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url 2015-12-16 17:40
My Epic Reads Book Shimmy Awards Nominations

Hello! Did you know that the nominations for the Epic Reads Book Shimmy Awards are happening NOW until this Friday, December 18th? Normally, I must admit, I don't pay much attention to book awards and lists (aside from Printz/NBA/Morris), but the Book Shimmy Awards are 100% determined by the community. We have agency in what we are going to be voting for, and I hope that you'll join me in nominating your favorites! (I hope that we have some common favorites as well...)

My goal in this was to nominate every one of my favorite books published in 2015 at least once. Unfortunately, I couldn't, but I tried my best, and even if I liked some books more than others, I didn't want to nominate something more than once. So, here we go!
Best of Shelf
Award given to the best overall book published in 2015.

The Winner's Crime by Marie Rutkoski. This was a really hard book to choose. BEST OVERALL BOOK??! I don't about you, but I like books for very different reasons. Some have excellent romances. Some have beautiful prose. Some have action-packed plots. Maybe I was influenced bythe recently released excerpt of The Winner's Kiss, but the Winner's trilogy reminds me of Kristin Cashore's books, which definitely make my favorite books of all time list. Not one scene is ever unnecessary in The Winner's Trilogy. Masterful plotting, masterful characterization... and how many times have I paused, wondering whether Kestrel and Arin will ever come to an accord of their own making? THAT EXCERPT! I reviewed The Winner's Crime, encouraged people to pre-order the novel, and basically said whenever I could how awesome the book is.

The Pagemaster
Award given to favorite YA author of the year. (Author must have published a book in 2015.)

Nova Ren Suma. At first, I was going to nominate Samantha Shannon, but her books aren't technically considered YA. And then I looked at my list, saw The Walls Around Us and remembered a blog post I'd read from Nova Ren Suma about the surprises she'd had as an author. As someone who is trying to navigate different careers and expectations of life, I really resonated with that post. Nova's dedication in the Walls Around Us is also perfect for the YA community. She seems like an incredibly sweet author, and The Walls Around Us, as I said in my review andanother post, is like a tribute to girls in all our complexity. Yes to Nova Ren Suma.

New Kid of the Shelf
Award for best debut YA author of 2015.

Made You Up by Francesca Zappia. In some sense, this isn't fair of me because Chessie and I are good friends, but I really did enjoy Made You Up. I interviewed Chessie on this blog when her deal had recently been announced and when her book was soon to be released. I reviewed Made You Up and encouraged you all to pre-order the book when you could, because it was one of theawesome 2015 books that I'd read. I gave away an annotated ARC of Made You Up. There are only so many ways that someone can say this is an amazing debut novel and Francesca Zappia is an amazing author to watch.

Cover Lust Award
Award given to the YA book with the most gorgeous cover design.

Made You Up by Francesca Zappia. Made You Up has made Bustle's list for best YA book coversas well as the beautiful covers list from Epic Reads and some categories in the viewer-votedYoung Adult Book Cover Awards. It's actually a cover that also represents aspects of the book well. If I'm not mistaken, the eyes of a pivotal character in the book are described as something like, taking a bunch of blue crayons and melting them together. The umbrella is a great representation of the main character trying to shield herself from things beyond her control. Plus, the emphasis on her red hair, which plays its own role, and the fact that she's illustrated allows you to picture her however you want. Win, Greenwillow Designer. Win.

We Need Diverse Books Award
Award given to the best YA book of 2015 that explores the diverse experiences, including (but not limited to) LGBTQIA, people of color, gender diversity, people with disabilities, and ethnic, cultural, and religious minorities.

Serpentine by Cindy Pon. The interesting thing is, when I saw this award, my first thought was towards the excellent selection of diverse contemporary novels that I'd read, like Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed. But contemporary generally seems to be where most diverse novels are; fantasy has a serious problem when it comes to including diversity because of some fallacious arguments. I enjoyed and reviewed Serpentine, and included Skybright in various lists about brave heroines. At its core, Serpentine is discussing what it means to be Other; with our patriarchal society marginalizing the voices of those who fit the aforementioned diverse label, well, Serpentine also seemed perfect for this category. Plus, y'know, the exploration of Chinese folklore, and a non Western-centric fantasy: that definitely fits the We Need Diverse Books Award criteria, no?

The Mental Health Matters Award
Award for the best book that shines a light on mental health.

Delicate Monsters by Stephanie Kuehn. I considered adding Made You Up here as well, but I know that Francesca Zappia is planning on releasing books not focused on mental health, whereas all of Stephanie Kuehn's novels thus far have been about exploring mental health issues. I've reviewed and enjoyed Delicate Monsters, Complicit, and Charm and Strange. Basically, Stephanie Kuehn is a wordsmith, a masterful plotter exploring the complexities of the human mind, and I can't wait to see what she produces next. (The Smaller Evil looks so good!).

The Here and Now Award
Award for the best contemporary YA novel.

Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli. Undoubtedly, you've already heard of the awesomeness that is Simon Versus the Homo Sapiens Agenda; it was on the National Book Award longlist and has been making the rounds across various YA best-of lists. I reviewed Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda and encouraged people to pre-order the book. Simon was also recently optioned for a book to movie adaptation. Simon is a great YA contemporary, and I can't wait for more from Becky Albertalli.

The Reality Bites Award
Award for the best fantasy / sci-fi YA novel published in 2015.

Bone Gap by Laura Ruby. This made me feel a little strange because I consider Bone Gap to be more like "magical realism" than SFF, but if there's no magical realism category, sure, Bone Gap, I'll mention you here. I can undoubtedly say that Bone Gap is one of the most unique YA books that I've read, which is probably why it was a National Book Award finalist and has been making the rounds across various YA best-of lists. I love Laura Ruby's writing style; I love her willingness to try something completely different; I love her exploration of perception and beauty. Laura Ruby really does a wonderful job developing the setting and making the people of Bone Gap feel unique to Bone Gap (but also familiar to us). 100% recommended.

Hot Under the Cover
Award for the best romance YA novel. (This also known as the Theo James Award for sexiest novel.)

Dumplin' by Julie Murphy. Well, this category was a little strange for me because none of my favorite YA novels are romance novels. They're romantic; the romance is frequently a side plot connected into the coming-of-age. But, ultimately, I still decided to nominate Dumplin'. I enjoyed and reviewed Dumplin', and discussed why people ought to anticipate its release. Willowdean made my list of favorite YA heroines, and I discussed more of the awesomeness of Dumplin' in aCinderella Book tag. I chose to nominate Dumplin' for romance because of all that and more. Julie Murphy has been getting reader emails suggesting that the romance is wish fulfillment because Willowdean is fat. No, ladies. Let's not play into this harmful societal narrative that fat girls deserve less. I enjoyed the romance in Dumplin', and my nominating Dumplin' for this category is also a statement against those reader emails.

World Series Champ
Award for your favorite new, on-going or series that ended in 2015!

Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman. I was considering nominating The Mime Order by Samantha Shannon (book 2 of The Bone Season, which I loved and have encouraged people to read), but it's technically considered adult and ineligible for the Book Shimmy Awards. I enjoyed and reviewed Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman; Seraphina is one of my favorite YA heroines. It's a shame that this inventive dragon duology has ended, but hopefully there will be more Rachel Hartman books to come!

The Blast from the Past Award
Award given to the best historical fiction book published in 2015.

Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson. It was pretty awkward realizing that I hadn't read much historical YA this year; I had planned to read Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee but... haven't yet. Still, Walk on Earth a Stranger fits; its historical, Oregon-trail quest-like elements are more prominent than the fantastical gold hunting magic. Lee/Leah was one of my favorite YA heroines. Walk on Earth made my Cinderella Book Tag list, and I told people to anticipate its release. Of course, I also reviewed Walk on Earth a Stranger. Walk on Earth a Stranger was a great introduction to the Gold Seer trilogy, and I'm looking forward to more from Rae Carson.

The Retelling Award
Award for the best YA retelling published in 2015.

A Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston. I considered nominating Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge -- I've loved every one of her dark spins on fairy tales, including her short stories and novellas, and I reviewed Crimson Bound, encouraged people to pre-order the awesome book -- but ultimately I want there to be more Middle Eastern books that actually feel Middle Eastern in the way that A Thousand Nights does. I also considered nominated Uprooted by Naomi Novik, which I reviewed here, but it's technically not a YA book (it's like Red Rising, both published by Del Rey as adult fiction but both frequently making YA book lists, which the publisher isn't going to complain about because it wants the crossover crowds). I reviewed A Thousand Nightsand have sung its praises whenever I could, including discussing my love for the main character. As someone with Middle Eastern heritage, I felt that A Thousand Nights was authentic. The atmosphere was wonderful. ATN is an epic fantasy that should not be missed.

The Most Anticipated Award
Award for the book you are most excited to read that publishes in 2016.

The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi. I have a list of 2016 books and 2016 debuts that I need to write up, but I haven't done so yet. The Star-Touched Queen was "pitched as a Hades and Persephone-style romance infused with Indian mythology, about an unlikely princess who must overcome her sinister horoscope and embarks on a quest to unravel her true identity and find the one she loves." A.) We don't have enough YA fantasy that's actually diverse, and very little YA fantasy that aren't Western or European centric. B.) Indian mythology! C.) I don't even like Hades and Persephone that much, but I read The Star Maiden by Roshani Chokshi and her writing IS GORGEOUS. YES PLEASE to this book.

Book Nerd of the Year
Award given to your favorite contributer to the YA community. Nominate your favorite YA book blogger, vlogger, podcaster, Instagramer, Tumblr-er, ect. (Please list their handle and which platform! Example = @EpicReads on Instagram)

Ameriie at the booktube channel, Books Beauty Ameriie. If you're reading this, you might feel offended that I didn't nominate you. I can guarantee you that I considered you, especially if we're (close) friends. But unlike most of you, I've hung out with Ameriie in person several times, and we've been friends for over three years, so I know her book nerd ways intimately. This girl, when we first hung out, I can still remember feeling nervous in the way that you always are when you're hanging out with someone for the first time, but she made our interaction comfortable with her book nerd ways. Sniffing all those books, discussing our favorites, always driving to bookstores at the end of one of our writing days spent together... I mean, even if you forgo my personal experiences with Ameriie, all you need to do is check out her channel and here's a particular book nerd video: How She Reads. If you aren't one of her subscribers yet, you're seriously missing out on a wonderful perspective on both YA and adult books.

Books I almost nominated...

Those were my Book Shimmy Award nominations! Do we have any in common? What have you decided to nominate for each category?
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review 2015-05-07 20:31
Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda - Becky Albertalli

Super sweet book, about a not-really-out gay boy who gets blackmailed (that doesn’t make it sound cute, but it is!). I loved how even though it’s told in first person and we’re definitely in Simon’s head, we also get a little glimpse into the other characters, so that it never feels like Simon’s view is The Only Right Way. Smart, thoughtful, funny romantic comedy.

Source: bysinginglight.wordpress.com/2015/05/07/a-good-reading-week
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review 2015-03-27 14:15
Review: Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Release Date: April 7, 2015
Source: Edelweiss
Published by: Balzer + Bray

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda - Becky Albertalli | Goodreads

Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.

With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.

This book had me grinning at so many spots, it's impossible to name them all. This is going to be in the top ten of many bloggers's lists for contemporary YA novels published in 2015: yes, that is how fantastic Simon Spier's voice is. You know how Stephanie Perkins's novels are full of saturation, the voices so PRESENT and easy to picture? That ALL CAPS sensation where you feel like you really know her characters? Yes, this book reminded me of that effect. Simon's voice is original, full of humor and realism. He will have you laughing and grinning and then by turnsthinking deeply about the defaults of the world, about the difficulties he has to face because he's going against the mold and of the little things which people (like his father) say that can be taken badly.

The side characters in this novel are truly something to behold as well. There aren't that many contemporary novels with large character casts; I am reminded of Lauren Oliver's contemporary novels but few else. Here we have Simon's adorable family, his best friends and their extended lunch table crew, the cast of the drama musical he's in, his teachers and romantic interest. The sense of community that Oliver has explicitly (in Panic) stated that she hopes her readers will find in her novels is here in spades in Becky Albertalli's novel. The characters by turns support Simon and isolate him sometimes without even realizing it, and the conflicts raised by the extended cast feel realistic and handled so well. The bullying with the blackmail situation, the meeting of a romantic interest online and the difference of an internet and in person connection, the pressure and expectations raised with coming-out, and the coming-of-age and learning to love and embrace yourself running alongside so many other issues. Simon's character development is wonderfully enhanced and developed alongside the other characters and the novel's themes.

One of the really fantastic things about having a large character cast means that this romance feels fresh and almost unpredictable. Simon doesn't know the identity of his pen pal, who he falls in love with, and having a large cast means that you're kept on your toes as you, like him, try to figure out who Blue is. Their email exchange ensures that they are friends before they enter a relationship - before they're even sure that they're physically attracted to one another - and are so, so adorable to read. You see their chemistry before they recognize it and take their friendship to the next level. They'll have you craving Oreos and grinning before long. The plot of this adorable coming-out coming-of-age romance is only amplified by Simon's humorous and real voice.

With the sense of community, large character cast, and friendship that would appeal to Lauren Oliver's contemporary fans; an email-based romance (at first) that I would imagine would also appeal to fans of Jennifer Smith's This is What Happy Looks Like; and the fresh, humorous voice that would appeal to Stephanie Perkins's fans, Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda is a sure-fire hit. This combination of coming-of-age character growth, romance, and awesome characters ensures that Becky Albertalli is on my to-watch for future releases. So, so adorable.

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url 2015-01-26 02:27
Preview of 2015 Books [Awesomeness Abounds!]

Are you looking for some really great 2015 young adult (or new adult) titles to pre-order with a gift-card? Or maybe you just want to mark your calendar with these new releases...

Because let me tell you, they are AWESOME.

You can watch the video above here or at my booktube channel.
My favorites of 2015 so far -- and you should totally mark your calendar with these release dates! You can think of this as a sort of preview or recap of my favorites so far because you'll definitely be hearing about these titles from me in FULL. (Well, the Mime Order, I wrote a Reasons to Read the Bone Season post instead. But all the others are lined up, reviews scheduled to post on Tuesdays through April 7th!).

1. The Mime Order - Samantha Shannon on January 27th, 2015


  • Book 2 in the Bone Season series (7 total!). Futuristic London + clairvoyency powers + dystopia between humans, clairvoyents, and a mysterious race called the Rephaim? A story told in a very cinematic style - gritty, dark, and full of action? OH, HECK YES. I've submitted my pre-order because this was awesome!


2. Stone in the Sky - Cecil Castellucci on February 25th, 2015


  • Book 2 in the Tin Star duology. YA science fiction set in space + colonization efforts of humans and many, many races of aliens + girl trapped on a space station as the only human + survival + gold-rush-like elements + political intrigue + a huge galactic struggle.... Epic science fiction you should NOT miss.


3. The Winner's Crime - Marie Rutkoski on March 3rd, 2015


  • Book 2 in the Winner's trilogy. Set in a Greco-Roman inspired world, a forbidden romance between slave & master + LOTS of political intrigue, class and racial tension between two countries. Games, strategy. Paging Kristin Cashore fans, specifically those who liked Bitterblue: you do not want to miss this sequel - it DEFINITELY raised the stakes from book 1, The Winner's Curse.


4. The Walls Around Us - Nova Ren Suma on March 24th, 2015


  • Orange is the new Black Swan + beautiful writing + seriously check out an excerpt because WOW WOW WOW to that first chapter. Bloody ballerinas + girls juvenile detention system + mystery/suspense + a tribute to girls in all their complexity. Nova Ren Suma's books are unlike any other in YA, and her writing a dream.


5. Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda - Becky Albertalli on April 7th, 2015


  • Coming-out coming-of-age YA with great voice, humor and heart. Great & huge character cast + adorable romance + grinning so, so hard + wonderful character development. Paging Stephanie Perkins fans, Lauren Oliver fans, and (probably) fans of Jennifer Smith's This Is What Happy Looks Like.


6. Crimson Bound - Rosamund Hodge on May 5th, 2015


  • 17th century(?) or 1700s France meets Little Red Riding Hood meets The Maiden with No Hands. Fairy tale retelling that's inspired by its original material but is something completely its own, not bound by retelling demands. Complex characters + fascinating magical creatures + doomed but determined protagonist + romance like in Cruel Beauty + Arthurian elements + layered and unpredictable plot ===> Rosamund Hodge strikes again with pure gold.

7. Made You Up - Francesca Zappia on May 19th, 2015


  • Alex is a high school senior struggling to tell the difference between reality and delusion, and is very much determined to go to college despite her struggles. Fans of We Were Liars, Stephanie Kuehn, John Green, and The Breakfast Club: helllooo! Unreliable narrators + layered plots + rereading necessary to look at the details again + heartbreaking revelations + psychological twists + quirky/funny, smart characters + a side cast that rounds out the unique high school Alex attends. Definitely a different contemporary -- and one you will WANT to read asap :).

Kinda sorta what I said in the video, but much more abbreviated, ha. Or, if you want to try already released books, I've also talked about my top 12 young adult high fantasy recommendations here. (Yeah, Thursdays/Fridays/okay, really whenever I end up editing videos = the day I discuss on the blog lol regardless of topic.)

Do you plan on reading any of these books? Have you read any of these already? Which books are on your most anticipated of 2015 list?

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