Monday, December 19, 2011

Moonglass Has a New Look!

And I can't wait to show you!!!

I've been waiting ever-so- patiently *cough* to get the final cover for the paperback version of MOONGLASS, which comes out on May 8th, along with IN HONOR.  And finally, the day has come!I have it! The final, final version. Ready to see???

Okay.

When I was told MOONGLASS would be getting a new cover for the paperback, I was curious and excited to see what the design team would come up with.  I loved the shimmery purple of the hardcover and was really hoping to be able to keep the beachy, romantic feel it had, so when I saw this, I couldn't have been happier!  Many, many thanks to the awesomely talented design team at S&S for giving MOONGLASS another gorgeous cover! 

And now, here it is...


What do you think???




Thursday, December 15, 2011

Bookanista Thursday: BITTERSWEET by Sarah Ockler

The last time I posted I said something about having to take a break from reading to buckle down and focus on writing for a little while.  And I did...until BITTERSWEET showed up in my mailbox. I adored TWENTY BOY SUMMER  and FIXING DELILAH, so I was beyond excited for Sarah Ockler's next contemp, which features cupcakes, hockey boys, lake effect winds, and dreams that shift and change amidst it all.  It comes out on January 3rd, and it's THE PERFECT curl-up-with-a-cup-of-hot-cocoa-and-a-cupcake kind of book.  Check it out!
From Goodreads:  Once upon a time, Hudson knew exactly what her future looked like. Then a betrayal changed her life, and knocked her dreams to the ground. Now she’s a girl who doesn’t believe in second chances... a girl who stays under the radar by baking cupcakes at her mom’s diner and obsessing over what might have been.

So when things start looking up and she has another shot at her dreams, Hudson is equal parts hopeful and terrified. Of course, this is also the moment a cute, sweet guy walks into her life...and starts serving up some seriously mixed signals. She’s got a lot on her plate, and for a girl who’s been burned before, risking it all is easier said than done.

It’s time for Hudson to ask herself what she really wants, and how much she’s willing to sacrifice to get it. Because in a place where opportunities are fleeting, she knows this chance may very well be her last....
                                                      

My Thoughts:

Hudson Avery had me with this: "In three years of baking for Hurley’s Homestyle Diner in Watonka, New York, I’ve never met a problem a proper cupcake couldn’t fix."  On the surface, it's a fun line that most of us would heartily agree with.  I've put this philosophy into practice more than once in my own life, that's for sure. 

But for Hudson, it goes much deeper than that.  Baking cupcakes in her mom's diner is not only her way of trying to fix problems and keep everyone happy, it's also her way of avoiding her own feelings about her parents' divorce and the turn her life has taken in the years since.  Hudson is the kind of character I love because she's strong and vulnerable at the same time.  She takes on responsibility after responsibility, and is too stubborn to ask for any help, even when it becomes too much to handle.  At the same time though, she has this side of her that dreams and yearns for something more, and it's a side she keeps to herself until a cute hockey player by the name of Josh comes along.

There is no way I could write about this book without singing the praises of Ockler's knack for romance within a story.  As with her first two books, she knows exactly when to stretch the romantic tension between her characters, and when to let them fall headlong into it. And those moments are so well rendered I get butterflies in my stomach reading them.  Seriously.  Nobody writes a kiss like Sarah Ockler does.

My most favorite thing about this book though is how real the story felt--from Hudson's tenuous relationship with her mom, to her heartwarming one with her brother, Bug, to the ones with her friends and the boys in her life, I felt these people.  And I felt all of those moments between them--the good ones that make your heart sing, and the not-so-good ones you'd rather send off on the icy wind that is a constant in Watonka. 

BITTERSWEET is the perfect title for Hudson's story, and Sarah Ockler tells it with humor, honesty, and cupcake descriptions that will have you heading out the door in search of your nearest bakery. Like I said, it's out on January 3rd, so now is the perfect time to add it to your Christmas list!

If you want to find Sarah, you can look her up here:

Her website: http://sarahockler.com
On Twitter
On Facebook

If you want to see what the other Bookanistas are talking about this week, check them out on their blogs:

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Bookanista Thursday

Currently, I'm buried deep in writing, which means I have little time for reading or recommending, or you know, breathing.  So.  I won't be posting Bookanista recommendations for a bit.  But I will still be bringing you the links to the fab books they will all be talking about every Thursday, so please stop by, then check out the other Bookanista blogs!


Thursday, November 10, 2011

Bookanista Thursday: Virtuosity by Jessica Martinez

So the month of November is being featured as Just Contemporary month over at Basically Amazing Books and Chick Loves Lit, which I'm so excited about, since Contemporary is my first YA love. It makes me so very proud and happy when I find amazing Contemporary books, and VIRTUOSITY certainly qualifies!

From Goodreads:
Now is not the time for Carmen to fall in love. And Jeremy is hands-down the wrong guy for her to fall for. He is infuriating, arrogant, and the only person who can stand in the way of Carmen getting the one thing she wants most: to win the prestigious Guarneri competition. Carmen's whole life is violin, and until she met Jeremy, her whole focus was winning. But what if Jeremy isn't just hot...what if Jeremy is better?

Carmen knows that kissing Jeremy can't end well, but she just can't stay away. Nobody else understands her--and riles her up--like he does. Still, she can't trust him with her biggest secret: She is so desperate to win she takes anti-anxiety drugs to perform, and what started as an easy fix has become a hungry addiction. Carmen is sick of not feeling anything on stage and even more sick of always doing what she’s told, doing what's expected.

Sometimes, being on top just means you have a long way to fall....



My Thoughts:

This is a book that had me from the first intense page.  It's a book I fell into immediately and didn't want to put down. At all.  Carmen's voice sings from the start, and the tone is passionate, true, fragile, and strong, all at the same time. 

I am not a musician in any sense of the word, so this glimpse into Carmen's world was both enlightening and startling.  The intensity of the practice, the competition, and the pressures of this life are palpable in every word Martinez writes.  And her words are brilliant--crisp, vivid, and gorgeous in the best possible way.

Virtuosity is so many things--way more than the summary suggests.  It's a story of a girl facing her opponent, her inner conflicts, and her own talent, and it's so gracefully done I can honestly say it goes on the list of "Books I Wish I'd Written."

So check it out, if you haven't already!

You can also find Jessica on her website: www.jessicamartinez.com , Facebook, and Twitter!

And while you're here, check out what the other Bookanistas are talking about this week:

Elana Johnson gushes about THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS

Shelli Johannes-Wells praises Addison Moore's books

Rosemary Clement-Moore gets all wrapped up in WRAPPED

Nikki Katz screams for LEGEND

Katy Upperman sets us all up for BEFORE I FALL


 

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Bookanista Thursday

I'll be back with a review of VIRTUOSITY by Jessica Martinez next week, but in the meantime, check out what the other Bookanistas are talking about this week!

Elana Johnson is crazy about Crossed and Shatter Me
LiLa Roecker swoons for Sirenz
Christine Fonseca interviews Kids Inventing! author Susan Casey
Shelli Johannes-Wells dishes on Become (Desolation Book #1)
Beth Revis celebrates books for which she’s grateful – with gigantic signed book giveaway
Megan Miranda marvels at How to Save a Life
Rosemary Clement Moore is wild for The Iron Witch
Veronica Rossi is amazed by Shatter Me

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Bookanista Thursday: AUDITION by Stasia Kehoe Makes the Cut!

I have a confession to make: AUDITION by Stasia Kehoe, is the first verse novel I have read.  I haven't purposely stayed away from them or anything, it just never really occured to me to branch out into the genre.  I usually stick to reading traditional novels because they're familiar and I feel like I'm  "studying the craft" by reading them.

Then I read Kehoe's novel in verse, and let me tell you, THAT is a study in craft.

Honestly, the way she works with this art form left me completely wonderstruck at the fact that a beautiful, cohesive story could be told so eloquently through a series of poems.  I am in awe.  So without further adieu, I present to you AUDITION:


From Goodreads: 

When high school junior Sara wins a coveted scholarship to study ballet, she must sacrifice everything for her new life as a professional dancer-in-training. Living in a strange city with a host family, she's deeply lonely-until she falls into the arms of Remington, a choreographer in his early twenties. At first, she loves being Rem's muse, but as she discovers a surprising passion for writing, she begins to question whether she's chosen the right path. Is Rem using her, or is it the other way around? And is dancing still her dream, or does she need something more? This debut novel in verse is as intense and romantic as it is eloquent.

My Thoughts:

As I said before, this was my first introduction to a novel in verse.  I read it months ago, and I am STILL in awe at how Kehoe so seamlessly wove together the moments that tell Sara's story, line by line, in beautiful, spare verse.  Finding the right words to write a scene in a is hard enough.  But this novel makes regular old prose seem like a luxury.  Somehow, Kehoe was able to get down to the most striking, pure words to tell Sara's story.  She makes a dance with them, and this dance is the story of a girl lost and then found.  

Maybe it’s because I am now a mother myself, far removed from 16 and its wants and wishes and insecurities, but I watched Sara set out apprehensively, then give herself over, give herself up to Remington for what, she wasn’t even sure.  And the entire time I hoped/prayed/wished she wouldn’t.  That she’d find another way.  But at the same time, I could also feel the draw of Remington--his dance, his adoration, and the idea of being his inspiration.  Kehoe manages infuse the complexity of Sara's relationships to Rem, dance, writing, and herself into seemingly simple poems and the result is graceful and eloquent.  It feels true.
Secondly, I am not a dancer, so reading this book was like stepping into a different world.  I was absolutely fascinated.  Watching  the struggle that Sara felt each time she stepped onto the floor--the structure vs. letting go, discipline vs. rebellion left me with a whole new perspective of that world.  It seems to me that it's one that is beautiful and brutal at the same time, and I can't imagine a more well-drawn picture.
Whether or not you're into dance, or novels in verse, this is a gorgeous book and an impressive debut, and lucky for you, it's in stores now!
Want to know more about Stasia?  You can find her on:

And don't forget to check out what the other Bookanistas are up to, especially ELANA JOHNSON, who has something VERY EXCITING HAPPENING TODAY!!!
Elana Johnson REVEALS something awesome!!!
LiLa Roecker announces a winner - plus a Past Midnight series giveaway
Christine Fonseca reveals books she cannot wait to read
Beth Revis interviews My Very UnFairytale Life author Anna Staniszewski
Shannon Whitney Messenger interviews Skyship Academy-Pearl Wars author Nick James & agent Jennifer Rofe – with giveaway
Shana Silver burns for Circle of Fire
Carrie Harris devours Deadly
Stasia Ward Kehoe travels to The Day Before




Thursday, September 29, 2011

Mara Dyer Fabulousness!

If you are a fan of YA Lit, you've probably heard of a little book that just came out this week called THE UNBECOMING OF MARA DYER.  You know, the dark, twisty, sexy debut by Michelle Hodkin?  The one with this gorgeous cover:




And this BRILLIANT trailer:



Believe me--like the book, this is NOT something you want to miss out on.  So go! Now!

Then check out what the other Bookanistas are up to this week!

Elana Johnson interviews Elle Strauss, author of Clockwise
LiLa Roecker discusses S R Johannes' e-book experiment
Christine Fonseca is wowed by The White Assassin - with giveaway
Shannon Whitney Messenger loves Lola & the Boy Next Door – with giveaway
Beth Revis delights in The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer – with giveaway
Shelli Johannes-Wells falls for Fracture
Carolina Valdez Miller adores Ashfall – with giveaway
 Shana Silver steps up to Audition
Corrine Jackson is crazy about Cracked
Stasia Ward Kehoe swoons for Swan and To Dance

 
  

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

New Fall Events!

So today I opened up my calendar to the month of October, and holy wow, it's shaping up to be a busy one! I've got lots of fun author events and appearances lined up.  Things like:

The Orange County Children's Book Festival
This is a FREE event and takes place on Sunday, October 2nd.  I'll be on the "Keepin' it Real Panel," which is hosted by superstar writer Heidi Kling, and includes authors Lindsey Leavitt (Sean Griswold's Head), Kirsten Hubbard (Like Mandarin), and Andrew Smith (Stick, Marbury Lens). More details here!


Debut Author Signing at Mysterious Galaxy in San Diego

This event will take place on Wednesday October 19th at 7pm, with Kirsten Hubbard, Elana Johnson, and Corey Whaley. If you're in the San Diego area, come see us!


Oceanside Barnes and Noble: Four Fabulous Authors on One Night!

On Thursday, October 20th, I'll be teaming up with fellow debut authors Corey Whaley (Where Things Come Back), Elana Johnson (Possession), and Kirsten Hubbard (Like Mandarin), for a fabulous, fun-filled evening. Come see us!

SoCal Independent Bookseller's Association Author's Feast and Tradeshow

This event takes place on Saturday, October 22nd, and is one I am definitely looking forward to! I'll be the totally starstruck one with this list of attending authors.

Monday, September 12, 2011

1st IN HONOR Giveaway!!! Jacket Proofs and a Special Sneak Peek!!!

I love emails from my editor that end in multiple exclamation marks.  When I got the one titled "Jacket Proofs!!!" I dropped EVERYTHING to open it up and ogle the cover image of IN HONOR on my laptop screen.  It made me wish I had one of those mammoth-sized monitors that I could just stare at forever and ever.  But then last week, I got something even better from the UPS man:

The actual jacket proofs!!!



 
Why yes, I took them around my house and photographed them in various locations with my own red boots, but I had a reason, and the reason is this:

I'm going to give them away this week
(The proofs, not the boots. They were a gift from my hubby.)

And you want these. Know why?

On the back cover, which you can't see anywhere online, is Honor's travel companion, Rusty.  And whoa boy, is he perfect.  Rugged-looking like I imagined, with just enough revealed to hint at his hotness. 

AND THIS:

I'm going to do something special with these proofs.  Every road trip needs a playlist, and IN HONOR has one that's near and dear to my heart.  It's a playlist I listened to almost every day while I was writing the story of Finn, Honor, and Rusty.  I listened to it on my runs, while gardening, doing dishes, waiting in the school pick up line...everywhere.  It's how I stay connected to a story.  Each song corresponds to a scene, theme, or feeling in the book, and three lucky winners will get an exclusive sneak peek at the list all of the tunes that inspired IN HONOR.

BECAUSE... 

On the inside of each jacket proof I give away will be the IN HONOR playlist, hand-written, and signed by me.

How do you enter to win one of these???  Easy:

1. Leave a comment on this post. (+1 entry)

Want to earn some extra entries?

Tweet about the giveaway (+1)
Share the giveaway on Facebook (+1)
Link to this giveaway on your blog (+1)

Leave the links to these in your comment and I will count an extra entry for each one. (Max number of entries is 4.) 

This contest is open internationally and will run from today through Sunday, September 18th.  I'll post the winners that day.

Happy Monday!



  



Thursday, September 8, 2011

Bookanista Thursday: Sean Griswold's Head

Don't you love it when you finish a great book and immediately follow it up with ANOTHER great book? It doesn't happen all that often for me, but let me tell you, I am on a Contemporary YA  roll right now! This week's book is Lindsey Leavitt's SEAN GRISWOLD'S HEAD, which I'd been wanting to read since I first heard about it.  I'm so glad I did, because it's a funny-sweet story that I thoroughly enjoyed.

                                                             From Goodreads:

According to her guidance counselor, fifteen-year-old Payton Gritas needs a focus object-an item to concentrate her emotions on. It's supposed to be something inanimate, but Payton decides to use the thing she stares at during class: Sean Griswold's head. They've been linked since third grade (Griswold-Gritas-it's an alphabetical order thing), but she's never really known him.

The focus object is intended to help Payton deal with her father's newly diagnosed multiple sclerosis. And it's working. With the help of her boy-crazy best friend Jac, Payton starts stalking-er, focusing on-Sean Griswold . . . all of him! He's cute, he shares her Seinfeld obsession (nobody else gets it!) and he may have a secret or two of his own.

In this sweet story of first love, Lindsey Leavitt seamlessly balances heartfelt family moments, spot-on sarcastic humor, and a budding young romance.

My Thoughts:

The first thing that caught me about this book was the voice. Payton's quirky, self-conscious personality and her good-natured sarcasm make her completely believable and totally endearing.  When she learns of her father's diagnosis, she's thrown for a loop, but doesn't descend into deep depression or melodrama.  Instead, she takes things day by day, dealing the best she can.  I admired that about her, and respected the way Lindsey Leavitt handled it.

Many books that deal with parents' illnesses have a tendency to be on the heavier side, but this one is refreshingly balanced.  Leavitt manages to tell the story of a girl dealing with potentially devastating news while at the same time keeping the details of her day to day life honest, funny, and relevant. The most relevant of those details is Sean Griswold, and he is a cute, well-drawn one at that. The relationship that forms between him and Payton is a sweet, understanding one, which is exactly what she needs.

 It's no secret that even when we're in the midst of what can feel like a personal tragedy, life continues to happen all around us.  In SEAN GRISWOLD'S HEAD,  Leavitt blends humor, romance, and thoughtful observations to show just how. 

If you'd like to find out more about Lindsey Leavitt, you can visit her website here.

If you'd like to see Lindsey Leavitt talk about Contemporary YA, you can come to the Orange County Children's Book Festival on October 2nd. Info is here!

But wait! Before you go, check out what the other Bookanistas are up to this week:


Elana Johnson shares some book love for Random Acts of Publicity Week

LiLa Roecker is wild about a double giveaway of Witch Eyes and Wildefire

Christine Fonseca thinks you should Write Your Book Now!

Shannon Whitney Messenger loves Legend – with signed arc giveaway

Scott Tracey: Today is Witch Eyes release day – wowza!

Sarah Frances Hardy applauds Lottie Paris Lives Here

Stasia Ward Kehoe marvels at The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer


Thursday, September 1, 2011

Bookanista Thursday: What Happened to Goodye

Wow. I feel a tad out of practice with this whole blogging thing, but with summer winding down, and the little people of the house going back to school in a few days, I'm thinking it'll all come back to me quickly.  And hopefully eloquently.

To be perfectly honest, I am nervous about this Bookanista review.  Not because I haven't written one in a while, or because I really haven't written anything all summer.  No.  I'm nervous because I can't figure out how in the world to write a review of Sarah Dessen's WHAT HAPPENED TO GOODBYE.

See, Sarah Dessen is my real life hero. Seriously. Her books, and the characters that live in their pages feel like home to me.  They stay with me like the truest kind of old friends, and inspire me in the way only the best stories can.  How do I begin to "review" that?

Here's the thing--Sarah Dessen has set the standard for Contemporary YA.  Writing a review of her book is like writing about how great chocolate is.  We all know it. But the whole aim of The Bookanistas is to spread the word about books we love, and WHAT HAPPENED TO GOODBYE is most definitely one of those books, so here we go:

From Goodreads:   

Since her parents' bitter divorce, McLean and her dad, a restaurant consultant, have been on the move-four towns in two years. Estranged from her mother and her mother's new family, McLean has followed her dad in leaving the unhappy past behind. And each new place gives her a chance to try out a new persona: from cheerleader to drama diva. But now, for the first time, McLean discovers a desire to stay in one place and just be herself, whoever that is. Perhaps Dave, the guy next door, can help her find out.

Combining Sarah Dessen's trademark graceful writing, great characters, and compelling storytelling, What Happened to Goodbye is irresistible reading.


My Thoughts:

In WHAT HAPPENED TO GOODBYE, Sarah Dessen delivers all of the goodness I've come to expect from her novels: a relatable main character with realistic issues, well-drawn relationships, and subtle, gracefully woven themes that will resonate with everyone.

From the beginning, McLean is loveable character.  She's accustomed to being new, and comfortable adopting different personas and the lives that go along with them as a way to keep any connections she makes from getting too deep.  It's her defense mechanism.  What she's not used to being is herself.  And that self is someone who has been hurt by her parents' divorce, who has a lot of unresolved anger toward her mom, and who is fiercely loyal to and protective of her dad.  She's also someone who is incredibly sympathetic, doesn't judge, and has a soft spot for underdogs. Once she's in Lakeview, being anything other than herself becomes next to impossible, and that's due to the relationships she builds there. 

Relationships are everything in this story.  McLean's relationship with her father is tender, heartfelt, and the sweetest one in the novel.  With her mother, things are tangly and complicated, but driven by love and a bond that she can't seem to break no matter how hard she tries.  And then there are the friends she makes: Deb, Riley, and Dave.  Each of these characters are endearing and come with flaws of their own that allow McLean to open up and be herself around them. It's through these relationships that McLean learns to trust, to forgive, and ultimately rediscovers who she is. 

I think all of have at some point wished we could step into a different life, drop all of our problems and past issues, and become someone brand new.  But McLean says it best herself: "Your past is always your past. Even if you forget, it remembers you."  Ultimately, it's what makes us who we are, for better or worse, warts and all.  And that's a good thing.

WHAT HAPPENED TO GOODBYE ranks right up there with my other Dessen favorites, and if you're looking for a book to curl up with on this last weekend of summer, I can't recommend it enough. 



Check out what the other Bookanistas are up to this week:


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

And Now I Present to You...IN HONOR!!!

So I have a little something to show you...  

Actually, it's not little.  It's a big thing.  A thing I've been waiting not-so-patiently to share.  It's also a thing I've been wondering about and trying to picture since I started my second novel, IN HONOR.  And now it's real.  It has a blurb, and a release date, and...

A COVER!!!  

   

And it's a cover that couldn't be any more perfect for this story.  Krista Vossen, designer extraordinaire at Simon and Schuster, is my new hero.  Not only did she manage to visually capture the feel of the story.  She included the one thing I was REALLY hoping for.  Honor's red boots.  They're even on the spine!  Did I mention I have a new hero?

I've mentioned in a few places that this is a road trip book.  It's also a book about love and loss and sacrifice.  And a letter.  And a pair of concert tickets.  And two unlikely travel companions.  And...well here's the official Goodreads blurb:

 

Description

Honor receives her brother's last letter from Iraq three days after learning that he died, and opens it the day his fellow Marines lay the flag over his casket. Its contents are a complete shock: concert tickets to see Kyra Kelly, her favorite pop star and Finn's celebrity crush. In his letter, he jokingly charged Honor with the task of telling Kyra Kelly that he was in love with her.

Grief-stricken and determined to grant Finn's last request, she rushes to leave immediately. But she only gets as far as the driveway before running into Rusty, Finn's best friend since third grade and his polar opposite. She hasn't seen him in ages, thanks to a falling out between the two guys, but Rusty is much the same as Honor remembers him: arrogant, stubborn. . . and ruggedly good looking. Neither one is what the other would ever look for in a road trip partner, but the two of them set off together, on a voyage that makes sense only because it doesn't. Along the way, they find small and sometimes surprising ways to ease their shared loss and honor Finn--but when shocking truths are revealed at the end of the road, will either of them be able to cope with the consequences?
IN HONOR will be released in May 2012

And just for fun, here's a Road Trip Wednesday post I did a few weeks back, all about the visual inspirations for the book.  It's a sneak peek into soe of Honor and Rusty's experiences along the way!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Bookanista Review: A Scary Scene in a Scary Movie

This week, it's my pleasure to introduce a book by a fellow English teacher, Matt Blackstone!  I was excited to read A SCARY SCENE IN A SCARY MOVIE, first, because the premise is totally intriguing and different, and secondly because I love reading books written by teachers.  Writers are observers by nature.  Put a writer in a classroom, and that person will have characters and story ideas that ring uniquely true.  This is definitely the case with Blackstone's OCD main character, Rene. 




From Goodreads:



Rene, an obsessive-compulsive fourteen year old, smells his hands and wears a Batman cape when he’s nervous. If he picks up a face-down coin, moves a muscle when the time adds up to thirteen (7:42 is bad luck because 7 + 4 + 2 = 13), or washes his body parts in the wrong order, Rene or someone close to him will break a bone, contract a deadly virus, and/or die a slow and painful death like someone in a scary scene in scary movie. Rene’s new and only friend tutors him in the art of playing it cool, but that’s not as easy as Gio makes it sound.







My Thoughts:

Rene is one of those characters who grabs at your heart (and sense of humor) from the very beginning and doesn't let go.  Navigating high school is hard enough as it is, but add to it Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, an absent father, and a very tired mother, and you've got a situation that would be more than a challenge for anyone.  And Rene handles it the best way he knows how.  By wearing his cape to school, washing his hands obsessively, eating the same bowl of Lucky Charms every day, and keeping to all of his other routines that make him feel safe.  He's not shy about it.  He knows the ins and outs of his disorder and has a wry sense of humor about it.

And then things change, in a good way.  Gio is everything Rene wishes he could be: cool, calm, well-liked, friends with Mr. Head, the English teacher Rene admires.  Gio is also the thing Rene needs most: a friend.  When Gio befriends Rene, he also gives him strength and confidence enough to face the scariest scenes Rene comes up against, and that is my most favorite part of this story.  As unlikely as it seems, the friendship between Rene and Gio is real and touching.

If you've read any of my reviews, you know that character is the most important thing to me in a story.  Blackstone's characters are well-drawn, quirky, and sympathetic.  Definitely a pleasure to read.  If you haven't had a chance yet, be sure to pick up A SCARY SCENE IN A SCARY MOVIE.

You can find it here:

Indiebound

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

You can also check out Matt's website here:  http://www.mattblackstonebooks.com/

And finally, go see what the other Bookanistas are up to this week!

Or on their blogs:

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Bookanista Review: Where Things Come Back

This week it is truly my pleasure to bring you a review of WHERE THINGS COME BACK, by John Corey Whaley.  This...is a book that humbled me as a reader and a writer.  And one I have a feeling we'll all be hearing more about come award time. Yep. That's what I said.  This book will win awards, and they will be well-deserved.

From Goodreads:

Just when seventeen-year-old Cullen Witter thinks he understands everything about his small and painfully dull Arkansas town, it all disappears. . . .

In the summer before Cullen's senior year, a nominally-depressed birdwatcher named John Barling thinks he spots a species of woodpecker thought to be extinct since the 1940s in Lily, Arkansas. His rediscovery of the so-called Lazarus Woodpecker sparks a flurry of press and woodpecker-mania. Soon all the kids are getting woodpecker haircuts and everyone's eating "Lazarus burgers." But as absurd as the town's carnival atmosphere has become, nothing is more startling than the realization that Cullen’s sensitive, gifted fifteen-year-old brother Gabriel has suddenly and inexplicably disappeared.
 
While Cullen navigates his way through a summer of finding and losing love, holding his fragile family together, and muddling his way into adulthood, a young missionary in Africa, who has lost his faith, is searching for any semblance of meaning wherever he can find it. As distant as the two stories seem at the start, they are thoughtfully woven ever closer together and through masterful plotting, brought face to face in a surprising and harrowing climax.

Complex but truly extraordinary, tinged with melancholy and regret, comedy and absurdity, this novel finds wonder in the ordinary and emerges as ultimately hopeful. It's about a lot more than what Cullen calls, “that damn bird.” It’s about the dream of second chances.

My Thoughts:

Several months ago, when the Simon & Schuster Summer catalog came out, I circled the title of this book and dog-eared its page because it intrigued me.  When I found out I would be on a YA Debut Author Panel at ALA with John Corey Whaley, I made sure to get a copy so I could read it before I met him in person.  I started it on my way to New Orleans, and during my three hour flight I didn’t speak to another person on the plane, didn’t get up to use the restroom, didn’t even eat the free snack they offered me, because from the first page, I was a goner for this story.
I have to emphasize the word story here because there are writers, and then there are storytellers.  It’s hard for me to pin just what the difference is, but I can tell you this: John Corey Whaley is a true and talented storyteller--the kind that pulls you in with quietly spoken questions and truths that echo long after his story is finished.   
Cullen Witter is the voice of this story, and his is an earnest one, so real I felt like I must’ve known him in high school.  He’s sarcastic, but not overly so.  Filled with hope, and doubt, and searching.  Most of all, Cullen is searching.  Not only for his brother, but for meaning and second chances—in his small town, in his relationship with his family,  in the affections of a girl who breaks his heart.  He’s a character full of questions, with a humble sense of reverence for the answers.    
The thing I admire most about this book, though, is the way in which the different narrative threads weave their way together by the end of the story to create an ending so full of grace and wisdom I couldn't think of picking up another book for a very long time because I wanted to hang onto the feeling that Whaley left me with.  His story resonates.  I can't do it justice here.
Where Things Come Back is a book I know I’ll come back to.  It’s one I will give my friends and family as a gift, and today, it’s one I cannot speak highly enough about. When you read it, you’ll see what I mean.   

You can visit John Corey Whaley at his website.

And you can find his book at:
Amazon       
 Don't forget to check out what the other Bookanistas are up to this week:

Elana Johnson revels in Ruby Red
LiLa Roecker  is nuts for I’m Not Her
Christine Fonseca  interviews picture book author Michelle McLean – with giveaway
Beth Revis reveals her reading recommendations
Veronica Rossi  raves about Wildfire
Shannon Whitney Messenger swoons for Supernaturally – with giveaway
Shelli Johannes-Wells features “guestanisto” author Matt Blackstone
Carolina Valdez Miller is bedazzled by Between – with giveaway
Shana Silver wonders at The Near Witch
Stasia Ward Kehoe celebrates Selling Hope

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Bookanista Thursday: Hourglass by Myra McEntire

It's summertime, which means long days spent on the beach.  And after hours of soaking up the sun, there's nothing better than retiring to the shade of the backyard and the pages of a delicious book.  This past week, that book was Myra McEntire's HOURGLASS.

From Goodreads:

For seventeen-year-old Emerson Cole, life is about seeing what isn’t there: swooning Southern Belles; soldiers long forgotten; a haunting jazz trio that vanishes in an instant.

Plagued by phantoms since her parents’ death, she just wants the apparitions to stop so she can be normal. She’s tried everything, but the visions keep coming back.
 
So when her well-meaning brother brings in a consultant from a secretive organization called the Hourglass, Emerson’s willing to try one last cure. But meeting Michael Weaver may not only change her future, it may change her past.

Who is this dark, mysterious, sympathetic guy, barely older than Emerson herself, who seems to believe every crazy word she says? Why does an electric charge seem to run through the room whenever he’s around? And why is he so insistent that he needs her help to prevent a death that never should have happened?

Full of atmosphere, mystery, and romance, Hourglass merges the very best of the paranormal and science-fiction genres in a seductive, remarkable young adult debut.


My Thoughts:
A science fiction fan I am not. Paranormal? Not usually. But something about HOURGLASS intrigued me and I'm so glad it did, because in it, Myra McEntire delivers a a fast-paced, sexy read with a firecracker of a main character.  And characters are what matter to me the most.

Emerson Cole is an awesome one. She's smart, feisty, brave, and real.  I loved her from the start and totally enjoyed following her through the twisty-turny plot.  I was rooting for her wholeheartedly, and she did not disappoint.

Neither did the boys in this book

Clearly, McEntire knows a thing or two about chemistry and swoon-worthy boys.  Between Michael and Kaleb, she pretty much covers everything I could ever be attracted to.  And she does it with style and humor.  Watching Emerson's reactions to and interactions with each of them was priceless and perfect. 

And then the plot. I found myself sucked in immediately by Emerson's ability and the mysteries surrounding it, and the search for answers kept me turning the pages--at quite a pace, I must add.

All in all, HOURGLASS is a fantastic summer read, guaranteed to grab you and leave you wanting more--which there will be, in the sequel!

Wanna check out what the other Bookanistas are up to this week? Go see!


Elana Johnson celebrates A Scary Scene in a Scary Movie
LiLa Roecker adores Torn
Christine Fonseca is crazy about Cryer’s Cross – with giveaway
Beth Revis interviews Goddess Test author Aimee Carter – with giveaway
Carolina Valdez Miller delights in Texas Gothic AND Bad Taste in Boys – with giveaways
Shana Silver fawns over Forever
Jen Hayley is hot for Wildfire
Matt Blackstone savors Something Like Hope
Stasia Ward Kehoe jumps for Bumped
Veronica Rossi  devours Bad Taste in Boys




    

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Road Trip Wednesday: Inspiring Pictures

Every Wednesday morning I sit down with my cup of coffee and check out one of my most favorite blogs YA Highway for one of my favorite features, Road Trip Wednesday:

"Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic."


Every week, I think "Wow, what a great question. I should totally answer that on my blog."  And then every week I spend a whole lot of time checking out everyone else's answers and end up forgetting to write my own.

But this week's topic is perfect. I'm deep in revisions on my second novel, which means I've been going back to all of the things that inspired me, many of which are pictures.  So this will be YA Highway's 86th Road Trip Wednesday and my 1st!


This Week's Topic:

Share some images that inspire your WIP(s). We've done this topic before, but it's been quite a while, and pictures are always fun.




This is a '67 Chevy Impala, which is what Honor, the main character drives. She does not, however, take the trip with Sam and Dean from Supernatural. They're just nice to look at.





Honor's favorite boots.   




The Blue Hole, Santa Rosa New Mexico, known to scuba divers for its crystal clear water.



Desert monsoon



The gorgeous red rocks of Sedona, Arizona.


This is me trying to capture in words on hotel a notepad just how beautiful it is there.  Gotta love research!



Dance floor at the Museum Club in Flagstaff. Best country bar ever. Also a fun place to conduct research.


Perseids meteor shower.



Sunset Toro Nagashi ceremony.


So there it is. A little peek into the next book.  Can't wait to give you the rest!











 



Wednesday, June 29, 2011

ALA in Pictures

This week I had the incredible opportunity to attend my very first ALA and I'm still trying to process the amazingess of it all.  New Orleans was friendly, lively, hot, sticky, and filled with the best bunch of people I can think of: librarians, book bloggers, publishing folks, authors--all with one thing in common.  A love for books.  That was the best thing about being there.  You could feel the excitement and camaraderie everywhere you went. 

I could go on and tell you all about it, but today I'd rather show you.  So here you go:


ALA, in Pictures



Oh-so-official badge!


Swanky hotel room.


Bookanista Meet Up after the Newbery & Caldecott banquet, which was beautiful and so inspiring.
Pictured here from left to right: Jessica Martinez, Michelle Hodkin, Elana Johnson, Shannon Messenger, Carolina Valdez Miller, Kirsten Hubbard, and yours truly.


Next day was a visit to the Simon & Schuster booth on the convention floor...


where I got to hang and pose with the awesome Elana Johnson and her book POSSESSION. From there, we headed out to Octavia Books for our signing, where we were greeted by the friendliest staff ever.




Our display at Octavia!




After Octavia, we headed back to the hotel for a debut YA panel, hosted by the one and only Jenny Han.  She was a brilliant host and asked us hard-hitting questions like: "Who is your literary crush?" and "If you were stranded on an island and could take only one movie to watch, what would it be?" (My answers: Dexter and Wes from This Lullaby and The Truth About Forever, and Say Anything.)


After the panel, we got to speak to small groups of amazing librarians speed-dating style.  So. Much. Fun.
Pictured Above:  Jenny Han, John Corey Whaley, Frances O'Roark Dowell, Michelle Hodkin. Bottom Row: Jessica Martinez, me, Elana Johnson, and David E. Hilton.
Best Debut Crew Ever!

After that, it was off to the Printz Reception, which was amazing, to say the least.  You'd think after all that we'd all be tuckered out, but it was the last night in New Orleans, so it was time for a little adventuring which included...



Midnight beignets...


and 2am Fuddruckers with Michelle Hodkin and Corey Whaley, the best two late-night adventurers around.


Then all of a sudden it was the next day and time to go home. Almost.  The next morning, we had to make one more beignet run, and it was totally worth it, powdered sugar mess and all!

I can't thank Simon & Schuster enough for sending me or say just how much it meant, but ALA New Orleans was a truly unforgettable experience, and one that will always make me smile when I remember.  Always.












Friday, June 17, 2011

What Happened to June???

So I woke up today and somehow found myself in the middle of June.  I don't even remember getting here! I do remember looking at the calendar a few weeks ago and thinking "Wow, the end of the month is really busy," and holy cow I was right!
First, there's a little event happening next week in New Orleans and I get to go!!! Three exclamation marks aren't enough to convey how excited I am to be headed to ALA for my first conference ever!!! And New Orleans!!! I've wanted to go there ever since I read Interview With a Vampire in high school. 

Never having been to ANY type of book/author/writing conference before, I have no idea what to expect. I'm told  it'll be a whirlwind of awesomeness including speed-dating with librarians, meeting up with fellow writers, and signing with an amazing lineup of debuts and JENNY HAN(!) at  Octavia Books on Monday June 27th!  I will take and post lots and lots of pictures.  And try not to eat my weight in beignets.  Or muffaleta. 



But before all that I've got crazy June busyness happening around here: Father's Day, my husband's birthday, son's end of the year party for his 1st grade class that I thought would be a good idea to throw. At my house.  Also, I am sorely in need of a haircut/mani/pedi/eyebrow wax/massage. I can fit all that in next week, right?

And then there's this other little thing called REVISIONS.



Just got round two notes for book two this week! Normally, this would mean I'd disappear into my cave for hours at a time each day, then emerge in the evening, just in time to enjoy dinner with the fam.  But now it's summer, which means kids at home and long hours for the lifeguard husband. 

THIS means that instead of pouring an evening glass of wine and settling into one of the many ARCs I plan to acquire at ALA, I will be firing up the coffee pot as soon as I tuck the little people in and trying to make magic with words until the wee hours. This will take some getting used to.  But. I'm excited, because I SO love this story and its people and if there's one thing I've learned about writing so far, it's that the very best of it actually does happen during revision. 

So there it is. June--or what's left of it, anyway!  I don't even know what the next page on the calendar has in store, but I'm hoping it's full of sunshine, Hawaiian Tropic, and a wardrobe made almost entirely of bikinis.

Until then!