Monday, August 14, 2017

Interview with A. B. Rutledge, author of Miles Away From You, and US giveaway of ARC of her book

Dear All:
Yet another win from HMH Teen! I took to twitter and said that I wasn't cool enough to read this book. It's still true. A. B. told me she didn't feel cool enough for the book either and she wrote it!

Goodreads Book Description: It's been three years since Miles fell for Vivian, a talented and dazzling transgender girl. Eighteen months since a suicide attempt left Vivian on life support. Now Miles isn't sure who he is without her, but knows it’s time to figure out how to say goodbye.

He books a solo trip to Iceland but then has a hard time leaving the refuge of his hotel room. After a little push from ├ôskar, a local who is equal parts endearing and aloof, Miles decides to honor Vivian's life by photographing her treasured Doc Martens standing empty against the surreal landscapes. With each step he takes, Miles finds his heart healing—even as he must accept that Vivian, still in a coma, will never recover.

Told through a series of instant messages to Vivian, this quirky and completely fresh novel explores love, loss, and the drastic distances we sometimes have to travel in order to move on.

My Rating: 5 couches

My review:  The contemps this year have been hella good. I don't typically dole out this many five stars in a row. And this one is no exception.
So I want to preface this by saying this is not my kind of book.
You may misunderstand what I mean. I don't typically prefer/read male type protagonists and not typically into road trips/traveling abroad to find oneself. And I don't usually like books written as letters to someone. So this book was chock full of stuff that I don't usually like or read, and yet... and yet...
Miles is so typically boy but not. He is fluid on the sexuality scale, and so real and believable but I've never read someone like him before. I loved how he talked about his relationship with Vivian, the beautiful transgender girl. I loved his relationship to his moms, and I loved Oskar. Oh Oskar. I have a crush on him now myself.
Beautiful, poignant, and strangely addictive-- the voice of Miles was unique and moving. I don't really know what else to say. One of my favorite parts was that while he mentioned the hardships of being the way he was, and Vivian's difficult life from being trans, it was so clear that there is something universal in his experiences of loss and feeling different that anyone-- cis or trans, can relate to. And I think that's what this world needs a little more of-- "us"/"we" and less of "other."
I am honored to have read this book.

Blurb about the author:
A.B. Rutledge is an optician from Southeast Missouri. She likes '90s alternative music, dresses with pockets, and leaving Halloween decorations up all year long. When she's not up at 3 a.m. scribbling out stories, you can find her in her art studio covered in paper scraps, paint, and cats. Miles Away From You is her first novel.

Interview Questions.
1. Hard one: If you could describe your book in a single tweet, what would it be?
PERKS meets LOST IN TRANSLATION in Iceland with an all-queer cast. 

2. I love how the title/idea of this book goes hand in hand with the MC's first name. Did you come up with the name/character before the title, or vice versa?
I named the character first (borrowed it from a male model I came across on Pinterest). I had no idea what to call the book until a friend suggested that the title incorporate his name. Lightbulb moment! I don’t know why I hadn’t thought of it before. For a bit there, I almost called it Miles in her Shoes because Vivian’s Doc Martens play a big role in the plot, but in the end Miles Away from You does a better job of capturing the feeling of loneliness that permeates the story.

3. I love how this book took place mostly in Iceland. What made you decide to place the book location here, and if you went there, please describe your experience there.
I went to Iceland for my birthday in 2014 (I've included a photo of me freezing my butt off on a glacier as my author photo for this interview) and when I came back everyone kept asking me how it was, but I would just stare off into space and sigh. It’s so impossible to describe! This book is definitely my love letter to that gorgeous country. I hope it makes everyone pack their bags and buy a ticket to Keflavik. Do you think the Icelandic tourism committee will compensate me for my services?

4. The characters in this book are just terrific, including the wonderful Vivian, Miles, and Oskar who I think I have a huge crush on now. Which houses of Hogwarts would these characters get sorted into and why? And what is your house and why?
This is my favorite question! Miles is a Hufflepuff because he’s timid and peaceful and once wrote a love letter to a sandwich. Vivian is a Gryffindor because she’s kick-ass and brave and amazing. And Oskar…at first glance Oskar seems like a Slytherin, right? But he’s Scandinavian—nothing cracks me up more than knowing Oskar would’ve gone to Durmstrang. Because he’s SO Durmstrang.
As for me, my goth sensibilities and undying love for a certain Potions teacher have me all set for dungeon life #slytherinpride

5. What book do you wish you had as a teen and why?
Oh, that’s tough! I was always an “artsy” kid, but as a teenager I never thought anything I created was good enough, so I put it aside. I didn’t paint or write much at all until well into my twenties. Teenage me could have really benefited from a copy of Lynda Barry’s Picture This, which taught grown-up me how to create magical things like a kid again, without that pesky inner critic getting in the way.

6. Can you remark on awareness for gender identity, transgender issues, and how we might work on having these individuals feel more accepted in our society?
There’s a point early in the book where Miles rattles off the suicide rate for transgender youth: forty percent. That’s the real statistic, unfortunately and it’s something we should all actively be working to change. The onus is on everyone to get names and pronouns correct, to reach out to friends and strangers who seem to be hurting, and to speak up when we hear things like “that’s a boy’s toy.” A little bit of kindness can go a long way.

7. What is your process writing? Are you a plotter or are you more of a "pantser"? Why or why not?
I used to be a pantser, but now I find it helpful to write outlines first and try to stick to them (though often the story takes on a life of its own). I can work either way, but usually plotting leads me to a cleaner first draft.

8. Can you tell us a little about what you are working on now? 
A couple years ago I found out that the BerenstEin Bears were actually the BerenstAin Bears and I’ve been intrigued by the Mandela Effect ever since. So, right now I’m working on a story about a Mandela-obsessed teenage podcaster in a small town where everyone knows him as a crackpot conspiracy theorist—and what happens when he tries to finally come forward about a sexual assault in his past. So, to twitter pitch YA again, it’s SPEAK meets S-TOWN, or “the boy who cried Mandela Effect."

So excited about this book and you should be too! And now, enter to win this book or a gorgeous painting by the author!

Monday, August 7, 2017

Interview with Laura Creedle, author of The Love Letters of Abelard and Lily and US giveaway of ARC of the book

Dear All:
I have been so lucky to get several HMH Teen YA contemporaries that are coming out soon. I've been so impressed with them, and this was one of my favorite titles.

Goodreads Book Description: When Lily Michaels-Ryan ditches her ADHD meds and lands in detention with Abelard, who has Asperger’s, she’s intrigued—Abelard seems thirty seconds behind, while she feels thirty seconds ahead. It doesn't hurt that he’s brilliant and beautiful.

When Abelard posts a quote from The Letters of Abelard and Heloise online, their mutual affinity for ancient love letters connects them. The two fall for each other. Hard. But is it enough to bridge their differences in person?

This hilarious, heartbreaking story of human connection between two neurodivergent teens creates characters that will stay with you long after you finish reading.

My Rating: 5 couches

My Review: I absolutely loved this book! For someone who probably reads the fewest contemporary YAs (I'm usually drawn in by sci fi, fantasy, thrillers), I've read some really darn good contemps this year, and I'm happy to continue on the ride for as long as they're this good!

The Love Letters of Abelard and Lily hit all the things that I love. Two really flawed main characters (one with ADHD and the other on the autistic spectrum-- a combo of too fast and too slow communication) who somehow have the cutest, most adorable romance. I love literature, particularly old literature. I had an amazing class and teacher of British literature in high school and this totally tapped into that nerdy side of me. I was swooning during their first texts! And the way it was integrated into their conversations so that they could communicate just totally made sense. There is someone dear to me who is on the autistic spectrum and I have always worried what life has in store for them. Will they ever find love? Will they get married? And this book just gives me hope.

The book itself is beautifully written and well plotted. I couldn't put it down once I got started. So grateful I got to read it! 

Blurb about the author: Laura Creedle is an ADHD and dyslexic guitarist and writer. After thumb surgery kept her away from the guitar, she enrolled in a graduate level reading specialist program. She failed out of the program for not being able to read well enough.
That experience inspired her to write The Love Letters of Abelard and Lily.
Laura lives in Austin, Texas with her husband and son.  When not writing, she volunteers with a kindergarten pre-literacy program at a local school. The Love Letters of Abelard and Lily is her first novel.

Interview of Laura

I love that The Love Letters of Abelard and Lily is an #ownvoices novel, which must have been both exciting yet hard to pull off. I have several questions related to this:

1. Writing a novel requires a lot of focus, which would drive the most patient person bonkers. Tell us a little bit about your journey with writing this book and what was difficult and what was easy. 
I am ADHD and short on patience.  I’m also not great at task-shifting.  Long ago I realized that I’m not the kind of person who wakes in the morning and writes for forty minutes before leaving for work.  If I get into my writer brain, I’m not good for much else. That said, ADHD hyper focus is very helpful in helping me get words on the page quickly.

2. Did you do research for this book as you have personal experience already with ADHD, but maybe not as much with the autistic spectrum? If so, what did you research? 
No, I didn’t have that much experience with the autistic spectrum and I did a lot of research, both scientific and personal.  I spent countless hours watching Youtube channels, but what really helped me was having a lot of beta readers with more knowledge and experience.  They helped me immeasurably.  And I was surprised and touched to find so much commonality of experience with people on the autistic spectrum who were willing to share their stories.

3. How much of your main character is like you? What is similar, what is different? 
Lily is a lot like me.  I’m older, and I have marginally better impulse control, but I still break things a lot. 

Now onto other questions:
4. I always ask this of all of my authors, it's ok if you haven't read HP, but in case you have, what houses would Abelard and Lily be sorted into and why? 
Lily could be Slytherin or perhaps Hufflepuff.  I think good Slytherins tend to be honorable, but misunderstood, and that’s how I see Lily.  I see Abelard as Ravenclaw.

5. What made you decide to utilize the works of Abelard and Eloise in your book? Do you love old literature? (I do!) 
I do too! In an early draft, the book was less romantic, and I looked for inspiration from history.  I reread the Letters of Abelard and Heloise and was struck by how passionately they both lived through their letters.  This line sold me—“Letters were first invented for comforting solitary wretches such as myself.” Abelard and Lily both see themselves as “solitary wretches” until they start texting each other.

6. What is your go to snack food? 
I drink a lot of coffee. I mean, a lot of coffee.  Apples, cheese, dark chocolate— anything that that can be cut into small pieces and eaten alongside coffee.

7. What do you wish you had known before you started the publication process? 
Oh wow— it takes forever!  Geologic time frame as compared to the rest of the world where you pop something off, stick it on the internet and it’s dead by the end of the day.  I’m not great at waiting for anything.

8. Can you tell us a little about what you are working on now? 
I’m working on a novel about a girl who has to take care of her little brother when her mother disappears.  When she ends up at an alternative high school she gets a lot of help from a boy who is at the tail end of a major depressive episode.  They start a band, and things get interesting for both of them.  I used to be a guitarist, and it’s been fun to write about the thrill of making music with other people.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Promotional Post: MEET CUTE Anthology, Review, and Pre-Order Campaign Details!

Dear All:
HMH Teen has done it again with Meet Cute: Some People are Destined to Meet. What a great little anthology! Wonderful authors have written terrific stories of teens finding each other in the cutest of situations!

Meet Cute: Some People Are Destined to MeetGoodreads Book Description: Whether or not you believe in fate, or luck, or love at first sight, every romance has to start somewhere. MEET CUTE is an anthology of original short stories featuring tales of "how they first met" from some of today’s most popular YA authors.

Readers will experience Nina LaCour's beautifully written piece about two Bay Area girls meeting via a cranky customer service Tweet, Sara Shepard's glossy tale about a magazine intern and a young rock star, Nicola Yoon's imaginative take on break-ups and make-ups, Katie Cotugno's story of two teens hiding out from the police at a house party, and Huntley Fitzpatrick's charming love story that begins over iced teas at a diner. There’s futuristic flirting from Kass Morgan and Katharine McGee, a riveting transgender heroine from Meredith Russo, a subway missed connection moment from Jocelyn Davies, and a girl determined to get out of her small town from Ibi Zoboi. Jennifer Armentrout writes a sweet story about finding love from a missing library book, Emery Lord has a heartwarming and funny tale of two girls stuck in an airport, Dhonielle Clayton takes a thoughtful, speculate approach to pre-destined love, and Julie Murphy dreams up a fun twist on reality dating show contestants.
This incredibly talented group of authors brings us a collection of stories that are at turns romantic and witty, epic and everyday, heartbreaking and real.

My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 couches

My Review: I had a little harder time rating this book because it's a collection of short stories, and that's not typically what I read. But it's a very strong collection of stories and overall, I enjoyed all of them- thus, a 4.5 star rating. A few standouts for me include:
Print Shop by Nina LaCour- I love the idea of working in a print shop and how Twitter plays a role!
Click by Katherine McGee- this was the cute and adorable version of the very depressing Black Mirror episode about what being evaluated by a online algorithm could mean.
The Dictionary of You and Me by Jennifer L. Armentrout- I love libraries and how it factors into this meet cute is just perfect!
The Department of Dead Love by Nicola Yoon- I admit I like the futuristic ones, and I like how Yoon plays with this sci fi idea.
But overall, all of the stories are entertaining and cute in their own way, and I very much enjoyed this collection!

You should all pre-order this book, and the wonderful HMH Teen is doing a great swag pre-order giveaway. Details are here: 

Which stories are you most excited about? 

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

WARCROSS by Marie Lu: A NO SPOILER Review and Choosing a #PlayWARCROSS Team

Hey everyone! So excited to have a post on this amazing book. Really, everyone should pre-order it stat!  I have loved Marie Lu ever since her Legend trilogy, which was cemented with her Young Elites trilogy. WARCROSS is my favorite. And I get to build a fictional team to play WARCROSS!

29385546Goodreads Book Description: From #1 New York Times bestselling author Marie Lu—when a game called Warcross takes the world by storm, one girl hacks her way into its dangerous depths.

For the millions who log in every day, Warcross isn’t just a game—it’s a way of life. The obsession started ten years ago and its fan base now spans the globe, some eager to escape from reality and others hoping to make a profit. Struggling to make ends meet, teenage hacker Emika Chen works as a bounty hunter, tracking down players who bet on the game illegally. But the bounty hunting world is a competitive one, and survival has not been easy. Needing to make some quick cash, Emika takes a risk and hacks into the opening game of the international Warcross Championships—only to accidentally glitch herself into the action and become an overnight sensation.

Convinced she’s going to be arrested, Emika is shocked when instead she gets a call from the game’s creator, the elusive young billionaire Hideo Tanaka, with an irresistible offer. He needs a spy on the inside of this year’s tournament in order to uncover a security problem . . . and he wants Emika for the job. With no time to lose, Emika’s whisked off to Tokyo and thrust into a world of fame and fortune that she’s only dreamed of. But soon her investigation uncovers a sinister plot, with major consequences for the entire Warcross empire.

In this sci-fi thriller, #1 New York Times bestselling author Marie Lu conjures an immersive, exhilarating world where choosing who to trust may be the biggest gamble of all.

My rating: 5 out of 5 couches (can I give it 6??)

My review: Holy cow. This book had a lot of hype and I was super excited for it, so it had to fail, right? My expectations rarely live up to reality when they are that high.

Well, Marie Lu proved me wrong. This book is fantastic and deserves all the hype. Warcross stars Emi, who is a starving, impoverished Bounty Hunter, just trying to make ends meet in a world where a virtual reality game has taken over. The game is sort of a mashup of Quidditch meets Mario Go Kart and everyone is plugged in to see the championship game... and then Emi does something crazy that gets her unwanted attention across the globe.

If you were like me and didn't really read the synopsis because I just wanted the entire ride, hopefully this keeps things vague enough-- you get more spoiled in the synopsis. Emi is a great character, and I was rooting for her the whole way. She has some flaws, which come into play later in the book, where she makes some questionable decisions, but this just makes her more human. Hideo, the creator of WARCROSS, is sexy, mysterious, and compelling. The rest of the cast is wonderful as well but I won't talk too much about them as I want the reader to figure it out for themselves.

The game itself is amazing and the world they are in-- the virtual reality-- is just detailed so beautifully by Lu. I found myself slowing down although it was the most fast paced read I've had in a while, just so I could see the scenery, and that NEVER happens (I'm a dialogue/character reader not a description reader).

Lu has several aces up her sleeve. There was one I guessed pretty early on, but there was another I never guessed at all. And even when I guessed the answer, I still don't know exactly what is going on and I'm dying to find out. You won't find out all the secrets in this book, so we will all have to wait for the next installment.

Overall, my favorite read of the year thus far, and definitely on my list of top books ever. I think I love this book more than her other two series and that's saying a lot because I really really really loved those as well. Lu is a standout, and she'll continue to dominate the NYT bestseller list for years to come!

OK now for my team that I would like to #PlayWARCROSS   

Team Captain - Kestrel from the Winner's Curse trilogy. YA Wednesdays had her as the Architect, which I think she would be amazing at, but I would even have her as the Team Captain because she can see the big picture and make key strategic decisions.

Architect - Hermione from Harry Potter, who else? Hermione is a puzzle solver. She proved that over and over again, and given a task, she figures out how to solve it. She would be perfect in this role.

Thief - Gen from The Thief. What better thief than a master thief? Gen would be ideal.

Shield - Peeta from Hunger Games. I select him because he looks out for everyone else other than himself and sacrifices for the greater good.

Fighter - Wonder Woman from the movie (And probably Warbringer but I haven't read it yet). Um, did you see the scene where she went across the battlefield with just her shield?? I would want her fighting on my side for sure!

What's your #PlayWARCROSS team?

Saturday, July 22, 2017

#24in48 Readathon: Introductions

Dear All:
This is the post in which I participate in my first reading 24 hours in 48 hours (well, I'll TRY to do this, but I have to work this weekend and have a toddler so it would take a miracle), and I have been trying to get on top of my reading lately, so this will force me to focus! OK here are the introduction questions:
  1. Where in the world are you reading from this weekend? Well, it will kind of be all over the place. I will be reading mostly from home, but I might do a little audio in the car, and on my phone as I am chasing my toddler in various places.
  2. Have you done the 24in48 readathon before? This is my first time doing this! I'm excited to participate!
  3. Where did you hear about the readathon, if it is your first? I heard about it on Twitter, where else? ;-)
  4. What book are you most excited about reading this weekend? Well, I did a trade for WARCROSS so if it miraculously gets here this weekend, that. But otherwise, I'm excited to read some of the older books on my shelf, which need to get read so I can either decide to keep or pass along to other avid readers!
  5. Tell us something about yourself. I'm a doctor/researcher by day, and a blogger/editor/maybe writer by night. I have a three year old, and I'm pregnant 20 wks with our second, so I'm pretty busy! But I loooove reading and can't help myself. YA has been my go to, but I've recently branched out to other genres such as psychological thrillers. Gone girl anyone?
  6. Remind us where to find you online this weekend. You'll find me on my blog and also on Twitter @CAhnBooks 
Can't wait to see what other people are up to during this readathon!!! Thanks for the chance!