Favorite Books of 2022

I read a lot of fabulous books this year, and I’m about to finish three more, so I’ll be at 65 out of my goal of 75 books shortly. I’m hoping for some reading time over the holidays too, so hopefully I can finish a few more of my other partially-completed reads before the end of the year. As always, YA verse novels and historicals were at the top of my list of favorites, but I also fell in love with a few others! Since all of my top ten favorites are so fantastic, I decided to list them in alphabetical order.

AFRICAN TOWN by Charles Waters and Irene Latham. As a YA historical-in-verse, this one ticked all my boxes before I even started reading. All the voices Charles and Irene captured on the pages here really bring these people to life.

ALL MY RAGE by Sabaa Tahir. This National Book Award winner is surely on everyone’s radar, but yeah, this really blew me away too. Just fantastic storytelling.

A MILLION QUIET REVOLUTIONS by Robin Gow. This verse novel is about two trans boys who name themselves after Revolutionary War soldiers. Bonus! Not only is this in verse, but it also includes letters!

HOLLOW FIRES by Samira Ahmed. This contemporary YA set in Chicago is all about a teen’s quest for justice on behalf of a younger teen who should have had a full, promising life, were it not for racism. So powerful, and loved the format.

MY SECOND IMPRESSION OF YOU by Michelle Mason. This YA contemporary is definitely a lighter read compared to most of my faves, but I love theater kids, and I love the life lesson that sometimes how we remember something isn’t how it happened at all.

NOTHING SUNG AND NOTHING SPOKEN by Nita Tyndall. I’m a sucker for a historical set in Berlin, and the love and friendship between these girls in the Schwingjugend during World War II captured my heart.

RIMA’S REBELLION by Margarita Engle. Yes, another YA historical-in-verse! This story about suffragettes fighting for their rights in Cuba is simply glorious.

THE GHOSTS OF ROSE HILL by R. M. Romero. This verse novel about a teen violinist wrestling ghosts in Prague is truly magical.

THE SILENT UNSEEN by Amanda McCrina. This YA historical set in Eastern Europe during World War II offers a glimpse of the complicated history still affecting people in the region today.

TORCH by Lyn Miller-Lachmann. This YA historical is set in former Czechoslovakia after the 1968 Soviet invasion. I loved all the characters so, so much–especially how they work together to fight oppression.

Those are my top ten picks, and I and would love to hear your favorites!

But first, one quick bonus! Two 2023 books I got to read early and absolutely loved. They are both YA verse novels and are both incredible, so get them on your radar now!

All About One Last Shot

It’s October 17, which means that it’s exactly three months until the release of my next book! One Last Shot is a YA historical verse novel about photojournalist Gerda Taro. I love Gerda so much and I can’t wait to introduce her story to readers. Since it’s getting closer to release, I wanted to share a look behind the scenes of how the book came together, starting with a glimpse into my inspiration to tell Gerda’s story.

Early in the morning of August 1, 2018, I opened Google to find the following:

This impish girl with the camera immediately drew my attention, so I obviously clicked on it to learn more. So began my journey learning about Gerta Pohorylle (aka Gerda Taro). I was intrigued enough by what I saw at first glance that I quickly ordered several books about her and her more famous partner, André Friedman (aka Robert Capa).

One of the first books I devoured was Eyes of the World by Marc Aronson and Marina Budhos, a YA nonfiction book about Taro and Capa and their collaboration. Their book includes tons of photographs of and by Taro and Capa, and it got me all the more intrigued to learn more. Irme Schaber’s biography, Gerta Taro: Fotoreporterin im spanischen Bürgerkrieg (in German), was by far the most comprehensive work I read about Gerda, and Jane Rogoyska’s biography, Gerda Taro: Inventing Robert Capa, was also extremely informative.

Also incredibly important to me was studying the photographs themselves, both on the International Center of Photography’s (ICP) website and in Trisha Ziff’s fabulous film about the Mexican Suitcase, curated by Cynthia Young at the ICP.

Finally, I’m married to a Spaniard myself, and while I’ve been to Spain many times, this past summer I was lucky enough to follow Gerda’s footsteps in Madrid and the surrounding area with help from historians Alan Warren and Almudena Cros. I’m so grateful for their efforts!

One Last Shot will be published on January 17, 2023. It’s so soon! Please do add it to your Goodreads list, pre-order if you can, and share with all your friends! Thank you!

Add to your TBR list: Goodreads

Pre-order: The Silver Unicorn | B&NBookshop | Book Depository | Amazon 

Willkommen, Bienvenue, Welcome!

My sophomore novel, The Most Dazzling Girl in Berlin, has now officially been out in the world for a full week! So one last Willkommen, Bienvenue, Welcome to this book I’ve been working on since 2013.

Last night, we had a lovely celebration at Porter Square Books.

Kerri Maher & I after our animated conversation!

It was wonderful being at a bookstore again for an in-person event! And I was thrilled to see so many supportive people in one place. You all really made my night. Thank you for coming, and a special thanks to Kerri for supporting me and this book from the start!

Film Research

There’s officially one month left until the release of The Most Dazzling Girl in Berlin (out March 29, 2022!). With the clock ticking, I’m excited to share today one more essential piece of my research: films!

The initial spark of inspiration for this book came from a film from the era.

Menschen am Sonntag (“People on Sunday”) is a 1930 film about young people making a living in Berlin at a time when Sunday was normally the only day workers had off every week. I was captivated by this slice-of-life film set in the last years of freedom before the Nazis came to power.

But I also knew that this fascinating glimpse didn’t tell the full story of Berlin at the time. As part of my research, I watched (or re-watched) many other exciting films from Germany in the early 1930s.

Mädchen in Uniform (“Girls in Uniform”) is a 1931 film about a girls’ boarding school–specifically about one of the students who develops a crush on her female teacher. The film became a cult classic and is simply fantastic.

Kuhle Wampe, order Wem gehört die Welt? (“Kuhle Wampe, or Who Owns the World?”) is a 1932 film about the fight for one family’s survival in Berlin in the face of unemployment and homelessness during the last days of the Weimar Republic. Hertha Thiele starred in both this film and Mädchen in Uniform. I wrote a longer review of this film for the Weimar Film Network.

Die Büchse der Pandora (“Pandora’s Box”) is a 1929 film directed by G. W. Pabst and starring the American actress Louise Brooks. Louise’s bobbed hair made her a fashion icon, a style copied in Europe as well as the United States. My protagonist Hilde is pegged as a Louise Brooks look-alike in one of the very first scenes of Dazzling Girl!

Der blaue Engel (“The Blue Angel”) is a 1930 film starring German actress Marlene Dietrich. The film is based on the Heinrich Mann novel, Professor Unrat. It’s about a professor transformed by a cabaret and his love for the singer there. It was (and still is) a very popular and iconic film from the Weimar era.

M is a 1931 film directed by Fritz Lang and starring Peter Lorre. It’s about the city’s serach for a serial killer targeting children in Berlin. The scenes of life in the city–including the people, the homes, and the streets–really give a glimpse into life at the time.

Berlin: Die Sinfonie der Großstadt (“Berlin: Symphony of a Metropolis”) is a 1927 film. It uses trains and streetcars to take viewers through the city. It’s a great way to take a tour of Berlin at the time.

Asphalt is a 1929 film about a young woman who steals a necklace and seduces the policeman who comes by to investigate. It does a great job showing the desperation of Berliners at the time (and is a pretty dramatic story!).

Finally, Cabaret is a 1972 musical film. It’s set at the Kit Kat Klub, a cabaret in Berlin in 1931, and focuses on the relationships between characters at a local boardinghouse and their love interests, all set against the backdrop of the rise of the Nazis.

I highly recommend all these films, and hope these hook you on the fabulous world of Weimar cinema!

Berlin Research Trip

It’s December 29, which means there are only three (3) months left until the release of The Most Dazzling Girl in Berlin! Since six months pre-release, I’ve been running a countdown. So far, I’ve shared a book teaser, some of my book research, and my playlist. (As a reminder, here’s a link that lists out what I’ll be sharing each month until release.) This month, I’m excited to share a bit from my Berlin research trip I took back in 2019.

Me and my camera in an U-Bahn station with a photo from 1935

I should first explain that I’ve lived in both Bavaria (Würzburg) and Austria (Feldbach, not too far from Graz). However, I never made it to Berlin in my time there! I’d been working on The Most Dazzling Girl in Berlin since 2013, but it didn’t quite come together to take another Germany trip until 2019. Luckily this was before covid, so I will always treasure the moments from this lovely trip before the world changed so drastically.

Before

I had definitely done my share of armchair research before the trip, including reading books and watching films set during the early 1930s in Berlin. Along with these, I used old maps and guide books to decide on some of the sights I wanted to see.

Berlin old and new maps

During

While in Berlin, I used my trip notebook (which included my planning and brainstorming notes) to make diary entries of what I actually did and saw each day, along with bits and pieces of some of the highlights like these.

My trip notebook

After

The final result offers a tiny peek into the setting I was researching. I shared the following post just after the trip: A Dash of Weimar Republic. Hope some of the pictures I took give you a bit of the flavor you’ll find in the book!

Favorite Books of 2021

Another year with a lot of reading for me! As of today, I’ve read 73 of my 75-book goal this year, but I’ll surely finish up a few stragglers I’m currently reading before 2021 comes to an end. With so many wonderful books, it was harder than ever to choose my favorites this year. As usual, I read more YA than anything else, with historicals and verse novels at the top of my list.

ME (MOTH) by Amber McBride. This YA novel-in-verse is absolutely gorgeous. It’s incredibly moving. It has so, so many things to offer and I honestly can’t say more because (redacted). I highly recommend this book to everyone!

LAST NIGHT AT THE TELEGRAPH CLUB by Malinda Lo. This National Book Award winner is probably on everyone’s radar, but I can’t help expressing my love for this meticulously-researched and atmospheric YA historical.

LUCK OF THE TITANIC by Stacey Lee. It might be hard to believe someone can write a compelling new take on the Titanic disaster, but Stacey Lee has absolutely done that with this gorgeously-written YA historical.

YOUR HEART, MY SKY by Margarita Engle. As always, Margarita Engle’s poetry sings, and this story about young love during a terrible period of starvation in Cuba’s recent history totally captured my heart.

YOUR LIFE HAS BEEN DELAYED by Michelle Mason. What’s not to like about a YA version of Manifest with a teen character from the 90s showing up with her flight today after a 25-year delay? It’s amazing how much has changed since the 90s. Also, Michelle is one of my longtime critique partners, and I was so thrilled to hold her debut in my hands!

CALL ME ATHENA by Colby Cedar Smith. Historicals in verse are definitely my jam, and this multi-generational tale starring young women from an immigrant family was definitely jammy. A great YA/adult crossover read.

COOL FOR THE SUMMER by Dahlia Adler. This YA contemporary about a bi teen girl deciding between “the guy of her dreams or the girl of her heart” is filled with beachy vibes. It’s charming, funny, and heartfelt.

RED, WHITE, AND WHOLE by Rajani LaRocca. This utterly beautiful middle grade novel-in-verse offers layers upon layers of heart. As a bonus, it takes place during the 80s, so as an 80s child myself, I felt right at home.

SOUL LANTERNS by Shaw Kuzki, translated by Emily Balistreiri. I’ve already re-read this middle grade historical, so that’s a testament right there of how compelling this book is. It’s about the terrible bombing of Hiroshima, but from the point of view of a twelve-year-old born after the war, her city haunted by the victims.

THE GENIUS UNDER THE TABLE by Eugene Yelchin. This memoir for middle grade readers caught me by surprise. I loved the humor, the heavy weight counterbalancing it, and this slice of history I really didn’t know well. Excellent for readers of all ages.

Those are my top ten picks, but I and would love to hear your favorites, as well as what books you’re looking forward to in 2022!

Playlist

Today is November 29, which means there are four months left until the release of The Most Dazzling Girl in Berlin! I started the countdown two months ago with a book teaser. Last month, I shared some of my book research. (As a reminder, here’s a link that lists out what I’ll be sharing each month until release.)

This month I’m sharing my playlist, which you can find here!

Most of the music is actually from the era, and includes several songs mentioned in the book. But it also includes a few newer recordings. Some come from the Babylon Berlin soundtrack and from Max Raabe and the Palast Orchester.

I don’t usually listen to music as I write or revise, but I adore listening to related music when brainstorming or thinking about a story. Hope you enjoy this musical glimpse into this quite musical book!

Book Research

Today is October 29, which means there are five months left until the release of The Most Dazzling Girl in Berlin! Last month, I began my monthly release countdowns with a book teaser. This time, I’m here to share some of the book research I did as I was writing and revising. (As a reminder, here’s a link that lists out what I’ll be sharing each month until release.)

Like most historical fiction authors, I absolutely love research, and I especially loved researching the world of Berlin in 1932 for this novel. Besides reading general works of nonfiction about the era, most of the books I read fell in one of four categories:

Journalism: Along with reading issues from many periodicals from 1932, these books were great resources for me.

Guidebooks: The Moreck and Hessel books are reprints of guidebooks from the time, but the book in the center is actually from 1929 (purchased from a used bookseller).

Memoirs: I read several others, but these are a couple I purchased in non-electronic form. The one on the left contains stories from several women, and the one on the right is by singer Claire Waldoff (who makes an appearance in the novel).

Fiction: These stories all take place in Berlin in the 1930s, all by authors who lived there at the time.

Overall, these books represent just a portion of my research, but hope they are useful for anyone wanting to learn more about my process and about this world.

The Most Dazzling Girl in Berlin

With less than six months to go until the release of The Most Dazzling Girl in Berlin, it’s time to start a countdown with fun tidbits leading up to the release. Looking forward to sharing each of these with you! For now, please do check out the short teaser (link below). Full trailer to come at the end of January!

September 29: Teaser

October 29: Book research 

November 29: Playlist

December 29: Berlin research trip

January 29: Trailer

February 28: Film research

March 29: RELEASE DAY

My Critique Partner’s Debut!

My critique partner Michelle Mason will be launching her debut YA novel a week from today! What is a critique partner, you ask? Well, critique partners are fellow writers with whom you swap chapters or manuscripts. I’ve lost count how many Michelle and I have exchanged, but I know we’ve read several manuscripts for each other over the years, offering feedback and brainstorming help, as well as consoling one another when the inevitable rejections stream in and celebrating our victories together. In sum, critique partners are invaluable. And now, after so many years of cheering for each other, I am excited to celebrate her and her book! The title is Your Life Has Been Delayed.

Here’s the blurb:

Past and present collide in a captivating YA debut about a girl who takes off on a flight and lands . . . twenty-five years later.

When Jenny boards her flight back from New York, the biggest things on her mind are applying to Columbia and reuniting with her brand-new boyfriend. But when she and the other passengers disembark in St. Louis, they’re told that their plane disappeared-twenty-five years ago. 

Doesn’t it sound awesome? (Spoiler alert: it is!) Oh yeah, and for anyone watching the Netflix series Manifest, this is totally the YA version!

Please join Michelle at one of her book launch events. You can purchase the book, preferably from Michelle’s local independent bookseller, The Novel Neighbor. Order a signed copy of Your Life Has Been Delayed.

I’m also hosting a pre-order giveaway over on Twitter! Just hop over there and follow/RT my tweet about the giveaway to enter!