Monday, May 16, 2016

An ABC Review of IF I WAS YOUR GIRL by Meredith Russo

When I was given an ARC of IF I WAS YOUR GIRL last month, I was super excited to read it. I'd already heard a ton of good things about it on social media, like it's an #OwnVoices story and the publisher features a trans model on the cover, so I started reading it almost immediately! The ARC has a lovely note from the editor, Sarah Dotts Barley, and I loved Meredith's book dedication and her author note/acknowledgments.

Book blurb:
Amanda Hardy is the new girl in school. Like anyone else, all she wants is to make friends and fit in. But Amanda is keeping a secret, and she’s determined not to get too close to anyone.

But when she meets sweet, easygoing Grant, Amanda can’t help but start to let him into her life. As they spend more time together, she realizes just how much she is losing by guarding her heart. She finds herself yearning to share with Grant everything about herself, including her past. But Amanda’s terrified that once she tells him the truth, he won't be able to see past it.

Because the secret that Amanda’s been keeping? It's that at her old school, she used to be Andrew. Will the truth cost Amanda her new life, and her new love?

Meredith Russo's If I Was Your Girl is a universal story about feeling different―and a love story that everyone will root for.

Thanks to Sarah Dotts Barley for the ARC! :D

You can find IF I WAS YOUR GIRL on Amazon, B&N, and the Book Depository.


IF I WAS YOUR GIRL is more character-driven than plot-driven, and Meredith Russo really brings Amanda to life. There isn't a ton of action because the focus is mostly about the new relationships Amanda is forming, but there were a few instances while reading when I was really worried for her. My heart would beat and I'd have to put the book down for a minute when I thought someone would attack Amanda or be mean to her.


The chapters alternated between past and present—at her new school in the south while living with her dad (present) and when she lived with her mom (past). As she did with Amanda, I thought Meredith really brought the south to life, like I could tell it wasn't taking place in New England or out west.


The main character is Amanda. She's sweet and a bit quiet and is a Star Wars fangirl, which I loved.

Grant is Amanda's love interest. He's nice, but seems to be hiding something. When it was revealed, I was a little surprised because I thought it was going to be something else, but it made sense!

Amanda makes a new group of friends, but the one who stood out the most to me was Bee. She's an outsider or "bad girl."

Overall, IF I WAS YOUR GIRL is a really sweet, important book, and I hope people read it. I think many people will connect with Amanda the way I did.

Have you read IF I WAS YOUR GIRL yet? Is it in your TBR?

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Top Ten Favorite Books of 2015

I can't believe 2015 is almost over! I bought SO MANY books this year, but because I had a stressful, super-busy first half of the year, I didn't read as many as I would have liked. Luckily, the books that I did have a chance to read were awesome! I have a thing for Top Ten lists, obviously, so I thought it would be fun to list my favorite reads of 2015. It was hard, but somehow I managed to narrow it down to ten. (Not all of my reads were released in 2015, but many were.)

Some of the books I bought this year.

So! In no particular order, here are my Top Ten Favorite Books that I read in 2015:

1.) UNDER A PAINTED SKY by Stacey Lee.

If you've read any of my past blog posts, you know how much I love UNDER A PAINTED SKY, so it should come as no surprise that it's on my list of favorite 2015 reads. It's a YA historical fiction with an awesome main character. Even if you're not a western fan, you'll really enjoy this book.


SIMON is a YA contemporary with the best voice. It's sweet and funny and unputdownable, and you should TOTALLY read it.

3.) BLACK IRIS by Leah Raeder

I don't read much NA, but I decided to pick this up after Dahlia Adler tweeted about it. Leah's prose will totally knock you out. If you like Gillian Flynn's gritty, twisted characters, I think you'll love this.

4.) VENGEANCE ROAD by Erin Bowman

After reading UNDER A PAINTED SKY, I was in the mood for another western. VENGEANCE ROAD is very different from UAPS, but the main character is just as great! Kate is morally gray, which I really enjoyed.

5.) THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE by Jandy Nelson

Last year, I loved LOVED LOVED! I'LL GIVE YOU THE SUN by Jandy Nelson, so I was super excited when my writer bestie Julie Dao gave me THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE. Jandy Nelson is one of my new instabuy authors. Her prose is mind-blowingly awesome and her characters are SO so real. Reading one of her books is just like when Ron Weasley says to Harry in Prisoner of Azkaban, "You're gonna suffer...but you're gonna be happy about it."

6.) THE D'EVIL DIARIES by Tatum Flynn

I was SUPER excited when I found THE D'EVIL DIARIES in a bookstore in Edinburgh, Scotland this summer because I couldn't find it in the US. If you like funny middle grade, you'll really get a kick out of THE D'EVIL DIARIES.

7.) DUPLICITY by N.K. Traver

I love sci-fi and think teen hackers are fun, so I was really excited to read DUPLICITY. It's a little like THE MATRIX, but with tons of great voice. I think reluctant readers will enjoy this.

8.) LIES WE TELL OURSELVES by Robin Talley

LIES, a YA historical fiction, was really hard to read at times, but so worth it. It alternates POV chapters between the two main characters, which can sometimes be confusing in other books, but in LIES their voices are very distinct so you never wonder whose chapter you're reading.

9.) LIKE NO OTHER by Una LaMarche

LIKE NO OTHER is another dual POV with two distinct voices. I loved the romance between the characters and thought learning about Devorah's religion was super-interesting.

10.) UNDER THE LIGHTS by Dahlia Adler

UNDER THE LIGHTS in another dual POV. But unlike the other two, there isn't a romance between the two POV characters. UNDER THE LIGHTS was cute and sweet and funny.

Those were some of my favorite reads this year. What were yours?


Melody xo

Friday, October 2, 2015

Boston Teen Author Fest 2015!

I had a great time this month going to author panels at the Cambridge Public Library in Cambridge, MA. It's so much fun going to author panels and signings, and I love supporting YA authors and hearing what they have to say. Plus, it's a great way to meet fellow writers. At a few panels I've even bumped into writers I know from Twitter.

Anyway, on Saturday, September 5th, I went to the Boston Teen Author Fest Preview Panel: LADIES LIVING DANGEROUSLY, featuring Laurie Faria Stolarz, Erin Bowman, and Eva Darrows.

Erin talked about her new YA Western VENGEANCE ROAD, Eva talked about THE AWESOME, which is SUPERNATURAL meets BUFFY(!), and Laurie talked about RETURN TO THE DARK HOUSE, a sequel to WELCOME TO THE DARK HOUSE

They answered some of the usual questions about what inspires them to write and what their process is like, but the panel was mainly focused on the main characters in their books and how they like to see young women portrayed in the media. They all agreed that there are multiple ways to portray a "strong" female character and she doesn't have to be physically strong to be a strong character, which I agree with. Erin talked about her main character Kate being morally gray—she does some bad things, but she thinks she does them for a good reason, or she does them to defend herself. I've always loved gray characters. The main character in my current manuscript is very gray, so I really liked hearing about Kate.

It was a great panel! Plus, I spied A.C. Gaughen, writer of the SCARLET series, and Sara Crowe, Erin Bowman's agent, in the audience. I was too shy to talk to them, though. Haha!

After, I found out that one of my Twitter friends, Ellie M, was there, but I didn't recognize her in person. We were bummed about that, but said we'd try to meet up at the author fest later in the month. 


And then last weekend, Saturday the 26th, I went to the Boston Teen Author Fest. I'd never been to something like this before. There were SO MANY young adult authors there! (The full line-up can be found here.)

The schedule for the day was:

Meet the Authors panel 10:30 - 11:20
Panel Session One 11:30 - 12:20
Lunch 12:20 - 1:45
Panel Session Two 2:00 - 2:50
Book Signing 3:00 - 4:00

I was running late, so I missed the Meet the Authors panel. I arrived shortly after Panel Session One started, but instead of picking which panel I wanted to see right away, I bought books for the signing. There was no line, because everyone was in one of the two panels, so I thought it'd be better to get books then. (Porter Square Books was selling books at the fest. They were also at the Ladies Living Dangerously Panel.)

There were two panels for Session One: Author Friendships + Crit Groups and Inspired By. I decided to check out the Author Friendships + Crit Groups, partly because the Inspired By panel was super-crowded and partly because Becky Albertalli was at the Author Friendships panel (and I loved LOVED her book SIMON VS THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA).

The Author Friendships panel had Becky Albertalli, David Arnold, Jen Brooks, Sona Charaipotra, Dhonielle Clayton, Lori Goldstein, Trisha Leaver, and Adam Silvera. They talked about their critique partners and writer friends, how they found their critique partners, and what goes into a critique partnership. It was interesting to learn how/when authors found their critique partners and what their revision/writing process is like. It was a fun panel!

When I was leaving the panel for lunch, I heard someone call my name. It turned out to be Ellie M! It was so great to run into someone I "know," and Ellie invited me to lunch with her and a group of her friends from Twitter. We went across the street to a deli to get lunch and then we ate on the lawn outside the library. Just before we finished eating, a group of authors sat on the benches near us! We tried to play it cool, but we were all super-excited to have a bunch of famous authors hanging out near us. And as I was getting up to throw my trash away, Becky Albertalli complimented my shirt*. Internally, I was freaking out, but I managed to say thanks!

Top: Author Friendships panel, Bottom: The Craft panel

After lunch, I went with Ellie and her friends to Panel Session Two. Again, there were two choices: The Craft and Reality Bites. We chose The Craft with Amelia Atwater-Rhodes, Leigh Bardugo, A.C. Gaughen, Melissa Grey, Kendall Kulper, Kim Liggett, and Sara Raasch. This panel focused on magic and culture in fantasy worlds. It was really interesting! I'd never seen Leigh Bardugo speak before, so I hadn't realized she was going to be so funny. (I was extra excited for this panel because the week before I'd won an ARC of BLOOD AND SALT by Kim Liggett in a blog giveaway run by Stacey Lee.) 

They spoke about "hard" and "soft" magic and the pros and cons for both. They also talked about what inspired them to write/when they knew they wanted to be a writer. It's always interesting to hear writers tell stories about themselves when they were young. Kendall talked about writing stories in elementary school and how her classmates were always dying to read the next one. There were also some funny jokes about "hard" vs. "soft" magic. ;P

The book signing started right after Panel Session Two. I hopped in line for Leigh Bardugo and spent the majority of my time waiting in her line—she was very popular! After I got SHADOW AND BONE signed by Leigh, I got my ARC signed by Kim Liggett. She was really nice and excited to see one of her ARCs. She also gave me a black ribbon just like the one in BLOOD AND SALT! And then I had Sara Raasch sign SNOW LIKE ASHES and Melissa Grey sign THE GIRL AT MIDNIGHT. They were both really nice and we talked about having purple hair. :)

Top: my book haul, Bottom L: Sara Raasch, Bottom M: Adam Silvera, Bottom R: Leigh Bardugo

When I approached Adam Silvera, he told me I was his favorite person because of my shirt and we squeed over Simon from SIMON VS! He signed MORE HAPPY THAN NOT for me, which I'm super excited to read. He was really nice and even offered to take a picture for me.

My signed copy of MORE HAPPY THAN NOT
Me and Adam Silvera!

Next I had Kody Keplinger sign THE DUFF and Mackenzi Lee sign THIS MONSTROUS THING. Mackenzi had done a coloring contest as promo for her book, so I told her I'd participated. (After, I kicked myself for not saving the coloring page to give to her. Oh well!) Mackenzi had a copy of her book that she asked readers to sign, which I'd never seen at a signing before. I thought it was a really cool idea. After Mackenzi and Kody, I had Renée Ahdieh sign THE WRATH AND THE DAWN. She complimented my hair, but I was too nervous to say much. I was in awe of her makeup and jewelry—so flawless. She also had a book for readers to sign! Hers was full of signatures, so I had to do some searching for a blank spot.

Me and Renée Ahdieh

Last I went up to Becky Albertalli. She was so nice and asked if she could hug me. I had a million things I wanted to say to her, but of course I couldn't think of a single thing when I was finally in front of her. 


After the signing, I went outside to wait for my husband to pick me up. I ran into Ellie (we'd lost each other during the signing) and her friend Lauren (who I'd actually met at a NESCBWI conference a year or two ago) outside and we waited together. I found out that Lauren is friends with my Pitch Wars Team Devine sibling(?) Kyle and that he was at the fest! What a small world! I was bummed I found out too late because it would've been fun to talk Pitch Wars with him. Oh well!

Anyway, while we were talking and waiting for our rides, Leigh Bardugo came out to wait for hers. Ellie chatted with her about Disney while I tried not to act like a weirdo. Haha! I couldn't stop staring at her nails and jewelry—they were so cool!

It was an awesome day and great to meet so many lovely authors. I didn't have enough money to buy books by every author because there were so many there. I'm pretty bummed about that. But, as a reader, I guess it's a good problem to have—that there were so many different YA authors there.

Anyway, it was a blast! Thanks so much to the Cambridge Public Library for hosting it!

Did you go to the Ladies Living Dangerously panel or the Boston Teen Author Fest? What was your favorite part?

*I was wearing this shirt, which was made in celebration of Pride month (and SIMON VS THE HOMOSAPIENS AGENDA), and you can order it here!