exciting because I went with Willa, who changed my life by pushing me to read Six of Crows and who is personally friends with Leigh (I'm envious every day). Willa introduced me, I fangirled, and we had a good time.

Invictus is an epic time-travel adventure, and it's one
of my most-anticipated BookExpo titles. 
Other highlights from the show floor included meeting Ryan Graudin (the visionary behind the phenomenal alt-history thriller Wolf by Wolf) and chatting with various attendees and publishing professionals (particularly a Macmillan publicist who shared her contagious enthusiasm regarding the epistolary contemporary Everything Must Go and the launch of Wednesday Books).

At about 5 p.m., Willa and I left the show floor for the day, tired yet energized. We spent the next hour organizing our books, snapping book haul photos, and updating social media. I ended up with thirteen books—it was a bigger haul than I had planned, but I was ecstatic about each one, so I didn't feel like I had gone overboard. (More information on my book haul at the end of the post!)

After that, we got in line for the Hillary Clinton event we both had tickets for, waiting for another hour before being let into the Javits Center main stage.

I won't write much about the Hillary event here (I livetweeted it, and I'll be writing a detailed recap for the next issue of StayBookish Zine, which comes out on June 21), but it was an incredible 
experience. Interviewed by Cheryl Strayed, Hillary spoke about her upcoming memoir, her history as a reader and writer, and how we should proceed following the 2016 election. I loved seeing the softer, bookish side of someone I've long admired for her strength in the ruthless field of politics. And sharing a room with, hearing firsthand the words of such a high-profile, accomplished individual? It was magical.

Willa and I left the Javits Center in a daze, spellbound after hearing live Hillary Clinton commentary and a little too giddy about the commemorative cards signed by Hillary Clinton herself (!!) that we picked up leaving the event. (Can you tell we're fangirls?) 

We headed back to Willa's dorm where we soon fell asleep, ready to do it all over again the next day.

Friday, June 2

I started the day on Friday with two goals: pick up fewer books than yesterday, and spend more time talking to blogger and publishing professionals than yesterday. I didn't quite accomplish the former (not that I'm complaining!), but I absolutely accomplished the latter.

Willa and I arrived at the Javits Center around 8 a.m.—we didn't need to stand in line for tickets that day, but we had heard that ARCs of There's Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins were dropping at 9 a.m. on the dot, right when the show floor opened. Needless to say, we wanted copies, so we needed to be at the front of the line.

Ready for day two!
While we waited for the show floor to open, we snapped our day two photo on the stairs and started reading books we had procured on Thursday. I read the first few chapters of Samira Ahmed's Love, Hate & Other Filters (which I want everyone to read—I'm planning on organizing an ARC tour for my copy, so let me know if you want to participate!).

At 9 a.m., we power-walked to the Penguin Random House booth to grab copies of There's Someone Inside Your House, then swung by Abrams to pick up Odd & True by Cat Winters. After such a productive and successful two-minute span, we felt as if we had already succeeded for the day, and we let ourselves cool off.

For me, Friday was full of several overlapping signings and ARC drops, creating 30-minute periods of frenzied dashing separated by expanses of relaxing downtime. (Again, shoutout to my great friend group! Our successful five-signings-within-half-an-hour feats wouldn't have been possible without such synchronous teamwork!)

I was lucky enough to spend quite a bit of my waiting-in-line time with the brilliant Hazel of Stay Bookish, who I've been collaborating with ever since the launch of Stay Bookish Zine. We chatted about books, life, and official Zine business—and it was lovely to be able to talk without factoring in a 12-hour (!!) time difference. I also got to meet Mish of Chasing Faerytales (after being scared to introduce myself all day on Thursday because she's so cool).

"My superpower is carrying 60-pound tote bags at BEA."
During my between-signings downtime, I made it a point to stop by various booths and speak to YA publicists and marketeers about their titles. Friday seemed a bit less hectic than Thursday—better for having one-on-one conversations with people working the booths. I said hi to Erica Barmash at Bloomsbury (always a pleasure) and chatted with a couple Macmillan publicists about tote bags and politics while joining the Renegades (a social media campaign promoting Marissa Meyer's upcoming book).

Most memorably, I stopped by the Soho booth to let the workers know I had started reading Love, Hate & Other Filters—and that I was in love so far. I got to meet Samira Ahmed's editor and Adele Griffin (one of my long-time favorite authors), both of whom were sitting at the booth, and both of whom recognized me. I saw Adele again at her Be True to Me signing just a few minutes later, which was equally exciting. I've been blogging for more than five years now, and I still haven't gotten used to the idea that some of my favorite writers know who I am. It's surreal.

A picture of me "just between" two fabulous YouTubers-turned-authors
I closed out the day with another of my most-anticipated signings: Gaby Dunn and Alison Raskin's signing for I Hate Everyone But You, an epistolary novel about two best friends who go to college on opposite sides of the USA. I've been following the authors' YouTube channel, an odd-couple comedy show called Just Between Us, for about a year now, and they were just as funny and quirky in person as they are online. (Plus they both told me they liked my shirt!)

I want to be Kaz, and I want to be BFFs with Inej.
The I Hate Everyone But You signing was my last event for the day, so I spent the last hour or so wandering with Kate of Sophistikated Fangirl. After that, I headed to the Fierce Reads table in the lobby to snap some pictures with cutouts of my favorite members of the Dregs.

Then Willa and I peeled off to organize our books (I had somehow procured seventeen—so much for getting fewer than I did on Thursday!) and left to eat dinner at Mercato, a restaurant near the Javits with delicious-yet-affordable Italian food. We fell asleep early again, tired out from two wonderful days of talking (and carrying) books.

Saturday, June 3

We slept in on Saturday—and by that I mean I woke up around 8:30 (which is late for me!) and read Love, Hate & Other Filters until Willa woke up an hour and a half later. Then we headed to the Lower East Side to meet Jessica for brunch. After eating, we wandered for a while, stopping at a feminist bookstore and a local park before parting ways.

Having fun with great friends in my favorite city!
Willa and I headed back to Barnard, where I picked up my bags and caught my bus to LaGuardia. I wasn't ready to leave, really, but I was also ecstatic to get home and start reading my many books. I landed in Indianapolis that night, relieved to be home after such a busy, bookish, wonderful trip.

The Books

Going into BookExpo, I told myself I was going to prioritize networking with publishing professionals and spending time with my blogger friends over getting books. And I did; I stuck to that goal 100%. But still, through great luck and great teamwork, I somehow managed to snag a copy of every single book I wanted, including several I hadn't heard of before the convention. Here's a complete list of the titles I grabbed, in the order that they appear in my pictures (which is no particular order). I can't wait to read them all! 

The Big Lie by Julie Mayhew | Goodreads
Being Fishkill by Ruth Lehrer | Goodreads
The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton | Goodreads
The Secret of Nightingale Wood by Lucy Strange | Goodreads
Release by Patrick Ness | Goodreads
Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore | Goodreads
Everything Must Go by Jenny Fran Davis | Goodreads
Love, Hate & Other Filters by Samira Ahmed | Goodreads
Click’d by Tamara Ireland Stone | Goodreads
They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera | Goodreads
Invictus by Ryan Graudin | Goodreads
Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart | Goodreads
Whichwood by Tahereh Mafi | Goodreads
Before I Let Go by Marieke Nijkamp | Goodreads
Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu | Goodreads
The Whisper in the Stone by Kamilla Benko | Goodreads
All the Wind in the World by Samantha Mabry | Goodreads
Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert | Goodreads
I Hate Everyone But You by Gaby Dunn and Allison Raskin | Goodreads
The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone by Adele Griffin | Goodreads
Be True to Me by Adele Griffin | Goodreads
The Emoji Code by Vyvyan Evans | Goodreads
Odd & True by Cat Winters | Goodreads
There’s Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins | Goodreads
The Unlikelies by Carrie Firestone | Goodreads
As You Wish by Chelsea Sedoti | Goodreads
27 Hours by Tristina Wright | Goodreads
You Bring the Distant Near by Mitali Perkins | Goodreads
Dear Martin by Nic Stone | Goodreads
The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert | Goodreads


tl;dr—BookExpo 2017 was one of the best experiences I've ever had. I met so many brilliant people, I procured so many much-anticipated ARCs, and I'm so thankful I was able to attend. If we saw each other there, I'm thrilled I got to meet you—and if we didn't, I'm sorry I missed you! I hope I can attend next year (fingers crossed it works out time-wise and money-wise), and I hope I'll see you there as well!

Were you at BookExpo 2017? Have you been to other book conventions? What was your experience like? Let me know in the comments!

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Forever Literary Turns Five!

Today's a huge day for me and my blog. First off, when this post goes up, I (hopefully) will have just landed in New York, ready to attend Book Expo for the first time.

And second, Forever Literary turns five years old today. I can't believe it.

When I started my blog, I had no idea how long it would last. I hoped it would stick around for a while, but I had no way of knowing it would one day be the same age as a kindergartner. I've put so much time and energy into this passion project (I wish I'd kept track of all the hours spent blogging these past five years!), and it's incredible.

This year, I don't have any philosophical musings on the nature of time, ambition, or online communication to share like I have for the past two years. But I will say this: year five was my hardest blogging year yet. Between a major life change (leaving for college), a new bookish project that I helped launch a few months ago, and an onslaught of horrifying worldwide news, I've had several distractions and other pursuits fighting for my attention.

I haven't quite figured any of it out yet: I'm still winging the whole "making time for blogging in college" endeavor, and I certainly haven't figured out how to run a book blog when every day seems to bring us closer and closer to World War III. I think it's a balance we all have to strike for ourselves (but let me know if you have advice!).

(Side note: I'm actually attending a session at BlogBound Con this evening on how to talk about books in our current political climate. I can't wait to bounce ideas around with brilliant bloggers and bookish types.)

The bookish community is only going to get more complicated and politically charged as history continues to happen. For most of us, our ability to participate in the community is only going to get more complicated as we grow older and take on more life responsibilities. But this is a community worth being part of, no matter how hard it can be at times. It has taught me so much and introduced me to some of my best friends, and I'm so incredibly thankful that I was welcomed into the vibrant YA blogosphere five short years ago.

Thank you to every single person who made my journey so fulfilling, educational, and just plain fun. I hope to see as many of you as possible at Book Expo. Let me know if you'll be there!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

A Dark Story of Friendship and Assault: Lessons from a Dead Girl by Jo Knowles

Lessons from a Dead Girl by Jo Knowles | Goodreads

Publisher: Candlewick
Release: October 9, 2007
Source: Library
An unflinching story of a troubled friendship — and one girl’s struggle to come to terms with secrets and shame and find her own power to heal.

Leah Greene is dead. For Laine, knowing what really happened and the awful feeling that she is, in some way, responsible set her on a journey of painful self-discovery. Yes, she wished for this. She hated Leah that much. Hated her for all the times in the closet, when Leah made her do those things. They were just practicing, Leah said. But why did Leah choose her? Was she special, or just easy to control? And why didn’t Laine make it stop sooner? In the aftermath of the tragedy, Laine is left to explore the devastating lessons Leah taught her, find some meaning in them, and decide whether she can forgive Leah and, ultimately, herself.
A dark and difficult-to-read story. A short but dense book that would pack an assault of emotions into a small page count. A novel that would not hesitate to display twisted people, problems, and emotions.

This is what I expected from Lessons from a Dead Girl: what I had been told to expect and what the cover, with its ominous door bathed in deep plum dimness, led me to expect. I prepared myself to turn lead-heavy pages, forcing myself to power through a wonderfully written yet painful narrative.

However, this novel only met half of my expectations—I was right that searing emotions and unflinching writing would take center stage, but I was wrong that the story would prove hard to read. Jo Knowles's writing style and plotting choices keep the story buoyant and make the book a surprisingly quick read, perfectly complementing the dark subject matter.

Lessons from a Dead Girl is told in an extended flashback, with only the first and last chapters taking place after Leah's death; the rest chronicle Laine's relationship with Leah, focusing on the formation of the wounds rather than the healing. Spotlighting the before rather than the after may seem to produce a more intense story, but it actually does the opposite, making the plot seem lighter. At the beginning, we barely get a glimpse of the jaded, untrusting teenager Laine has become before launching into her childhood innocence. From there, Laine's psychological damage from her relationship with Leah progresses bit by bit, and readers get to watch every step of the journey. As a result, readers are never hit with the full weight of Laine's messed-up mind all at once; they get to ease into it chapter by chapter as Leah mangles Laine's confidence more and more. The final product is a story that, while still packed with plenty of emotions, is easier to read than one that drops readers directly into the aftermath of a traumatic event.

The slow build of Laine and Leah's relationship takes place over almost their entire childhood—from the beginning of elementary school to the end of high school—and Knowles's method of condensing several years into a short novel also makes Lessons from a Dead Girl a quick read. Instead of skimming over the ten years that the story spans, the author tells the story in moments, each chapter focusing on a major instance when Laine's relationship with Leah taught her a lesson. Weeks or months can pass between chapters, creating a light and airy narration that helps readers breeze through the author's in-depth portrayal of important, painful moments.

With scarring emotions and a user-friendly narration style, Lessons from a Dead Girl is a perfect fit for everyone, from the reader who is just starting to try stories with hard-hitting subject matter to the seasoned "issue book" reader. Knowles once again proves a talent for empathy on par with the likes of Laurie Halse Anderson, and I will undoubtedly return for the rest of her books.