The Careful Undressing of Love

Some books are too easy to miss. Don’t let this be one of them.

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  • Author: Corey Ann Haydu
  • Publisher: Dutton
  • Year: 2017
  • Genre vibe: You know how some things are contemporary, but also like, they read like a cult horror novel? It’s like that.
  • At a glance: If a girl from Devonairre Street falls in love with a man,  he dies. This is the Curse. The Devonairre Street girls live in disgust for the curse, untouched by it as yet. But then a boy they all loved dies, and all of the girls’ lives are thrown out of focus.

The story of this book is kind of unremarkable: I impulse-bought something else a couple days before it came out, then I saw it and went back to exchange. I don’t even remember the original impulse-buy at this point; this book was too good. But what’s funny is I don’t have a lot to say about it.

This is a book about tragedy and grief and how love is both of those things all the time, and I don’t know how much there is to say about that in and of itself. But this book is also a book about Tragic Events. And it’s also a book about Those Girls. Any and all of these things are things that carry a specific taste and feeling–whole books have been written about them on their own. This book is about them all, and in that, it’s heady. A little cloying, a little too much at times. This is a book for people like me, who just really like crying over fictional people. This is a book for a lot of things.

Books like these are quite often my favorite because sometimes they fly under the radar; people aren’t sure how to define or talk about them or figure out even how they feel about them. That’s part of what makes them so good. Books like these are a tangible thing, and they’re hard to let go of while you’re reading them, and after you’re done they leave you with that nameless “holy-shit-what-even-do-I-love-so-much-about-this-book” type feeling. There’s a lot of things in these kinds of book that often just make you feel. And that, I think, is their biggest strength.

So overall, this book is…

  • 4/5 stars
  • for people who really like feelings (and probably April Tucholke)
  • tradition, and old neighborhoods, and knowing how to feel things you wish you didn’t
  • Cleopatra by The Lumineers

The Lost Girl of Astor Street Clue Hunt, Clue #: 2

I know what you’re here for: your next clue. Because you’re a detective, right? And detectives look for answers.

Well, I have some for you. But! Patience is a virtue. So read on.

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  • Author: Stephanie Morrill
  • Publisher: Blink YA Books
  • Year: 2017
  • Genre vibe: Jazz age society mystery!
  • At a glance: Piper’s best friend has gone missing. Mysteries just don’t get solved fast enough, so Piper takes matters into her own hands, looking for answers in a lot of the wrong places.

So the One Year Adventure Novel program is a thing that I did, and their Summer Workshops are a thing that I have attended. This is where I met Stephanie and heard her speak–and then I met Piper.

This is a book that just feels very nice to hold onto. You know the sort. Just the right heft and weight and amount of pages. And to top it all off: she matches my outfit.

lostgirlFast forward a few months of somehow managing to ignore the ARC I was so lucky to acquire, and here we are nearing the launch date, and I’m given the honor to join in and help send Piper out into the world. Enter Linnea, stage right, furiously reading. But this was by no means a difficult task.

This book is amazing. Jazz age YA fic is kind of my gig, and there’s not a lot of it out there, and even less of it that’s a mystery. So this book was like an answer to my little bookish prayer.

This will come as a surprise only to newcomers: It’s super hard for me to fall in love with Strong Willed Female Characters. This is generally perceived as a shortcoming of mine. And, true to form: Detective Cassano is my favorite thing about this book…HOWEVER.

Piper Sail is a glorious creature. Sometimes, characters with her type of situation and even her temperament make me want to pull some hair out along the way, but I can’t remember a moment I was annoyed with her. I enjoyed her position as a narrator, I believed her decisions and emotions, didn’t ever hate her for looking for answers, and I didn’t feel cheated out of a poignant story moment because she was being “~driven~”, and that ends up not being her only character trait, as well, which is a bonus.

That being said: Detective Cassano. If miss Piper is a standout lady detective, Cassano is her perfect match in a multidimensional, easily-fallen-for supporting role. The twisting roles he plays in getting Piper her answers thicken the plot quite nicely–and just make him all the more fantastic.

It’s difficult to review the plot of a mystery without screwing it up for everybody, so let’s just skip to the end, shall we? Stephanie was amazing and allowed me to have her fill in my wrap-up points for this post, so before you get your clues, have some authorly insight!

How to Break a Boy

Some books are heart-wrenching. Plain and simple. 

  • Author: Laurie Devore
  • Publisher: Imprint
  • Year: 2017
  • Genre vibe: Contemporary 
  • At a Glance: Olivia Clayton and Adrienne Maynard are best friends. Best friends. Set-the-world-on-fire-for-you, run-the-school-together friends. But following the death of Olivia’s brother, she discovers Adirenne hooking up with her boyfriend and is dead-set on revenge. So she enlists local golden boy Whit DuRant to be her SAT tutor–and her fake boyfriend. The problem? Olivia’s world is going to hell in a handbasket–and she’s the one carrying it. 

In October, a group of friends and I attended Texas Teen Book Fest in Austin, TX. We dressed up for the day in our full Six of Crows getup, and entered the cosplay contest. Winnings were acquired, and among them, this juicy-looking ARC. The bubblegum and the violent yellow on the cover immediately sold me: I would be reading this book soon. 

Well, in my current world, “soon” means two months later. But when I finally picked up How to Break a Boy not quite a week ago, I was hooked. 

There are so many things this book has. So many things that it has that I thorougly, immensely enjoy. Things like mean girls with no limit to their meanness. Things like a golden boy roped into trouble, sporting ambition and some beautiful brown eyes. Things like a narrator that hates a lot of things: chief among them? Herself. How to Break a Boy simply drips with pure, unadulterated character. 

There’s a lot you can expect from this book. One of those things is one of the things that you would…well, least expect. It’s high-stakes. Oh man, is it high-stakes. When one thing goes wrong? You bet your ass there’s something five times worse waiting around the corner. And the kicker? Almost all of it is at Olivia’s hands, unwittingly or not. 

Both the player and the played, Olivia Clayton is the kind of character that claws her way out of the pages, cuts a hole in you, and then lives inside your heart while you read, because it’s just not safe for her anywhere else, and also she just loves to watch you suffer. But there’s a certain kind of cosmic justice-y satisfaction in watching time and time again as  Olivia reminds you once again that she has absolutely no barriers. The kind of bald-faced hatred and outrageous acts of revenge that any contemporary novel character (and reader) only dreams of. 

But this isn’t to say that How to Break a Boy isn’t without its redemption. Through her relationship with Whit and her own kind of”self discovery journey”, Olivia eventually starts to stitch together her world and the worlds she destroyed in her wake. The wrap-up to this book is classic, and totally obvious, and all the better for it. 

How to Break a Boy is the book you’re going to want to save your Christmas gift cards for, guaranteed. 

So overall, some books are…

  • 5/5 Stars
  • For people who love over-the-top, who fall in love easily, and who quite often wish to cause a lot of trouble
  • Thin mud, sitting at a table with someone, early-morning haze, thick coffee, and spills. Lots, and lots, and lots of spills. 
  • Gossip, by XYLø

ILLUMINAE

There are books that you say you mean to read, and you actually mean to read them. Then there are books that you say you mean to read, and you don’t totally mean it–all you really mean is that it looks interesting.

And then there’s books that just wait, crouched on the shelf, until you walk by with your unsuspecting interest, and in a crime of opportunity: you pick it up.

ILLUMINAE is that kind of book. And it doesn’t just grab you. It attacks you.

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ILLUMINAE

  • Author: Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
  • Publisher: Knopf
  • Year: 2015
  • Genre vibe: SPACE SCARES
  • At a glance:SPACE SCARES

So let’s face it: it’s been about a month and a half since I read this book.

And yet, here I am, reviewing it anyways. I can’t seem to get it out of my brain. And while I may not have anything in particular to say about it, per se, I…can’t stop thinking about it.

That counts for a lot, I think.

I’m a fan of Amie Kaufman’s similarly co-authored Sci-fi Romance STARBOUND trilogy. I saw Jay Kristoff’s teases for the upcoming NEVERNIGHT and just about melted through the floor. And then ILLUMINAE happened.

This book. This book is a great many things. In addition to being an experimental medium (Imagine being handed a file on an incident. That’s the book.), it’s just…really scary.

Here’s a chain of events for you:

-Your planet basically gets blown to pieces.

-You and a small portion of your world escape on 3 ships.

-There’s an AI on one of those ships.

-There’s you on anther.

-And then your ex on the final.

I’m sure it doesn’t take a whole lot of imagination to see how things could go downhill pretty quickly with that particular cast of characters around. ILLUMINAE is packed with twists, turns, ups, downs, you name it, ILLUMINAE has it. Including heart-wrenching feelings.

(Sorry–can’t get away from those on this blog.)

ILLUMINAE is, in short: intoxicating. You think it’ll be a fun high sci-fi ride. It’s not. It’s a drug in book form. The kind that makes you see space for days. Weeks. Months. Years.

Which is a good thing, by the way.

So overall:

  • Rating: 5/5 stars
  • Recommended to: Sci-fi fans and not sci-fi fans alike. Anyone that likes to see experimental mediums done well.
  • Lasting impression: There’s a little girl walking through the hallway, tugging something along with her. You don’t want to know what it is.

 

A Fierce and Subtle Poison

Say what you will about familiarity, classics, and favorite places. But there may be nothing I love more than genreless or genre-bent stories. You know the ones. The ones that go on just about every one of your Goodreads shelves because…what the heck is it? And does it even matter?

Add to that a stunning cover, a YA debut, and a good word from Maggie Stiefvater and guess what? I’m sold.

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A Fierce and Subtle Poison

  • Author: Samantha Mabry
  • Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
  • Year: 2016
  • Genre vibe: We discussed this already. There’s poison, storms, and murder.
  • At a glance: Lucas feels like he belongs to this place more than he belongs with his Rich White Father™. There’s a house at the end of Calle Sol. Ask anyone for a different version of the story that belongs to it, then go throw a wish to the poisoned witch that lives there.

 

I was itching to get this book when it first released. But I learned that Samantha would be at NTTBF16 and I said “Self, you have to wait. You can get it signed there.”

Well, NTTBF16 turned out to be such a madhouse that I did not, in fact, get to meet miss Mabry. But my best friend did, twice, and informed me that she was the Cutest of Cuties and her book was incredible. So I dove in as soon as I figured out the rest of my leftover TBR. What I found was kind of shocking.

I didn’t know much about this book, going into it. I fell in love with the lush cover and the title and the fact of a brand-new, un-genre-ed debut. Then I cracked it open and found a blonde-haired-blue-eyed-sarcastic-as-hell protagonist and after that, I was sold.

There’s something about this book that makes it kind of un-quantifiable at first. It’s sitting on the corner of my desk right now, and it’s sort of asking me to read it again because isn’t there a chance you missed something, Linnea?

There is, and I probably did. It was intoxicating to read in one go, and I got caught up in a deluge of rain and pain and holy crap that ending. It was a ride, and one I’m glad I took. But here I am on the other side, thinking “Man, what just happened?”

It’s been a couple days, and I’m still not quite sure about all of it. But one thing is for sure: Samantha Mabry is a force to be reckoned with. There’s a kind of underlying power in her words and imagery that makes me wish and wish and wish for more of her writing. I can’t wait to see what happens from here–and I can’t wait to revisit the house at the end of Calle Sol and see what other wishes I can make there.

So overall:

  • Rating: 5/5 Stars
  • Recommended to: Fans of intrigue and whirlwind-type stories that don’t let you ask any questions before you get going
  • Lasting impression: Sand on the soles of your feet. Rain and rain and rain and the crash of the sea so constant you forget about it until it swallows you.

Endless Stories

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The stage: Convention center building–it has the most interesting escalators you’ve ever seen. Not because they’re strangely shaped or oddly placed, but because you know what lies at the top of them.

The cast: You. You are a young blogger, aspiring author, and YA addict. This is your first convention, and your marrow practically vibrates in your bones. You have on your person one The Raven Boys t-shirt, one pair of teal skinny jeans, one cart full of books, and one insatiable smile. These are your only assets.

The goal: Imbibe as many stories as possible. You have eight hours. Go.

Welcome to North Texas Teen Book Festival. 75 Authors + 1 day + You = Endless Stories.

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You have embarked on the journey of a lifetime, and you won’t be able to breathe when it ends. That much is for certain. What is uncertain is whether you will be crushed by the weight of book purchases, or by overwhelming happiness.

Begin: You have a small band wrapped around your wrist. You’re being set up with a book that will hopefully be the love of your life. You can’t wait. But you must, because just ahead is the trading post–here you will acquire the new stories that you will get magic-ed (aka signed) over the next few hours. Choose wisely.

Success! You have acquired books. These will be your most valuable attribute. Among them lies THE WALLS AROUND US–rumor has it that only the people in this building have gotten their hands on it thus far. This place is magic indeed.

Friends appear. Into your hands comes another book–a matchmaker has paired you and you have yet to find out if you can be companions or not. This is fine: adventure is the point.

Quest: Knowledge. Should you choose to accept this quest, you will find yourself placed in a room amongst other travelers. You will all listen to Authors (aka magicians), and they will impart wisdom upon you. Complete this quest and earn status as a panel attendee Do you accept?

Excellent. 11042987_565281863575229_3050325849334151450_n

The day proceeds. Your head spins with the amount of knowledge these magicians possess. You are the type of person that simply thrives off of the emotion and energy produced by crowds of people. You couldn’t be happier.

A lull happens. You catch your breath. The magicians will soon appear to their admirers. Here you have the opportunity to organize your spoils and make some new friends. There are a lot of your kind standing in long lines at this point, a lot of young hearts racing with the thrill of adventure and the promise of magic.

Enter: magicians. You’re busy waiting for one of your favorites (a witch by the name Leigh Bardugo who has captured your heart and promptly broken it a few times with her stories) when you hear a commotion across the room. Fans of a different story than yours have just seen the face of its next installment. You couldn’t be happier for them. 11018920_565282020241880_8009651293736111206_n

You meet magician after magician, adding signatures to your arsenal. This one is your hero and you’re not sure you can stand in her presence very long without exploding into a better version of yourself and possibly making a mess of starlight and book pages while you’re at it.

These are your people, your favorite people. It’s overwhelming, the scope of this place. You will never get it out of your system. You will have to keep coming back.


 

NTTBF 2015 was a major experience for me and hundreds of other people. With NTTBF 2016 right around the corner, I’m getting more and more excited each day.

This post not enough for you? You as hyped as I am? I’ve made a playlist for that. I make a playlist for everything. [click image to listen]

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Hold me Closer, Necromancer

Some books are a calling. Other books are a destiny. Still others are a demand, and then what’s leftover are a journey.

Sometimes, those journeys last a long, long time.

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Hold me Closer, Necromancer

  • Author: Lish McBride
  • Publisher: Henry Holt
  • Genre vibe: Urban paranormal
  • At a glance: Samhain Corvus LaCroix is a fry cook. He is definitely nothing special. He’s also a huge smart ass with a penchant for getting into trouble, it seems. And, as it turns out, he’s also a necromancer.

Every book discovery story is different. This one started in February 2015, Liberty Bay Books in Poulsbo Washington. The shiny cover with the raven on the front snagged me more than the staff recommendation slip inside of it did. I was overcome by my first indie bookstore experience and the discovery of a copy of one of my favorite books (The Replacement, Brenna Yovanoff), and yet somehow I convinced myself not to buy it.

I looked and looked and couldn’t find it after that. I’m notorious for forgetting to order books that I want to read.

Flash forward to October 2016, the Half Price Books by my house. I discover the sequel on the clearance rack.

I’m outraged.

Christmas 2016 rolls around and my best friend gifts me with a shiny new copy of the first one.

Success. My adventure begins.

And what a strange adventure it is. NECROMANCER is a weird book. The characters are pretty good, and the writing is pretty good, and the plot is really good. There’s just…a lot going on.

When I first got into it, what I got introduced to were dark, disturbed necromancers, mothers who were also witches, and things that left mysterious claw marks on people. I figured I knew what kind of magic I was in for, and the types of things that would show up.

Then as the book went on, more things showed up, and I tried to make room for them in my perception of the situation.

Then more.

And more.

And more.

Until suddenly there were magical creatures fighting on this necromancer guy’s lawn, and I realized I wasn’t prepared for this. I was enjoying it, but it didn’t fit with what I thought the book was going to be, and I think that threw me off more than a little.

I enjoyed this book a lot. It was worth all the while it took to acquire it. It was fun to read, and by the middle of it, I cared about Sam and Co. quite a bit, and was actually super interested in the magic aspects that I actively saw.

But there was a lot going on. There was some pretty dense writing at more than one point, and there were too many people+places+things for me to really follow. I ended up picking SAM and RAMON and focusing on those two things any time something happened.

I will absolutely be reading the sequel.

Just not very quickly.

So overall:

  • Rating: 3.5/5 stars
  • Recommended to: People who like wit and comedy, good male characters, and a lot of interesting fantasy elements
  • Lasting impression: Sam’s apartment. Scars on his shoulders. A crooked grin without any malice or cleverness behind it.

Hello, Goodbye, and Everything In Between

New year, new books. In keeping with tradition, a week-long stay with my best friend produced a co-read book. This year, it was Jennifer E. Smith’s HELLO, GOODBYE, AND EVERYTHING IN BETWEEN. Unfortunately, it kind of turned out there wasn’t much in between for this book.

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  • Author: Jennifer E. Smith
  • Publisher: Poppy
  • Year: 2015
  • Genre vibe: Soon-to-be-college kid romance. Small town contemporary.
  • At a glance: Clare and Aiden have been together for most of high school. But now real life is looming and they’re facing a tough decision: keep it together, or let each other go. Each side has an equal amount of force behind their particular wish. Can they come together and figure it out?

So I’ll come right out and say it: I’m not totally sure I liked this book. Smith is a strong writer, and I absolutely love her older stuff, so I was super excited when this came out (even though it took forever to get around to reading it).

But in the end I was disappointed, I think. I ended up being very glad that it wasn’t a longer book, because I got the point so easily. And that was the main problem with this book.

Clare and Aiden have to either break up or stay together and try this long-distance thing. There don’t seem to be any other choices. Clare has a whole night planned for them, like a scavenger hunt (don’t let her hear me say that or she’ll get mad for no reason) of Reasons To Break Up.

Aiden on the other hand is optimistic and willing to work for a lasting relationship with her.

I can understand where both of them are coming from. Both sides are presented equally. But honestly? Clare got in their way. She spent half the book jumping all over any of Aiden’s or their other friends’ ideas, just because she was so wound up.

Which I get. But it also got real old, real fast, especially when Aiden doesn’t deserve it, (which he hardly ever does), and even more especially when their friends don’t deserve it (in my opinion, they never do).

In the end, the decision the two of them make is so painfully obvious to me that it kind of ruined the book for me. Again, I understood. But I wanted them to surprise me. I wanted Aiden to compromise, or Clare to finally be accepting, or anything really, besides what actually happened.

If I were as clever as Snifferblog, I’d name this post “Hello, Goodbye, and Nothing In Between”, but this is the only time I’ll be as clever as that dog, so I’ll just leave that awful joke here.

This didn’t ruin anything in relation to Smith for me. Her stuff is still some of the most solid contemporary out there, and I love hearing about her and I plan to re-read a couple of my favorites from her this year. But this was a miss for me, where it’s a major hit for others.

And that’s okay. So overall:

  • Rating: 3/5 stars
  • Recommended to: People looking for something short and not so sweet with a solid and obvious ending message.
  • Lasting Impression: Honestly? Homes. The couch in the basement. The stairs she and Riley sat on. The deck. A clean concrete driveway with a comfortingly familial SUV in it.

 

 

 

Be excited with me, readers

Alright. So this year I read Laini Taylor’s incredible Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy, and got the chance of a lifetime to meet the author right as I was finishing up the last book.

But they made such an impression on me, and I read them all so close together that I couldn’t figure out how to review them properly enough to truly do them justice.

So this post serves as two things: and extremely underrated review of the series, and a post of sheer excitement over the announcement of Laini’s new book yesterday.

Laini’s stories are truly something. As someone with a niche love for a very particular kind of urban fantasy, it’s like finding a unicorn when you find a book–much less a whole series/trilogy–that satisfies your never ending thirst for The Perfect Thing. The excitement is unbearable.

The Daughter of Smoke and Bone books are rich and lengthy and full to bursting with weirdness and wonderment in equal measures, and enough heartbreak to satisfy even me. (seriously, if you don’t want two particular people to be together in these books as badly as you want to keep breathing, I’m not sure we can be friends)

Urban fantasy is a tricky genre to pin down. And Laini does it beautifully, capping off her fantastic ideas with beautiful prose and stellar characters. You don’t ever forget your favorite Laini Taylor character.

Which is why I’m so excited for this:

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Strange the Dreamer promises to be something even more new and exciting for me to read next year (and next year has a lot of promising new releases.) I mean, just look at that list of components at the bottom of NOVL’s post. I couldn’t be happier. And a title like that deserves to be bronzed and stuck outside every library ever.

I can’t wait. Laini Taylor is a gift to the YA world in the form of an urban fantasy goddess, and I just can’t wait to see this book. I can’t wait.

(seriously I can’t. Is it September yet?)

 

-l.

 

Why I read YA

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This morning I woke up to thisisteen informing me that it’s “I read YA” week.

Quite possibly, this is one of the best things I could ever have woken up to. If you’ve been following this blog for any length of time at all, you’ll know that YA is the main attraction. I love teen lit. And for very, very good reasons.

YA has one of the baddest reps around. People lie, cheat, and in general attack it on a day to day basis: something that hasn’t changed and isn’t setting up to anytime soon. But YA is the best of the best of the best. There’s infinite reasons to read it, infinite reasons to advocate it, and then a few more reasons to love it with all your heart and soul.

I read YA for a couple main reasons, though. The biggest is that I read YA because I believe in youth, whatever form it may take. I read YA because encapsulated in it is the spirit of generations, tied up in stories of people’s times. In YA, people break barriers, they grow and change and evolve, they try new things. In YA, from author to character to even reader, things are happening. People are genre-bending! People are foregoing genre entirely! People are

writing

things

like

this!

In YA there’s no right way to do things, and there are so many, many reasons to try new things. People often criticize teenagers for only wanting what’s new, what’s shiny. YA caters to the new and the shiny, and it polishes up parts of the old and wise as well. In any given YA story, the youth run amok. They’re loud and glorious, quiet and horrid, scared and out there. They do things that are all that we can do and then more, and that’s important.

The spirit of youth is one that, if it’s going to last, has to be cultivated and fed again and again. YA feeds it on heart and soul, love and loss, and the often-present desire for something more. (prime example: Maggie Stiefvater’s Raven Cycle.) Youth is important. Teenagers are important. Growing up and coming of age are important. The journey of turning into a human being is so, so important.

Which makes YA one of the most important things, and brings me to the other primary reason that I read YA.

Friendship.

I read YA because books are always written for a lot of different reasons, but YA in general carries a constant theme, or at least a secondary idea: when you read this book, you will not be alone. Whether you picked it up because it dealt with a subject that was important to you, or you picked it up because you liked the genre. Whether the character’s situation attracted you, or the character itself. While you’re reading a YA book in particular, you are not the only person in the room. You share a common interest with someone in the story, and even if you only went into it because you thought alternate Russia featuring a giant rift full of shadow monsters sounded cool, chances are you’ll come out of it with a new best friend.

That’s what’s in YA. Someone to care about, and someone to care about you. YA is so important to me because of what it’s done for me, and I write it for the purpose of giving that to someone else eventually. I read YA because without it, millions of people would be lost, would never find the precise kind of inspiration they needed to follow their dreams or hear the exact encouragement they needed to get their willpower back.

People think YA is about fads. About trends, about what sells. About flat romances and uninteresting plots. They’re wrong, though. YA is about too many things to quantify, and it’s always becoming more than even that. That’s why I read YA.

If you want to join in on all the #IreadYA week fun, hop on over here to check out the info!