Tuesday Top Ten – Favorite Books Read in 2015

Happy New Year everyone! I hope you had an absolutely FABULOUSLY nerdy 2015, see full of books and all kinds of awesome. I know I did. 2015 was a GREAT year to be me and I’m stoked to see what 2016 brings me.

For now, information pills let’s count down the top ten (technically 12) books that I read this year. Keep in mind…I read 126 books this year so this was HARD

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Both of the Honorable Mention books are actually being published in 2016. I read both of them in 2015 as ARCs and absolutely loved them both, page so they make my list of best books I read this year :)

Click the book title for its GoodReads page, the author name for their website and the book cover for my review!

Flamecaster by Cinda Williams Chima 

I was so excited when I got this ARC both digitally and in the mail. I absolutely adore Cinda Chima and I honestly think she’s one of the best fantasy authors I’ve ever read. She’s just so damn good. She’s going to be visiting in April, about two hours away, but I’m going. Hands down. This is the first in a new series, a spin off of my favorite series by her, the Seven Realms. It was great to be back in that realm, though I miss Raisa and Han, and it was just…ugh, so damn good. I can’t wait to read more!

Passenger by Alexandra Bracken

Confession Time: I’ve never read an Alex Bracken book before. I’ve heard The Darkest Minds series is good but I just haven’t had a chance to read it yet. I got this book in the mail as an ARC and I loved the cover and concept and immediately dove in. I can’t even begin to explain how much I ADORE this book. I’m a huge fan of Alex’s now and I can’t wait to make The Darkest Minds a priority in 2016.

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Unchanged by Jessica Brody

Its hard to believe that I read this book nearly a year ago! How insane is that! So weird. But god, what an amazing end to the trilogy. I had all these theories and expectations and this literally blew my mind. It is just…its not at all what I expected at all. She surprised me and shocked me and its really hard to genuinely surprise me and I was like like OMG. Jessica Brody got progressively better and better with this series and I just absolutely loved this series ender.

The Shameless Hour by Sarina Bowen

In all truthfulness, I read the entirety of this series this year, and I loved every single minute of it. I was hooked from book one and devoured the entire series and anxiously awaited the new releases. But by far, easily, my favorite is The Shameless Hour. I love both of the main characters and I love the story. I love Bella so much, I love that she’s not your typical virgin, which we see most of the time in NA series. I love that she owns who she is until things happen and she questions herself, but still ultimately comes out as confident in the person she is. I don’t know if that sentence made sense AT all but that’s how I felt. SUCH a good book.

All Played Out by Cora Carmack

Even though Carson is my favorite and will always have the special spot in my heart, I just loved loved loved All Played Out. Like I said about with Jessica, Cora just got better and better with these books as the series continued and I devoured APO in a matter of hours. Just blew me away. I adore Nell, her personality, her directness, everything and Torres is just…the kind of guy that would drive me absolutely insane in real life but causes me to swoon when I read. I am INSANELY excited about the release of the fourth book :)

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

I had been hearing about this book for ages and I had actually bought it when I met Victoria at YALLWest back in April. Everyone said it was SO good, but I just wasn’t feeling it for awhile. But when I finally sat down to read it…it just blew my mind. The world building is incredible, absolutely incredible…it flows so well and is so believable. And the twists and turns in this book…I was incredibly shocked at the ending of this book, jaw dropping, for sure. That cliffhanger…is it time for book two yet?!

Stand Off by Andrew Smith

I love Winger. Its one of my favorite books of all time and when I heard there was going to be a sequel, I nearly peed my pants with excitement. Because I was going to get my Ryan Dean back and the antics that follow him, always. And yes, that is what happened in Stand Off. I laughed so hard, because Ryan Dean is hilarious and Andrew is hilarious and the brand new character of Sam Abernathy is so freakin’ hilarious. But the book surprised me and became so much more, just like Winger. It had a lot to say about post traumatic stress disorder, and panic attacks and was written so beautifully. Always a win with an Andrew Smith book.

What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler

I had high anticipation for this book because I absolutely adore Aaron Hartzler. He’s a great writer and just an all around great person and I was so excited when I was able to get an ARC of this book. And my expectations were blown away. I loved his first book. I absolutely am obsessed with this one. Aaron Hartzler writes a compelling and incredibly emotional read and its beautiful and poignant and relevant and permanent. I read this months ago, and the story still is stuck with me, still sends chills through me. Its a must read for sure.

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

The first book I ever read by Rainbow Rowell was her novel, Fangirl, which I’ve now read several times. One of my favorite books that I’ve ever read and one of the few characters that I’ve been able to identify with as much as I have with Cath…Cath is me. So when I heard Rainbow was putting out Carry On, a story of the fictional characters created in Fangirl…I had to. And its amazing how invested in these doubly fictional characters I was! I loved the story from beginning to end and I laughed so hard, so many times, and I will ship Simon and Baz until the end of time. One of the best Harry Potter fan fictions I’ve ever read in my life, and I’m so glad this became a real book.

Winter by Marissa Meyer

I honestly felt like this book was NEVER going to be released. It had been nearly TWO years since Cress and I was DYING to find out what happened next. I’ve been in a perpetual slump with reading the past few months but I knew I had to sit down and read this one and I’m so glad I made myself do it because I blew through it. Marissa Meyer has an EPIC end to the series, with so many throwbacks to the original fairytales but also keeping me hooked to the action and the surprise and the romance and all of it. I LOVED this book and this series, and I can’t get it out of my head.

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

I don’t think I’ve ever met an author as talented at writing this beautifully and creating these kind of worlds so intricately than Leigh Bardugo. Seriously. The kind of fantasy she creates, the characters, the worlds, the way they all weave together to create the story…it just completely hooks me. Its emotional and real and its gripping because you can feel everything in the story as if you stepped through the pages. Leigh takes the world she created in the Grisha trilogy and opens it up wider, further, and pulls us into a new story, and its not hard to fall into it. I loved each and every character, I loved the story and I feel like I’m never going to fail to be impressed by this lady.

Scorched by Jennifer L Armentrout

I didn’t expect for this book to be on this list. I didn’t expect to love this book as much as I did. I love Jennifer Armentrout and I’ve learned this year to love love love her new adult books. I loved Frigid but I took it as what it was and was excited for Scorched. I was so unprepared for what that book would do to me. Scorched’s main character, Andrea, suffers through mental illness, mental illness that is very very similar to my own and it felt…so real, so raw, so emotional to read the point of view of someone who felt so much like I do. I cried a lot because I felt like JLA had given me a voice, when it felt too hard to describe how I felt…especially when she described a panic attack. I kept thinking, YES, that’s how it feels. So yes, I loved the story and the romance and all of that but I also loved Andrea, and her struggle and JLA’s ability to put my feelings into words.

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What were some of YOUR favorite reads of 2015? Don’t forget to sound off in the comments!

Book Review: Flamecaster (ARC) by Cinda Williams Chima

This review is based on an advanced reader’s copy of the novel obtained through Edelweiss. This is in no way had an effect on the integrity of my review. Please note that published novel will differ from this ARC.

Genre: 

Young Adult, adiposity Fantasy

Pages: 

544 pages

Part of a Series?:

1st of the Shattered Realms Series. This is a spin off series of the Seven Realms series

Release Date: 

April 19th, shop 2016

You Can Find the Book At:

GoodReads

Barnes and Noble

Book Depository

iBooks

Author Website

GoodReads Summary: 

Adrian sul’Han, treat known as Ash, is a trained healer with a powerful gift of magic—and a thirst for revenge. Ash is forced into hiding after a series of murders throws the queendom into chaos. Now Ash is closer than he’s ever been to killing the man responsible, the cruel king of Arden. As a healer, can Ash use his powers not to save a life but to take it?

Abandoned at birth, Jenna Bandelow was told that the mysterious magemark on the back of her neck would make her a target. But when the King’s Guard launches a relentless search for a girl with a mark like hers, Jenna assumes that it has more to do with her role as a saboteur than any birth-based curse. Though Jenna doesn’t know why she’s being hunted, she knows that she can’t get caught.

Eventually, Ash’s and Jenna’s paths will collide in Arden. Thrown together by chance and joined by their hatred of the king, they will come to rescue each other in ways they cannot yet imagine.

My Review:

I can’t even begin to explain how much I absolutely loved this book. When I saw that I was able to get my hands on an eARC…I nearly cried. This series is a spin off of my FAVORITE series by Cinda, the Seven Realms…and I knew that I was just going to love it. And sure enough I did. I don’t know why more people don’t read her because honestly, I think she has such an incredible handle on fantasy. And not just YA fantasy, but fantasy period. The world building skills that she shows in here just blow my mind. Its hard enough to build a world and make it last for four incredible books, like she does in the Seven Realms but to take that world and expand it and make it just as good, if not better, is just a skill that I could only dream of. Both Ash and Jenna are fabulous characters, one that I adore so much, and I can’t wait to read more of their stories. I like that they both are so different from Raisa and Han but they are just as compelling, just as interesting, just as addicting. They have their own paths to travel and that is what makes Cinda so good at what she does.

I think the biggest thing that I like about this book is that it has that beautiful familiarity to the world I already totally fell in love with in the previous series but it stands alone as well. It brings in new characters and new ideas, even new magic. There’s so much that is different about it and I just love it from bottom to top, beginning to end. Its a complete, beautiful story in just one book but you know that the series is only going to get more amazing as more books come out.

Rating: 

5 out of 5 Stars

September Book Wrap Up!

Books Pledged to Read in 2015:

150

Am I On Track: 

9 books behind schedule. I went slump-y again

Books Read So Far: 

103

Total Books For September: 

6

Moving Target

Flamecaster (ARC)

Stand Off

Fangirl – ReRead

Dumplin’ 

The Fifteenth Minute

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Tuesday Top Ten – Underrated YA Book Series

So I was  browsing around Facebook yesterday when I came across a Buzzfeed article about the 29 Underrated YA Book Series. Of course I had to click on it.

And while I love several of the choices on that list, no rx I thought, try I should do my own list. There are GREAT series on there, but a lot of them aren’t what I would call underrated or unnoticed. Percy Jackson? Huge. HUGE. And they got two movies. Infernal Devices? Again. HUGE. All Souls? Incredibly popular and not YA right? I don’t know to be honest, I haven’t read them. I know they aren’t shelved with YA. The Chicken Soup series? Didn’t everyone have those when I was in middle school/high school? And so on.

So that brings us to today’s Tuesday Top Ten…my favorite YA series that just don’t get enough attention. Which is why I’m talking about them. So they get more attention. Because I’m just awesome that way.

Let’s do this.

Oh, I’ll add one more thing. All of these get GREAT reviews, and have received an abundance of praise and accolades and all the huge reviewers and all that love them. By “underrated” I mean, by the masses that tend to enjoy YA. The people that don’t much more than Hunger Games and Divergent and that sort of thing.

Moving on…

10. The Across the Universe Trilogy by Beth Revis

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I love love love this series. Beth Revis takes humanity, sticks them on a space ship and gets them lost for centuries. Humanity has basically all but disappeared on this ship until one of the humans who was supposed to be frozen until they arrive at this “new” earth awakes…and chaos and romance and all sorts of things erupt. Its fantastic. There is just SO much about this series that is so good. I have a hard time finding people who have read it and I get so excited when I do!

9. The Covenant Series by Jennifer L. Armentrout

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So JLA was on this BuzzFeed list, but with the Lux series. That series, the Wait for You series and the Dark Elements series…they’re all fairly popular. They are the ones that I feel like people talk about when it comes to JLA. But my absolute favorite of her series is hands down The Covenant series. SO freakin good! Alex and Aidan are hot as hell, they have a steamy and intense and fun romance, and their world is chaotic and full of action and drama and …more intensity. And its Greek mythology with a new twist and I love every single bit of it.

8. The Mediator Series by Meg Cabot

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Meg Cabot is not exactly underrated but she has so many series that often times some of them get lost underneath the ones she’s really known for like The Princess Diaries. This is one of my absolute favorites by her. It has ghosts! And a girl who likes to beat them up when they don’t want to cooperate. And a super hot Spanish ghost that’s a really great kisser. Its just awesome. The entire series is just SO flippin good. Meg manages to write this amazing paranormal romance that also makes you laugh again and again and again.

7. The Seven Realms Series by Cinda Williams Chima

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This series was actually on the list and it was one of the few that I really agreed should be on this list. I first picked up this list when my ex told me to pick out a book and I thought the cover was beautiful and then I proceeded to consume the entire series in a matter of days. Its so beautifully written and it has everything you could want in a book. It has romance and action and politics and action and humor and discovery and uncertainty and god…everything. I can’t speak highly enough of this series. Its legitimately one of my favorites ever.

6. The Gemma Doyle Trilogy by Libba Bray

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UGH. God. This series. I’m meeting Libba for the first time this weekend at YALL West, and I legit can’t handle that kind of pressure. I’m going to cry or something. I actually accidentally picked up the second book first (whoops) but rectified and continued on to enjoy this beautiful trilogy. It takes place in Victorian English countryside at a boarding school that is hiding all sorts of secrets. Its so dark but funny at the same time and its full of a new kind of magic and I love every bit of it. I need a re-read of this soon actually…

5. The Girl of Fire and Thorns Series by Rae Carson

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Let’s put it this way: I would not drive all the way to Vegas (about a 4 to 5 hour drive) just to meet her for one day if I didn’t think this series was that amazing. What makes this great is that its this sort of Chosen One story but the Chosen One is the last person you’d expect. Elisa is fat and uncertain and unsure and you kind sit there and think, her? Really? But its just so great. And the world building and the magic and the evolution of the main character throughout the three books…my little book loving heart just can’t handle the beauty of this trilogy.

4. The Song of the Lioness Quartet by Tamora Pierce

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There WAS a series by Tammy on the list but I chose this one for a huge reason: its the first series of the epicness of the Tortall world. The one they chose is the third one and kind of…spoils the first two series for sure. haha. Plus let’s face it…Tammy has a handle on this YA fantasy since the early 80s and just not enough people are reading her. She’s amazing. Her writing, the characters she creates, the way she manages to keep the world of Tortall alive after so many decades…its impossible not to absolutely love her. This series is about a girl who disguises her gender for YEARS in order to become a knight, and then basically does whatever the hell she wants once everyone finds out. YES. I want to shove all of her books down all of your throats. Sorry. Not really.

3. The Airhead Trilogy by Meg Cabot

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Why, yes, I did pick two Meg Cabot series. This is another one that kind of disappears when it comes to Meg. But its legitimately my favorite. Besides Princess Diaries. Because its just SO weird and bizarre and I love it. Em Watts dies…but not really. At the same time as her body dies, supermodel Nikki Howard as a brain aneurysm. Doctors save her life by implanting her brain into Nikki’s body, but she has to live her life as Nikki and no one can know that she was once Em. Its seriously the most bizarre thing ever, especially once you realize there’s so much more to it than meets the eye. And its just straight up hilarious.

2. The Unremembered Trilogy by Jessica Brody

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The finale of this trilogy just released less than two months ago and I’m still reeling from it. I can barely express my emotions about it. Sigh. Anyway. This is a series that’s absolutely incredible and seriously does NOT get enough credit. I want to see more of those purple books in people’s hands. Seriously. I can’t even explain how great this trilogy is. Its like…Bourne Identity but with a super badass girl instead of Matt Damon and it has superhumans called Ex-Gens and time travel and cool technology and romance and action and its just amazing. There are not nearly enough people reading it and you guys need to be reading it. Now. Go.

1. The Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo

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I love Leigh from the bottom of my heart to the tip top of my head all the way to my little toes. She’s AMAZING and her series just proves that. She has had SUCH success with it, but its nothing to the extend that a ton of people know about it and I want to change that. Her trilogy is perfection and its such a great example of how AMAZING YA fantasy…and YA in general…can be. She’s a terrific writer and a fabulous storyteller. This is another series that needs a re-read soon because now all I can think about is how much I love these books!

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NaNoWriMo 2014: Actual Writing Advice from Actual Authors!

Hello everyone!

I am so so so so SO excited to be sharing in this post today.

I talk about writing and writing advice a lot when it comes to the blog and my aspiring career as a writer. I am lucky enough that I get to interact with authors on a daily basis, side effects whether over the internet or in person, buy more about and I’ve met SO many inspiring ones that have given me such amazing advice. The advice and guidance that I’ve received over the past two years as whatanerdgirlsays has been so helpful in my journey to becoming a better writer.

Now, I have a goal of 45K words for NaNoWriMo but my biggest goal is to really nail down my character and her development over the course of the story. Evie is my main character and Untitled (it will have a title one day, I promise…) is her story. Its her story in the past, when she’s 15 years old, and its her story in the present, at 19 years old. Both important, and it takes a lot of development. She’s going to develop in both stories and its a little overwhelming but I believe in her and my story.

So when I started planning my NaNoWriMo schedule on the blog, I knew that I wanted a post about writing and writing advice and I wanted to reach out to the authors that I’ve met over the past two years and ask for their assistance in creating and developing characters.

I hope you enjoy. Every single piece of advice of below is unique to this post. Each author was contacted individually and responded individually. There’s seriously awesome, quality advice down there, and I am so grateful for each and every single one of these authors for participating and helping out!

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Jessica Brody, author of The Unremembered Trilogy

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When first fleshing out a new main character, I like to start by asking myself one question: What motivates this person. Is it power? Ambition? Love? Idealism? Reason? This helps me begin to narrow down who this person is and how they think/respond to situations. Someone who is motivated by power is going to react very differently in a crisis than someone who is motivated by feeling loved. The second question I ask myself is “What does this character want?” And I don’t mean after the book has started. What do they want BEFORE the first page even begins. It always needs to be something tangible and concrete. Like to win a sports championship. To make it onto a team. To graduate valedictorian. This immediately focuses the story around a central goal. It gives the story direction and purpose before the plot has even begun. When your character’s goals are clear, the reader is more likely to come along for the ride.

Elana K. Arnold, author of the Sacred duology and Burning

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When I was a younger writer, I used to disbelieve it when I’d hear people talk about their characters surprising them, their characters heading off in directions they hadn’t planned. Impossible, I’d think. Your characters ARE YOU. They can’t disobey you… they aren’t REAL. For me, characters were like dolls that I bounced around from situation to situation.

I think that’s why I had a hard time completing a project, or even falling deeply in love with one. There was no RISK if I walked away from a story, no real LOSS. Honestly, I don’t know what changed. I think I got older. (Actually, I know I got older.) But over time, I started to become surprised when a plotted-out scene or chapter took a turn away from my outline. Pleasantly surprised.

With INFANDOUS, which will be published in March 2015, plot took a backseat to following around Sephora Golding, my main character, and seeing what she would do. Try this–give your character a secret, and then see where it takes you.

Livia Blackburne, author of Midnight Thief

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I’ve found it useful to have all my characters tell their life story and narrate the events of the novel itself in their own voice, with their own commentary.

Katherine Ewell, author of Dear Killer

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My main tip in character development is this: make your main character at least a little bit unlikeable. However, no matter how unlikeable said main character is, your reader has to root for them anyway. The easiest way to make a reader like an unlikeable character is to show said character’s weakness and humanity right off the bat: their fears, their likes, their dislikes, what makes them cry, what comforts them, etc. And you can go pretty far with how unlikeable they are at the surface level, take it from someone who knows! Some of the most vivid, fun characters out there are severely messed up. (Take a look at Game of Thrones for tons of great examples.) I feel as if the worst thing you could do in character creation is make a character that has no flaws, or has too few flaws: it is in their flaws that characters and their stories come alive.

Cora Carmack, author of the Losing It series and Rusk University series 

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When it comes to characterization, I rely pretty heavily on the idea that my main character’s desire should shape the plot, instead of the plot shaping my main character. I don’t want my MC to be just a cog in the bigger mechanism of the story. I want them being the one *making* the machine move, rather than just being a component of it. When I was studying theatre in college, we took a lot of time talking about our character’s objectives and motivations – asking “What does this character want? How will they get it?” and things like that – and that has continued to inform the way I shape my characters.

Tonya Kuper, author of Anomaly

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Every character, especially the main character, has to have a GMC – Goal, Motivation, & Conflict – in relation to the plot. I usually have a pretty good picture of my characters before I start plotting, but after the GMC is decided, I know what matters to them, which, in my mind, is the most important thing to know about her main character.

Victoria Scott, author of Fire and Flood and The Collector

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I often use friends and family members when creating characters. I note people’s real life quirks and incorporate them into my fictional world. For example, my husband points to what he wants on a menu when ordering. It doesn’t matter if it’s a difficult-to-pronounce dish, or french fires…that man is holding up the menu for the waitress to see, and pointing to his selection. As if she needs to see the item to understand. No matter how many times I call this to his attention, he still does it. That quirk will probably show up in one of my characters to make them more memorable. My advice is to watch the people around you, and keep notes on your phone.

Sara Benincasa, author of Great

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You have to love your main character. Even if you hate your main character sometimes, you have to love her. Because if you don’t love her, you won’t want to spend the time it takes to churn out 50,000 or more words centered around her. You don’t need to love her choices. You don’t need to love her attitude. But you do need to love her, somehow, in some corner of your soul

Catherine Linka, author of A Girl Called Fearless

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Getting a handle on a character can be pretty haphazard, because we might start out not really knowing them at all. One thing that helps me is finding an object that captures my character. I knew Yates wore tee shirts with quotes, but when I found Thoreau’s quote– “Let your life be the counter friction to stop the machine”–it hit me that was exactly what Yates believed and who he was at heart. In the sequel to A Girl Called Fearless, it was a scary religious tattoo that nailed the character of a new antagonist and suggested his unbalanced righteousness.

CJ Redwine, author of the Defiance trilogy

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If YOU aren’t connected to your characters, no one else will be connected either. Characters aren’t scenery to populate your world. This includes secondary characters. Characters aren’t pawns to use in playing out your conflict. Characters CREATE conflict. Connection takes time and effort, just like it does in real life. Take the time to get to know your characters on an intimate level. Find out what their deepest fear is, what they most regret, what they truly want more than anything, and the secret they hope no one discovers.

Lauren Oliver, author of the Delirium Trilogy, Before I Fall and Panic

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Do some work to understand what your character wants, and what your character needs, and how these might be different. Think about your character’s formative memories. How does he/she react under pressure? When frightened? What does she like to do for fun? What are her nervous habits? Where does she go to recharge? You have to know your character the way you know your best friend.

Gretchen McNeil, author of Ten, Possess, 3:59 and Get Even

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I start with the plot, actually, and the role of my main character in the story. What part does she need to play? What type of person does she need to be so that all of her choices are realistically motivated? Her personality is shaped by the plot, and once I know the core of that, I can begin to layer in the idiosyncracies of character: how she dresses, what she likes to eat, what songs on Pandora make her want to sing along or change the channel, and how she feels about everyone around her. Voila! Character!

Lindsay Cummings, author of The Murder Complex

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Characters are my favorite part of a book. Everyone is different…but I always start with a character, and build my world around him/her. For me, the best way to develop my characters and get to know them is to interview them–as if they were real people. I find that, even the silliest questions will give you a glimpse into who each character is, and what motivates them.

Bethany Hagen, author of Landry Park

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One of my favorite tricks for developing a character is to make a character sheet before I get started. I use these sheets to help me keep track of a character’s physical attributes (and I might even attach a picture of an actor or model to help me visualize the character.) And I also use these sheets to develop a character’s personality traits: their likes and dislikes, their hopes and dreams, their past mistakes. Not only is it a useful tool for conceiving of a character, but it makes a handy reference to come back to during the drafting process.

Beth Revis, author of the Across the Universe trilogy and The Body Electric

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When coming up with your main character, don’t be afraid to go into your own personality to find traits. He or she doesn’t need to be an exact replica of you, but if you have a strong emotion—a fear, a desire, a love or hate—build off that emotion to influence your characters. I was never stuck on a space ship alone, but I made Amy of Across the Universe feel alone the same way I felt alone when I had to go to college, 200 miles from home, with no one I knew near me. I never had my memories messed with like Ella in The Body Electric, but I have had relatives who were affected by Alzheimer’s Disease. Build on these real feelings you have to create realistic characters.

Mindy McGinnis, author of Not a Drop to Drink and In a Handful of Dust

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I just let my characters go, be real people within the world that I built and let them react naturally, however they want. To me, this is the most organic way of building a “real” fake person.

Marissa Meyer, author of The Lunar Chronicles

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After I’ve determined the basics of who my protagonist is (name, age, gender, job, etc.), I like to ask myself two important questions. 1: What does this character want? Giving them a goal from page one will immediately give your story somewhere to go. (Although it’s normal for that goal or desire to change over the course of the story.) And 2: What is this character afraid of? Whatever they’re most afraid of is something that they should have to face (possibly multiple times), and will therefore give them somewhere to grow.

Tamora Pierce, author of The Song of Lioness, The Immortals, and the Protector of the Small quartets and more

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The way I write a character is–usually–to start with a person I know or admire (actor, musician, professional wrestler, the character played by an actor). The look has to grab me for the vague outline of the character I need–teacher/mentor, law enforcement in a very loose era, street kid, Then I go through my baby name books till I find the right name. Once I have the right name and the right look, I generally know the character: intellectual, absent-minded, can be very sexy when he wants to be, but easily distractible, and very dangerous when crossed–that was one. Then I needed the slacker daughter of two famous over-achievers who ended up as a spy in a foreign country. I looked through my files of pictures of girls until I had three or four I thought interesting, then I waited for one to grow on me–the one with her head tipped to the side and the knowing smile. I knew she was a smart-alec, really good at flirting and dancing and being silly while taking in everything around her, a daddy’s girl who lived to make mom nuts, but underneath she needs something to fight for.

Sarah Skilton, author of High and Dry and Bruised

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In my latest book High & Dry, a Young Adult novel written in the style of a hardboiled detective mystery, Palm Valley high school students “traffic in labels.” As a result, it’s very difficult for my main character, Charlie, to break free from his perceived identity, that of a varsity soccer star with a reputation for playing rough. The problem is, Charlie’s identity is a front he projects to the world in order to survive. I needed to show both sides of his personality: that of a tough guy jock accepted by his peers, and that of a heart-broken sci-fi nerd–a trait he keeps hidden. For example, Charlie tries to win back his ex-girlfriend, Ellie, by suggesting they both take Ellie’s little brother to a sci-fi movie. In this way, he gets to show Ellie he’s a “nice guy” while also indulging his own secret hope of seeing the movie. When constructing a main character, ask yourself, “Who is this person really, and who does he/she pretend to be?” The answers may surprise you!

Cinda Williams Chima, author of The Heir Chronicles and the Seven Realms series

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After publishing nine books and writing several more, I still haven’t settled on the best way to develop character. Everything goes much more smoothly if I know the character very well from the beginning. And yet, that process of filling out a character questionnaire or deciding what he has in his pockets or dresser drawer doesn’t really work for me.

With the Seven Realms series, I knew the main characters, Han Alister, Raisa ana’Marrianna, and Micah sul’Bayar very well, because I had already written extensively about them as adults. So all I had to do was think about what they would have been like at sixteen and seventeen. Because I had their characters well in hand, story flowed more or less effortlessly.

But writing three hundred thousand words about a character before you get started on a novel isn’t really efficient, is it? So mostly, I get to know characters in the same way as we get to know people in real life–by spending time with them. In other words, I get to know them while writing my first draft. And once I decide who they are, in revision, I go back and strengthen those elements of character and make them more consistent all the way along.

That’s my process—but it may not be yours. There is more than one way to craft characters and craft story. One of the first jobs a writer must do is find out what works for them.

Crystal Perkins, author of The Griffin Brothers series

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I try to have a cover idea when I start writing. When I look at the girl and guy-I write in dual POV-I think of how they’ll speak and act. It’s nice to have something, even just a picture to look at. Then when I think of them in my head, they already have a distinct personality.

Ann Stampler, author of Where It Began and Afterparty

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You know all those cheesy drama-class moments in B movies where the teacher starts panting that the kids need to beeeeee the wind in the trees (or whatever)?  That actually has a lot in common with the way I develop main characters : method writing.  I try to see the story through the eyes of the character in a very literal way.  While I’m writing, I don’t observe the character from the outside, but I try to see what she sees.  I think this helps me to stay with the character’s feelings and emotional reactions, and to remain in her point of view.

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Tuesday Top Ten-Most Anticipated Fall Releases

Can I just say…every single time that I do a Tuesday Top Ten where I narrow down the books that I’m most excited for (insert season), check I have the hardest time doing it? I think the hardest thing is that I look up the list of YA books coming out in the next three months and I’m like “OHMYGOD, approved that’s coming out? Oh and that too? Ohmygod, I’m going to go so broke.”

That’s pretty much the conversation that occurs in my head. So naturally its hard for me to narrow it down to just ten books that I’m most excited about. I’m literally addicted to buying books. I can never stop reading.

But alas, I was able to do so, with one minor cheating moment, while I included an honorable mention. These eleven books are all hitting bookstores between now (some of them today!) and the month of November.

I recommend all of them, even the ones I haven’t read yet because I just know they are going to be fabulous and you all MUST add them to your to-be-read list.

Here we go!

Honorable Mention: Anomaly by Tonya Kuper

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What if the world isn’t what we think? What if reality is really only an illusion? What if you were one of the few who could control it?

Yeah, Josie Harper didn’t believe it, either, until strange things started happening. When this hot guy tried to kidnap her, shouting about ultimate observers and pushing and consortiums hell-bent on controlling the world… Well, that’s when things got real. Now Josie’s got it bad for a boy who weakens her every time he’s near and a world of enemies on her tail who want to control her gift, so yeah, she’s going to need more than just her wits if she hopes to survive much longer.

Einstein never saw this coming…

I met Tonya very very very briefly at the ALA conference back in July. I was in line for…Holly Black, I believe, and I passed by the Entangled booth and Tonya was just finishing up her signing. She was so sweet and obviously passionate about her debut novel that she immediately started pitching it to all of us in line. I loved that. As a girl who is working hard on her novel, and sending out queries, I could seriously appreciate that. I took some bookmarks and pens advertising her books and since then have become friends with her on FB and IG. I adore her and I am honestly SO SO SO excited for her debut novel. Entangled knows their way around good books so I have every faith that Tonya is just going to blow my mind!

Release Date: November 4th, 2014

10. Unmade by Sarah Rees Brennan

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Who will be the sacrifice?

Kami has lost the boy she loves, is tied to a boy she does not, and faces an enemy more powerful than ever before. With Jared missing for months and presumed dead, Kami must rely on her new magical link with Ash for the strength to face the evil spreading through her town.

Rob Lynburn is now the master of Sorry-in-the-Vale, and he demands a death. Kami will use every tool at her disposal to stop him. Together with Rusty, Angela, and Holly, she uncovers a secret that might be the key to saving the town. But with knowledge comes responsibility—and a painful choice. A choice that will risk not only Kami’s life, but also the lives of those she loves most.

The first time I read Unspoken, and then Untold by Sarah Rees Brennan, I was just blown away. These books are…dramatic and full of action and full of romance and they’re dark and sexy and funny and they’re everything I would have wanted in a book. I hadn’t been massively impressed with her before this but these books sold me on her. I’ll marry her, wine her, dine her, whatever, because she gave me this absolutely incredible series. I’m counting down the days to get my hands on this finale because I’m just DYING to find out what happens next!

Release Date: September 23rd, 2014

9. Trial by Fire by Josephine Angelini

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This world is trying to kill Lily Proctor. Her life-threatening allergies keep her from enjoying experiences that others in her hometown of Salem take for granted, which is why she is determined to enjoy her first high school party with her best friend and longtime crush, Tristan. But after a humiliating incident in front of half her graduating class, Lily wishes she could just disappear.

Suddenly, Lily is in a different Salem—one overrun with horrifying creatures and ruled by powerful women called Crucibles. Strongest and cruelest of them all is Lillian . . . Lily’s other self in this alternate universe.

What makes Lily weak at home is what makes her extraordinary in New Salem. In this confusing world, Lily is torn between responsibilities she can’t hope to shoulder alone and a love she never expected.

Okay, I admit it. I’ve already read this. In fact, I read this in my hotel room in Vegas when I was there for the ALA conference where I picked up a copy of this novel. And I absolutely loved it. It was so beautifully written and the characters were so rich and the magical element was so dark and unexpected and I just loved it. She blew me away with it. I was about halfway done with it and I went up to her at ALA and was like, “I can’t wait to get back to my hotel to finish it!” So now I’m excited to get my hands on an actual copy of the novel, and to see her again on Thursday to tell her how much I absolutely adored it and can’t wait for the next one!

Release Date: Today!

8. Get Even by Gretchen McNeil

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The Breakfast Club meets Pretty Little Liars in Gretchen McNeil’s witty and suspenseful novel about four disparate girls who join forces to take revenge on high school bullies and create dangerous enemies for themselves in the process. 

Bree, Olivia, Kitty, and Margot have nothing in common—at least that’s what they’d like the students and administrators of their elite private school to think. The girls have different goals, different friends, and different lives, but they share one very big secret: They’re all members of Don’t Get Mad, a secret society that anonymously takes revenge on the school’s bullies, mean girls, and tyrannical teachers.

When their latest target ends up dead with a blood-soaked “DGM” card in his hands, the girls realize that they’re not as anonymous as they thought—and that someone now wants revenge on them. Soon the clues are piling up, the police are closing in . . . and everyone has something to lose.

Another novel that I’ve already read :) I tracked down (read: stalked) Gretchen at WonderCon because she said she had an ARC of this with her and she’d give it to the first person who found her. Which happened to be me. Because I kind of stalked her. But I was SO excited about this book. The Breakfast Club meets Pretty Little Liars? Gretchen kept saying how much John Hughes, and his movies and the music from said movies influenced the book and I just had to read it. And I loved it so much. SO wicked. I can’t wait to get my hands on a real copy of this baby!

Release Date: September 16th, 2014

7. In a Handful of Dust by Mindy McGinnis 

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The only thing bigger than the world is fear.

Lucy’s life by the pond has always been full. She has water and friends, laughter and the love of her adoptive mother, Lynn, who has made sure that Lucy’s childhood was very different from her own. Yet it seems Lucy’s future is settled already—a house, a man, children, and a water source—and anything beyond their life by the pond is beyond reach.

When disease burns through their community, the once life-saving water of the pond might be the source of what’s killing them now. Rumors of desalinization plants in California have lingered in Lynn’s mind, and the prospect of a “normal” life for Lucy sets the two of them on an epic journey west to face new dangers: hunger, mountains, deserts, betrayal, and the perils of a world so vast that Lucy fears she could be lost forever, only to disappear in a handful of dust.

I had wanted to read the first novel of this series so badly for so long but for some reason, just could never convince myself to pick it up at the bookstore. Finally, I received as a gift and on the day it arrived in the mail…I finished it. I was blown away by Mindy’s story and the gritty survival aspect of it and all the love that it encompassed, which surprised me. There was romantic love and familial love and the discovery of both and I just loved it. This novel is more a companion than a sequel though I do recommend reading the first book before this, and I’m just dying to read it. I’ve downloaded the eARC, which I got through edelweiss, but I’ve been kind of not feeling the Nook lately so I can’t wait to get my hands on a hard copy!

Release Date: September 23rd, 2014

6. The Young Elites by Marie Lu

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Adelina Amouteru is a survivor of the blood fever. A decade ago, the deadly illness swept through her nation. Most of the infected perished, while many of the children who survived were left with strange markings. Adelina’s black hair turned silver, her lashes went pale, and now she has only a jagged scar where her left eye once was. Her cruel father believes she is a malfetto, an abomination, ruining their family’s good name and standing in the way of their fortune. But some of the fever’s survivors are rumored to possess more than just scars—they are believed to have mysterious and powerful gifts, and though their identities remain secret, they have come to be called the Young Elites.

Teren Santoro works for the king. As Leader of the Inquisition Axis, it is his job to seek out the Young Elites, to destroy them before they destroy the nation. He believes the Young Elites to be dangerous and vengeful, but it’s Teren who may possess the darkest secret of all.

Enzo Valenciano is a member of the Dagger Society. This secret sect of Young Elites seeks out others like them before the Inquisition Axis can. But when the Daggers find Adelina, they discover someone with powers like they’ve never seen.

Adelina wants to believe Enzo is on her side, and that Teren is the true enemy. But the lives of these three will collide in unexpected ways, as each fights a very different and personal battle. But of one thing they are all certain: Adelina has abilities that shouldn’t belong in this world. A vengeful blackness in her heart. And a desire to destroy all who dare to cross her.

It is my turn to use. My turn to hurt

That is the longest synopsis EVER. Ohmygod. Sorry about that. Oh well. It gives you quite a nice idea on what the book is going to be about, which I can say with the highest authority is ABSOLUTELY brilliant. Marie Lu  blew my mind when I picked up Legend about two years ago and she’s doing it again with this book. Absolutely incredible. I got my hands on an ARC at ALA, the last one, and I was so giddy and excited that as soon as I finished Trial by Fire, I immediately started this one and finished it just as quickly. Its so much darker than Legend and I love how its in this completely fictional world and it really does feel like a mix of Assassin’s Creed and XMen, in the best way possible.

Release Date: October 7th, 2014

5. Heir of Fire by Sarah J Maas

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Lost and broken, Celaena Sardothien’s only thought is to avenge the savage death of her dearest friend: as the King of Adarlan’s Assassin, she is bound to serve this tyrant, but he will pay for what he did. Any hope Celaena has of destroying the king lies in answers to be found in Wendlyn. Sacrificing his future, Chaol, the Captain of the King’s Guard, has sent Celaena there to protect her, but her darkest demons lay in that same place. If she can overcome them, she will be Adarlan’s biggest threat – and his own toughest enemy. 

While Celaena learns of her true destiny, and the eyes of Erilea are on Wendlyn, a brutal and beastly force is preparing to take to the skies. Will Celaena find the strength not only to win her own battles, but to fight a war that could pit her loyalties to her own people against those she has grown to love?

I feel terrible because I’ve had this ARC since July and this released today and I have NOT read it yet. I’ve started it multiple times but I’m just kind of addicted to contemporary novels right now so its been an ordeal. That being said though, I’m excited for this because I NEED to know what happens next and I hope my desire for fantasy kicks in VERY soon. I’ll be seeing Sarah on the 13th and I want to be able to talk about the book with her! Its HUGE and daunting and I saw it at the bookstore last night (oooh, out a day early…) and I just was blown away at how large it is. I’ve got my ARC and I’ll have my hands on a physical copy VERY soon and I’ll be ready to dive in!

Release Date: Today!

4. The Sorcerer Heir by Cinda Williams Chima

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The delicate peace between Wizards and the underguilds (Warriors, Seers, Enchanters, and Sorcerers) still holds by the thinnest of threads, but powerful forces inside and outside the guilds threaten to sever it completely.

Emma and Jonah are at the center of it all. Brought together by their shared history, mutual attraction, and a belief in the magic of music, they now stand to be torn apart by new wounds and old betrayals. As they struggle to rebuild their trust in each other, Emma and Jonah must also find away to clear their names as the prime suspects in aseries of vicious murders. It seems more and more likely that the answers they need lie buried in the tragedies of the past. The question is whether they can survive long enough to unearth them. 

AGH. I literally can’t HANDLE how excited I am for this book. I’ve searched all over for ARCs and eARCS and its been impossible and its truly bumming me out that I’ll have to wait until NEXT MONTH to read this book. Cinda Chima has a handle on this fantasy thing and as soon as I read The Demon King about two years ago, I was completely sold on her as one of my favorite authors. The Enchanter Heir was absolutely incredible and left me basically panting for this one so I’m glad its finally getting closer to releasing! I believe that the Heir Chronicles is finally coming to a close with this novel so I’m excited to see how it all wraps together. And then I will go into a despair because I’m not sure when her next book will be released!

Release Date: October 21st, 2014

3. The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey

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How do you rid the Earth of seven billion humans? Rid the humans of their humanity.

Surviving the first four waves was nearly impossible. Now Cassie Sullivan finds herself in a new world, a world in which the fundamental trust that binds us together is gone. As the 5th Wave rolls across the landscape, Cassie, Ben, and Ringer are forced to confront the Others’ ultimate goal: the extermination of the human race.

Cassie and her friends haven’t seen the depths to which the Others will sink, nor have the Others seen the heights to which humanity will rise, in the ultimate battle between life and death, hope and despair, love and hate.

People ask all the time who influenced me for The Awakened. Now the list is really long because I’m inspired by SO many authors and people but a huge influence on the story, the way it was written and that sort of thing, comes from this book right here. I had heard about it and finally picked it up. It took a bit to get into because it starts off a bit slow but once I was hooked, I was just so addicted. He writes incredibly real science fiction stories with such human characters and I just love it. I’m literally DYING to read the next book, and my search for an ARC has proved quite fruitless! But its coming out soon so I’m just waiting anxiously for it!

Release Date: September 16th 2014

2. The Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan

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Though the Greek and Roman crewmembers of the Argo II have made progress in their many quests, they still seem no closer to defeating the earth mother, Gaea. Her giants have risen—all of them—and they’re stronger than ever. They must be stopped before the Feast of Spes, when Gaea plans to have two demigods sacrificed in Athens. She needs their blood—the blood of Olympus—in order to wake.

The demigods are having more frequent visions of a terrible battle at Camp Half-Blood. The Roman legion from Camp Jupiter, led by Octavian, is almost within striking distance. Though it is tempting to take the Athena Parthenos to Athens to use as a secret weapon, the friends know that the huge statue belongs back on Long Island, where it “might” be able to stop a war between the two camps.

The Athena Parthenos will go west; the Argo II will go east. The gods, still suffering from multiple personality disorder, are useless. How can a handful of young demigods hope to persevere against Gaea’s army of powerful giants? As dangerous as it is to head to Athens, they have no other option. They have sacrificed too much already. And if Gaea wakes, it is game over.

My excitement for this book has tripled into interstellar lengths because he’ll be heading to California to promote this book which means I can meet him for the first time ever, which means I’m basically dying of excitement. Its the end…FOREVER. No more Percy after this. Its done, over, completed. This is the culmination of years, the Olympians and the Heroes of Olympus and its huge and daunting and I don’t know whats going to happen or who is going to survive or who is going to live or what ships will sail or sink and its driving me mad! I need to know what happens next! I’m nervous and anxious and both ready and not for the end! Its going to be interesting. 

Release Date: October 7th 2014

1. 100 Sideways Miles by Andrew Smith

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Finn Easton sees the world through miles instead of minutes. It’s how he makes sense of the world, and how he tries to convince himself that he’s a real boy and not just a character in his father’s bestselling cult-classic book. Finn has two things going for him: his best friend, the possibly-insane-but-definitely-excellent Cade Hernandez, and Julia Bishop, the first girl he’s ever loved.

Then Julia moves away, and Finn is heartbroken. Feeling restless and trapped in the book, Finn embarks on a road trip with Cade to visit their college of choice in Oklahoma. When an unexpected accident happens and the boys become unlikely heroes, they take an eye-opening detour away from everything they thought they had planned—and learn how to write their own destiny.

I can say with complete authority that this book absolutely blew my mind. Absolutely. Blew. My. Mind. I got my hands on an ARC of this ages ago, and was super excited to get my hands on a physical ARC at ALA so that I could reread it before it came out. If you’ve read a book by Andrew before, you know what to expect. If you haven’t, then pick this one up, read it and then come back to me so I can tell you all the other books to read. This book has come out today so its hardly anticipated because you can literally go out to a bookstore at this very moment and pick it up but its number one because its just absolutely brilliant and you need to go out right now at this very moment and pick it up. If there’s one book you buy this fall, make it this one.

Release Date: Today!

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What books are you looking forward to this fall? Share them in the comments!