Tag Archives: YA

Chapter Seven of The Gold in the Dark and a Writing Update!

The seventh chapter of The Gold in the Dark drops today! If you need to catch up on past chapters, no problem, since you can do that right here. New chapters post every other Sunday at 11 AM EST, each one accompanied by a beautiful, custom illustration.

These past two weeks have all been social media work in preparation for Specter. I have a brand spanking new Instagram (@katiejanegallagher), where I post bookish stuff and dog stuff. (Did you guys know that I have a boxer dog? And that she is the naughtiest, cutest dog ever?) I’ve been pretty anti-social media in the past, but Instagram feels different to me somehow—less drama-filled, a lot happier. Plus I really like how it’s such an easy, fun way to connect with other artists, writers, and small business owners. So I’m having fun with Instagram, even though I’m a bit of a noob. 😉

Also, we are so close to a cover reveal that I can taste it. (Eeeeeee!!!!!!) If anyone is interested in an ARC, drop me a line.

Finally, I want to give a big, huge thank you to Joanna Penn, whom I don’t know personally but has been a big help to me in the last few weeks as I get closer and closer to Specter‘s release. For any authors out there, especially indie authors,she has a podcast called The Creative Penn that is just filled to bursting with writing and publishing advice. Every time I listen to her show I’m inspired by her energy and enthusiasm for all things independent publishing. Highly, highly recommend—and as an added bonus, her voice is incredible.

And that’s all from me! Have a good rest of your weekend, and enjoy Chapter Seven!

ARC: Serious Moonlight by Jenn Bennett

Thank you to NetGalley and Simon Pulse/Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing for sending me a free advanced reader copy of this book for an honest review. Serious Moonlight debuts April 16th.

You know when you see a perfect cover, and you think to yourself, well, the book can’t possibly live up to THAT, could it? They’re compensating for something, right? Well, banish those fears—Serious Moonlight is a cozy contemporary that pairs an adorable romance with memorable characters and a Pacific Northwest setting. In my opinion, this book is exactly what new adult should be: kids post-high school taking their first steps into “adulting,” with sex present, but not in an erotic way. It has a YA contemporary voice, but the MCs are just a tad bit older. I also truly appreciated how Bennett placed her characters in a non-school setting. I’ve heard so many calls from people in publishing asking for manuscripts featuring MCs navigating college, and I’m just… not really interested in that?

The pitch is that the MC, Birdie, hooked up with a cute guy in his car, then totally freaked out and literally ran away from him. She’s doing her best to forget all this… but then said cute guy, Daniel, happens to work at her new job. Gotta be fate, right? But both Birdie and Daniel are going to have to work through a lot of things before they can get their happily ever after. Oh, and there’s a “mystery” in the book as well… I use quotes here because the mystery aspect really isn’t that big of a focus; we’re all just here for the developing romance between Birdie and Daniel. It’s cute, they’re cute, the setting’s cute, everything’s cute, cute, cute! Love it.

All this isn’t to say that the book is perfect. Daniel is a bit too much of a “nice guy” for my taste; he treats Birdie like gold at every opportunity, giving her all possible outs from their relationship. That didn’t come across as caring to me so much as unsexy; I was hoping he’d grow a spine. But Daniel did grow on me in time, especially as he plans one awesome date after the next. The one with a Clue focus? (Trying not to give anything away.) I was Googling if anything like that existed in my area. (Unfortunately looks like I’d have to travel to Boston, so… meh.) There was also some cringey, wooden dialogue—I could have done without the “skedaddling” scene. But these are just small quibbles; the setting, the characters, the “found family” aspect, the pitch-perfect new adult feel all added up to a thoroughly enjoyable read, so I will definitely be checking out Bennett’s other books.

The Stone’s Heart by Jessica Thorne (The Queen’s Wing #2)

The first in this science-fantasy series, The Queen’s Wing, is the best book I’ve read this year hands down, so suffice it to say that I was beyond excited to read The Stone’s Heart and bought it the day of release. The Stone’s Heart picks up pretty much exactly after the last book ended and introduces Petra, Bel’s bodyguard, as a new POV; the book shifts between their POVs throughout. It took me a little while to feel fully immersed in the book, but that was really a me-thing instead of a book-thing—sometimes you’re just not in that SFF mood, you know? But things clicked for me about a quarter of the way in, and I was fully along for the ride.

Thorne crafts great characters and excellent plots, with world building that’s just the perfect ratio of science fiction to fantasy. As I think I said in my review of the first in the series, whoever is doing the marketing for this series is picking the wrong comps (Sarah J. Maas and The Selection). I think a wayyyyy better comparison is the Lunar Chronicles series if it were aimed at slightly older readers. And can we talk about that last bit? Because this series is not YA; I don’t care what the marketing and the cover indicate. Yeah, it’s written in a YA-ish voice that’s going to appeal to YA fans, but these characters are too old for that designation, sorry. I get it, that’s where the money’s at, but… can we try the New Adult thing again? Pretty please? Because a couple books I’ve read this year fit super well in that category, and I just wish traditional publishing and bookstores would acknowledge that we can make this a thing if we all just take a trust fall together.

I really enjoyed the new POV; these characters are full-fledged, with their own hopes, dreams, and back stories. If you are a fan of courtly (and interplanetary!) intrigue, definitely pick this series up, since there are a ton of twists, turns, and back stabbings. Thorne is really skilled at writing plot twists that truly come from left field but feel absolutely plausible. There’s no listed third book on Goodreads, but I’m praying that the author has one in the works, since I’m on board for this series for the long haul—hoping it’s not a trilogy, so we can get more, more, more! And in the meantime, I might take a look at her back list, since she also writes under Ruth Frances Long and R. F. Long.

Chapter Six of The Gold in the Dark and a Writing Update!

The sixth chapter of The Gold in the Dark drops today! I’m especially excited that this chapter is posting, since it’s the first POV switch of the book. Don’t worry if you need to catch up with past chapters, since you can do that right here. New chapters post every other Sunday at 11 AM EST, and each one is accompanied by a beautiful, custom illustration. Just look at this week’s illustration; isn’t it gorgeous? The care and thought my illustrator puts into these chapter illustrations steals my breath every time. It’s one thing to envision these scenes in your head, and another to see them pictured on a page. ❤ Really surreal.

In writing update news, this week brought a major victory for me: the formatting of Specter is finally finished. I thought I was done with it a week ago, then received my physical proof and realized I needed to make font size adjustments, as well as bring in the inner margin. And it’s not so simple as changing those things and then submitting the final manuscript, wham bam thank you ma’am, since any formatting change can have a huge cascading effect in terms of page length, paragraph widows and orphans, etc. Cue rushing to get these changes made in a span of three days so I could rush order another proof, so I could finally confirm my page count, so I could hire a cover artist. And let me tell you, the proof arrived yesterday and… the formatting is perfect, at last.

Which means that there will be a cover reveal soon. I don’t really know any other way to put this: I’M SO EXCITED!!!!!!! Everything is coming together, it’s going to look fantastic, and soon Specter will be a real thing, out in the world for others to read.

I can’t wait. I hope you guys can’t wait, too.

Anyway, hope everyone’s having a great weekend, and enjoy reading Chapter Six.

The Madness Underneath by Maureen Johnson

Okay, what do I even say about Maureen Johnson at this point? She’s awesome? I love her characters, her voice, her plotting? Does that about cover it?

Listen, Maureen Johnson has a certain style that you’ll either like or you won’t, and her books are all different versions of the same wonderful thing. Quirky and intelligent MC, no parents for miles, a way of inserting detail and humor into the text that keeps you just reading one page, no, two pages, no, twenty pages more… If this is the sort of thing you enjoy, then go read the first in the Shades of London series, or Truly Devious, or 13 Little Blue Envelopes. (And presumably anything else by Johnson, all of which I’m sure I’ll read eventually.) If you’re trying to decide between her series, here’s a cheat sheet:

  • Shades of London series for ghosts (this book, The Madness Underneath, is book two)
  • Truly Devious series for true crime and historical elements
  • 13 Little Blue Envelopes series for quirky road trips

It’s been a while since I read the first Shades of London book, so I got to rediscover the MC, Rory, in this second in the series. A Louisiana native transplanted to a London boarding school, Rory behaves in a way that feels authentic. There are more than a few points in the book where I was mentally screaming at her to do something, anything other than what she was doing, but even when Rory’s making bad choices, you can see why she’s making them. She’s flawed but relatable, and you can’t help but be on her side, even when she’s royally fucking up.

So what else do I have to say about this book? It had that classic “recovering from the first book” feel, especially given the emphasis on therapy. I can understand if a lot of readers feel this book lags in the first half, but again, I don’t care; something about Johnson’s writing just calls to me, and the rip-roaring ending made up for any slowness. Plus it’s totally allowable to slow things down temporarily after the frenetic ending of the previous book. Our MC is in high school and just went through some truly traumatic events—it would be unrealistic to push ahead with the story any faster.

As the book moves toward the finish line, there’s a plot twist that I’ll admit I saw coming, but the execution and details of the surprise were still exciting and unexpected. As can be expected from Johnson’s other books, there isn’t so much a resolution at the end of this book as a pause and shift in the action, compelling us to reach for the next in the series. Cliffhangers are just something you have to deal with if you’re a Maureen Johnson fan.

I did also feel that the plot held together more cohesively than the first in the series. Leaving aside the aforementioned cliffhangers, the ends of both books struck me as a little bit off, like the reader is being expected to take a too much of a leap of faith, all at a breakneck pace. You can definitely leave both of these books with a dazed, what even just happened feeling. Yet the second book is an improvement on the first—not quite so manic, not quite so out-of-the-blue.

So overall The Madness Underneath was a crazy fun read (I mean, it’s not Truly Devious, but whatever…) and I’m looking forward to picking up the third book in the series.

Chapter Five of The Gold in the Dark and a Writing Update!

The fifth chapter of The Gold in the Dark drops today! If you need to catch up with the last few chapters, you can do that right here. New chapters post every other Sunday at 11 AM EST, and each one is accompanied by a beautiful, custom illustration drawn by a mysterious illustrator. I promise you’ll get to meet her soon enough—exciting stuff is in the works!

The new book I’m working on is on hold again, shelved in favor of putting the final touches on Specter. I know, I know, it feels like I say that same thing every week, and it’s getting frustrating to me. Do all the little formatting details really make a difference? I definitely feel guilty about not drafting for so long, but I try to keep reminding myself that I am working on writing, just the more editing/business side of things. Fortunately, I happen to really enjoy the entrepreneurial side of self-publishing, so it’s not like this is a slog. Well, maybe it is a slog, but a strangely enjoyable one. :/ I’m actually putting together a blog post all about the formatting and typesetting choices I made for Specter—it’s already loooong and getting longer. Maybe no one wants a post like that except for me, but at least it will be a reminder of all the steps I took for Specter so that when I have to do all this again for the next book it won’t be quite so labor-intensive.

There will be some fun reviews coming up in these next few weeks, as well as the introduction of #TSOOSI. I’m having fun with Short Tuesday, too, so expect more of those. (Though here’s hoping the next short story is a little bit more satisfying than the Edgar Allan Poe one!)

Anyway, let’s keep it short and sweet for this week. Have a great rest of your weekend, and enjoy Chapter Five!

A Good, Old-Fashioned Haul

You know that feeling-spendy itch, the kind where the only way to scratch it is by heading to Barnes and Noble or Amazon? It doesn’t hit me often, especially now that I receive ARCs, but maybe it’s the change of seasons or something—I just had to add some new books to my TBR shelf. And it’s not a lot, but listen, this girl has a limited amount of shelf space, so I have to be choosy about the physical books I bring into my house. (Spring cleaning un-haul coming soon!!)

Since this is the only book of the bunch that just came out, I wanted to buy this in hardcover at Barnes and Noble in the first week of release. That’s my general rule of thumb for new releases I care about—I do this 1) because I’m surprisingly often able to buy a signed in-store copy; 2) because I’ve found that many times these books are still stashed in the back, even though they’ve just been released, so I feel it helps the author out to go specifically to the store and remind the booksellers to get them on the shelves; and 3) because I have a vague sense that buying the hardcover helps the author more than buying the ebook in terms of sales numbers and the possibility of future opportunities. Would love to know if those suspicions are correct… :/

Anyway, I’m super excited to read this book, since I’ve heard good things about the author and it’s supposed to be similar to Stranger Things. I’m also really interested to see how the aliens are handled in this book, since aliens in YA aren’t a huge thing. Or are aliens the next vampires or something???

The other three books I bought were from Amazon. Under Rose-Tainted Skies only landed on my radar recently, since I was searching for a book featuring a character suffering from agoraphobia. I have a book in the works that may have an agoraphobic character, so I’m curious to see how other authors have written about agoraphobia, as well as to get some sense of how people deal with the condition. It’s just the first step of what will likely be a whole lotta research. Look at that gorgeous cover—I’m pretty psyched for this one to arrive in the mail.

This is the final book in the Downside trilogy by S.L. Grey, the South African horror duo who wrote The Apartment. The Downside books can be read as standalones; it’s really the horror worldbuilding that ties them together—and it’s the best worldbuilding, let me tell you. If you are a Silent Hill fan, especially if you’re a Silent Hill 3 fan, then do yourself a favor and read The Mall. There are no words to express how excited I am to read this book—it’s going to be fantastic.

The last book I picked up was Matt Haig’s The Humans. This is definitely one of those books that’s made the rounds in the book blogosphere, and also another book to do with aliens! As I think I’ve mentioned in a previous post, I have an idea marinating for a book about an alien, so I’m trying to read some alien-related fiction to get a sense of how other authors approach the topic. I’m also pretty interested to see how funny this book is; most people say it’s hilarious, but I have a track record of disliking supposedly funny books. (Bad Omens, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, etc.)

And that’s my haul! Short and sweet, but I think keeping hauls smaller makes me more likely to read the books for some reason.

Have you picked up any exciting books lately? Are you also getting that spring shopping fever? Let me know, and thanks for reading!


Just a real quick reminder that Chapter Five of The Gold in the Dark will be posting this Sunday at 11 AM EST! All right, that’s all, folks.

Love & Luck by Jenna Evans Welch

Top o’ the mornin’ to ya and all that! In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, a couple weeks ago I went on a quest for some Irish-themed reads. The Call almost made the cut, but I couldn’t stomach taking on another series at the moment, so that’s how I ended up with Love & Luck!

If you’re in the mood for a quick, cute St. Patrick’s Day read, look no further! Love & Luck is an adorable read that will transport you to the Emerald Isle. Readers follow Addie, who is in Ireland with her large, boisterous family for her aunt’s wedding. Fresh out of a relationship, Addie has a secret™ that is eating her up inside. She’ll need to spill the beans eventually, but is working on first coming to terms with how her relationship ended. Her moral support through all this? A guidebook called Ireland for the Heartbroken, which has Addie soon gallivanting across Ireland with her older brother and his Internet best friend.

This is one of the only road trip book I’ve truly enjoyed; most of the other ones that I’ve read didn’t feel entirely cohesive. But with the guidebook framework, everything comes together into a whimsical package, aided by the fast pace and authentic-feeling characters. The Maeve/female empowerment stuff did read a little bit cringey and forced to me, but this is a small aspect of the book only, so not much to worry about.

I’d say this is an excellent read for anyone who enjoyed Morgan Matson’s Save the Date. There are a lot of similarities (in the best way possible), from the older brothers-younger sister relationships to the romantic themes. (And the obvious wedding common thread.) Another pretty obvious comp is 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson, which has a larger European focus… But you guys have heard me harping on about Johnson lately, so I’ll leave it at that. 😉 And if you do read this book and love it, Love & Luck has a sister novel called Love & Gelato, featuring Addie’s best friend Lina in, you guessed it, Italy. So hopefully I’ll be picking that up sometime, since this was such a cute book.

Chapter Four of The Gold in the Dark and a Writing Update!

The fourth chapter of The Gold in the Dark drops today! If you need to catch up with the last few chapters, you can do that right here. New chapters post every other Sunday at 11 AM EST, and each one is accompanied by a beautiful, custom illustration drawn by a mysterious illustrator. I especially love Chapter Four’s illustration this week, so I just had to put it down below—isn’t it just gorgeous?

You know, it’s really funny reading back through these old chapters—gives me a sort of a “high school reunion” feeling, if I’m being honest. I absolutely love The Gold in the Dark, don’t get me wrong, but some of the phrasing and sentence-craft is just a bit different than my current voice. I’m drafting a blog post right now about how to write close POV, and I’m finding that as I do final edits on The Gold in the Dark chapters that I’m stopping every so often to make use of some of the techniques in that post.

This week I’ve gotten back into drafting, at long last! The book I’ve been working on has a lot of sad details requiring research in the opening few chapters, and it’s been hard to find the motivation to do the research to make sure all the details are accurately and sensitively portrayed. But I’m pushing through, and even though there’s been a long gap from when I started drafting the book, I really do like what I wrote originally. The voice is pretty different for me… but in a good way, I think.

As for Specter, I’m still mired in formatting hell. As I comb the web for the absolute perfect fonts, sometimes I wonder if I’m too particular about the little things, but I do think these tiny details add up to a world of difference in terms of making the final book look professional. Like I said a few weeks ago, Specter is tentatively slated for release in late May or early June, so if anyone wants to be part of my ARC team, drop me a line.

I also wanted to mention a couple cool things that are happening on the blog right now. You may have noticed that I’ve started a new blog series called Short Tuesday, where I review short fiction and link to the piece if at all possible. The first couple posts have been some really eerie short stories by Kelly Link, so if you’re a magical realism or weird fiction fan, check them out!

There’s also a Saint Patrick’s Day themed post coming up, as well as bookcase spring cleaning and the introduction of #TSOOSI. What’s that mean? you may ask. You’ll just have to wait and see. 😉

So those are all my updates; exciting stuff is in the works! Have a great rest of your weekend, and enjoy Chapter Four!

Tell Me Everything by Sarah Enni

I’ve been a loyal listener of Sarah Enni’s First Draft podcast since 2014, so I was psyched to pick up a copy of her debut novel. Tell Me Everything follows Ivy, a sophomore photography nerd who’s been struggling with growing distance between her and her BFF Harold. To take her mind off her absent, over-scheduled friend, Ivy becomes engrossed with the new app VEIL, which allows users to view Instagram-style anonymous pictures local to a five-mile radius. The book follows Ivy as she attempts to uncover the secrets of the students at her school posting on VEIL.

It’s a cute, short book that I read in less than twenty-four hours. I really enjoyed the local art scene focus, and I feel that there’s a missed opportunity here for the book to include some photographs and illustrations to color the narrative, like in a Ransom Riggs book. Yet the book isn’t without its flaws; it felt plotless for a good portion of the book, like we were being treated to individual scenes that made up some sort of abstract whole. The voice, too, is a bit younger than I usually read. (More a preference thing than an actual detractor.) You know how a lot of readers (rightly) complain that a good portion of YA isn’t really YA anymore, but really just New Adult, repackaged with “eighteen-year-olds” and pretty YA covers? This isn’t that; it reads young, and Enni was clearly purposeful in the decision to make Ivy and Harold sophomores instead of upperclassmen.

I’ll admit that the tone of the book was a bit off to me. There is a lot of quirk for quirk’s sake, almost reminiscent of Katy t3h PeNgU1n oF d00m. That combined with an especially cringy (cringey?) scene between Ivy and Harold that read like progressive buzzword mad libs had me not exactly racing for the end of the book, but still edging toward eager-to-be-done territory.

***SPOILER INCOMING***

I did also feel like some questions briefly raised throughout the book weren’t explored deeply enough. In this book, online anonymity and an unmoderated user base butt heads with “safe spaces” and helicopter parents. There is a kind of resolution to this conflict in terms of the VEIL app, but not a satisfying one in my opinion, and what resolution Enni offers us doesn’t do much to address the very real debates that society is currently having about social media platforms. VEIL is deleted in the end, but let’s face it, Mark Zuckerberg isn’t about to delete Facebook, nor Jack Dorsey Twitter, so what exact lesson are we supposed to take from Tell Me Everything into the real world?

So some good, some bad. Tell Me Everything was a pleasant, quick read for a Sunday afternoon, but I wouldn’t highly recommend it for older YA readers, though a younger, less picky crowd might have some fun here.


Just a real quick reminder that Chapter Four of The Gold in the Dark will be posting this Sunday at 11 AM EST! All right, that’s all, folks. ❤