Friday Reads: House of Ivy and Sorrow by Natalie Whipple




I haven’t read Ms. Whipple’s other books (Transparent and Blindsided) so I wasn’t familiar with her work. I just remember seeing a cover reveal for this particular book and thinking, hey, that’s really neat. Then one day, while scrolling through my twitter feed, the author posted a photo of the first page of House of Ivy and Sorrow. For some reason it caught my attention, and I found myself wanting to read more. Just goes to show how important first pages are.

Pretty, yes?
Pretty, yes?

About the Book: YA Fantasy
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: HarperTeen
Released date: April 15, 2014


Josephine Hemlock has spent the last 10 years hiding from the Curse that killed her mother. But when a mysterious man arrives at her ivy-covered, magic-fortified home, it’s clear her mother’s killer has finally come to destroy the rest of the Hemlock bloodline. Before Jo can even think about fighting back, she must figure out who she’s fighting in the first place. The more truth Jo uncovers, the deeper she falls into witchcraft darker than she ever imagined. Trapped and running out of time, she begins to wonder if the very Curse that killed her mother is the only way to save everyone she loves.


About the Author:
Natalie Whipple, sadly, does not have any cool mutations like her characters. Unless you count the ability to watch anime and Korean dramas for hours on end. Or her uncanny knack for sushi consumption.

She grew up in the Bay Area and relocated to Utah for high school, which was quite the culture shock for her anime-loving teen self. But the Rocky Mountains eventually won her over, and she stuck around to earn her degree in English linguistics at BYU. Natalie still lives in Utah with her husband and three kids, and keeps the local Asian market in business with all her attempts to cook Thai curry, Pho, and “real” ramen.

Twitter: @nataliewhipple


What I Think So Far:

“They say a witch lives in the old house under the interstate bridge. Always in the shadows, draped in ivy and sorrow, the house waits for a child too daring for his own good…”

This is how the book opens, and immediately, I fell in love with the writing. And then, of course, witches! I love books about magic and witches. It’ll be interesting to see how this one differs from all the other books about witches out there.


WHAT ARE YOU READING TODAY? Do share. I love discovering new reads.




Continue Reading

Throwback Thursday: The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

ThrowbackThursdayWhen I think of what I would consider the ultimate YA book, I immediately think of S.E. Hinton’s novel about working class kids trying to survive in a world where the odds are stacked against them. I know I’m not alone in this; I’ve seen The Outsiders appear on countless lists of influential novels.

I was first introduced to The Outsiders the summer before fifth grade. It was on my older sister’s summer reading list, and being the precocious reader I was, I picked up her copy when she was done reading it. There were a lot of things 9-year-old me didn’t fully understand, but I was so engrossed in the story, so captivated by Ponyboy, Johnny, Dallas, and the rest of the gang that I read the book in just two days. And I read it at least once more that summer, and a couple more times in fifth grade, and a few more times each year until it was finally on my own summer reading list. And of course by then, I had most of it memorized, but I read it again with gusto.

My sister told me that S.E. Hinton was in high school when she wrote The Outsiders, and I think that knowledge made me want to read it over and over again, to study her prose, to understand how she used description and setting, to get a grasp of how she wrote dialogue so convincingly. Would it be cliche of me to say it was a transformative novel for me, that it was the book that made me want to be an author? Because it was.The Outsiders Movie

I still think of The Outsiders when I write. It’s my litmus test for strong language. One thing I don’t think many people realize, perhaps because of the movie adaptation, is that there are no curse words in the entire novel. It’s alluded to (Two-Bit is said to rattle off a string of obscenities early in the book), but it’s never explicitly stated. And I find that brilliant. So as a writer, I find I’m more deliberate in my word choices, reasoning that if S.E. Hinton could realistically depict working class kids without any overt swearing, I should be able to do the same for upper middle class prep school students.

The Outsiders holds up amazingly well, even in today’s hectic world where we’re all connected by devices in our pockets. It’s honest. It’s relatable. After all these years, the emotions it evokes still ring true. I can only hope I’m able to write something as lasting as S.E. Hinton’s masterpiece.

What about you? What would you say is the ultimate YA novel and why?


Continue Reading

Waiting on Wednesday: The Murder Complex by Lindsay Cummings


This week’s selection is:


An action-packed, blood-soaked, futuristic debut thriller set in a world where the murder rate is higher than the birthrate. For fans of Moira Young’s Dust Lands series, La Femme Nikita, and the movie Hanna.

Meadow Woodson, a fifteen-year-old girl who has been trained by her father to fight, to kill, and to survive in any situation, lives with her family on a houseboat in Florida. The state is controlled by The Murder Complex, an organization that tracks the population with precision.

The plot starts to thicken when Meadow meets Zephyr James, who is—although he doesn’t know it—one of the MC’s programmed assassins. Is their meeting a coincidence? Destiny? Or part of a terrifying strategy? And will Zephyr keep Meadow from discovering the haunting truth about her family?

Publication Date: June 10th, 2014


I have been eagerly awaiting this book ever since I heard about the sale like forever ago. At least it feels like forever since it sounds right up my alley. And did you see that cover? Haunting and gripping and awesome oh my. Hopefully this book turns out to be the-edge-of-your-seat can’t-put-the-book-down thrill ride I suspect it will be.



Continue Reading

Top Ten YA Girls Who Kick Booty

(that aren’t Katniss or Tris)


Everyone knows Katniss can skewer a rabbit with her bow and arrow, and that Tris is totally “Dauntless” with all the Ferris Wheel climbing and jumping on moving trains. But some of my favorite YA heroines aren’t just brave and leading a dystopian revolution. They’ve got the brains and an entire spectrum of emotions to round out their complex characters.


10. Anne Dowling

Prep School Confidential by Kara Taylor

Anne got kicked out of her Upper East Side prep school after “accidentally” setting a fire. To solve the mystery surrounding her roommate’s mysterious death, it’s Spy 101: eavesdropping, trailing suspicious characters, braving the dark, spider-infested passages. James Bond may make it look easy, but it’s not. It’s creepy and dangerous, and when you’re the target of a murderer, most people would go hide under the x-long covers in their dorm room. Not Anne. She’ll find the killer, even if she has to do it on her own.


9. Reagan O’Neill

Open Road Summer by Emery Lord

Old Reagan smoked, snuck out of the house, and her ex was far from prince charming. She’s got a rough past full of bad choices and a cast on her arm to prove it. But don’t mess with her! When the media targets Reagan’s bff, BAM! Reagan’s on the defense, picking up the tissues and offering a fist to the camera lenses. She’s got a wardrobe to make most mothers faint, and a spitfire mouth. She’s fierce and loyal and I totally want her as MY bff. (Not that I’d replace my real life bff! <3 u Liz!)


8. Tana

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

She doesn’t need a crossbow or fancy weaponry. She uses quick wit and a simple blade to end vampires. (And, with vampires already being dead, it is not for the faint of heart.) She spends half of the book covered in blood and having to throw away outfits thanks to the messy business. And is she scared of kissing a boy who wants to drain her blood? Heck no! That’s real bravery right there. 😉


7. Katsa

Graceling by Kristin Cashore

The summary begins as such: “Katsa has been able to kill a man with her bare hands since she was eight.” WHAT? And you know she’s going to be awesome from that first sentence. Katsa is “graced” with a gift that allows her to overcome her opponents despite being an average girl – at least on the outside. She’s silent in approach, stronger than men twice her size, and tackles some pretty hardcore obstacles normal people would die attempting. She’s like the fantasy version of Wonder Woman, but less concerned with cute outfits.


6. Hazel

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Cancer sucks, but Hazel battles it like a champ. Sometimes it’s not fighting zombies or dangling from air vents that make you a super woman. It’s a short hair cut thanks to chemo, an air tank for lungs, and a heart that keeps on giving even when life keeps knocking you over.



5. Hermione Granger

Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling

For obvious reasons. What? HP isn’t traditional “YA?” *silencio!*

Gosh, I love me some Hermione. Remember when she punched Draco? And when she caught that beetle-sneak, Rita Skeeter? Remember when she founded SPEW and snuck a dragon from Hagrid’s hut to the North tower and finally said Voldemort’s name? She fought death eaters and cried for muggles and erased her parents’ memories just to save them. She deserves to be #1 on this list. But since we all know that she’s awesome, I’m going to shed the light on a few other well-deserving young ladies.

But, seriously. Remember when she punched Malfoy?


4. Rose Hathaway

Vampire Academy Series by Richelle Mead

This is vampire hunting to the extreme and Rose can do it all. A kick to the face? No problem. Hacking away an army of the undead as they surround your school? Easy peasy. Giving the smart-mouthed boy a snarky reply? *raises eyebrow* Rose has slain more vampires than men and women twice her age, and she manages to stay loyal and defend her best friend in the process.



3. Cammie, Bex, Liz, and Macey

Gallagher Girls Series by Ally Carter

It’s a school for spies where only the smartest, most elite girls are chosen to defend their country. So you know they’re going to be awesome. And this book has a whole crew of girls who can kick butt. They’ve got brains, brass, and big hearts. (Sorry, that was cheesy.) There’s a girl for everyone to root for (my personal fav is Macey with her nose stud and combat boots). They propel into high secure facilities, place bugs in the cute boys’ dorm, and run from a terrorist group. In a word, these books are “action-packed.”



2. Elisa

Fire and Thorns Series by Rae Carson

A girl who feels too big, too stupid, unloved, never enough. And yet, when faced with danger, she steps up unlike any of the other girls on this list. She travels months across a desert, stages a rebellion, and sneaks into the heart of enemy territory. I love, Love, LOVE this girl. The growth she shows through the entire series, how she defends those she loves… I wish I could go back to Elisa in chapter one and tell her, “Believe in yourself, girl, because you’re awesome!”


2a. Juliette

Shatter Me Series by Tahereh Mafi

(So, I couldn’t decide on just 10 girls. I had to sneak in another leading lady to tie for 2nd place.)

Oh, Juliette. The girl who can’t touch anyone without killing them. The girl who has been imprisoned and left to die. The girl who could be the enemy’s best weapon if they get their hands on her. (Too bad they can’t touch her. Ha. See what I did there?) She starts with no confidence, no hope, nothing to live for except to count the bars on the windows and the bricks in the walls and the seconds and minutes and days. But Juliette is a tornado. A leader. Someone on the brink of death and makes the greatest rebound of them all. I can’t say much about what exactly makes her so kick butt, because *spoilers*!!!! But, if you haven’t read this series, then WHAT ARE YOU STILL DOING HERE?


But before you go, check out my fav YA heroine……….


1. Celaena Sardothien

Throne of Glass Series by Sarah J. Maas

She’s an assassin, for goodness sake! She survived a year in the salt mines as a slave! She can kill anyone, anyone. And now she’s fighting for her freedom while enslaved as the King’s assassin. And boy does she come with baggage. The girl has gone through some horrible events, but instead of sinking with misery, those trials fuel her fire. With blades strapped to her back, she can take out an alley full of pirate lords and annihilate the greatest assassins from across the country. And yet she loves books, fine dresses, and she cries at the opera! She’s got a heart of gold beneath all that black leather. Just never get on her bad side. You won’t survive if you do.


That’s my Top Ten (fine, eleven!) YA Girls Who Kick Booty. But there are so much more! (Queenie from Code Name Verity, anyone?) Who do you think deserves to be in the top ten? Leave a comment below and share your favorite YA heroines!

Continue Reading

Welcome to The YA Club

Hello, everyone, and welcome to the inaugural post! We’re all really excited to bring great giveaways, author interviews, guest posts, and general craziness about all things YA. To get started, we thought we’d do a little Q&A with each other. 

What book inspired you to write young adult?

Heist Society

Amanda Burckhard: For me, it wasn’t really one book but multiple books and series throughout my childhood. I remember one of the first YA books I ever read (which I read in middle school) was The Kidnapping of Susie Q and it was instalove with the genre from then on out. I’ve also been obsessed with Harry Potter since I was 7 and I sure wasn’t giving that up in my teens.

Rebecca Hackett: Heist Society by Ally Carter

L.S. Murphy: I love Heist Society. For me it was Rats Saw God by Rob Thomas. I wished it had been around when I was in school.

A.N. Jackson: I have a few answers. First is Harry Potter, even though it’s sort of MG turned YA, and the first time I really got into a YA novel…Twilight. Don’t judge.

LSM: Twilight isn’t bad. I really liked the first book. It speaks to that 14yo me who had a massive crush on the guy she couldn’t have.

ANJ: I haven’t read the heist society books, but I love the Gallagher Girls series. I’ve never heard of Rats saw God *marks TBR on Goodreads*

LSM: Rats Saw God was pubbed in the mid 90s. If you like Veronica Mars, you must read it. (Rob Thomas, author of Rats Saw God, created Veronica Mars.)

ANJ: I think for me, Twilight let me see the potential in what you could do with a YA book. Rats

RH: Totally. I devoured Twilight when I read them.

AB: Was I the only one who thought Bella was annoying and Edward was a stalker? Yes? Alrighty then.

LSM: SPEAK by Laurie Halse Anderson did that for me. It showed me that YA could be literary.

ANJ: I have a hard time with literary, and I’ll admit I haven’t read a whole lot of YA literary. One of the main reasons I prefer YA is the face pace, and I get bogged down with lots of descriptions. Literary and I don’t get along very well.

LSM: I was a literary snob for much of my youth.

AB: The only literary I read was the ones I was forced to in high school English, and there were many.

L.C. Walker: My favorites were always the Sherlock Holmes series. I had every volume possible. Harry Potter was a favorite too, of course, as were CRANK and GLASS by Ellen Hopkins. If I liked the premise of the book, I’d give it a shot. I read almost anything in high school.

RH: Agree with Andrea on the literary topic. As for books as a teen, I would reread Harry Potter over and over and over… and anything else I picked up never met my standards, they disappointed me compared to HP. So I would just reread my favorites. It wasn’t until reading Twilight in college, and soon after, Heist Society, that I realized there were good books out there. And now I read YA almost exclusively.

GlassLSM: Ellen Hopkins is AMAZING.

ANJ: So here’s my deep dark secret. I didn’t do much with reading up until about four to five years ago. Books I liked to read –but didn’t do very often – were  the Jane Austen books, Little House on the Prairie (could be where I grew up why I liked these ones), and Anne of Green Gables.

RH: Dude. LOVED Little House on the Prairie!

LSM: I read from the great American canon: Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Vonnegut, Faulker…

LCW: Ray Bradbury’s short stories were among favorites too. To this day, THE SOUND OF THUNDER is my absolute favorite short story. I love everything about it. His writing style blows me away.

LSM: I’m ancient so there weren’t a lot of YA books for me. A Rose for Emily is one of my all time favorite short stories. The Lottery by Shirley Jackson is great too.

AB: A Rose for Emily is also my favorite short story.

ANJ: And after reading some of your books, it doesn’t surprise me you like those fancy authors L, your writing is precise, clean, and of course, awesome.

LSM: Awwwwww, thanks.

Precy Larkins: Wow, most of the books mentioned here I haven’t read. Except HP & Twilight. When I wasSqaud in HS, there were no YA books available or were short in stock (I did get to read Sweet Valley High after all), so I mostly read classics.

LSM: I wanted to be Jessica Wakefield. Those were more junior high for me. Yes, junior high not middle school.

PL: I was more of an Elizabeth, I think.

E.M. Caines:  The Outsiders was the book that made me want to be a writer, but I didn’t really think I could until I read The Squad by Jenny Lynn Barnes & was like, “I can totally do that.” Ditto for Gallagher Girls. Not so much coming up with amazing plot lines, but more for writing real teenagers.

PL: Jenny Lynn Barnes… Name’s familiar. Did she author NOBODY? I think she did. Read that not too long ago and boy, I almost didn’t finish. Slow pacing. But great potential for a premise (just poor execution). Anyway, confession here too: I only started writing fiction 7 yrs ago, and Twilight actually prompted me to give it a try.

RH: The Naturals is Jenn Lynn Barnes too and really liked that one

EMC: The Squad was cute. Fast-paced. Undercover cheerleaders are really spies. I also read the Pretty Little Liars series and wanted to write something a little more down-to-earth for my nieces.

LCW: What you described is how I felt about GREAT EXPECTATIONS, Precy.

PL: Yeah, I can see that, Leila. So many classics have slow pacing though. I was just thinking about Anna Karenina the other day. Great story, but I remember falling asleep through some of the passages…

GrapesLSM: Grapes of Wrath = get the damn turtle across the road. What was the point?

PL:  Meh, couldn’t finish Grapes of Wrath.

EMC: HATED Grapes of Wrath. I’m sure I could read it now if I reframe my mindset, but…Bleh

LCW: A lot of them were amazing, but it’s hard to get past the slow start in most. Like THE GREAT GATSBY. That one bored me to tears at first too.

LSM: OMG – I hated The Great Gatsby. (Loved his other books though)

EMC: I liked Gatsby. LOL

AB: Gatsby was one of the only books I was forced to read in high school that I ended up enjoying.

LCW: I hated Daisy. Still do. That’s the only reason I didn’t like Gatsby

AB: That’s because Daisy is SUPER annoying.

LSM: I hated Gatsby because I had to read it sooooo many times. Seriously, there were other books out there.

PL: I liked Gatsby too, but I couldn’t stand Daisy.

EMC: I hated Daisy. Gatsby was a wuss. But you have to understand I read it in HS & associated certain people with the characters.

PL: I liked Dostoevsky’s books. Crime and Punishment and The Brothers Karamazov. (If we’re talking about classics…)

LSM: Anything by Kurt Vonnegut.

EMC: I liked War & Peace if we’re talking classics. It was long, but it held my attention because it was actually a good story.

ANJ: My favorites are Divergent. (the 1st book, the last book is a long conversation for me) Flipped, (cutest book in the world) The P&PGraveyard. (by Neil Gaiman because it’s so weird) My ultimate favorite book – and might never change – is Pride and Prejudice. I love her subtle snarkiness and because she wrote it so long ago when women weren’t supposed to be like that, makes it even cooler. And I love how many different version of the story there can be. It’s such a great storyline to develop.

EMC: I have mixed feelings of Divergent and The Hunger Games. But that’s a whole other conversation.

LSM: I’m not a fan of Divergent. Or The Hunger Games. Love P&P, one of my faves.

EMC: Writerly confession: WTRPCPSU was the first novel I ever completed.

ANJ: Wow congrats for you, Eileen. My first ms shall never see the light of day.

LCW:  I still haven’t finished my first, but hey, there’s a first time for everything, right? c:

PL: HIDDEN, my ms that got me representation, is my first novel too. But now it’ll never see the light of day. :(

LSM: REAPER was my third. Okay, fourth, but we don’t talk about the one that I flunked out of college writing. :)

AB: THE GHOST OF YOU was my second manuscript.

PL: You can do it, Leila! Cheering for you to finish your manuscript.

ANJ: You get such a great feeling when you finish a ms. It’s amazing. You’re like; sweet I’m awesome for a while.

What are you currently reading?

EleanorRH: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

AB: Dangerous Girls by Abigail Haas

PL: House of Ivy and Sorrow, Of Breakable Things

ANJ: I loved loved loved Eleanor & Park until the last chapter.

RH: Uh-oh

LSM: I loved Eleanor & Park! Great story.

EMC: I just finished binge-reading last week.

LCW: Re-reading SAVING MAX by Antoinette can Heugten. I love this book so much.

LSM: I just read Timebound by Rysa Walker. Trippy read.

RH: Just finished Sekret and We Were Liars

EMC: I MUST HAVE we were liars.

ANJ: I’ve heard great things about we were liars, I want to read it.

LSM: Me too!

RH: I’m zipping my lips. Can’t even say how I feel about it without giving anything away!Liars

ANJ: Yes, no spoilers that is rage inducing.

LSM: My next read is The Distance Between Us by Kasie West.

AB: I love Kasie West! I will read anything of hers. Can’t wait to get my hands on her new one, On The Fence.

ANJ: I’m in the middle of reading the Night Circus, it’s strange to me. Mostly because it’ breaks all the rules were kind of told not to do with YA. It’s slow to start, lots of prologues, background information, I’m about 1/4 of the way through, and I haven’t really even got to the story yet. It kind of reads a little like a classic, but I’m strangely really into it.

EMC: I almost bought The Distance Between Us last week. Opted instead to get Better Off Friends.

What type of books would you, as a reader, like to see more of?

RH: spies & heists & secret agents

LSM: I would love more YA contemporary

LCW: This is an easy one for me. I’d like to see more books that have LGBT themes in them. Kids need more books that they can pick up and read and find someone who is gay or bisexual or asexual or transgender. Someone they can relate to. That can mean the world to a young adult who feels alone in the world.

AB: I agree with LS. I’d also love to see more thrillers, more contemporary in nature. I love YA contemporary romances but I also love when thrillers creep me out to the point I can see it possibly happening.

EMC: You know, I wrote an issues book without realizing it was an issues book. I just wanted to write real characters. So I’m not opposed to issues books, as long as they’re done well.

ANJ: I love stuff like Eleanor and Park. Off beat contemporary.

ANJ: But I also love Sci-fi and fantasy. I love, love superhero-ish type stuff, and if it gets a little bloody and messy, I might like that also.

LCW: I agree, Andrea.

EMC: I love superhero stories! But again, they need to be done well.

AB: Agreed! When done well, superhero stories are the best.

LSM: I would like more family based YA. Romantic Love isn’t everything. Says the romance writer…

RH: And more friendships

ANJ: Weird families doing weird stuff to other people, but normal to them.

Thanks for everyone who stopped by. The conversation will continue in the comments. Ask us anything about books. Happy reading.

Continue Reading

YA Club …. Sandwich? Guest Post by Josh Berk

Club SandwichWhen I first heard about the “YA Club” I immediately thought it was a sandwich. Perhaps it was around lunch time; perhaps I was just hungry; perhaps I just love sandwiches. (I am always hungry.) (I do always love sandwiches.) I was excited! But it turns out no one is naming sandwiches after authors. Movie stars get sandwiches named after them; writers just get alcoholic beverages (no comment). 

So I decided to write my own recipe for a YA Club (Sandwich). It is chock full of references to great YA authors and titles. See if you can name them all! If you can, you win one internet. (Note: do not actually try the sandwich as I’m pretty sure it’s pretty gross.)


  1. Begin with four slices of Rye bread.joshberk_photo1
  2. Apply a Kiss of French mustard
  3. Throw down a bed of Greens
  4. Add a handful of King Salmon
  5. Top with two Hamburger patties
  6. Flavor with some Bittersweet chocolate (I know it sounds gross to use chocolate as Fixings, but ask any 20 Boys — they’ll tell you it is Scandalously delicious)
  7. Cut with one Impossible Knife.
  8.  Serve some Donuts on the side and have a perfect Day!

About Josh BerkJosh Berk is the author of The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin (Knopf 2010), named a best book for teens of 2010 by Kirkus Reviews and It was also awarded a Parent’s Choice Silver medal, a starred review fromSchool Library Journal, and a perfect 10 from VOYA. His second comedy/mystery teen novel:Guy Langman: Crime Scene Proscrastinator,was published in 2012 (also by Knopf). In 2013 a new series for younger readers begins with Strike Three, You’re Dead. He has previously been a journalist, a poet, a playwright, and a guitarist (mostly in bands known for things other than fine guitar-playing). He is a librarian and lives in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, with his family.

Find Josh online:

Website               Twitter



Continue Reading