Category: Blog Tour

Christmas Jars | Movie Review (+Giveaway)

Posted December 4, 2019 by Jana in Blog Tour, Movie Review / 0 Comments

Christmas Jars | Movie Review (+Giveaway)

I’m excited to be a part of the official Christmas Jars movie blog tour! I’ve never read the book by Jason F. Wright, which this movie is based off of, but I’ve heard wonderful things about it and would like to read it at some point in the future. Thank you to the PR company for providing a free copy of the DVD for this review!


Christmas Jars Movie
Rating:
NR (TV movie, suitable for all ages)
Genre: Drama
Movie Trailer (Don’t watch it, though. It gives too much away! Be surprised instead!)
IMDB Info Page
Amazon | TargetDeseret Book

Read about the book on Goodreads.
Buy the book at Deseret Book or on Amazon.

Based on the New York Times best-selling novel by Jason F. Wright.

Hope is an aspiring reporter who has had her fair share of tragedy in life. Abandoned at birth, she’s grieving the recent death of her adopted mother when her apartment is burglarized of all her possessions. While reporting the burglary to the police, Hope discovers a jar full of money, labeled “Christmas Jar.” Shocked and grateful for this act of kindness, Hope discovers that people all over her hometown of Columbus, Ohio, have been receiving Christmas Jars for years during times of need. The jars are always anonymous and always contain different amounts. In this heartwarming Christmas classic, Hope goes undercover to discover the secret behind the Christmas jars, putting into motion a series of events that will change her life, and her community, forever.

Christmas Jars is a new favorite movie of mine! It’s perfect for the Christmas season, and made me smile from ear to ear as well as cry happy tears multiple times. As soon as it was over I started it all over again, then went and bought my mom a copy, and then went on Twitter and started telling people to watch it! I am a MAJOR Christmas movie fanatic. I watch all the new Hallmark and Netflix Christmas movies each year, plus I’m always looking for new ones elsewhere. Because I watch so many,  I’m kind of picky with my movies. I’ve only got so much time to watch Christmas movies each year, so I like to make sure they’re amazing. I tend to space out and play games on my phone or just stop the movie and move on to something else if it isn’t grabbing me. I actually had to quit decorating my Christmas tree (my actual favorite things to do) and sit down because I was so invested in the story. This rarely happens to me! I will admit that I didn’t have highest expectations for Christmas Jars. I thought it would be a nice movie, but I didn’t know it would enter my heart and make itself at home. There’s tenderness, romance, family love, love for others, snow, Christmas decorations, and music I woke up humming this morning.

Hope’s story touched me so much, and I really liked her as a character because she’s so genuine and sweet. The movie begins as her birth mother abandons her in a cute little diner. One of the waitresses finds Hope and adopts her. Viewers see a short montage of Hope and her mom celebrating various birthdays and holidays together over the years. During the last part of that montage we see her help her mom battle what we can only assume is cancer, before ultimately losing her to that battle sometime in November (that’s the only time I sad-cried). Shortly thereafter, Hope’s apartment is burglarized and on that same night she receives the Christmas Jar. In her quest to discover the truth behind this jar, she takes viewers on an inspiring and heartwarming journey. I love the entire cast of this movie. Well, except for Hope’s superficial co-worker who I never could talk myself into liking and her crappy boss. Other than those two, I loved everyone… especially Adam. He’s one of the sweetest dad figures I’ve seen on TV recently. I also love Ian, our swoonworthy male lead who looks amazing in his Christmas green cardigan. He’s so sweet and caring and I have a major crush on him. Hope grew up in the diner she was abandoned in, and the people that work there are like family. They are so much fun.

There’s so much heart and humor in this movie and I giggled a lot. The cinematography is great, there’s so much snow, and everything is so festive. I loved all the decorations. I love the little town this movie takes place in. The romance is barely there, but was just enough to make my heart flutter. I think my favorite thing about this movie, though, is the message that we should remember what this Christmas season is about. It’s not about all the presents or the decorations, it’s about love. There is a huge focus on loving and helping others who are in need, whether it’s financially or emotionally. Christmas Jars inspires you to look outside yourself for those who need you. I really love that message, and I think that’s why I immediately started the movie over again once I finished it. It made me feel hopeful and inspired and happy. Many of us don’t have a ton to be happy about, but I was reminded that you can always find something to make yourself happy. Sometimes that’s sacrificing something you want for someone who needs it more than you do.

Bottom line, I wholeheartedly recommend this movie and plan to gift it to friends and family this year. You pretty much need to go buy it ASAP!

NOTE: For those interested, there is no focus on religion or faith in this movie. I would consider it to be in the same vein as Hallmark’s Christmas movies.

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Interview with Lauren Mansy | The Memory Thief Blog Tour (+ Giveaway)

Posted October 14, 2019 by Jana in Author Interview, Blog Tour, Giveaway / 6 Comments

Interview with Lauren Mansy | The Memory Thief Blog Tour (+ Giveaway)

Welcome to The FFBC’s blog tour for The Memory Thief by Lauren Mansy! As the organizer for this tour, I got the opportunity to interview Lauren!


Interview with Lauren Mansy

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

1. Your bio says you’ve spent years working with youth of all ages. How has this impacted your writing career?

LM: It has definitely had a huge impact on my writing! I’ve been very fortunate to have had the chance to work with youth since I was fourteen. I started out as a day camp helper then became a counselor when I was older. In college, I was involved in various activities with younger students, and after graduating, I began working with a local high school program. These were all wonderful experiences, and I’m constantly amazed by the youth of today. Their passion for what they believe in and willingness to take steps to make this world a better place is very moving to me. That grit and determination inspired many of the characters in TMT, and I couldn’t more grateful for the relationships I’ve made along the way.

2. Tell us what your debut year has been like! What have you learned so far?

LM: Incredible! Such a whirlwind of wonderful and surreal moments. I think one of the main things I’ve learned is how a writer’s journey can be so much like the stories we love to read. There are up’s and down’s, moments of difficulty and doubt, and faithful allies who help along the way. This year has been filled with a lot of reflection on my path to publication, and I’m overwhelmed with gratitude for all the support and encouragement – there have been a lot of happy cry moments, and I’m totally not a crier! Writing fiction helped me express myself in ways I’d never done before, and it gave me a voice when I was still struggling to find mine. I’ll be forever grateful for that!

3. Where were you when you found out your book was being published?

LM: I remember this moment very clearly! I was actually driving in my car with my mom when the offer came through, and we both just started screaming. Then once I pulled over, the tears came! I spent the day celebrating with my family and I must’ve said, “I can’t believe this is happening!” a thousand times — those memories still bring the biggest smile to my face!

4. Which book(s) do you feel everyone should read?

LM: Ooo, great question! I’m going to throw us back to a classic and say The Chronicles of Narnia. Those books made me fall in love with storytelling, so they’ll always have a very special place in my heart.

5. What’s next for you?

LM: I’m currently working on a few projects that I’m very excited about! Now that TMT is on shelves (!!), I’m really looking forward to focusing on some new ideas that I’ve had rolling around in my head for a while. It’s so fun to be at the stage where I can really let my mind wander and see what happens!

ABOUT THE BOOK

1. Describe your book in five words or less.

LM: Betrayal, family, secrets, identity, and hope.

2. I understand that The Memory Thief was inspired by your mother. Can you tell us more about that?

LM: Absolutely! When I was a teenager, my mom was diagnosed with a heart condition, which led to an unexpected heart surgery. On the way to the operating room, her heart stopped six times, and the doctors warned my family that it was unlikely she’d survive. And if she did, she may not remember us due to the trauma she’d experienced throughout the ordeal.

I was sitting at her bedside when she first began to stir after her surgery, and I slipped my hand into hers and told her that it was me. Then she began to squeeze my hand three times, our signal for I love you! That collision of fear and joy was the moment which first sparked the idea for The Memory Thief.

Ever since, I’ve been fascinated by how memories make up so much of our identity and influence our relationships. It terrified me that my mom wouldn’t remember me, but I’m so thankful to say that she made a full-recovery. Though it was a long and difficult process, she never gave up hope that things would one day get better. Her unwavering courage inspired me to want to share this story.

COMMENT FROM JANA: Literal tears are flowing. This is so sweet and powerful!

3. Tell us about the kind of person Etta, our heroine, is.

LM: Etta is very much a flawed character, who has made a lot of mistakes in the past and struggles with how to deal with that. She’s haunted by guilt, but at the same time, she never stops fighting to save the people she loves. Etta is by no means perfect, but she’s definitely someone I’d want on my side :)

4. What’s your favorite thing about the world in The Memory Thief?

LM: My favorite thing would probably be how nothing is ever quite what it seems. This is a world where memories reign over everything, and the fact that they can be passed from person to person has created a society where one’s memories aren’t necessarily their own. Sometimes this can be good a thing (such as when someone who has lost their sight is given the chance to “see” a sunset through a memory), but other times, a person’s true identity can be all too easily lost as their own thoughts are buried by foreign memories. I really enjoyed brainstorming this element of the world, as well.

5. What message do you hope readers receive from reading The Memory Thief?

LM: There’s a line in the book that says, “It isn’t the hardships of the past which define us, but the strength we find in overcoming them.” I hope readers will be inspired by Etta’s journey to never lose hope, even in the midst of impossible odds.


The Memory Thief by Lauren Mansy
Published by BLINK on October 1, 2019
Genres: Young Adult Fiction — Fantasy
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In the city of Craewick, memories reign. The power-obsessed ruler of the city, Madame, has cultivated a society in which memories are currency, citizens are divided by ability, and Gifted individuals can take memories from others through touch as they please.

Seventeen-year-old Etta Lark is desperate to live outside of the corrupt culture, but grapples with the guilt of an accident that has left her mother bedridden in the city’s asylum. When Madame threatens to put her mother up for auction, a Craewick practice in which a “criminal’s” memories are sold to the highest bidder before being killed, Etta will do whatever it takes to save her. Even if it means rejoining the Shadows, the rebel group she swore off in the wake of the accident years earlier.

To prove her allegiance to the Shadows and rescue her mother, Etta must steal a memorized map of the Maze, a formidable prison created by the bloodthirsty ruler of a neighboring Realm. So she sets out on a journey in which she faces startling attacks, unexpected romance, and, above all, her own past in order to set things right in her world.


About Lauren Mansy

Lauren lives in the Chicago area, where she’s spent years working with youth, from young children to high schoolers. When she’s not writing, Lauren is usually with her family or exploring the city to find the best deep dish pizza. The Memory Thief, which was inspired by Lauren’s own journey with her mother, is her first novel.

Website | Twitter | Instagram

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Interview with Annie Sullivan | Tiger Queen Blog Tour (+ Giveaway)

Posted September 4, 2019 by Jana in Author Interview, Blog Tour, Giveaway / 5 Comments

Interview with Annie Sullivan | Tiger Queen Blog Tour (+ Giveaway)

Welcome to The FFBC’s blog tour for Tiger Queen by Annie Sullivan! As the organizer for this tour, I got the opportunity to interview Annie!


Interview with Annie Sullivan

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

1. Your bio says that you teach at the Indiana Writers Center. How does this job impact your writing career?

I taught a couple classes there and love teaching there. I love giving back to writers—especially local writers—who are trying to break into publishing. I know how hard it is to break into this business, so any tips I can give them can go a long way to helping them achieve that goal.

I have a real day job at Wiley Publishing. I work in their marketing department. I love my team their. However, it can be hard to fit in writing time around my real work. But, I’ve mastered writing late into the night and then getting up for work the next day. Who knew all it took to become published was never sleeping again [I’m joking of course ;) ].

2. What have you learned since your debut novel, A Touch of Gold?

I’ve learned to trust my own writing more. I know when something isn’t working. I don’t have to wait for someone else to tell me that. I’ve also learned how amazing it is to have other friends in this business who you can go to when you need a listening ear or word of advice. It’s such a great community.

3. What are some books you think everyone (teen or not) should read?

Ahh!!! How do I choose? I’m just going to give you a long list of books that I love and that have impact:

1.) The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
2.) Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson
3.) Caraval by Stephanie Garber
4.) A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
5.) Cinder by Marissa Meyer
6.) The Giver by Lois Lowry
7.) Number the Stars by Lois Lowry

4. What do you enjoy doing when you’re not writing/working?

I’m a runner, so I enjoy running and working out. That also helps me work through story ideas. I also love traveling! I’m always off on a new adventure, which is probably why I’ve visited every continent! Outside of that, you can find me reading and watching TV!

5. What’s next for you?

The sequel to A Touch of Gold—called A CURSE OF GOLD—comes out in October 2020. It’s going to be filled with even more adventure, Greek mythology, and heart-pounding action!!! I cannot wait for readers to see what’s next for Princess Kora…and they might just meet some new characters along the way—one of which has been one of my favorite ones to write EVER!

ABOUT THE BOOK

1. What about “The Lady, Or the Tiger?” by Frank R. Stockton inspired you to retell it? What does the original mean to you?

I read Stockton’s tale in grade school, and it has a cliffhanger ending. That one time reading it really set my mind ablaze. How did the story end? What choice did the princess make? I just knew that I had to give the story the ending that it always should have had…at least the ending it should have had in my opinion anyway!

2. How does an author successfully retell a story and add something new, while remaining true to its inspiration?

I think you’ve hit it right on the head in your question. You keep the vast majority of the story like the bones of a body. Then, you have to build the flesh and blood around it so that it comes to life in a new way. You always have to give it something new so that readers have a reason to read the story because you don’t want it to be too similar to the original. I think in my version, I’m hoping having the Princess have to fight in the arena against suitors to win her throne is enough of a twist to the original to get readers interested!

3. Tell us about Princess Kateri. What kind of heroine is she?

Princess Kateri was practically born with a sword in her hand, and she is ready to enter the arena to win her right to rule—which she has to do because of an old law. She’s talented yet stubborn. She doesn’t think she needs anyone’s help…until her last opponent in the arena is announced as the one man she’s never been able to beat in a fight. Then, she has to scramble to figure out how she’s going to win her throne! She’s a character that I love and that I can’t wait for the world to meet!

4. What do you hope readers take away from Tiger Queen?

Empowerment. I want readers to see Princess Kateri facing her biggest fears with sword in hand, and I hope they take away that they too have the strength to face whatever it is life throws at them. I want them to enter the fantasy worlds I create and come out of them believing a little more in themselves and their place in the world. I want them to find the tiger within.


Tiger Queen by Annie Sullivan
Published by BLINK on September 10, 2019
Genres: Young Adult Fiction  —  Fantasy, Retelling, Romance
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From Annie Sullivan, author of A Touch of Gold, comes Tiger Queen, a sweeping YA fantasy adventure that tells the story of a fierce desert princess battling to save her kingdom. Fans of Rebel of the Sands and Meagan Spooner will devour this retelling of Frank Stockton’s famous short story, “The Lady, or the Tiger?”

In the mythical desert kingdom of Achra, an ancient law forces sixteen-year-old Princess Kateri to fight in the arena to prove her right to rule. For Kateri, winning also means fulfilling a promise to her late mother that she would protect her people, who are struggling through windstorms and drought. The situation is worsened by the gang of Desert Boys that frequently raids the city wells, forcing the king to ration what little water is left. The punishment for stealing water is a choice between two doors: behind one lies freedom, and behind the other is a tiger.

But when Kateri’s final opponent is announced, she knows she cannot win. In desperation, she turns to the desert and the one person she never thought she’d side with. What Kateri discovers twists her world—and her heart—upside down. Her future is now behind two doors—only she’s not sure which holds the key to keeping her kingdom and which releases the tiger.


About Annie Sullivan

Annie Sullivan is a Young Adult author from Indianapolis, Indiana. Her work has been featured in Curly Red Stories and Punchnels. She loves fairytales, everything Jane Austen, and traveling and exploring new cultures. When she’s not off on her own adventures, she’s teaching classes at the Indiana Writers Center and working as the Copy Specialist at John Wiley and Sons, Inc. publishing company, having also worked there in Editorial and Publicity roles. You can follow her adventures on Twitter and Instagram (@annsulliva).

Website | Twitter

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BLINK Summer Reading Tour Event Kick-Off (+ Giveaway)

Posted July 22, 2019 by Jana in Blog Tour, Book Spotlight, Giveaway / 9 Comments

BLINK Summer Reading Tour Event Kick-Off (+ Giveaway)

It has been an absolute pleasure organizing and coordinating this absolutely HUGE blog tour, featuring five amazing books and the authors that wrote them. This two-week long tour will feature book reviews, author guest posts and interviews, and creative content dreamed up by our FFBC dream team of bloggers and bookstagrammers. I’m kicking things off today by highlighting the books and authors on tour! Enter the giveaway below for your chance to win one of five summer reading bundles that include all five books! Follow the tour (click the banner above) for more opportunities to win.


A Touch of Gold by Annie Sullivan
Published by BLINK on August 14, 2018
Genres: Young Adult Fiction — Mythology, Retelling
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King Midas once had the ability to turn all he touched into gold. But after his gift—or curse—almost killed his daughter, Midas relinquished The Touch forever. Ten years later, Princess Kora still bears the consequences of her father’s wish: her skin shines golden, rumors follow her everywhere she goes, and she harbors secret powers that are getting harder to hide.

Kora spends her days locked in the palace, concealed behind gloves and veils, trying to ignore the stares and gossip of courtiers. It isn’t until a charming young duke arrives that Kora realizes there may be someone out there who doesn’t fear her or her curse. But their courtship is disrupted when a thief steals precious items from the kingdom, leaving the treasury depleted and King Midas vulnerable. Thanks to her unique ability to sense gold, Kora is the only one who can track the thief down. As she sails off on her quest, Kora learns that not everything is what it seems—not thieves, not pirates, and not even curses. She quickly discovers that gold—and the power it brings—is more dangerous than she’d ever believed.

Midas learned his lesson at a price. What will Kora’s journey cost?

About Annie Sullivan

Annie Sullivan is a Young Adult author from Indianapolis, Indiana. Her work has been featured in Curly Red Stories and Punchnels. She loves fairytales, everything Jane Austen, and traveling and exploring new cultures. When she’s not off on her own adventures, she’s teaching classes at the Indiana Writers Center and working as the Copy Specialist at John Wiley and Sons, Inc. publishing company, having also worked there in Editorial and Publicity roles. You can follow her adventures on Twitter and Instagram (@annsulliva).

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Meet the Sky by McCall Hoyle
Published by BLINK on September 4, 2018
Genres: Young Adult Fiction — Contemporary, Realistic Fiction, Romance
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It all started with the accident. The one that caused Sophie’s dad to walk out of her life. The one that left Sophie’s older sister, Meredith, barely able to walk at all.

With nothing but pain in her past, all Sophie wants is to plan for the future—keep the family business running, get accepted to veterinary school, and protect her mom and sister from another disaster. But when a hurricane forms off the coast of North Carolina’s Outer Banks and heads right toward their island, Sophie realizes nature is one thing she can’t control.

After she gets separated from her family during the evacuation, Sophie finds herself trapped on the island with the last person she’d have chosen—the reckless and wild Finn Sanders, who broke her heart freshman year. As they struggle to find safety, Sophie learns that Finn has suffered his own heartbreak; but instead of playing it safe, Finn’s become the kind of guy who goes surfing in the eye of the hurricane. He may be the perfect person to remind Sophie how to embrace life again, but only if their newfound friendship can survive the storm.

About McCall Hoyle

McCall Hoyle writes honest YA novels about friendship, first love, and girls finding the strength to overcome great challenges. She is a high school English teacher. Her own less-than-perfect teenage experiences and those of the girls she teaches inspire many of the struggles in her books. When she’s not reading or writing, she’s spending time with her family and their odd assortment of pets—a food-obsessed beagle, a grumpy rescue cat, and a three-and-a-half-legged kitten. She has an English degree from Columbia College and a master’s degree from Georgia State University. She lives in a cottage in the woods in North Georgia where she reads and writes every day.

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No Place Like Here by Christina June
Published by BLINK on May 21, 2019
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Retelling
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Ashlyn Zanotti has big plans for the summer. She’s just spent a year at boarding school and can’t wait to get home. But when Ashlyn’s father is arrested for tax evasion and her mother enters a rehab facility for “exhaustion,” a.k.a. depression, her life is turned upside down.

The cherry on top? Ashlyn’s father sends her to work with a cousin she doesn’t even know at a rustic team-building retreat center in the middle of nowhere. A self-proclaimed “indoor girl,” not even Ash’s habit of leaving breadcrumb quotes—inspirational sayings she scribbles everywhere—can help her cope.

With a dangerously careless camp manager doling out grunt work, an overbearing father trying to control her even from prison, and more than a little boy drama to struggle with, the summer is full of challenges. And Ashlyn must make the toughest decision of her life: keep quiet and follow her dad’s marching orders, or find the courage to finally stand up to her father to have any hope of finding her way back home.

About Christina June

Christina June writes young adult contemporary fiction when she’s not writing college recommendation letters during her day job as a school counselor. She loves the little moments in life that help someone discover who they’re meant to become – whether it’s her students or her characters. Christina is a voracious reader, loves to travel, and hopes to one day be bicoastal – the east coast of the US and the east coast of Scotland. She lives just outside Washington DC with her husband and daughter.

She is the author of IT STARTED WITH GOODBYE, EVERYWHERE YOU WANT TO BE, and NO PLACE LIKE HERE.

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Pretty In Punxsutawney by Laurie Boyle Crompton
Published by BLINK on January 22, 2019
Genres: Young Adult — Contemporary, Romance
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A Groundhog Day meets Pretty in Pink mashup from author Laurie Boyle Crompton, Pretty in Punxsutawney tells the tale of a girl willing to look beneath the surface to see people for who they really are.

Andie is the type of girl who always comes up with the perfect thing to say…after it’s too late to say it. She’s addicted to romance movies—okay, all movies—but has yet to experience her first kiss. After a move to Punxsutawney, PA, for her senior year, she gets caught in an endless loop of her first day at her new school, reliving those 24 hours again and again.

Convinced the curse will be broken when she meets her true love, Andie embarks on a mission: infiltrating the various cliques to find the one boy who can break the spell. What she discovers along the way is that people who seem completely different can often share the very same hopes, dreams, and hang-ups. And that even a day that has been lived over and over can be filled with unexpected connections and plenty of happy endings.

About Laurie Boyle Crompton

Laurie Boyle Crompton is the YA author of the upcoming PRETTY IN PUNXSUTAWNEY (Blink/HarperCollins 2019) as well as ADRENALINE CRUSH (Macmillan/2014, Square Fish/2016), BLAZE (or Love in the Time of Supervillains), THE REAL PROM QUEENS OF WESTFIELD HIGH and LOVE AND VANDALISM (Sourcebooks/2013, 2014, 2017). Growing up in ‘Pennsyltucky’ in the 1980s, Laurie couldn’t wait to escape rural life. After saving up her tips from waitressing at a local greasy spoon at 18 she packed up her acid wash jeans and moved to NY. Where everyone else had stopped wearing acid wash.

She graduated first in her class from St. John’s University with a BA in English and Journalism. Since then she’s written for national magazines like ALLURE, survived a teaching stint at an all-boy high school, and appeared on Good Day New York several times as a Toy Expert. And yes, ‘toy expert’ is an actual profession. Really.

She has lived in places like Orlando, Florida where she and her husband spent all of their spare time and money visiting theme parks before moving to the Cotswolds in England for six months, which was every bit as cool as that sounds. The Cromptons are now back in New York where their two children resent never going to Disney.

Laurie occasionally enjoys hanging out in fields of blooming flowers and also referring to herself in the third person.

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Swing by Kwame Alexander with Mary Rand Hess
Published by BLINK on October 2, 2018
Genres: Young Adult Fiction — Poetry, Realistic Fiction, Sports
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Things usually do not go as planned for seventeen-year-old Noah. He and his best friend Walt (aka Swing) have been cut from the high school baseball team for the third year in a row, and it looks like Noah’s love interest since third grade, Sam, will never take it past the “best friend” zone. Noah would love to retire his bat and accept the status quo, but Walt has big plans for them both, which include making the best baseball comeback ever, getting the girl, and finally finding cool.

To go from lovelorn to ladies’ men, Walt introduces Noah to a relationship guru—his Dairy Queen-employed cousin, Floyd—and the always informative Woohoo Woman Podcast. Noah is reluctant, but decides fate may be intervening when he discovers more than just his mom’s birthday gift at the thrift shop. Inside the vintage Keepall is a gold mine of love letters from the 1960s. Walt is sure these letters and the podcasts are just what Noah needs to communicate his true feelings to Sam. To Noah, the letters are more: an initiation to the curious rhythms of love and jazz, as well as a way for him and Walt to embrace their own kind of cool. While Walt is hitting balls out of the park and catching the eye of the baseball coach, Noah composes anonymous love letters to Sam in an attempt to write his way into her heart. But as things are looking up for Noah and Walt, a chain of events alters everything Noah knows to be true about love, friendship, sacrifice, and fate.

In Swing, bestselling authors Kwame Alexander and Mary Rand Hess (Solo) present a free-verse poetic story that will speak to anyone who’s struggled to find their voice and take a swing at life.

About Kwame Alexander

Kwame Alexander is a poet, educator, and New York Times Bestselling author of 21 books, including THE CROSSOVER, which received the 2015 John Newbery Medal for the Most Distinguished Contribution to American literature for Children, the Coretta Scott King Author Award Honor, The NCTE Charlotte Huck Honor, the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award, and the Passaic Poetry Prize. Kwame writes for children of all ages. His other works include SURF’S UP, a picture book; BOOKED, a middle grade novel; and He Said She Said, a YA novel.

Kwame believes that poetry can change the world, and he uses it to inspire and empower young people through his PAGE TO STAGE Writing and Publishing Program released by Scholastic. A regular speaker at colleges and conferences in the U.S., he also travels the world planting seeds of literary love (Singapore, Brazil, Italy, France, Shanghai, etc.). Recently, Alexander led a delegation of 20 writers and activists to Ghana, where they delivered books, built a library, and provided literacy professional development to 300 teachers, as a part of LEAP for Ghana, an International literacy program he co-founded.

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About Mary Rand Hess

Mary Rand Hess is a poet, screenwriter, mixed-media artist, and New York Times bestselling author of notable and award-winning books such as Solo and Swing(Blink YA), coauthored with Newbery Medalist Kwame Alexander, Animal Ark: Celebrating Our Wild World in Poetry and Pictures (National Geographic Children’s Books), also coauthored with Kwame Alexander and Deanna Nikaido, Little Larry Goes to School (National Geographic Children’s Books), written with renowned photographer and filmmaker, Gerry Ellis, and the forthcoming picture book, The One and Only Wolfgang: From Pet Rescue to One Big Happy Family, coauthored with Steve Greig of @wolfgang2242 Instagram fame. She is currently at work on a few novels in verse, picture books, and screenplays.

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Which of these books are you the most excited about?
Have you read and loved any of them yet?


My Thoughts (So Far) On Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson | Blog Tour

Posted June 20, 2019 by Jana in Blog Tour / 3 Comments

Welcome to my stop along the official Sorcery of Thorns book tour today, hosted by Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing! I’ve been eagerly awaiting the release of Sorcery of Thorns for so long, so when I was invited to participate I immediately said yes! Unfortunately, due to a lot of heavy life stuff happening all at the same time, I was unable to finish the book in time for today’s stop. I’m still reading and enjoying it, though, and thought I’d share my thoughts so far!


Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson
Published by Margaret K. McElderry Books on June 4, 2019
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 456
Format: ARC
Source: From the publisher
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All sorcerers are evil. Elisabeth has known that as long as she has known anything. Raised as a foundling in one of Austermeer’s Great Libraries, Elisabeth has grown up among the tools of sorcery—magical grimoires that whisper on shelves and rattle beneath iron chains. If provoked, they transform into grotesque monsters of ink and leather. She hopes to become a warden, charged with protecting the kingdom from their power.

Then an act of sabotage releases the library’s most dangerous grimoire. Elisabeth’s desperate intervention implicates her in the crime, and she is torn from her home to face justice in the capital. With no one to turn to but her sworn enemy, the sorcerer Nathaniel Thorn, and his mysterious demonic servant, she finds herself entangled in a centuries-old conspiracy. Not only could the Great Libraries go up in flames, but the world along with them.

As her alliance with Nathaniel grows stronger, Elisabeth starts to question everything she’s been taught—about sorcerers, about the libraries she loves, even about herself. For Elisabeth has a power she has never guessed, and a future she could never have imagined.

Since I haven’;t finished yet, my thoughts are kind of all over the place and very unorganized. What better time than now for me to just list everything out! I’ll be writing a formal review once I’ve finished, but here are my thoughts so far…

  1. Right off the bat, I’m in love with this magical library. And the grimoires are actually living things that are capable of getting into so much trouble. I don’t know how long the library is going to play a part in this story since Elisabeth has been shipped away to the care of an evil sorcerer for treason.
  2. This book starts off with a major bang, completely capturing your attention.
  3. I’ve met Nathaniel briefly, but I can already tell he’s going to be a bucket of swoons. I always seem to love the evil bad boys. His little… sidekick (??), however… I’m undecided on. He’s kinda creepy.
  4. Elisabeth is a very strong character and I love her. Is she afraid of anything? I’m not sure she is. She’s relatable.
  5. I’m feeling a slow burning, hate-to-love story brewing and I’m here for it.
  6. I love Margaret’s writing. A book about bookishness must be well-written, and I’m really enjoying her prose.
  7. The worldbuilding is also super interesting, and I’m excited to dig deeper.

Ok, there you have my thoughts so far! I’m so grateful to the publisher for understanding that my life got really hard over the last few months, and letting me stay on the tour to help spread love for this book! I haven’t read An Enchantment of Ravens yet, but I’m thinking I should! First, though, I need to finish this one… and soon. I can’t wait to see what happens next (although I hear the ending is a doozy, so now I’m scared).


About Margaret Rogerson

Margaret Rogerson is the author of the New York Times bestseller An Enchantment of Ravens and Sorcery of Thorns. She has a bachelor’s degree in cultural anthropology from Miami University. When not reading or writing she enjoys sketching, gaming, making pudding, and watching more documentaries than is socially acceptable (according to some). She lives near Cincinnati, Ohio, beside a garden full of hummingbirds and roses. Visit her at MargaretRogerson.com.

Blog Tour Schedule:
Monday, May 27 – Alexa Loves Books
Tuesday, May 28 – The Novel Knight
Wednesday, May 29 – Adventures of a Book Junkie
Thursday, May 30 – Awkwordly Emma
Friday, May 31 – Mel to the Any
Monday, June 3 – The Fox’s Hideaway
Tuesday, June 4 – The Starry-Eyed Revue
Wednesday, June 5 – The Bookish Beagle
Thursday, June 6 – Super Space Chick
Friday, June 7 – Flying Paperbacks
Monday, June 10 – Bookshelves & Paperbacks
Tuesday, June 11 – Nightly Reading
Wednesday, June 12 – Novel Heartbeat
Thursday, June 13 – Hammock of Books
Friday, June 14 – The Everlasting Library
Monday, June 17 – The Eater of Books!
Tuesday, June 18 – Beware of the Reader
Wednesday, June 19 – This Dark Material
Thursday, June 20 – That Artsy Reader Girl
Friday, June 21 – SimplyAlly Tea

Interview with Christina June | No Place Like Here Blog Tour (+ Giveaway)

Posted May 27, 2019 by Jana in Author Interview, Blog Tour, Giveaway / 5 Comments

Interview with Christina June | No Place Like Here Blog Tour (+ Giveaway)

Welcome to The FFBC’s blog tour for No Place Like Here by Christina June! As the organizer for this tour, I got the opportunity to interview Christina!


Interview with Christina June

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

1. Your bio says your day job is writing college recommendation letters as a school counselor. How has that job impacted your writing career?

I feel like I’ve never really left high school! Being surrounded by teens definitely gives me perspective on the things they’re facing and the emotions they’re feeling. Not much has changed since I was their age, which is both comforting and distressing!

2. Your bio also states you eat way too many cupcakes. Which ones are your favorite?

I try to limit my cupcake consumption most of the time, but I do love them. There’s a local bakery in my area, Best Buns, that makes the very best vanilla/vanilla cupcakes ever, so that’s my number one. I’ll also eat anything from Baked & Wired in Washington DC.

3. What have you learned about writing/yourself since your debut?

I’ve learned that I am more capable than I think I am. Writing and publishing are scary, but if you surround yourself with good people and put in the time, you can make progress. I’ve also learned that there is always time if you make it. Even if you write for 15 minutes a day and it ends up being 25 words, that’s 25 words you didn’t have before you started. Every little bit counts.

4. What are some books every person (teen or not) should read?

I think all readers should read books about characters that don’t look like them, worship like then, love like them, have the same abilities as them, etc. We need to be able to put ourselves in the shoes of all kinds of people. I love We Need Diverse Books and the lists they put together—great resources for readers looking for ideas. A few books that have made impressions on me recently have been DARIUS THE GREAT IS NOT OKAY, ANGER IS A GIFT, THE BRIDE TEST, STANLEY WILL PROBABLY BE FINE, FRONT DESK, ALL THE WALLS OF BELFAST, and YOU’LL MISS ME WHEN I’M GONE.

5. What do you enjoy doing when you’re not writing?

I’m usually obsessively planning something. I love reading restaurant menus and reviews, “what do to this weekend” guides, and travel sites. I’m currently working on summer vacation and a fall trip to Disney. I also love to read and binge on TV shows.

ABOUT THE BOOK

1. Describe your book in five words or less.

That’s so hard! How about “feeling powerless at summer camp?” That covers some of it…. 😊

2. The heroine, Ash, loves inspirational quotes. What are some of her favorites? What are some of your favorites?

A lot of her favorites are my favorites. My most favorite of all time is in the book. “I am not who you supposed, but far different,” which is from a Walt Whitman poem that appears in Leaves of Grass. I think it really speaks to being a teen and how there’s this desire to appear one way to the world and also the need for others to really understand who you are inside. Sometimes those two selves don’t match.

Ash also makes reference to Warsan Shire poetry, which we couldn’t put in the book, but I would encourage everyone to read on their own. Her words are incredibly powerful.

3. Did you go to summer camp? If so, tell us your favorite memory.

I did go to summer camp! It was just after 6th grade and I went for 2 weeks to a traditional sleepaway camp with my best friend. I remember sitting around the camp fire singing with the other girls, riding horses and being terrible at archery. One really cool thing we got to do was take our horses into the river and swim with them. I loved it.

4. If you were to write yourself into this book what kind of character would you be?

Ashlyn’s best friend, Tatum, who is the star of my first novel IT STARTED WITH GOODBYE is essentially a braver version of me at sixteen. I’ve often been the one to cheer friends up and would certainly send care packages like Tatum does while Ashlyn is away.

5. What message do you hope readers receive from reading No Place Like Here?

If they’ve had a rough home life like Ash does, my hope is that reader will connect with her and perhaps feel inspired to speak up for themselves in their own life. I want them to know their voice matters and they do have power. If a reader has never experienced similar obstacles, then I hope they’ll gain empathy and new perspective. There’s a reason Ashlyn is emotionally distant, makes poor romantic choices, and feels afraid to stand up for herself. Perhaps reading this book may make those readers think about the people in their lives who might need an ally.


No Place Like Here by Christina June
Published by BLINK on May 21, 2019
Genres: Young Adult — Contemporary, Retelling
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Ashlyn Zanotti has big plans for the summer. She’s just spent a year at boarding school and can’t wait to get home. But when Ashlyn’s father is arrested for tax evasion and her mother enters a rehab facility for “exhaustion,” a.k.a. depression, her life is turned upside down.

The cherry on top? Ashlyn’s father sends her to work with a cousin she doesn’t even know at a rustic team-building retreat center in the middle of nowhere. A self-proclaimed “indoor girl,” not even Ash’s habit of leaving breadcrumb quotes—inspirational sayings she scribbles everywhere—can help her cope.

With a dangerously careless camp manager doling out grunt work, an overbearing father trying to control her even from prison, and more than a little boy drama to struggle with, the summer is full of challenges. And Ashlyn must make the toughest decision of her life: keep quiet and follow her dad’s marching orders, or find the courage to finally stand up to her father to have any hope of finding her way back home.


About Christina June

Christina June writes young adult contemporary fiction when she’s not writing college recommendation letters during her day job as a school counselor. She loves the little moments in life that help someone discover who they’re meant to become – whether it’s her students or her characters. Christina is a voracious reader, loves to travel, and hopes to one day be bicoastal – the east coast of the US and the east coast of Scotland. She lives just outside Washington DC with her husband and daughter.

She is the author of IT STARTED WITH GOODBYE, EVERYWHERE YOU WANT TO BE, and the forthcoming NO PLACE LIKE HERE.

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Interview With Heather Hepler | We Were Beautiful Blog Tour (+ Giveaway)

Posted April 28, 2019 by Jana in Author Interview, Blog Tour, Giveaway / 2 Comments

Interview With Heather Hepler | We Were Beautiful Blog Tour (+ Giveaway)

Welcome to The FFBC’s blog tour for We Were Beautiful by Heather Hepler! As the organizer for this tour, I got the opportunity to interview Heather!


Interview With Heather Hepler

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

1. As an author, what would you say has been the best compliment you’ve received?
“You’ve changed my life.” Whether it is from the middle schooler struggling to bear up under bullying or the high schooler dealing with her parents’ divorce, that one always gets my attention. But it’s really the compliment that is implied that keeps me writing – letters and emails from readers who simply thank me because my stories made them feel seen and less alone.

2. Who is in more control of your writing: you or your characters? Why?
The first draft is definitely written by the characters. Initially I just follow them along and take notes, but after that I start shaping the story. I add details that never made it from my head to the page and take out random thoughts or wrong turns that muddy the story that I want to tell.

3. What have been some of your favorite recent reads (YA or not)?
I love fantasy and science fiction. My most recent obsessions have been older science fiction like Philip K. Dick and Ursula LeGuin. I also love Robin Hobb’s books. Her ability to bring life to the mundane constantly stuns me.

4. What are you up to when you’re not reading or writing?
I teach for two different universities, which keeps me busy. But I also love baking, traveling, and running. If I could, I’d have ten cats and probably as many dogs, but right now I have one of each and some Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches. (Only two, but the female is pregnant, so any day we might have another 50.)

5. What’s your next project?
I’m actually working on two books right now. One is a science fiction book and the other is a co-written project about the life in inner-city Houston. I’m also just starting to work on a screen-play which is completely new for me, but very exciting.

ABOUT THE BOOK

1. Describe your book in 5 words or less.
Romantic, thoughtful, quirky, honest, yummy

2. Friendship is a very large theme in We Were Beautiful. Tell us about these friends (especially Fig because she is so interesting)!
I have met friends over the years that have become like family to me. Fig is just this incredible girl that is able to see beyond herself and her own pain to the needs of others. I think all of us need someone like that if our lives – someone who is nurturing and pushy in equal measures. I need someone who is willing to cry with me and watch romantic movies with me, but also willing to tell me ‘okay, let’s get up and get going again.’ I like how each of Mia’s friends is like that in different ways. Each of them listens, loves, and then inspires.

3. If you had written yourself into this book, which character (or what kind of character) would you be?
I’m probably Sarah – although I can’t sing. I’m quiet and introspective, but when I’m ready to talk, I have a lot to say. I am also be fiercely loyal and will do anything for my friends and family.

4. What message do you hope your readers take away from We Were Beautiful?
I hope readers will realize that healing takes time. You can’t run from the uncertainty of it or the pain of it. You just have to keep moving through it, one day at a time, knowing that even when it seems dark, the light is coming.

5. What’s your favorite quote from the book?
“If I lean a little farther out, I can see the Brooklyn Bridge and a tiny slice of water. For some reason, seeing that makes me happy, like there’s something bigger beyond this apartment and this building and this block. Something bigger beyond me.”


We Were Beautiful by Heather Hepler
Published by BLINK on April 2, 2019
Genres: Young Adult Fiction — Contemporary
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It’s been a year since fifteen-year-old Mia Hopkins was in the car crash that killed her older sister and left her terribly scarred. The doctors tell her she was lucky to survive. Her therapist says it will take time to heal. The police reports claim there were trace amounts of alcohol in her bloodstream. But no matter how much she tries to reconstruct the events of that fateful night, Mia’s memory is spotty at best. She’s left with accusations, rumors, and guilt so powerful it could consume her.

As the rest of Mia’s family struggles with their own grief, Mia is sent to New York City to spend the summer with a grandmother she’s never met. All Mia wants to do is hide from the world, but instead she’s stuck with a summer job in the bustling kitchens of the cafe down the street. There she meets Fig–blue-haired, friendly, and vivacious–who takes Mia under her wing. As Mia gets to know Fig and her friends–including Cooper, the artistic boy who is always on Mia’s mind–she realizes that she’s not the only one with a painful past.

Over the summer, Mia begins to learn that redemption isn’t as impossible as she once thought, but her scars inside run deep and aren’t nearly so simple to heal … especially when Mia finally pieces together her memories of the night Rachel died.


About Heather Hepler

I was born in Kalamazoo, Michigan, which I think is one of the cooler places to be born, because initially people think I’m being funny—like I’m saying I was born on the moon, but then they see I’m actually being serious. It feels like since then I’ve lived nearly everywhere (well, only in the US—which is a bummer because I want to travel so much). In high school, I was in band and honors society and science club and worked on the school newspaper. All this in Texas where football was king and cheerleaders were the school royalty. When people ask me what I remember about middle school and high school, I stand there for several seconds not saying anything. This isn’t because I can’t remember anything, but because I remember too many things and I can’t figure out what to say out loud.

I spent the first part of college in Alaska, which was amazing. The first time I saw Northern Lights, I thought I was imagining it. I just couldn’t get my head around the idea that something so beautiful existed in the real world. That’s when I first started writing. This was my bad poetry phase. I think it was the combination of living there with long very cold winters and being in love with a guy that barely knew I existed that made me do it. People ask me all the time if I write poetry. I wish I could and maybe I will someday, but for now I am firmly a fiction writer.

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Interview with Jessica Brody | Sky Without Stars Blog Tour (+Giveaway)

Posted March 21, 2019 by Jana in Author Interview, Blog Tour, Giveaway / 5 Comments

Interview with Jessica Brody | Sky Without Stars Blog Tour (+Giveaway)

Welcome to The FFBC’s blog tour for Sky Without Stars by Jessica Brody & Joanne Rendell! Patricia and I both interviewed these authors! I’m hosting Jessica today, and Patricia hosted Joanne yesterday.


Interview with Jessica Brody

Can you briefly describe Sky Without Stars and the main characters?

Sky Without Stars is a sci-fi reimagining of Victor Hugo’s epic, Les Miserables…set on a distant planet! Basically it’s “Les Mis in space!” Here’s the short description:

Five-hundred years after the Last Days, an extravagant, elite class reigns supreme on the French-inspired planet of Laterre, but when a shocking murder shakes the foundations of the planet, the fates of three unlikely heroes from very different backgrounds (a thief, an officer, and a guardian) will intertwine as the planet spirals toward revolution.

Dun, dun, DUN! 😊

Who would you say is your favorite character from the story and why?

As much as I probably should say Chatine (inspired by Eponine from Les Mis), because I wrote the first draft of most of her chapters, I think my favorite character is a 13-year-old boy named Roche (inspired by the spunky street urchin, Gavroche in Les Mis). He’s a “Fret rat” (meaning he grew up in the Frets or “slums” of Laterre) and an “oublie” (Laterrian term for orphan. In French it literally means forgotten.) But he’s so charismatic and has this great upbeat outlook on life, despite his circumstances. He’s also quite the negotiator. I perked up every time he entered the scene I was writing!

How did you come up with the idea for the story? Did you find inspiration anywhere?

Back in 2014, I sat in on a retellings class taught by authors Christina Farley and Vivi Barnes. They handed us each a worksheet. On one side they told us to write down any and every classic story we’ve ever loved. Among many, I wrote “Les Misérables”. Then on the other side, they told us to write down a list of interesting settings. Among many, I wrote, “space.” (See picture below.) I literally drew a line between the two and a shiver ran through me. Les Mis, set in space? It felt like too big of an undertaking to do alone so years later when my best friend Joanne Rendell told, randomly, that Les Mis was one of her favorite classics, I knew she was the one I had to write it with! And SKY WITHOUT STARS was born!

If you could choose one song to describe your book, which one would it be?

Ooh! Luckily I have countless songs from the Les Mis soundtrack to choose from! Although “On My Own” very much embodies our character Chatine’s journey in this story, when it comes to the book a whole, I’d have to say “One Day More.” This is the song that marks the middle of the musical, right before the intermission, and it’s an ensemble piece where all the characters sing about all the different things they’re waiting for and what tomorrow might bring for them. There’s a sense of imminent danger in the song, but there’s also romance and greed and vengeance and despair, and most of all hope. To me, this the epitome of Les Mis: Danger, romance, greed, vengeance, despair, and hope.

I just hope that we’ve successfully captured it all in SKY WITHOUT STARS!

What’s the best and the worst thing about writing a book with someone else? What are the challenges you guys found while writing Sky Without Stars?

The best is definitely being able to brainstorm with someone else. Jo and I joke that it’s like being paid to play dolls. Except the dolls are characters in the story and the “doll house” is a distant planet in a yet-to-be-discovered solar system. We get super into it, acting out scenes, and doing voices, and conjuring up all sorts of dramatic situations for our characters. I’ve never had so much writing a book in my life. (And I’ve written more than 15 novels before this!)

The challenge for us has mostly been scheduling and distance. We live 3,000 miles apart on different ends of the country. So we’re not able to get together in person as often as we’d like. We rely on modern-day tech like Skype for video chats and Slack for messaging. But we always joke that it would be so great if we lived next door to each other and could hang out and play dolls…er, I mean, write every day together!

Since it is still cold outside, what hot drink do you think would go perfectly with your book?

I would say a nice café au lait (or café crème as they say in Paris!) or chocolat chaud (hot chocolate) to go with the French theme!

Can you recommend any other books in case they are left hungry for more once they finish Sky Without Stars?

Yes! Definitely check out LAST OF HER NAME by Jessica Khoury, which is another sci-fi retelling set in space…this one a retelling of the legend of Anastasia, the lost Romanoff heir! Khoury’s world-building and plotting is so magnificent. I could NOT put this book down!

What’s next for you?

Joanne and I are about to dive into the revisions of book 2 in the trilogy, BETWEEN BURNING WORLDS. The first draft of that book caused us a LOT of agony and stress (as sequels often do) but in the end, I’m happy with where it is now and can’t wait for everyone to find out what happens next on planet Laterre. And yes, as the title suggests, it’s pretty explosive!


Sky Without Stars by Jessica Brody and Joanne Rendell
Published by Simon Pulse on March 26, 2019
Genres: Young Adult Fiction — Science Fiction, Retelling
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A thief. An officer. A guardian.

Three strangers, one shared destiny . . .

When the Last Days came, the planet of Laterre promised hope. A new life for a wealthy French family and their descendants. But five hundred years later, it’s now a place where an extravagant elite class reigns supreme; where the clouds hide the stars and the poor starve in the streets; where a rebel group, long thought dead, is resurfacing.

Whispers of revolution have begun—a revolution that hinges on three unlikely heroes…

Chatine is a street-savvy thief who will do anything to escape the brutal Regime, including spy on Marcellus, the grandson of the most powerful man on the planet.

Marcellus is an officer—and the son of a renowned traitor. In training to take command of the military, Marcellus begins to doubt the government he’s vowed to serve when his father dies and leaves behind a cryptic message that only one person can read: a girl named Alouette.

Alouette is living in an underground refuge, where she guards and protects the last surviving library on the planet. But a shocking murder will bring Alouette to the surface for the first time in twelve years…and plunge Laterre into chaos.

All three have a role to play in a dangerous game of revolution—and together they will shape the future of a planet.

Power, romance, and destiny collide in this sweeping reimagining of Victor Hugo’s masterpiece, Les Misérables.


About Jessica Brody

Jessica Brody knew from a young age that she wanted to be a writer. She started self “publishing” her own books when she was seven years old, binding the pages together with cardboard, wallpaper samples, and electrical tape.

After graduating from Smith College in 2001 where she double majored in Economics and French and minored in Japanese, Jessica later went on to work for MGM Studios as a Manager of Acquisitions and Business Development. In May of 2005, Jessica quit her job to follow her dream of becoming a published author.

Since then, Jessica has sold over twelve novels for teens, tweens, and adults including 52 Reasons to Hate My Father, The Karma Club, My Life Undecided, and the three books in the Unremembered trilogy, the first of which is currently in development as a major motion picture by the producers of The Vampire Academy, Zero Dark Thirty, Life of Pi, and Slumdog Millionaire. In 2016, she will release two new contemporary novels, A Week of Mondays (August) and Boys of Summer (April), and in 2017, her debut middle grade novel entitled, Addie Bell’s Shortcut to Growing Up, will hit bookstore shelves.

Jessica also writes books for the Descendants: “School of Secrets” series, based on the hit Disney Channel Original movie, Descendants!

Jessica’s books are published and translated in over twenty foreign countries. She currently splits her time between California and Colorado.

About Joanne Rendell

Joanne Rendell is the author of three novels and holds a PhD in English Literature. She teaches fiction writing to teens and kids, as well as online writing classes at Udemy.com and Lynda.com. Joanne is a board member for the youth Shakespeare company, New Genesis Productions. With her husband and son, she divides her time between New York City and New Paltz, New York.

 

 

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Interview with Maureen Doyle McQuerry | Between Before & After Tour (+ Giveaway)

Posted February 4, 2019 by Jana in Author Interview, Blog Tour, Giveaway / 2 Comments

Interview with Maureen Doyle McQuerry | Between Before & After Tour (+ Giveaway)

Welcome to The FFBC’s blog tour of Maureen Doyle McQuerry’s Between Before & After! As one of the co-owners of The Fantastic Flying Book Club, I had the privilege of organizing this blog tour and interviewing Maureen!


Interview with Maureen Doyle McQuerry

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

1. Your website says, “Writers are like crows. They collect shiny objects that capture their attention and hide them away.” What little treasures have you found to add to your collection over the years?
I keep an idea folder on my computer and a notebook in my pocket. Some of the shiny things that end up there are what I call scraps: scraps of conversations, a line that pops into my head, a cool setting or idea. For example, I read about the real Mr. Walker’s library before I wrote The Peculiars. It was so amazing I cut out pictures of it and tucked them away. It became the seed for Mr.Beasely’s library.

2. What’s been the most thought-provoking question you’d been asked as a presenter at a writer’s conference?
How you know what your characters want.

3. Which books or authors do you look to for inspiration?
Here’s a very random list: Joan Didion, Neil Gaiman, Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Mary Oliver, T.S.Elliot, James Agee, Emily St John Mandell’s Station Eleven, Pete Hamill, Denise Levertov, Kate DiCamillo, Madeline L’Engle

4. What are you reading right now?
Transcription by Kate Atkinson, just finished The Changling and will soon start The Gilded Wolves.

5. What are you up to when you’re not writing?
Visiting with friends, hiking, traveling, playing with my grandson, visiting with students and talking about writing and life.

ABOUT THE BOOK

1. You’ve said that there’s a library in every one of your books. Is there one in this book? Tell us about it!
Yes! The 1955 San Jose public library is where Molly and her friend, Ari, go to research old New York. Molly’s looking for information about Woodward School and discovers it was a home for delinquent girls. In 1955, the San Jose library was housed in the old Post Office building that was built in 1892. It’s built from sandstone blocks and with its round turret and clock tower, it looks like a fancy sandcastle. The building is now the San Jose Museum of Art.

There was another library in a deleted scene. The Santa Clara Valley bookmobile! When I was little a pink bookmobile came to our neighborhood twice a month. I had a scene where Molly and brother visit their neighborhood bookmobile, but it slowed down the story and I cut the scene, even though I hated to lose the bookmobile!

2. What’s your favorite quote from the book?
I had to pick two:
“Every story should leave a little room for miracles.”
“The words came out small and feeble, a new born revelation finding its legs.”

3. It is mentioned that a retelling of Hansel and Gretel can be found in this book. What inspired you to retell this story?
The Hansel and Gretel fairy tale is the archetypal story of abandoned children who against all odds survive the darkest forest and eventually find home. It’s a story of resiliency and redemption.

4. If you wrote yourself into this book, what kind of character would you be?
I’d like to be a friend for Elaine when she had none. Someone she could talk to and laugh with because for many years her life had very little joy.

5. What message do you hope readers take away from this book?
That wonder is possible. That you can’t know the ending of the story just because you know the beginning, and that you can’t know how people will change either. I want readers to know that they can survive the darkest part of the woods and still find home.


Between Before & After by Maureen Doyle McQuerry
Published by BLINK on February 5, 2019
Genres: Young Adult — Historical, Mystery
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“The carnage began with the roses. She hacked at their ruffled blooms until they dropped into monstrous drifts of red on the parched yellow lawn … Only two things kept my mother grounded to us: my uncle Stephen and stories.”

Fourteen-year-old Molly worries about school, friends, and her parents’ failed marriage, but mostly about her mother’s growing depression. Molly knows her mother is nursing a carefully-kept secret. A writer with an obsession for other people’s life stories, Elaine Donnelly is the poster child of repressed emotions.

Molly spends her California summer alternately watching out for her little brother Angus and tip-toeing around her mother’s raw feelings. Molly needs her mother more than ever, but Elaine shuts herself off from real human connections and buries herself in the lives and deaths of the strangers she writes about. When Uncle Stephen is pressed into the limelight because of his miracle cure of a young man, Elaine can no longer hide behind other people’s stories. And as Molly digs into her mother’s past, she finds a secret hidden in her mother’s dresser that may be the key to unlocking a family mystery dating to 1918 New York—a secret that could destroy or save their future.


About Maureen Dole McQuerry

All of my books have an element of mystery and magic, even the realistic stories. And as a friend pointed out, there is a library in every one of them. It must be because libraries have always been magical places for me.

Maureen McQuerry is an award winning poet, novelist and teacher. Her YA novel, The Peculiars (Abrams/Amulet 2012) is an ALA Best Book for Young Adult Readers 2013, Bank Street and Horne Book recommended book, and a winner of the Westchester Award. Her most recent book is Beyond the Door (Abrams/Amulet), a Booklist top Ten Fantasy/SciFi for Youth. It is the first in a MG duo that combines, Celtic myth, shapeshifters and a secret code in a coming of age story. The adventure continues in The Telling Stone. Beyond the Door is a current finalist for the WA State Book awards.

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Interview with Laurie Boyle Crompton | Pretty In Punxsutawney Blog Tour (+Giveaway)

Posted January 7, 2019 by Jana in Author Interview, Blog Tour, Giveaway / 4 Comments

Interview with Laurie Boyle Crompton | Pretty In Punxsutawney Blog Tour (+Giveaway)

Welcome to The FFBC’s blog tour of Laurie Boyle Crompton’s Pretty in Punxsutawney! As one of the co-owners of The Fantastic Flying Book Club, I had the exciting privilege of organizing this blog tour and interviewing Laurie!


Author Interview with Laurie Boyle Crompton

About the Author

1. Your bio mentions that you taught in an all-boy high school. Did you take anything away from that experience that helped you as a writer of YA fiction?

I learned that high school boys are just as awkward and nervous about growing up as high school girls are. Some of them take things like grades too seriously, and some of them really need to wake up and start caring a little bit about things like grades! Mostly I found that if you can make them laugh you can gain their trust, and when they open up they can come up with some amazing insights. I also learned that you should maybe not ever let your guard all the way down since some of them are expert spit-ball shooters and I *may* have gotten hit in the face once and had to go out in the hallway to give myself a little pep talk that I could *do this.* It’s probably for the best that I switched my focus to writing that first summer I had off. From there I moved on to working in a bookstore where even the most irate customers were much easier to deal with than teenage boys will ever be.

2. Your bio also states that you worked as a “toy expert”. What did that entail?

Working as a toy expert for a toy magazine was one of my favorite jobs and I highly recommend it! My office was lined with bookshelves filled with kids’ books and games and companies would constantly send us their newest toys. Probably the very best part? Spending a week every year at Toy Fair! That’s the trade show in NYC with all the latest toys, games and books all in one place. As a trade writer, my JOB was to explore the exhibits and find the most fun and innovative inventions and basically just play! It’s almost (but not quite) as much fun as writing fiction.

3. You’ve lived in many different places. Which has been your favorite one?

I grew up in western PA, but we had family in New York who we’d travel to visit a few times every year. As soon as I turned eighteen I moved to Queens, NY and it feels the most like home to me. My husband and I have lived in Florida and England, but always find our way back to New York and there’s something about being in NYC that makes me feel I’m in the center of the universe. That may sound silly, but from what I understand, it also kind of makes me an official New Yorker.

4. What are some of your favorite YA books?

I grew up reading Judy Blume so will always have a soft spot in my heart for books like Blubber and Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. I have eclectic taste, so I’m happy reading everything from John Green to A. S. King to Elizabeth Acevedo to Rupi Kaur. One of the cool parts of becoming a YA author is that I sometimes get to meet and hang out with awesome authors such as Jess Verdi, Stewart Lewis, Shana Silver and Patty Blount. YA authors are truly some of the nicest and most generous and creative people you’d ever want to meet and I consider myself so lucky to be among them.

5. What do you enjoy doing when you’re not writing?

I love spending time with my family, including our three dogs who I call the pup-turducken since they can each stand over one another in small/medium/large size order. When I’m not writing, I can usually be found on a train or subway heading to television sets where I work part time as an extra, (and sometimes spend hours writing while waiting in holding!). I also love hiking and cross-country skiing through nature upstate. My default-downtime-setting is hanging out on the couch in our home on Long Island, either reading or sometimes drawing with Hulu or Netflix constantly checking in to see if I’m still alive.

About the Book

1. Pretty in Punxsutawney tips its hat to several popular movies from the 1980s. Was it challenging for you to incorporate these movies in to your book in a way that appealed to today’s teens?

Incorporating the teen movies from the 1980s was so much fun! Certain aspects of the films certainly feel dated, but the core emotions are still relevant to teens today. Plus, re-watching those classics was so much fun! It hard to imagine The Breakfast Club or Ferris Bueller’s Day Off happening today because it’s easy to picture kids sitting in the school library just playing on their phones through detention, or Ferris and Cameron playing Fortnite all day. But teens today wrestle with many of the same issues and insecurities as teens back in the days of neon slouch socks and John Hughes movies, and adolescence will always have certain universal challenges that it feels good to relate to.

2. Pitch your book to teens that have not seen Pretty in Pink or Groundhog Day, and therefore don’t necessarily understand the book’s back cover summary.

Pretty in Punxsutawney’s Andie is obsessed with 80s movies, but readers don’t need to be familiar with 80s movies to come along for the ride! Andie is just like any other girl, really, who happens to find herself looping through the same day over and over. It just so happens that the day she keeps reliving is her very first day at a brand new high school! Andie’s opportunity to re-invent herself is never-ending as she learns from her mistakes. The Pretty in Pink themes of breaking down cliques and ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ are pretty common and universal and certainly don’t require watching the movie, but then again, the movie is streaming on Netflix right now and stars Molly Ringwald and so what are you waiting for?

3. If you could relive any day in your life over and over again, which day would that be? Why?

Actually, repeating just an ordinary day with my family would be perfect. My wedding day was great but also super stressful and even the day I sold my first book was exciting but nerve wracking since I knew right when they were having the acquisitions meeting. Of course, I was thrilled with the outcome, but can’t imagine going through all that stress over and over again. I’d be happy with just a nice, lazy day with my loved ones and dogs all around me. It sounds boring I know, but those are my favorite days and since I live near NYC I could always spend a few years exploring the city and still have more new things to experience.

4. If you wrote yourself into this book, what kind of character would you play?

I’d love to envision myself as a wise teacher character who distributes perfect words of wisdom and encouragement, but please note aforementioned experience as an actual teacher. I’d most likely be the teacher that kids all manipulated into canceling quizzes and extending essay deadlines to the point where I’d get fired. And honestly feel relieved.

5. What do you hope your readers take away from this book?

We should all strive to make the most of each day we are given. Andie’s attitude and actions completely changed the type of day she had. We may not be in control of everything that happens to us today, but with the right attitude we can make it the best day possible!

That’s why we’ve been using the hashtag #todayiswhatyoumakeit

Here’s to making each day the best we possibly can!


Pretty in Punxsutawney by Laurie Boyle Crompton
Published by BLINK on January 15, 2019
Genres: Young Adult — Contemporary, Romance
Add to Goodreads • Amazon • B&N • Book Depository

A Groundhog Day meets Pretty in Pink mashup from author Laurie Boyle Crompton, Pretty in Punxsutawney tells the tale of a girl willing to look beneath the surface to see people for who they really are.

Andie is the type of girl who always comes up with the perfect thing to say…after it’s too late to say it. She’s addicted to romance movies—okay, all movies—but has yet to experience her first kiss. After a move to Punxsutawney, PA, for her senior year, she gets caught in an endless loop of her first day at her new school, reliving those 24 hours again and again.

Convinced the curse will be broken when she meets her true love, Andie embarks on a mission: infiltrating the various cliques to find the one boy who can break the spell. What she discovers along the way is that people who seem completely different can often share the very same hopes, dreams, and hang-ups. And that even a day that has been lived over and over can be filled with unexpected connections and plenty of happy endings.


About Laurie Boyle Crompton

Laurie Boyle Crompton is the YA author of the upcoming PRETTY IN PUNXSUTAWNEY (Blink/HarperCollins 2019) as well as ADRENALINE CRUSH (Macmillan/2014, Square Fish/2016), BLAZE (or Love in the Time of Supervillains), THE REAL PROM QUEENS OF WESTFIELD HIGH and LOVE AND VANDALISM (Sourcebooks/2013, 2014, 2017). Growing up in ‘Pennsyltucky’ in the 1980s, Laurie couldn’t wait to escape rural life. After saving up her tips from waitressing at a local greasy spoon at 18 she packed up her acid wash jeans and moved to NY. Where everyone else had stopped wearing acid wash.

She graduated first in her class from St. John’s University with a BA in English and Journalism. Since then she’s written for national magazines like ALLURE, survived a teaching stint at an all-boy high school, and appeared on Good Day New York several times as a Toy Expert. And yes, ‘toy expert’ is an actual profession. Really.

She has lived in places like Orlando, Florida where she and her husband spent all of their spare time and money visiting theme parks before moving to the Cotswolds in England for six months, which was every bit as cool as that sounds. The Cromptons are now back in New York where their two children resent never going to Disney.

Laurie occasionally enjoys hanging out in fields of blooming flowers and also referring to herself in the third person.

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