The Distance Between Us by Kasie West

the distance between us

 

I’ve been wanting to read this for forever because of its adorable cover and because I’ve heard so many good things about Kasie West, but for some reason I just got around to it recently. It was so much more than I could have hoped for! Kasie West has sealed herself solidly onto my must-read list, which means I have more books to read!

In The Distance Between Us, Caymen is a girl taught to be weary of the wealthy – she helps her mom run the doll shop that they own and live above, and money is always tight. When Xander comes in to pick up a doll for his grandma, it doesn’t take Caymen long to recognize him as one of the wealthy elite and write him off. Xander doesn’t give up. He’s instantly taken with Caymen and just starts showing up all the time. Just as Caymen starts to recognize her own feelings for Xander, things get super complicated.

This story is a sweet realistic fairytale of a romance mixed with some intriguing family drama that ultimately ends beautifully. I can’t wait to read everything else Kasie has already published, and I’m looking forward to her future works as well.

Some Boys by Patty Blount

some boys

Mostly I want to say that Some Boys handles the topic of rape with intelligence and great storytelling, which is so often the most effective way to teach on such a sensitive subject. In the vein of Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak, Some Boys tackles the difficult issues of rape, bullying, slut shaming, etc. which are all incredibly important topics for teens (and parents, teachers, and more) to be aware of and discuss openly.

I was troubled, though, by how teachers and school administration were portrayed in this. I am a teacher. I have worked in several schools and with plenty of different types of teachers so far in my career. I can’t speak for all schools, obviously, and it saddens me to know that there probably are some teachers and administrators who would choose to look the other way rather than get involved, but I can say with certainty that it’s not the norm. Teachers teach because they care. Administrators too. In that way, I felt like that aspect of this book was unfairly represented. There would have been more than just the Coach who tried to help, and it would have been before he finally actually stepped in. Also, schools do have the ability to intervene and discipline students based on social media harassment when it impacts what’s happening at school, as this obviously does. Grace may not have felt like there were caring adults around her, but I want to urge all of my teenage readers to seek out help at school – we’re there because we want to help, not to shame you.

All of that aside, I do think there’s a valuable message here, and I’d encourage high school girls, especially, and parents of teenagers to read it. And, I think the most valuable lesson here is to urge students and parents to communicate with authorities, whether police or school based, when they know minors are being harassed. Most of the adults in this earn a giant F from me in how they handled Grace’s situation.

Grace’s story is immediately compelling and engrossing, and ultimately is a sweet story of healing and love. Find it here on Amazon.

Just Like the Movies by Kelly Fiore

just like the movies

 

I really enjoyed Kelly Fiore’s debut, Taste Test, so when I saw this being talked about on twitter I knew I had to read it.

Fiore does a great job of writing realistic characters. One of the strongest attributes of Just Like the Movies is that the two main characters, Marijke and Lily, truly come from two very different high school worlds – one very popular and the other nearly invisible – but they forge a friendship that becomes one of the main focal points for the book. I think romantic elements in YA are great (and, honestly, what we girls want to see), but it’s nice when that’s not the ONLY big focus int the story, and Fiore did a great job of balancing two sweet romantic elements with this important friendship.

Just Like the Movies is a fun book that only took a few hours to read, and it’s full of references to classic romantic comedy movies. Opening with a scene straight out of Say Anything definitely got me hooked on the story immediately!

Click here to find it on Amazon, or ask about it at your favorite local bookseller!

Golden by Jessi Kirby

golden

 

I’m a sucker for a good YA novel with a pretty cover, but a book with a pretty cover (even gold foil on the paperback! too gorgeous) AND Robert Frost poetry woven in? I’m so there. Golden by Jessi Kirby is a really beautifully written story full of romance, mystery, and adventure. The story is compelling and the characters are realistically flawed with plenty of redeeming value. Parker, the main character, is a protagonist that I rooted for all the way through, and I couldn’t have been more pleased with the way her story turned out. You’ll love this one!  Click here to find Golden on Amazon!

GIVEAWAY CONTINUED!!! Dream Boy Blog Tour: Madelyn Rosenberg Takes Over!

 

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When I found out that Madelyn would be willing to do a guest post for me, I sent her a long string of rambling questions and thoughts I had after finishing Dream Boy a few months ago. I’m excited to turn the blog over to her today so she can give you more insight into where the idea for Dream Boy came from and how the characters were developed! (AND you still have time to enter the GIVEAWAY for a copy of Dream Boy! Click for a Rafflecopter giveaway! ————————————————————————–

Nothing could hurt you when the world smelled like cotton candy—at least that’s what Chance Bell thought as she inhaled its pink spun sweetness.
 
That’s the first sentence for a novel Mary and I started together years and years and years ago, before either of us knew what novel-writing really was. We got about six chapters in, and we sent off a query to Harlequin, and they wrote us a lovely I’m-sorry note about why it wasn’t perfect for them. Then Mary moved forward with her poetry career and I moved forward in the world of kidlit. Fast forward about 10 years, maybe more, to the day Mary asked me if I wanted to write about a boy from a dream that came to life. I said yes right away. I don’t remember if she asked via e-mail or phone (I saved most of our e-mails and couldn’t find the first of them, but there were well over a thousand between then and now.)
The original spark, Mary said, came after she watched a Ginger Rogers movie at 4 a.m. She was half asleep while the movie (It Had to Be You) was playing but in it, a guy dressed like a Native American seems to pop out of Ginger’s dream. So what if we did a story where that happened in a girl’s dream? Then, the negotiations started. Mary wanted it to be romantic. I told her I wouldn’t do it unless it could be funny, too. And both of us loved stories that were grounded in reality but had fantastic elements to them. We started writing. I wish we could tell you there was a great plan or outline, but really we figured out almost everything as we went along. Which may have lengthened our writing process a little. Mary would write a chapter. Then she’d pass it off to me and I’d pick up where she left off (changing some of her chapter as I went) and so on. I’m not sure we knew where we were going until we got there.
We definitely changed the plot as we went. We debated who Annabelle would end up with, in part because we ended up liking our characters so much. Even the jerks. And we added and deleted some spooky elements and then added others.
(Actual conversation:
Mad: We can’t use that. I just think it sounds too much like The Exorcist.
Mary: But I’ve never even SEEN The Exorcist.
Mad: How can you have never seen The Exorcist?)
We gave Annabelle’s mom an obsession with old movies as a tribute to Ginger. Annabelle remains fairly grounded in the story (something Melissa asked me about because, as she said, “I’d be freaking.”) I think there are two reasons for this. One: pre-emptive hormones. In that I think the idea of love and what she has to do for it keeps her moving forward and too much panic would get in the way of that. I don’t want to get into any spoilers, so I’ll just say that she’s stronger than she knows. Plus, she’s dealt with some real-life things that have made her feel crazy, and I think she learned from those that panic and craziness don’t get you anywhere. (Or help move the story forward as much as we needed it to move =)
Melissa also asked about a sequel or companion book. We wrote Dream Boy as a standalone, so there’s nothing in the works. But that doesn’t mean we haven’t thought about it, as neither of us feels finished with these characters. As a reader, one of my favorite things when I finish a book is to imagine what happens next. And as a writer, it’s pretty much the same thing. If the story were to continue, I think we’d both be interested in exploring Dream World a little bit more. And we’ve been doing a little matchmaking, too, which I won’t go into – no spoilers, not even for a story that may never be written. But for now, what happens next is really up to readers’ imaginations.

Dream Boy is available on Amazon and in your favorite local bookstores, and you still have until this Sunday to enter the DREAM BOY GIVEAWAY through Rafflecopter!

GIVEAWAY! Dream Boy by Mary Crockett and Madelyn Rosenberg

dream boy

 

You know the feeling you have when you wake up after a particularly vivid dream? Struggling to decipher between dream and reality because it just seems so real, maybe trying to go back to sleep and enter that dream again, but eventually losing the details as it fades from your memory?

In Dream Boy, Annabelle is having a series of those very vivid dreams all featuring the same guy – she can hardly wait to get back to sleep and see him again – until he walks into her Science class as a new student… And he knows who Annabelle is as if they’ve met before! Talk about blurring the lines between real and imaginary. Of course,

I really enjoyed Dream Boy and loved the way that the authors wove paranormal elements into an otherwise contemporary realistic piece of fiction. It reminded me of Lisa McMann’s books, which I also think are wonderful, in that it’s a very accessible YA form of magical realism. They’ve also done a great job of creating characters with enough depth to handle the twists and turns they throw into the plot as the story goes from a simple “oh hey, my dream came true” to a “oh crap, does that mean nightmares can too?” kind of suspense.

I totally recommend getting a copy and reading right now… and then stopping back by here in a few days, when one of the authors, Madelyn Rosenberg, will be here to answer some questions about how Dream Boy came to be after I sent the following long, rambly e-mail to her:

  • I’d love to know more about where the idea came from – it felt familiar in that there are books out there that sort of dance all over that boundary between realistic fiction and paranormal, but it also felt refreshingly new.
  • It was impossible to read, too, without thinking of how much I’d be freaking out if I were in Annabelle’s shoes. So where did the idea of a literal dream come true come from? And from the spark of the idea, how did the whole story develop?
  • I’d love to hear, too, about the possibility of a sequel or companion novel. What’s next for Annabelle, Will, Martin, and the rest?

Click here to find it on Amazon, or ask about it at your favorite local bookseller, and enter for a chance to WIN A COPY through a Rafflecopter giveaway!!!

Biggest Flirts by Jennifer Echols

biggest flirts

 

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of Jennifer Echols. She has a way of creating characters you’d want to hang out with in real life – they’re not perfect by any means – they’re full of flaws and rocky lives, which is probably part of their appeal. They’re realistic without being negative jerks. Anyway, Jennifer also has a way of writing a romance that makes it seem more real-life possible than most romance stories.

Biggest Flirts kicks off a new series for Echols, the Superlatives, which will go through other superlatives like perfect couple and more. I can’t say that Biggest Flirts was my favorite of Echols’ books (I think, for me, that will forever be Dirty Little Secret), but I did enjoy it thoroughly and look forward to reading the rest of the series!

Quick content reminder – Echols’ writing is definitely for the upper high school and beyond audience. I think she’s a great storyteller and I always find value in lessons taken from the lives of her characters, but I wouldn’t really want to see them in the hands of my middle school students.

Biggest Flirts came out last month, and the rest of the books in the series look like they’ll follow pretty quickly (January 2015 and August 2015 so far), so we won’t have to wait too long in-between books! Yay for that. :)

Another side note – if you’ve ever had to actually take superlatives pictures for the yearbook (I did my time as yearbook advisor for four years), you can truly appreciate these clovers. I absolutely love them!

Click here to find Biggest Flirts (The Superlatives) on Amazon

The Half Life of Molly Pierce by Katrina Leno

half life of molly pierce

 

You guys… WOW. I was not prepared for this book to suck me in immediately and hold my attention hostage until I’d finished the whole thing.

The Half Life of Molly Pierce is told from Molly’s point of view as she tries to make sense of some strange things that have happened to her over the past year, culminating in a tragic motorcycle accident she witnesses and is somehow linked to, though she doesn’t understand how at first. t don’t want to say too much beyond what you can find in the official blurb; part of the fun in this for me was trying to figure out what was going on at the same time Molly was trying to figure it out.

I can tell you, though, that issues of mental health arise in this book. The way Katrina Leno handles these topics left me absolutely speechless – those who have ever struggled with any form of depression and emanational lows will find Molly’s voice both hauntingly real and breathtakingly hopeful.

And then there’s the character of Molly herself… I can’t remember the last time a character’s voice has so vividly popped off the page and lodged itself into my head. The whole book is a fascinating study in characterization and effectively establishing a unique character voice. A quick note here about the voice for parents: there is what I consider a good bit of cussing in this, but it isn’t without reason. Even for me, as a fairly sensitive reader to content and how it will impact teenagers, I wasn’t bothered by it because it served a purpose in highlighting issues Molly dealt with.

The Half Life of Molly Pierce is Katrina Leno’s first novel and, frankly, it makes her one to watch. I believe she’ll be hugely successful, and I’m so glad I got to read this! It comes out on July 8th – preorder it now so it’s waiting for you!

Click here to find it on Amazon or find it at your favorite local bookseller!

Road to Somewhere by Kelley Lynn & Jenny S. Morris

road to somewhere

 

I really enjoyed this story of Charlie and Lucy. Told in alternating POV between the two sisters: Charlie is the older sister in reckless pursuit of her musical career, and Lucy is the quiet, cautious younger sister just trying not to rock the boat. They don’t really get along, mostly because they don’t understand each other.

When Charlie and her friends have a chance to participate in an exclusive music competition with a recording contract prize for the winner, they decide to go for it… but then Charlie’s parents make her take Lucy with them, and they have to stop in Texas and visit their grandparents along the way.

Enter hot cowboys and more sister drama, misunderstandings and country home cooking, and the story heats up and settles in for what ultimately is a story of sisterhood more than a quick little romance.

I really enjoyed Road to Somewhere, and I hope you’ll check it out, too. Click here to find it on Amazon!

 

Behind the Scenes with Me, in honor of Dalhia Adler’s Book Birthday! #BtSWeek

BehindtheScenesBlogTour3

 

I’m so excited for Dahlia’s book release and honored to be a part of her book blitz for release week! So, for the release of her Behind the Scenes, here’s a behind the scenes with me…

I want to give you a glimpse into where it all begins for me: Inspiration. Where do ideas come from? How do little sparks of inspiration turn into entire novels and stories worth being told? There are lots of ways ideas come to me, but I’d say these three are the main ones that really set me off when it comes to a new project:

  •  Music. I love music with smart, descriptive lyrics. Nothing gets my imagination off and running like clever phrasing in a catchy song – it basically begs for a story to be written. Once I actually start thinking about that story, creating characters in my head and visualizing their stories, I build a playlist of songs and artists reflective of the feeling I’m going for with that particular story. Throughout the writing process, the playlist changes depending on the course the plot takes until, by the end, it finally becomes a finished list of songs that match up with the plot arch – it’s pretty cool. This is a small sampling of the playlist for the book I’m working on now:

playlist 1playlist2

  • Teenagers. As an English teacher, I spend a ridiculous amount of time with teenagers, and I never seem to get tired of them. They’re fun. Hearing their stories, their hopes and dreams, their struggles… They’re smart and they care about life and the world in general way more than most adults realize.I’m never at a loss for ideas because of them, and writing dialogue is as simple as listening to my students.
  • Pinterest. What did we do before Pinterest existed? I can tell you that I am definitely a visual thinker, so having a virtual bulletin board to organize what things are going to look like is such a huge help to me. I love that I can search for just about anything in the world and find a related pin. For example, for my current work in progress, one of the main characters is a Latino senior in high school who talks about her quinceanera… and, because Pinterest is awesome, I found a picture of a girl I’ll use as inspiration for my character. My boards for this WIP is still private, but here’s a small glimpse just for you:

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So what inspires you? What gets your creativity going? I’d love to hear it!

Make sure you also check out Dahlia’s book, Behind the Scenes. I really, really enjoyed it and highly recommend it for high school readers and up! All the links you could possibly need are pasted below: