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Book Review: How We Fall

Today I’m reviewing How We Fall by Kate Brauning. This book has been on my TBR list since its release, and I was lucky enough to win a copy at the SCBWI mid-year workshops in Orlando this month.



Buy it here

The summary, adapted from Goodreads:
Ever since Jackie moved to her uncle’s sleepy farming town, she’s been flirting way too much–and with her own cousin, Marcus. Their friendship has turned into something she can’t control, and he’s the reason Jackie lost track of her best friend, Ellie. Ellie has been missing for months, and the police, fearing the worst, are searching for her body. Swamped with guilt and the knowledge that acting on her love for Marcus would tear their families apart, Jackie pushes her cousin away.
 
The plan is to fall out of love, and, just as she hoped he would, Marcus falls for the new girl in town. But something isn’t right about this stranger, and Jackie’s suspicions about the new girl’s secrets drive the wedge deeper between Jackie and Marcus. Then Marcus pays the price for someone else’s lies as the mystery around Ellie’s disappearance becomes horribly clear. Can Jackie leave her first love behind, and can she go on living with the fact that she failed her best friend?
 
The review:
I really enjoyed How We Fall. The relationship between two cousins, Jackie and Marcus, is steamy, intriguing, and uncomfortable in a way that amps up the tension from the opening chapter. The family dynamics, including both sets of parents and many siblings, also give the story depth and authenticity. I was skeptical at first to see how the mystery of Ellie’s disappearance would play out with the complexity of the love story, and while I would’ve liked a bit more of that plot line developed in the first half of the book, Brauning did pull it all together in the end. My favorite secondary character was Will, a fantastic alternative love interest. I would recommend this book to fans of YA contemporary romance and suspense.
5 out of 5 stars.

 

Music for today: 15 Step by Radiohead

Cover Reveal: Library Jumpers

Brenda Drake has done more to support other authors than just about anyone I know on the Internet. Thank you so much, Brenda, for all the time, love, and support for the YA community and beyond. I am so thrilled today to be able to share in the cover reveal for her book Library Jumpers! Isn’t it gorgeous?

Library Jumpers
Release Date: January 2016
Entangled Teen
Summary from Goodreads:
Gia Kearns would rather fight with boys than kiss them. That is, until Arik, a leather clad hottie in the Boston Athenaeum, suddenly disappears. While examining the book of world libraries he abandoned, Gia unwittingly speaks the key that sucks her and her friends into a photograph and transports them into a Paris library, where Arik and his Sentinels—magical knights charged with protecting humans from the creatures traveling across the gateway books—rescue them from a demonic hound.

Jumping into some of the world’s most beautiful libraries would be a dream come true for Gia, if she weren’t busy resisting her heart or dodging an exiled wizard seeking revenge on both the Mystik and human worlds. Add a French flirt obsessed with Arik and a fling with a young wizard, and Gia must choose between her heart and her head, between Arik’s world and her own, before both are destroyed.

Pre-Order Links:

 

 

About the Author
 
Brenda Drake, the youngest of three children, grew up an Air Force brat and the continual new kid at school until her family settled in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Brenda’s fondest memories growing up is of hereccentric, Irish grandmother’s animated tales, which gave her a strong love for storytelling. So it was only fitting that she would choose to write young adult and middle grade novels with a bend toward the fantastical.
 

When Brenda’s not writing or doing the social media thing, she’s haunting libraries, bookstores, and coffee shops or reading someplace quiet and not at all exotic (much to her disappointment).

Crow’s Rest

I have followed the publication journey of the YA urban fantasy Crow’s Rest for a while now. I am so excited to share the book trailer today!

The summary:

Avery Flynn arrives for a visit at her Uncle Tam’s, eager to rekindle her summertime romance with her crush-next-door, Daniel.

But Daniel’s not the sweet, neurotic guy she remembers–and she wonders if this is her Daniel at all. Or if someone–or something–has taken his place.


Her quest to find the real Daniel–and get him back–plunges Avery into a world of Fae and changelings, where creatures swap bodies like humans change their socks, and magic lives much closer to home than she ever imagined.



Written by the fabulous Angelica R. Jackson, Crow’s Rest will be available in May of 2015. Angelica made the trailer herself on a tight budget. You can learn more about the author on her website here. And for more information on how she put this awesome trailer together, click here.

Crow’s Rest is up on Goodreads and available for pre-order here and here.

Book Reviews: A Double-edged Sword

Recently a writer I know and respect sent out a message asking readers and friends to please review her new book on the various sites. (Goodreads, Amazon, etc.) It was all completely on the up-and-up. She didn’t ask for positive reviews, just honesty from those who’d read it, in the hopes that they might balance out some harsh ones. I haven’t read her book yet, but of course this piqued my interest to see what prompted her request.

She had a few of those scathing, rambling reviews that tell you far more about the general unhappiness of the person writing them than the actual book. Who has time to write this stuff? I mean, why not spend that time writing their own masterpieces of fiction? As a reader, those reviews mean nothing to me.

But the rest of the reviews were of the helpful variety. They gave short summaries and highlights of what they liked and what they didn’t. The points were all very similar, with above-average ratings. My problem is this: the issues they mentioned were all things that really bug me in other books. They’re things related to character development that cause me to put a book down.

I wanted to buy this book, both for my own enjoyment and to support a fellow writer. But with so many awesome releases coming out every week, what I read on these sites was enough keep my money in my pocket. The key point is that it wasn’t the terrible reviews that held me back, but the good ones. The worst thing is, at least from her perspective, that I would have bought her book if I’d never gotten that message.

Music for today: Lovesong by The Cure

Writers on Writing: The Writer’s Process

Last week Alison Miller tagged me in the Writer’s on Writing blog hop, and today’s my day! You can check out her blog here. Thanks, Alison!

1. What are you working on?

My work-in-progress is a YA contemporary about a girl with a disabled father and a mother in prison. She’s done a fine job taking care of herself and her dad, thank you very much, until the uncle she blames for her mom’s conviction shows up to ruin everything. Again. The writing is going slow, with end of the school year activities on top of work-type editing responsibilities. But I am in love with this character. She’s brave and strong and loyal, with a questionable moral compass. The family relationships are complex, and it’s exciting to see how their interactions play out. I’ve readjusted my goal of finishing the first draft from a certain date to sometime this summer.

2. What makes your work different?

Every piece of long fiction I’ve written takes place mostly in the South. This didn’t begin as an intentional choice, yet most pieces take place in north or central Florida, in areas where I’ve lived for many years. North Florida has a unique flavor, somehow both deep South and lassez-faire, diverse in culture and beliefs, and both literally and figuratively hot and steamy. I hate seeing Southerners depicted as dim-witted and close-minded on television and in movies, and though less often, also in books. I try to bring a different touch of the South to my work, something that enhances the characters without drawing too much attention to itself.

3. Why do you write what you do?

I fell in love with YA while teaching middle school. It started out as a way to stay tuned to what my students were reading. I read everything they recommended, alongside my Anita Shreve and Stephen King. One day, a student came to me and said, “Mrs. D, you have to read this! It’s about a boy, and he finds out he’s a wizard, and…” Suddenly I wasn’t just reading children’s books for them anymore. I was one of those people waiting to pick up the next Harry Potter at midnight when it came out. When I started seeking out YA books that were beyond my sixth graders for my personal reading, I knew I was hooked.

Still, when I started writing, my first novel was in the “women’s” fiction camp. It took place over twenty plus years, but it began when the main character was a freshman in college. But she didn’t act that way. She acted like someone in high school. And it hit me that tapping in to the potential for a life full of wonders and firsts and mistakes, was the sweet spot. The place where I wanted to write. I started reading YA almost exclusively, and writing it, and I haven’t looked back since.

4. What is your writing process?

Everything starts with a character. I think about him or her for a while, and I start with jotting down everything. Likes and dislikes, quirks, family background, friends, everything. Once I have a general idea of what the problem will be, I write a rough idea of what the climax will be, usually not knowing how it will end. Next I write more back stories for more characters, and then I just dig in and let those characters take me where they will. So, in short, I’m a pantser.

For my fantasy Trespassers, I have composition books filled with the “rules” of the world, drawings, maps, sticky notes for errant thoughts, the arch of the would-be trilogy, and extensive research of the history on which my magic was based. For my magical realism Perception, everything is cataloged in Word and Excel. (I think for me, the method changes to fit the story.) I do listen to music while drafting, and when I wrote Perception, my playlists included music my MC Evan loved. I edit and revise in quiet, and now that I’m drafting again, I’m having to find new music to suit my girl.

This has been so much fun! Alison also tagged Melanie Stanford today, so please check out her answers. And I’m tagging fellow Florida girl Missy LaRae, so please stop by her blog here for her answers on Thursday, May 29th.

It’s been forever since I checked in with YA Highway’s Road Trip Wednesday. This week the topic is simple and perfect for what’s been on my mind:

What are you reading right now?



I’m still reading The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. At about halfway through, that’s slow reading for me.

I’ve been itching to talk about it, though, because I think Ms. Tartt has a secret. On top of being a best-selling, Pulitzer-winning literary powerhouse, she may secretly be a YA writer in disguise. Let’s start with the premise of The Goldfinch, according to Goodreads:

Buy it here

Theo Decker, a thirteen-year-old New Yorker, miraculously survives an accident that kills his mother. Abandoned by his father, Theo is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend. Bewildered by his strange new home on Park Avenue, disturbed by schoolmates who don’t know how to talk to him, and tormented above all by his unbearable longing for his mother, he clings to one thing that reminds him of her: a small, mysteriously captivating painting that ultimately draws Theo into the underworld of art.

I realize that in the course of the narrative, Theo will grow up, and I’ll learn how the trials of his youth shaped him and the circumstances he faces as an adult. But for the first half of this book, Tartt creates a raw, honest picture of a teenager’s life in America. Theo deals with tragedy and loss, guilt and confusion. My heart aches for him and for my real-life sons, who are edging too close for comfort to his age.

The “youth” portion of this novel may not form a complete story on it’s own, but even with plot elements aside, it would hold up as a coming of age tale. My question is, then, which defines a book as YA more, the age and circumstances of the main character, or the intention of the author to write for young people? If the answer is the former, then Ms. Tartt is definitely a YA writer in addition to her other talents.

Happy reading and happy Wednesday, everyone!

Music for today: Bad Blood by Bastille

Manuscript Music

This week the lovely Leatrice McKinney at Info Dump a la El is hosting Pitch Slam: Battle of the Bands!  In addition to pitching novels, each day this week we’re rocking Pitch Slam Twitter Parties. Today we’re sharing our writing playlists. 

My YA novel PERCEPTION is about a boy with a rare liver disorder who spends one wild night trying to forget his disease and exposes disturbing new neurological symptoms instead. Grounded, wanted by experimenting doctors and government informants, and falling for the girl who snitched on him, he faces treatment as a lab rat or freedom while sacrificing recovery. 

Here are some of the songs on my Perception Playlist!  


For a while now, I’ve thought that the greatest secondary benefit of being a writer was fulfilling my fan-girl fantasies of meeting the authors of books that I love. At my first writing conference, I had lunch with Charlaine Harris. (Well, we sat at the same table, and I was so tongue-tied that I barely said two words to her, but it still counts, right?) At  my second conference, I had an intensive workshop with the lovely Kristin Harmel. (Her amazing new book The Sweetness of Forgetting is an international best seller.) And don’t get me started on SCBWI. Jay Asher. Ruta Sepetys. Sara Shepard. Patricia MacLachlan. Tony DiTerlizzi. I could fill up a whole post with all that awesome.

But, you know what? I’ve decided there’s an even better writerly by-product.

I knew I’d struck gold with my critique partner Kip Taylor. I was so happy when my her first book was finally released, and you can read my review here But I had no idea then that I would keep hitting the writer-friend jackpot.

You guys, I am reading some amazing books. Books that I can’t wait to review and share with you, so that you can see how awesome they are. But I can’t do it yet, because they haven’t been delivered into the world yet. These manuscripts belong to my beta/critique partners.

And just like I felt when I first read Kip’s book Finn Flanagan, I cannot believe how lucky I am to get to read these novels before the rest of the world. But that’s all I can say for now.

How about you? I’d love to see some CP love shared in the comments below!

Music for today: Chained by the XX. (I get to see them in 4 days!)

2012 is almost over, and we’re all still here! I’ve been enjoying a relaxing week with my family leading up to Christmas. I’ve baked. I’ve written. I’ve read. A Lord of the Rings movie marathon followed our family reading and trip to see the Hobbit on the big screen. It’s been a good week, and it’s been a good year.
 
I am so glad to have spent another year blogging with you all in this fantastic community. Many thanks are due to Brenda Drake for all the work she does for fellow writers, and I am so excited to say that the awesome, startacular, brilliant Deana Barnhart, chose me as her teammate and mentee for Brenda’s Pitch Wars, a pitchfest involving 37 teams and 16 agents, continuing to the final round on January 23-24. For more information about Brenda and Pitch Wars, click here. And please check out my mentor Deana here!
 
In writing, I’ve sailed my YA fantasy Trespassers through more revisions than I can count, and I’ve nearly finished the first draft of my NaNoWriMo magical realism project.
 
In reading, the bookshelves keep overflowing. My TBR list continues to grow, and there are never enough hours in the day to read. I wanted to wrap-up with some of my top reads of the year.
 
Best New Voice:
The Assassin’s Curse by Cassandra Rose Clarke

Best Contemporary:
Counting Backwards by Laura Lascarso
 
Best Fantasy World Building:
Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
 
Best SciFi /Adventure:
Midnight City by J. Baron Mitchell 
 
Best Adult Read:
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
 
Best Conclusion to a Series:
Black Heart by Holly Black
 
 
 
And for my music of the day, I picked my favorite new album of 2012:
Synthetica by Metric
 
Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year everyone! May your stockings be filled with books, and your homes filled loved ones!
 

 

Book Review: Midnight City

Today I’m reviewing Midnight City by J. Baron Mitchell, another book I read courtesy of the Southern Book Bloggers ARC tours.

The Summary, adapted from Goodreads:

Earth has been conquered by an alien race known as the Assembly. Holt Hawkins is a bounty hunter, and his current target is Mira Toombs, an infamous treasure seeker with a price on her head. It’s not long before Holt bags his prey, but their instant connection isn’t something he bargained for. Neither is the Assembly ship that crash-lands near them shortly after. Venturing inside, Holt finds a young girl who remembers nothing except her name: Zoey.

As the three make their way to the cavernous metropolis of Midnight City, they encounter young freedom fighters, mutants, otherworldly artifacts, pirates, feuding alien armies, and the amazing powers that Zoey is beginning to exhibit. Powers that suggest she may be the key to stopping the Assembly once and for all.



The teaser for this book bills it as War of the Worlds meets Lord of the Flies. I’d take it a step further to say it has the world-building of War of the Worlds meets the theme of Lord of the Flies meets the tone and character development of Joss Whedon’s Firefly. Now I’m a big fan of Joss, so that likely went a long way in fueling my love for this book. (If you’re a fan, too, let me entice you by saying Holt is undeniably a teen version of Captain Mal.) But that’s not the only reason I loved it.



Mitchell has created a post-apocalyptic world so rich and diverse that you’ll forget you’re tired of dystopian. The characters are intensely likable and flawed, with a building attraction that fits the time and space perfectly. I also really appreciated the pacing, tension, and the style of writing, all of which I think would appeal to both reluctant, young male readers and anyone looking for a quirky but expansive story. (I don’t usually recommend my YA reads to my husband, but I’m going to buy this one just so he can read it. That’s how much I loved it.) The only negative? Waiting for part two in the series.



5 out of 5 stars.



Music for today: Well, of course, Midnight City by M83.