2016 in Books

It’s that time of year again! Here’s what I’ve been reading in 2016.



A pretty similar spread to last year’s!

And of course, my favorite part. Book awards! Note that these are for books I read in 2016, not books that were published in 2016.

Favorite Book Boyfriend: Sebastian Braddock from These Vicious Masks by Tarun Shankar and Kelly Zekas

Honorable mentions: Ben West from The Only Thing Worse than Me is You by Lily Anderson, Kashmir from The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig, and Pete Russell from The Bridge by Jill Cox

Character I want to be friends with: Kady Grant from Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Honorable Mentions: Mori from Lock & Mori by Heather Petty and Liv from All the Feels by Danika Stone

Awesome Antagonist: The Darkling from Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Interesting Non-fiction: The Port Chicago 50 by Steve Sheinkin

Honorable Mentions: Paper Hearts: Some Publishing Advice by Beth Revis, Conversions: Two Family Stories from the Reformation and Modern America by Craig Harline and The Physics of Superheroes by James Kakalios

Cover Love:

The Reader by Tracie Chee


Honorable Mentions:

Truthwitch by Susan Dennard


Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova


Burning Glass by Kathryn Purdie


Here’s to another great year for books. Looking forward to 2017!


YA Recs: Funny in Farsi

Funny in Farsi by Firoozeh Dumas



Funny in Farsi is Firoozeh Dumas’s autobiographical account of growing up Iranian in America. Dumas tells stories of her family’s immigration to the US in the 1970s.

Why I liked it:

True to the title, this book is funny. I particularly like the way Dumas casts her family. We really get to know them and enjoy their unique personalities.

YA Recs: The Geek’s Guide to Unrequited Love

The Geek’s Guide to Unrequited Love by Sarvenaz Tash



Graham has been in love with his best friend, Roxy, for years. When their favorite comic writer comes to comic con, Graham decides to use the special occasion to declare his love for Roxy. However, Graham’s carefully laid schemes soon go awry, leaving him wondering if a geek boy can ever really get the girl.

Why I loved it:

First of all, I’ve been very into YA contemporary that deals with geek culture lately. Mainly, though, I loved this book because I fell in love with the characters. Graham is an absolute sweetheart and the type of guy I would totally date. I also love that Graham’s story manages to simultaneously feel epic and realistic.

YA Recs: Dark Sons

Dark Sons by Nikki Grimes



Sam feels betrayed when his father leaves him and his mother to marry another woman. He struggles with his faith and his father’s devotion to his new family. Sam’s story is paralleled by the Biblical account of Ishmael.

Why I loved it:

This novel is written in verse, and I think that element is well done. Although I have never been in a situation like Ishmael and Sam’s, I was able to feel deeply for their challenges. The book provides believable dynamic characters, and I loved seeing how the characters progressed over the course of the book.

YA Recs: The Girl from Everywhere

The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig



Nix and her father can sail across time and space. They can go anywhere and anytime they have a map for. However, they can’t return to Honolulu 1868—the time and place where Nix’s mother died. In a desperate attempt to get back to his love, Nix’s father agrees to a dangerous conspiracy.

Why I loved it:

I kind of think of the premise of this book like teenage Doctor Who if the T.A.R.D.I.S. was actually a pirate ship. Basically, this book had all the elements I look for in a good story. A likable protagonist with strong and believable motivations. An intriguing premise. Conspiracy and plotting. Also a ridiculously hot thief who is just icing on the cake.

P2P Tips from Despina Karras

Today I’m excited to have Despina Karras guest blogging for me. Despina was one of my picks during the last round of Pitch to Publication. I asked her to share some of her wisdom with you guys. Here’s what she had to say.

Pitch to Publication was a great experience for me. My manuscript was selected by THE most awesome editor ever, Kyra Nelson (I’m not biased—she’s seriously amazing) and together we worked on revisions for a little over a month. I now have a stronger manuscript, wonderful new friends (including Kyra), and more confidence in my writing and revisions.

What a lot of people don’t know is I entered Pitch to Publication a year ago and ultimately wasn’t selected, so I’ve been on both sides of the contest results. There’s so much to gain by entering, even if you aren’t selected, so I highly encourage it. I hope some of the following advice will be helpful to you.

-Be prepared.

You only need a query and sample pages to enter Pitch to Publication, but make sure your entire manuscript is completely polished and you have a synopsis ready to go.  When I entered I was asked for a partial soon after the entry window closed and a synopsis shortly before editor selections were made. Editors could ask for materials at any time.

-Don’t stress.

So you made the entry dateline. Great! Now what? Well, if you’re anything like me you’ll probably stalk your selected editors’ Twitter accounts to see what they’re saying about the submissions they’re getting. While it’s incredibly fun to do this (not to mention informative) don’t let the feeds consume you. You can drive yourself crazy wondering if every tweet is about your entry. There’s a wealth of knowledge in the editors’ tweets—just don’t take each one personally.

-Make friends.

While it’s always great meeting new people, other Pitch to Publication participants are in your shoes. They’re feeling what you’re feeling. Connecting with them is a great way to see you’re not alone. When my manuscript was selected one of the other mentees started a group for us. To this day, this group has been one of my biggest support systems. You can also find great CPs this way.

-Be courteous.

It’s a great feeling when an editor asks to see more of your work. You have every right to be happy about it. Have yourself a little dance party, tell your closest friends—but don’t brag about it on social media. For one thing, a request doesn’t guarantee your manuscript will be selected. But more importantly there are going to be so many writers who don’t receive requests and, simply, it just isn’t nice to flaunt you got one.

If your manuscript isn’t selected but an editor has taken the time to give you feedback, PLEASE thank them. They’re busy people just like you and me so it’s really nice when they take time to give advice. I received feedback from an editor last year when I didn’t make it in and it was invaluable during revisions.

-Get ready to work hard.

If an editor chooses your manuscript, CONGRATULATIONS! Soak it all in, then prepare yourself for lots of work. When Kyra and I first talked edits, she asked if I would be comfortable with cutting 30K words from my 93K manuscript. I’ll be honest – when I read that message I had a slight panic attack. But after a little (okay, a LOT) of freaking out and consideration, I told her I’d do it. The editors want their mentees to succeed, so trust them. Take a day and let their suggestions sink in, and I promise they won’t seem as intimidating. Just don’t be surprised if you’re asked to trim a third of your book or get rid of a character. I had to do both.

-Know this may not be the end of the road.

Ideally, I’d love to say I have a literary agent after participating in Pitch to Publication. That’s not the case. Most of the mentees in my class don’t have representation yet. You may wonder why I’d encourage people to enter the contest if I didn’t get an agent from it. The fact is, after working with Kyra, my manuscript has never been stronger. I queried shortly after Pitch to Publication and received so many partial and full requests. One request has even led to a second round revise and resubmit. I can’t promise you’ll get an offer of representation during this contest, but I CAN promise your manuscript will look great and be more appealing to agents.

Good luck to everyone entering! I hope you have an experience as rewarding as mine.

YA Recs: The Port Chicago 50

The Port Chicago 50 by Steve Sheinkin



Sheinkin recounts the tragic 1944 explosion on the Port Chicago military base. In the aftermath, Navy crew members fight against unsafe working conditions and discriminatory practices, despite being charged with mutiny and facing possible execution.

Why I Loved It:

Sheinkin has one numerous awards for his work, and it’s not hard to see why. He has a way of sifting through mountains of historical commentary and picking out just the right bits of history to tell a compelling story. He also excels at layering his story in context. This book is chilling in its depiction of the injustice faced by the men whose story it tells. It’s also incredibly inspiring to read of the courage the men displayed in fighting for their cause. Finally, I appreciate Sheinkin’s ability to make historical events relevant to modern readers.