Posts Categorized: Debut Author Challenge

The Debut Dish: Lana Popović, Chelsea Bobulski, Rebecca Barrow, & S.F. Henson (+ Giveaways)

September 24, 2017 Author Interview, Debut Author Challenge, Debut Dish, Giveaway 3

The Debut Dish, a bi-monthly Debut Author Challenge feature, is where you go for the scoop on some pretty awesome debut authors and their new books! Hopefully these interviews will inspire you to add many, many more books to your to-read list. Because, really, who doesn’t need more books in their lives?

This issue of The Debut Dish features Lana Popovic (Wicked Like a Wildfire), Chelsea Bobulski (The Wood), Rebecca Barrow (You Don’t Know Me But I Know You), and S.F. Henson (Devils Within).


Wicked Like a Wildfire by Lana Popović
August 15, 2017 from Katherine Tegen Books
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All the women in Iris and Malina’s family have the unique magical ability or “gleam” to manipulate beauty. Iris sees flowers as fractals and turns her kaleidoscope visions into glasswork, while Malina interprets moods as music. But their mother has strict rules to keep their gifts a secret, even in their secluded sea-side town. Iris and Malina are not allowed to share their magic with anyone, and above all, they are forbidden from falling in love.

But when their mother is mysteriously attacked, the sisters will have to unearth the truth behind the quiet lives their mother has built for them. They will discover a wicked curse that haunts their family line—but will they find that the very magic that bonds them together is destined to tear them apart forever?

Describe your book in five words or less.
Witchy twins and family curses.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
Most of my favorite scenes are spoilers with High Drama and Magic, but without giving away too much, the scene that actually sparked this story is the one captured in the twins’ shared dream after their mother is attacked. The atmosphere of dark, ancient magic worked by fierce women against a wintry Montenegro backdrop lived with me for a long time before the book was written.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
I was working from home, and it was the end of a work day in which I’d also been finishing up a deal for an author client. So when the offer from Katherine Tegen Books landed, it was a total “cup overfloweth” moment. I was by myself, and I didn’t have any rakija–which is the Serbian go-to drink for pretty much anything that can be considered a celebratory occasion–so I poured two shots of vodka, cheersed with myself, and then poured one of them out in thanks.

What’s your favorite junk food?
Nachos made with Doritos, then smothered in melted sharp cheddar, black bean salsa, and Greek yogurt. Seriously, try it. Then join my support group.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
Part of my desk is a makeshift curio cabinet, so it’s kind of an embarrassment of riches when it comes to calling out the weird stuff. I think it’s currently a tie between the crystal fractal tree my partner brought back from Sweden in honor of Wicked, and the herbal spell candles that hang from my cabinet knobs and are made by a very crafty friend.


The Wood by Chelsea Bobulski
August 1, 2017 from Feiwel & Friends
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After her father goes missing in the woods that they protect, Winter tries to seek the truth in what happened, why the wood is changing, and what it all has to do with the arrival of a mysterious stranger in this thrilling YA debut.

When Winter’s dad goes missing during his nightly patrol of the wood, it falls to her to patrol the time portals and protect the travelers who slip through them. Winter can’t help but think there’s more to her dad’s disappearance than she’s being told.

She soon finds a young man traveling in the wood named Henry who knows more than he should. He believes if they can work together to find his missing parents, they could discover the truth about Winter’s dad.

The wood is poisoned, changing into something sinister—torturing travelers lost in it. Winter must put her trust in Henry in order to find the truth and those they’ve lost.

Bobulski’s eerie debut is filled with friendship, family, and the responsibilities we choose and those we do not.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Haunting, atmospheric, dangerous, magical forest.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
My favorite scene is when my main character realizes why the fabric of time is so important, and why we shouldn’t mess with it, even when we have the noblest intentions.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
At my house. I got the phone call after having a real heart-to-heart with God that morning about whether or not I was doing what I was supposed to be doing with my life. It had been five years since I’d started on my journey to becoming a published author, and the doubt monsters were really creeping in, making me wonder if it would ever happen. I felt God tell me to trust in Him, and that night I got the call! It was one of the most magical, amazing, heart-stopping moments of my life.

What’s your favorite junk food?
Oreos. Kit-Kats. m&ms. Chocolate in general.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
A hair dryer.

Don’t ask.

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You Don’t Know Me But I Know You by Rebecca Barrow
August 29, 2017 from HarperTeen
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Rebecca Barrow’s bright, honest debut novel about chance, choice, and unconditional love is a heartfelt testament to creating the future you truly want, one puzzle piece at a time.

There’s a box in the back of Audrey’s closet that she rarely thinks about.

Inside is a letter, seventeen years old, from a mother she’s never met, handed to her by the woman she’s called Mom her whole life. Being adopted, though, is just one piece in the puzzle of Audrey’s life—the picture painstakingly put together by Audrey herself, full of all the people and pursuits that make her who she is.

But when Audrey realizes that she’s pregnant, she feels something—a tightly sealed box in the closet corners of her heart—crack open, spilling her dormant fears and unanswered questions all over the life she loves.

Almost two decades ago, a girl in Audrey’s situation made a choice, one that started Audrey’s entire story. Now Audrey is paralyzed by her own what-ifs and terrified by the distance she feels growing between her and her best friend Rose. Down every possible path is a different unfamiliar version of her life, and as she weighs the options in her mind, she starts to wonder—what does it even mean to be Audrey Spencer?

Describe your book in five words or less.
Art, love, choices, hope, reality.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
My favourite scene is kind of a spoiler so let’s go with my second favourite, where Audrey and her best friend Rose hang out in an empty dance studio.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
I was leaving work and remembered I’d gotten an email while I was closing up so decided to check it before I got in the car. Then I drove home blasting Beyonce at an obnoxious volume.

What’s your favorite junk food?
Chips (or French fries as you probably call them!)

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
Um…batteries and a tape measure.


Devils Within by S.F. Henson
October 31, 2017 from Sky Pony Press
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Killing isn’t supposed to be easy. But it is. It’s the after that’s hard to deal with.

Nate was eight the first time he stabbed someone; he was eleven when he earned his red laces—a prize for spilling blood for “the cause.” And he was fourteen when he murdered his father (and the leader of The Fort, a notorious white supremacist compound) in self-defense, landing in a treatment center while the state searched for his next of kin. Now, in the custody of an uncle he never knew existed, who wants nothing to do with him, Nate just wants to disappear.

Enrolled in a new school under a false name, so no one from The Fort can find him, he struggles to forge a new life, trying to learn how to navigate a world where people of different races interact without enmity. But he can’t stop awful thoughts from popping into his head, or help the way he shivers with a desire to commit violence. He wants to be different—he just doesn’t know where to start.

Then he meets Brandon, a person The Fort conditioned Nate to despise on sight. But Brandon’s also the first person to treat him like a human instead of a monster. Brandon could never understand Nate’s dark past, so Nate keeps quiet. And it works for a while. But all too soon, Nate’s worlds crash together, and he must decide between his own survival and standing for what’s right, even if it isn’t easy. Even if society will never be able to forgive him for his sins.

Like a teen American History X, S.F. Henson’s Devils Within is gut-wrenching, thought-provoking, no-holds-barred look at the plague of white supremacy in contemporary American culture that may have you examining your own soul.

Describe your book in five words or less.
A YA American History X.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
My favorite scene is in one of the early chapters. The main character, Nate, is describing how it feels to kill someone. He killed his father, a white supremacist leader, in self-defense, and as hard as it was to take a life, he’s happy his dad is gone. Because with his father dead the beatings stopped, both to him, and to anyone who looked or thought or acted different. With his father gone, Nate finally has some hope of moving past the hate that has always controlled his life.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
Standing in my kitchen with my husband. I might’ve literally screamed and almost dropped then phone, and there might’ve been some happy tears, and most certainly was a lot of jumping up and down.

What’s your favorite junk food?
Anything sweet. Gobstoppers are my favorite writing candy, but otherwise I always gravitate toward chocolate. Especially if it’s covering peanut butter.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
Hmm, probably two lighters. I love lighting my favorite candle (Snuggly Sweater from Target) while I’m writing, so I keep a lighter handy. Or in this case, two of them, just in case.

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Debut Dish Special Edition: Heather Fawcett and Even the Darkest Stars

September 21, 2017 Author Interview, Debut Author Challenge, Debut Dish 0

Magic, Myth, & Mischief, hosted by me and Bonnie, is a month-long event that celebrates fairy tales and mythological retellings, as well as retellings of favorite classic novels and books featuring mythical beasts such as mermaids, dragons, and fae! Find the schedule of events and other information here.

The Debut Dish, a bi-monthly Debut Author Challenge feature, is where you go for the scoop on some pretty awesome debut authors and their new books! Hopefully these interviews will inspire you to add many, many more books to your to-read list. Because, really, who doesn’t need more books in their lives?


Today I’m welcoming Heather Fawcett back to the blog to tell us more about herself and her debut book, Even the Darkest Stars. Heather guest posted earlier this month as part of her blog tour, and I had to invite her back to tell us more about the amazing world she created in her book.

Even the Darkest Stars by Heather Fawcett
September 5, 2017 from Balzer + Bray
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Kamzin has always dreamed of becoming one of the Emperor’s royal explorers, the elite climbers tasked with mapping the wintry, mountainous Empire and spying on its enemies. She knows she could be the best in the world, if only someone would give her a chance.

But everything changes when the mysterious and eccentric River Shara, the greatest explorer ever known, arrives in her village and demands to hire Kamzin—not her older sister Lusha, as everyone had expected—for his next expedition. This is Kamzin’s chance to prove herself—even though River’s mission to retrieve a rare talisman for the emperor means climbing Raksha, the tallest and deadliest mountain in the Aryas. Then Lusha sets off on her own mission to Raksha with a rival explorer who is determined to best River, and Kamzin must decide what’s most important to her: protecting her sister from the countless perils of the climb or beating her to the summit.

The challenges of climbing Raksha are unlike anything Kamzin expected—or prepared for—with avalanches, ice chasms, ghosts, and even worse at every turn. And as dark secrets are revealed, Kamzin must unravel the truth of their mission and of her companions—while surviving the deadliest climb she has ever faced.

1. Describe your book in 5 words or less.
Magic, monsters, and girl mountaineers.

2. Tell us about your experience as a debut author.
I’ve enjoyed it. Becoming an author means becoming part of a community of like-minded people who are all as passionate about books as you are. It’s fantastic to connect with fellow authors, readers, and bloggers.

3. What makes your book magical, mythical, and/or mischievous?
Love this! I’m going to answer for all three.
Magical: the primary magic system in this world revolves around talismans and incantations. It’s a very specific, controlled sort of magic. Anyone can do it, but some people are better than others.
Mythical: the story features heroes and monsters, and some characters who tread the line between the two.
Mischievous: Some of the animal characters fit this description!

4. When you think of the dragons in your story, what do they look like?
They’re small–perhaps a bit bigger than your average house cat, with a sinuous, almost snake-like shape. They are bioluminescent, like fireflies, with a light in their abdomen that is usually either green or blue.

5. Would you rather be a hero or a villain?
As a Gryffindor with Ravenclaw tendencies, I’d say hero, of course!

6. Who do you feel are the most romantic couples from fairytales or mythology?
Ah, good question. One of my all-time favourite myths (because, yes, I have favourite myths. Ravenclaw.) is Orpheus and Eurydice. And, of course, you can’t go wrong with Beauty and the Beast.

7. If you could be any mythical creature, which one would you choose to be and why?
Probably a hobbit, honestly. They’re not very glamorous, it’s true, but they generally seem to be very happy creatures who like good food and have a sense of fun. What more could you want?

8. If you could live in any fairy tale or mythical world, which one would you choose?
There are so many worlds I’d love to visit, but in terms of *living* in one, I’d have to say the Oxford of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. I’ve always wondered what my daemon would be.

9. Do you have any images you used as inspiration for your world or characters that you would like to share with us?
I looked at a lot of images of the Himalayas, particularly at night under starry skies. In fact, that’s my current desktop background.

10. What magical power do you wish you had?
I love this question, though my answer tends to change depending on my mood! Immortality usually ranks near the top. Not invulnerability, because I think you’d stop appreciating life if yours was never in any danger. Actually having time to get through my TBR would be great.


The Debut Dish: Kes Trester, Janelle Milanes, Maggie Ann Martin, Tiffany Pitcock, Carl Hackman, & Candace Ganger (+ Giveaways)

September 17, 2017 Author Interview, Debut Author Challenge, Debut Dish, Giveaway 4

The Debut Dish, a bi-monthly Debut Author Challenge feature, is where you go for the scoop on some pretty awesome debut authors and their new books! Hopefully these interviews will inspire you to add many, many more books to your to-read list. Because, really, who doesn’t need more books in their lives?

This issue of The Debut Dish features Kes Trester (A Dangerous Year), Janelle Milanes (The Victoria In My Head), Maggie Ann Martin (The Big F), Tiffany Pitcock (Just Friends), Carl Hackman (Gerald and the Amulet of Zonrach), and Candace Ganger (The Inevitable Collision of Birdie & Bash).


A Dangerous Year by Kes Trester
September 26, 2017 from Curiosity Quills Press
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Seventeen-year-old Riley Collins has grown up in some of the world’s most dangerous cities, learning political strategies from her ambassador dad and defensive skills from his security chief. The only thing they didn’t prepare her for: life as an American teenager.

After an incident forces her to leave her Pakistani home, Riley is recruited by the State Department to attend Harrington Academy, one of the most elite boarding schools in Connecticut. The catch: she must use her tactical skills to covertly keep an eye on Hayden Frasier, the daughter of a tech billionaire whose new code-breaking spyware has the international intelligence community in an uproar.

Disturbing signs begin to appear that Riley’s assignment wasn’t the walk in the park she’d been promised. Now, Riley must fight for her life and Hayden’s, as those around her reveal themselves to be true friends or the ultimate betrayers.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Intrigue, danger, and possibly murder.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
When Riley shows up at the MMA gym at her new American high school expecting to find other girls to spar with, but it’s only guys. It’s the first time she’s felt at home since she left the embassy in Karachi, and the familiar setting makes her a bit bold. Whether that emotion is justified when she faces off against Sam Hudson, the captain of the team, is another story.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
I was on vacation with my extended family. My nephew Devin had just asked what was going on with my writing when my agent called. I couldn’t have written the scene any better if I tried!

What’s your favorite junk food?
I like to switch it up, but right now I can’t get enough of a chocolate slice of heaven called Bark Thins. It sounds like a dog treat, I know, but try the coconut almond. Guaranteed to fuel at least 1,000 words!

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
This is going to sound REALLY weird, but I live in a haunted house. I have a small gold angel figurine that came flying out of nowhere one day to land at my feet. Things are always appearing and disappearing around here, but the angel has stuck around for about ten years now. I keep her on my desk to remind me that kindness can be found in the most unexpected places (even from Ida, our resident ghost!).

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The Victoria In My Head by Janelle Milanes
September 19, 2017 from Simon Pulse
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Victoria Cruz inhabits two worlds: In one, she is a rock star, thrashing the stage with her husky voice and purple-streaked hair. In the other, currently serving as her reality, Victoria is a shy teenager with overprotective Cuban parents, who sleepwalks through her life at the prestigious Evanston Academy. Unable to overcome the whole paralyzing-stage-fright thing, Victoria settles for living inside her fantasies, where nothing can go wrong and everything is set to her expertly crafted music playlists.

But after a chance encounter with an unattainably gorgeous boy named Strand, whose band seeks a lead singer, Victoria is tempted to turn her fevered daydreams into reality. To do that, she must confront her insecurities and break away from the treadmill that is her life. Suddenly, Victoria is faced with the choice of staying on the path she’s always known and straying off-course to find love, adventure, and danger.

From debut author Janelle Milanes comes a hilarious and heartfelt tale of the spectacular things that can happen when you go after what you really want.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Music, stage fright, romance, dreams.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
It involves karaoke and chicken cutlets, but that’s about all I can reveal! Toward the end of the book, there’s also a big climactic kissing scene in a beautiful NYC setting. Unfortunately, I can’t provide any more detail because all of my favorite scenes are spoiler-heavy!

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
I’m a teacher, so I was sitting in my classroom surrounded by fourth graders when I got the email from my agent. The subject line said “OFFER” in all caps, and I almost threw up from excitement then and there. I couldn’t call my agent for another twenty minutes because I had to find someone to cover my class while I stepped out of the room.

What’s your favorite junk food?
When I’m in the mood for something savory, I reach for Cool Ranch Doritos. For something sweet, cookies and cream ice cream is my go-to.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
For some reason, when I get bored I like to draw eyes…? I know, it’s strange and a little creepy. So on my desk you will usually find an assortment of sticky notes with an eye drawn on each one.

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The Big F by Maggie Ann Martin
August 29, 2017 from Swoon Reads
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Danielle effed up. Big time.

Danielle’s plans for the future were all figured out…until she failed senior English and her single college application was rejected. Suddenly she’s in hot water with very few options, because, honestly, who applies to a safety school when your mom is a semi-famous “college psychic”?!

Determined to get her life back on track, Danielle enrolls in her hometown community college with a plan: pass her English class and get back into Ohio State—and her mother’s good graces. Romance isn’t on her radar. That is, until she reconnects with her childhood crush and golden boy next door, Luke.

Between family drama, first love, and finding her own way, Danielle can’t help but feel a little overwhelmed. Thankfully she has her friendship with the snarky and frustratingly attractive Porter, her coworker at the campus bookstore, to push her to experience new things and help keep her afloat.

One thing’s for sure: This time, failure is not an option.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Friendships, Failure, Future, Finding Love

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
Any time that my characters Porter and Danielle have a particularly banter-y scene, I’m so game for it. One of my favorites involves a drunken game of Eye Spy at Danielle’s very first house party (where she has no business being). We get a glimpse into their chemistry and Porter’s soft side when he has to take care of Dani who has been drinking for the first time ever.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
I was actually in New York visiting my sister! My whole family was together (which is pretty rare) and I was at a Buffalo Wild Wings in White Plains, New York. I got an email from my lovely editor saying that she and the director of Swoon Reads wanted to talk about my book. I scheduled a call for the next day, and the rest is history!

What’s your favorite junk food?
It’s a tie between Cheetos and mini Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. I actually use the Reese’s minis as my reward for finishing a certain amount of words while writing or editing! :P

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
I have two baby cacti on my desk (named Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth) and they are planted together in a shiny gold pot.

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Just Friends by Tiffany Pitcock
August 1, 2017 from Swoon Reads
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A new spin on the classic smart-girl-and-bad-boy setup, this witty contemporary romance shows how easily a friendship – even one built on an elaborate lie – can become so much more.

Jenny meets Chance for the very first time when she is assigned as his partner in their Junior Oral Communications class. But after they rescue a doomed assignment with one clever lie, the whole school is suddenly convinced that Little-Miss-Really-Likes-Having-A’s and the most scandalous heartbreaker in school have been best friends forever. It’s amazing how quickly a lie can grow―especially when you really, really want it to be the truth.

With Jenny, Chance can live the normal life he’s always kind of wanted. And with Chance, Jenny can have the exciting teen experiences that TV shows and movies have always promised. Through it all, they hold on to the fact that they are “just friends.” But that might be the biggest lie of all.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Fake friendship, real love.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
There’s this scene the night before Christmas where Chance and Jenny are talking about Chance’s parent while they sit in the glow of the Christmas lights. I love everything about that scene.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
I was sitting at my desk (which I hardly EVER used) in my dorm room when I got the email.

What’s your favorite junk food?
Pretzels. I love them!

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
A pencil holder shaped like a hot pink dumpster.


Gerald and the Amulet of Zonrach by Carl Hackman
May 16, 2017 from Immortal Works
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In the realm of Wyverndawn, a wizard’s height is the mark of his power, so shrinking an entire inch is disastrous for Gerald. Looking to gain a few inches, Gerald attempts to create a village landmark using his superior wizarding skills. But the spell he bought — from a guy who knows a guy — is a tad more powerful than he anticipates. The resulting earthquake, hurricane and escape of a very dangerous wizard from prison really weren’t part of the plan. To add insult to injury, a red-faced Gerald finds himself banished from his village along with the one inch demotion; two more and he’ll join his father as a Royal Equine Poop Disposal Coordinator. Gerald’s hopes of returning home hinge on repairing the devastation he caused and thwarting the evil wizard’s plans of grasping Wyverndawn for his own. Failure could mean Gerald’s next spell might well be his last.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Gerald’s in deep trouble; again.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
I have many, but there is one where Gerald is learning about the history of dragons from a trainer. In this scene you can see how his personality is changing, for the better. He was never a selfish boy, but he always took shortcuts and looked for the easy way to achieve something. To be a dragon companion he will have to learn the hard way.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
I had just sat down at my desk to work on another novel when the email arrived. I ran into the bedroom to let my wife know, but obviously first thing in the morning is not the best time to be so excited as she thought we were being burgled, and her reaction to being woken by a slightly deranged husband was not entirely unreasonable.

What’s your favorite junk food?
Fish and Chips from Yorkshire, but I can’t get any over here which is very frustrating. I used to love to sit on the moors with freshly fried fish and chips wrapped in newspaper and look out over the countryside.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
It is a thirteen inch carving of a dragon. It tends to look me in the eye and I’m sure it can tell when I’m procrastinating rather then working. I keep telling him it’s research, but I’m sure he knows that I’m not being entirely truthful.


The Inevitable Collision of Birdie & Bash by Candace Ganger
July 25, 2017 from St. Martin’s Griffin
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Birdie never meant to be at the party. Bash should have been long gone. But when they meet, a collision course is set off they may never recover from.

Sebastian Alvaréz is just trying to hold the pieces together: to not flunk out, to keep his sort-of-best friend Wild Kyle from doing something really bad, and to see his beloved Ma through chemo. But when he meets Birdie Paxton, a near-Valedictorian who doesn’t realize she’s smoking hot in her science pun T-shirt, at a party, an undeniable attraction sparks. And suddenly he’s not worried about anything. But before they are able to exchange numbers, they are pulled apart. A horrifying tragedy soon links Birdie and Bash together—but neither knows it. When they finally reconnect, and are starting to fall—hard—the events of the tragedy unfold, changing both their lives in ways they can never undo. Told in alternating perspectives, The Inevitable Collision of Birdie & Bash by Candace Ganger is a beautiful, complex, and ultimately hopeful teen novel that will move you to the very last page.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Collision, Lies, Loss, Heartbreak, Hope

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
There’s a scene in the skating rink basement where things heat up between Birdie & Bash for the first time. I’m pretty partial to their banter because it reminds me of myself through the (awkward) high school romance years.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
Sitting on my couch! I’d had THE WORST day (and even ordered an extra large latte that morning), and then mid-morning, I received a text from my agent asking if I was free to talk. Turns out, it was THE call with THE offer.

What’s your favorite junk food?
I’m not huge on junk food anymore, but when I do, I’m a fool for donuts/doughnuts.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
A cat.


Heather Fawcett Guest Post | Even the Darkest Stars Blog Tour

September 6, 2017 Blog Tour, Debut Author Challenge, Giveaway, Guest Post 4

Heather Fawcett Guest Post | Even the Darkest Stars Blog Tour

Welcome to my stop along the blog tour for Heather Fawcett’s Even the Darkest Stars, hosted by The Fantastic Flying Book Club! I’m delighted to have Heather here today to talk about her debut novel as part of September’s Magic, Myth, & Mischief event going on here and on Bonnie’s blog!

For Heather’s guest post today she’s provided short answers to three questions I asked her about Even the Darkest Stars! If her answers don’t make you want to run out and get a copy, then nothing will!


1. EVEN THE DARKEST STARS has many magical and mystical elements. Can you tell us a little about them and how they enrich your story?
The main magical system in Even the Darkest Stars involves shamans, who cast spells using incantations and talismans of different materials. In this world, anyone can do magic, but some have more natural talent than others. There are also various magical creatures—among the most important to the story are familiars, which are animals that attach themselves to certain people, particularly heroes. These are very rare. Kamzin, the main character of Even the Darkest Stars, has a fox familiar. Her sister has two ravens.

2. EVEN THE DARKEST STARS has a creature called a fiangul, which is super unique and not like anything I’ve heard of before. Can you tell us about it? What inspired its creation? How did you decide what it was going to look like?
There are lots of stories about monsters who lurk in the darkness, and I thought it would be interesting to develop a creature that lurks in storms. The fiangul are completely invented and aren’t based on any existing folklore or myths that I’m aware of, though the basic concept of them may have been at least partly inspired by the antagonists of one of my favourite TV shows, Firefly (for those who are into sci-fi!). I always find monsters more interesting (and frightening) when they have some element of humanity. The fiangul attack travellers who become lost in storms, and transform them into evil, winged creatures like them. That adds an extra layer of scariness, I think, because it means that they can do more than kill you—they can take away who you are.

3. In EVEN THE DARKEST STARS, people keep dragons as pets. What do these dragons look like? What do they add to the lives of their owners?
The dragons are small, perhaps a little larger than a house cat, with a sinuous, almost serpentine body. They have lights (commonly blue or green) in their bellies, making them bioluminescent, like fireflies—thus they’re domesticated for use as travelling light sources. Dragons are expensive and not everyone can afford them—Kamzin, as the daughter of the village Elder, grew up with several in her household. They’re viewed more as working animals than pets, sort of like farm cats.


Even the Darkest Stars by Heather Fawcett
Series: Even the Darkest Stars #1
Published by Balzer+Bray on September 5, 2017
Genres: Fantasy
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Kamzin has always dreamed of becoming one of the Emperor’s royal explorers, the elite climbers tasked with mapping the wintry, mountainous Empire and spying on its enemies. She knows she could be the best in the world, if only someone would give her a chance.

But everything changes when the mysterious and eccentric River Shara, the greatest explorer ever known, arrives in her village and demands to hire Kamzin—not her older sister Lusha, as everyone had expected—for his next expedition. This is Kamzin’s chance to prove herself—even though River’s mission to retrieve a rare talisman for the emperor means climbing Raksha, the tallest and deadliest mountain in the Aryas. Then Lusha sets off on her own mission to Raksha with a rival explorer who is determined to best River, and Kamzin must decide what’s most important to her: protecting her sister from the countless perils of the climb or beating her to the summit.

The challenges of climbing Raksha are unlike anything Kamzin expected—or prepared for—with avalanches, ice chasms, ghosts, and even worse at every turn. And as dark secrets are revealed, Kamzin must unravel the truth of their mission and of her companions—while surviving the deadliest climb she has ever faced.


About Heather Fawcett

I was born and raised in Vancouver, Canada, where I enjoy wandering around in the wilderness and only occasionally getting lost. I’ve also spent extended periods of time in Italy, where I learned very little Italian but ate quite a lot of pizza, and Ireland, where I searched half-successfully for puffins and selkies.

Before becoming a writer I worked, among other things, as an archaeologist, a technical writer, and a backstage assistant for a Shakespearean theatre company (which I could write several novels about). I have a Master’s degree in English Literature and briefly considered becoming a professor, before I realized it involved more than reading books, drinking excessive amounts of tea, and wearing colourful elbow patches.

I’m represented by the amazing Brianne Johnson at Writers House. EVEN THE DARKEST STARS, my first novel, was purchased by HarperCollins/Balzer+Bray at auction in a six-figure, two-book deal.

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Tour Schedule

9/5

Pink Polka Dot Books – Welcome Post

9/6

That Artsy Reader Girl – Guest Post
The Reading Life – Promo
Will Read Anything – Review

9/7

Lauren’s Crammed Bookshelf – Review
Musings of a YA Reader – Review

9/8

Hardcover Haven – Review
Book Munchies – Review & Favorite Quotes
Kariny’s Book Frenzy – Review

9/9

Here’s to Happy Endings – Q&A
The Clever Reader – Review & Favorite Quotes

9/10

Library of a Book Witch – Review
Queen of Books – Review

9/11

Bibliobibuli YA – Q&A
When Curiosity Killed the Cat – Review
Maddie. TV – Review


The Debut Dish: Kerry Winfrey, Lauren Karcz, & Katy Upperman (+ Giveaways)

July 23, 2017 Author Interview, Debut Author Challenge, Debut Dish, Giveaway 6

The Debut Dish, a bi-monthly Debut Author Challenge feature, is where you go for the scoop on some pretty awesome debut authors and their new books! Hopefully these interviews will inspire you to add many, many more books to your to-read list. Because, really, who doesn’t need more books in their lives?

This issue of The Debut Dish features Kerry Winfrey (Love and Other Alien Experiences), Lauren Karcz (The Gallery of Unfinished Girls), and Katy Upperman (Kissing Max Holden).


Love and Other Alien Experiences by Kerry Winfrey
July 11, 2017 from Feiwel & Friends
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I’m never going outside again.

Mallory hasn’t left the house in sixty-seven days–since the day her dad left. She attends her classes via webcam, rarely leaves her room (much to her brother’s chagrin), and spends most of her time watching The X-Files or chatting with the always obnoxious BeamMeUp on New Mexico’s premier alien message board.

But when she’s shockingly nominated for homecoming queen, her life takes a surprising turn. She slowly begins to open up to the world outside. And maybe if she can get her popular jock neighbor Brad Kirkpatrick to be her homecoming date, her classmates will stop calling her a freak.

In this heartwarming and humorous debut, Mallory discovers first love and the true meaning of home–just by taking one small step outside her house.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Anxiety, aliens, homecoming, and kissing.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
Probably the scene where some of the characters go to an amusement park after hours. Not to spoil anything, but it involves all the stuff I like to write about: romantic tension, subtext-laden conversations, and someone barfing.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
I wish it happened somewhere glamorous or exciting, but I was just at my desk in my home office. Maybe I should make up a better story.

What’s your favorite junk food?
I could eat a truly obscene amount of chocolate chip cookies. Like, imagine how many you think a person could eat, and then double that, and then it’s probably more.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
My Louis Tomlinson/One Direction key chain. 1D may be on hiatus, but his benevolent presence watches over me always.


The Gallery of Unfinished Girls by Lauren Karcz
July 25, 2017 from HarperTEEN
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Mercedes Moreno is an artist. At least, she thinks she could be, even though she hasn’t been able to paint anything worthwhile since her award-winning piece Food Poisoning #1 last year.

Her lack of inspiration might be because her abuela is lying comatose in faraway Puerto Rico after suffering a stroke. Or the fact that Mercedes is in love with her best friend, Victoria, but is too afraid to admit her true feelings.

Despite Mercedes’s creative block, art starts to show up in unexpected ways. A piano appears on her front lawn one morning, and a mysterious new neighbor invites Mercedes to paint with her at the Red Mangrove Estate.

At the Estate, Mercedes can create in ways she never has before. She can share her deepest secrets and feel safe. But Mercedes can’t take anything out of the Estate, including her new-found clarity. As her life continues to crumble around her, the Estate offers more solace than she could hope for. But Mercedes can’t live both lives forever, and ultimately she must choose between this perfect world of art and truth and a much messier reality.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Girls, court, art, and danger.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
It’s a kissing scene. It’s the midpoint of the book. Those middle scenes are always my favorite to write, actually. The midpoint is usually either a false victory or a false defeat for the main character. For my main character, Mercedes, she’s got herself a false victory, which she finds out just one scene later. Alas.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
I was at my day job. I saw an e-mail from my agent that HarperTeen had officially made an offer on my book… and then I immediately had to go to a meeting with my boss. I remember I was shaking practically the whole meeting, amazed that my manuscript was going to have readers outside my agent and my critique group!

What’s your favorite junk food?
Dark chocolate covered pretzels. Trader Joe’s brand would be my preference.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
It’s a notebook with a picture of a white cat on the front. The white cat isn’t the weird part — it’s that I’ve had this notebook since I was about 8 years old. I found it in a drawer a couple months ago and saw that it was still about half blank, so I started using it for to-do lists and critique notes. But it’s also got relics from Little Me in it: my 4th grade best friend’s phone number, drawings of characters I used to write about, star ratings of every movie I saw when I was about 11 (The Sound of Music and North by Northwest each got four stars). Such an interesting time capsule.

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Kissing Max Holden by Katy Upperman
August 1, 2017 from Swoon Reads
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Kissing Max Holden was a terrible idea…

After his father has a life-altering stroke, Max Holden isn’t himself. As his long-time friend, Jillian Eldridge only wants to help him, but she doesn’t know how. When Max climbs through her window one night, Jill knows that she shouldn’t let him kiss her. But she can’t resist, and when they’re caught in the act by her dad, Jill swears it’ll never happen again. Because kissing Max Holden is a terrible idea.

With a new baby sibling on the way, her parents fighting all the time, and her dream of culinary school up in the air, Jill starts spending more and more time with Max. And even though her father disapproves and Max still has a girlfriend, not kissing Max is easier said than done. Will Jill follow her heart and allow their friendship to blossom into something more, or will she listen to her head and stop kissing Max Holden once and for all?

Describe your book in five words or less.
Girl kisses boy; trouble ensues.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
My book is called KISSING MAX HOLDEN for a reason — there’s a lot of kissing! But not all kisses are created equally. Jilly’s first kiss with Max isn’t exactly romantic, and it creates a lot of problems for the two of them. But later, there’s this mistletoe kiss that totally makes up for that messy first smooch. I love this particular scene because it’s swoony and also sort of funny, and it’s one of the few scenes that’s remained almost entirely unchanged through years of rewrites and revisions.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
I had just climbed into my car after a full day of substitute teaching. I checked my email before pulling out of the parking lot, and found a letter from Swoon Reads, asking if we could schedule a phone call to chat about them possibly publishing my manuscript. Needless to say, I was THRILLED!

What’s your favorite junk food?
Any sort of sweet, carb-heavy baked good. I make an especially tasty chocolate chip cookie, but I love brownies and carrot cake and croissants with chocolate drizzle and jelly beans, too.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
Probably my collection of makeup brushes. My desk is multipurpose — I write at it, and it doubles as a vanity.

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The Debut Dish: Jennifer Honeybourn, Matthew Landis, Laura Silverman, Jennifer Fenn & Emily Bain Murphy (+ Giveaways)

July 9, 2017 Author Interview, Debut Author Challenge, Debut Dish, Giveaway 6

The Debut Dish, a bi-monthly Debut Author Challenge feature, is where you go for the scoop on some pretty awesome debut authors and their new books! Hopefully these interviews will inspire you to add many, many more books to your to-read list. Because, really, who doesn’t need more books in their lives?

This issue of The Debut Dish features Jennifer Honeybourn (Wesley James Ruined My Life), Matthew Landis (League of American Traitors), Laura Silverman (Girl Out of Water), Jennifer Fenn (Flight Risk), and Emily Bain Murphy (The Disappearances).


Welsey James Ruined My Life by Jennifer Honeybourn
July 18, 2017 from Swoon Reads
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Sixteen-year-old Quinn Hardwick’s having a rough summer. Her beloved grandmother has been put into a home, her dad’s gambling addiction has flared back up and now her worst enemy is back in town: Wesley James, former childhood friend—until he ruined her life, that is.

So when Wesley is hired to work with her at Tudor Tymes, a medieval England themed restaurant, the last thing Quinn’s going to do is forgive and forget. She’s determined to remove him from her life and even the score all at once—by getting him fired.

But getting rid of Wesley isn’t as easy as she’d hoped. When Quinn finds herself falling for him, she has to decide what she wants more: to get even, or to just get over it.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Light, funny, love-hate, romance.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
One of my favorite scenes is near the beginning of the book, when Quinn realizes the hot guy who was just hired at Tudor Tymes, the medieval England style restaurant she works, is in fact her nemesis from elementary school, Wesley James.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
It was spring break and I was at home when I received the email from Swoon Reads. One of the best moments of my life. Still pinching myself!

What’s your favorite junk food?
I’m going to have to go with chocolate. Any kind, any time.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
A lamp shaped like an owl.

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League of American Traitors by Matthew Landis
August 8, 2017 from Sky Pony Press
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National Treasure meets Hamilton in a breathless history-based thriller from an outstanding new voice.

Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it. . . .

When seventeen year-old Jasper is approached at the funeral of his deadbeat father by a man claiming to be an associate of his deceased parents, he’s thrust into a world of secrets tied to America’s history—and he’s right at the heart of it.

First, Jasper finds out he is the sole surviving descendant of Benedict Arnold, the most notorious traitor in American history. Then he learns that his father’s death was no accident. Jasper is at the center of a war that has been going on for centuries, in which the descendants of the heroes and traitors of the American Revolution still duel to the death for the sake of their honor.

His only hope to escape his dangerous fate on his eighteenth birthday? Take up the research his father was pursuing at the time of his death, to clear Arnold’s name.

Whisked off to a boarding school populated by other descendants of notorious American traitors, it’s a race to discover the truth. But if Jasper doesn’t find a way to uncover the evidence his father was hunting for, he may end up paying for the sins of his forefathers with his own life.

Like a mash-up of National Treasure and Hamilton, Matthew Landis’s debut spins the what-ifs of American history into a heart-pounding thriller steeped in conspiracy, clue hunting, and danger.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Traitor offspring seeks ancestral redemption.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
Near the climax, there’s this moment when Jasper, my main character, realizes just exactly what it means to finish this quest–to really see it through: namely, taking a life. It’s the individual’s life he’s taking as well that makes this all the more morally complex, but since that’s a spoiler, I’ll let you find out…

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
At my kitchen counter, incessantly refreshing Gmail. I was nearing the end of the submission period and just waiting on about 3 presses to rejection us before we pulled together a plan for round two. Phew.

What’s your favorite junk food?
Fritos.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
A framed picture of the Rock.

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Girl Out of Water by Laura Silverman
May 2, 2017 from Sourcebooks Fire
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Anise Sawyer plans to spend every minute of summer with her friends: surfing, chowing down on fish tacos drizzled with wasabi balsamic vinegar, and throwing bonfires that blaze until dawn. But when a serious car wreck leaves her aunt, a single mother of three, with two broken legs, it forces Anise to say goodbye for the first time to Santa Cruz, the waves, her friends, and even a kindling romance, and fly with her dad to Nebraska for the entire summer. Living in Nebraska isn’t easy. Anise spends her days caring for her three younger cousins in the childhood home of her runaway mom, a wild figure who’s been flickering in and out of her life since birth, appearing for weeks at a time and then disappearing again for months, or even years, without a word.

Complicating matters is Lincoln, a one-armed, charismatic skater who pushes Anise to trade her surfboard for a skateboard. As Anise draws closer to Lincoln and takes on the full burden and joy of her cousins, she loses touch with her friends back home – leading her to one terrifying question: will she turn out just like her mom and spend her life leaving behind the ones she loves.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Surfer girl in landlocked Nebraska.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
Ooh! Too many! I’ll pick an early one – the nighttime beach bonfire scene with Anise and her friends!

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
I can’t remember exactly where I was, but I remember my agent calling me, and I was so confused because we always use email not the phone. It was completely surreal and such an amazing, happy moment! I seriously couldn’t believe it!

What’s your favorite junk food?
French fries FOR SURE. I could eat french fries every day of my life to be honest.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
Probably a volume of the Talmud (a collection of Jewish writings) I use to raise up my laptop so it’s at eye level haha!


Flight Risk by Jennifer Fenn
July 18, 2017 from Roaring Brook Press
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A debut novel inspired by true events, about a teenage boy who has stolen―and crashed―not one, but three airplanes. And each time he’s walked away unscathed.

Who is Robert Jackson Kelly? Is he a juvenile delinquent? A criminal mastermind? A folk hero? One thing is clear: Robert always defies what people think of him. And now, the kid who failed at school, relationships, and almost everything in life, is determined to successfully steal and land a plane.

Told as an investigation into Robert’s psyche, the narrative includes multiple points of view as well as documentary elements like emails, official records, and interviews with people who knew Robert. Ultimately, Flight Risk is a thrilling story about one teenager who is determined to find a moment of transcendence after everyone else has written him off as lost.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Teenage airplane thief!

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
In “Flight Risk,” Robert Jackson Kelly is an eighteen year old boy who has stolen and then survived crashing several commuter planes. He ends up a notorious celebrity on the run from the law. At one point, Robert is inside a plane, on the runway, trying to escape police who have guns drawn. He hesitates, though, because he doesn’t want to hit a goose with a broken wing that’s been abandoned by its flock. I think that scene is a tense one, and also reveals a lot about Robert’s character.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
In my home office/attic and I screamed so loudly I startled myself.

What’s your favorite junk food?
Jelly beans. I also love a good Frappuccino.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
A “Wizard of Oz” coloring book and a plush pig puppet.


The Disappearances by Emily Bain Murphy
July 4, 2017 from HMH Books for Young Readers
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What if the ordinary things in life suddenly…disappeared?

Aila Quinn’s mother, Juliet, has always been a mystery: vibrant yet guarded, she keeps her secrets beyond Aila’s reach. When Juliet dies, Aila and her younger brother Miles are sent to live in Sterling, a rural town far from home–and the place where Juliet grew up.

Sterling is a place with mysteries of its own. A place where the experiences that weave life together–scents of flowers and food, reflections from mirrors and lakes, even the ability to dream–vanish every seven years.

No one knows what caused these “Disappearances,” or what will slip away next. But Sterling always suspected that Juliet Quinn was somehow responsible–and Aila must bear the brunt of their blame while she follows the chain of literary clues her mother left behind.

As the next Disappearance nears, Aila begins to unravel the dual mystery of why the Disappearances happen and who her mother truly was. One thing is clear: Sterling isn’t going to hold on to anyone’s secrets for long before it starts giving them up.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Magical historical mystery and Shakespeare.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
There’s a certain kissing scene after a slow-burning build to a romance and I love how the scene turned out, and the realization that leads to it happening. The very last scene of the book is one of my favorites, too.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
I was driving home from New York City to Connecticut and my agent called! I had to pull off at a little rest area. I sat there for a little bit, grinning. Then I sat there for awhile longer and called my husband and my parents. I’m sure all the truck drivers enjoyed my happy car dancing on the rest of the way home.

What’s your favorite junk food?
Strawberry, banana, and Nutella crepes. Or warm chocolate chip cookies.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
A pair of Crooked Kingdom dice, a Lightning McQueen car that my son just made out of beads, and a little bottle of Rescue Remedy in case of emergencies because public speaking makes me feel the teensiest bit panicky. ;D

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Debut Author Challenge 2017: July-September Review Link-Up

July 1, 2017 Debut Author Challenge 0

Hi all! Can you believe the year is officially halfway done?? I can’t! 2017 is FLYING, and I’m having trouble keeping up.

I hope you’re all enjoying your summer so far! It’s hot here, but not so hot that I’m dying yet. Either we’re lucky this summer, or the worst is still to come. I’m hoping for the former. I really dislike the heat. Some of you are just entering winter, and I’m jealous. Do you like the hot weather or the cold weather?

If you’re trying to stay on track by reading one debut a month, that means you’ve read 6 up to this point. Which has been your favorite? Which ones are you still looking forward to over the next 6 months? I’m excited to read Last Star Burning by Caitlin Sangster, A Short History of the Girl Next Door by Jared Reck, and Wicked Like a Wildfire by Lana Popović.

Some things to remember:

– This is the review link-up for all debut reviews you write in July, August, and September. This does not mean that the books you review have to be published during these three months. You can read and review any debut, any month of the year.

– In order to get credit for your review, you must have read the book in 2017. If you read an ARC of a 2017 debut in 2016, it does not count. (I don’t want people with access to ARCs to have an advantage over those who don’t.)

– It’s never too late to join the fun! If you’d like to join or make sure you’re signed up, there is a sign-up list and list of participants located in the Debut Author Challenge tab at the top of my blog.

– I’m here if you have any questions at all, so don’t hesitate to shoot me a message via Twitter or comment!



The Debut Dish: Kayla Olson, A.V. Geiger, Gillian French, Gwen Cole, & Christina June (+ Giveaways)

June 18, 2017 Author Interview, Debut Author Challenge, Debut Dish, Giveaway 6

The Debut Dish, a bi-monthly Debut Author Challenge feature, is where you go for the scoop on some pretty awesome debut authors and their new books! Hopefully these interviews will inspire you to add many, many more books to your to-read list. Because, really, who doesn’t need more books in their lives?

This issue of The Debut Dish features Kayla Olson (The Sandcastle Empire), A.V. Geiger (Follow Me Back), Gillian French (Grit), Gwen Cole (Cold Summer), and Christina June (It Started With Goodbye).


The Sandcastle Empire by Kayla Olson
June 6, 2017 from HarperTeen
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When all hope is gone, how do you survive?

Before the war, Eden’s life was easy—air conditioning, ice cream, long days at the beach. Then the revolution happened, and everything changed.

Now a powerful group called the Wolfpack controls the earth and its resources. Eden has lost everything to them. They killed her family and her friends, destroyed her home, and imprisoned her. But Eden refuses to die by their hands. She knows the coordinates to the only neutral ground left in the world, a place called Sanctuary Island, and she is desperate to escape to its shores.

Eden finally reaches the island and meets others resistant to the Wolves—but the solace is short-lived when one of Eden’s new friends goes missing. Braving the jungle in search of their lost ally, they quickly discover Sanctuary is filled with lethal traps and an enemy they never expected.

This island might be deadlier than the world Eden left behind, but surviving it is the only thing that stands between her and freedom.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Survival—but at what cost?

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
Ahhh, such a tough question! So many of my favorites are close to the end of the book, or at places where there are big reveals. I also love any time there are quiet moments on the island’s beach, where the girls are trying to figure out their new normal—how to be, with themselves and each other, in this new place. I also love the big flare-up moments that happen while they’re trying to figure those things out, too.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
In my office, lying on the floor, listening to a podcast—and then my phone rang, and everything changed. It was all very surreal!

What’s your favorite junk food?
Dark chocolate, for sure! The darker the better, bonus points if there is a spicy element to it.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
Probably this shiny gold robot whose head pops off to reveal a ballpoint pen? I also have a dilophosaurus made of Legos, which I might have permanently borrowed from my little guy’s collection…

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Follow Me Back by A.V. Geiger
June 6, 2017 from Sourcebooks Fire
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Tessa Hart’s world feels very small. Confined to her bedroom with agoraphobia, her one escape is the online fandom for pop sensation Eric Thorn. When he tweets to his fans, it’s like his speaking directly to her…

Eric Thorn is frightened by his obsessive fans. They take their devotion way too far. It doesn’t help that his PR team keeps posting to encourage their fantasies.

When a fellow pop star is murdered at the hands of a fan, Eric knows he has to do something to shatter his online image fast—like take down one of his top Twitter followers. But Eric’s plan to troll @TessaHeartsEric unexpectedly evolves into an online relationship deeper than either could have imagined. And when the two arrange to meet IRL, what should have made for the world’s best episode of Catfish takes a deadly turn…

Told through tweets, direct messages, and police transcripts.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Fangirl + Popstar + Twitter + Love = CREEP-ITUDE

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
My favorite scenes are all the Twitter direct message conversations between the two main characters. Tessa and Taylor develop a rich friendship through their shared celebrity obsession, but they’re both hiding secrets from one another. I love the interplay of truth and concealment as their friendship turns into something more… and all their lies come back to bite them.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
I was in my office on a Monday morning. I didn’t expect to hear anything that day. I’d been told the week before that the book had gone to acquisitions, and I should expect an answer by Friday afternoon. Friday came and went. I heard nothing. I assumed the silence meant they had passed. I spent the weekend drowning my sorrows with raw cookie dough and a marathon of New Girl episodes. Then, Monday morning I got the news. I’ll leave my reaction to your imagination. (It involved more cookie dough and lots of screaming.)

What’s your favorite junk food?
Currently obsessed with chocolate peanut butter cups.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
Besides the 7,000 empty peanut-butter-cup wrappers? Probably the pile of scrap paper where I was practicing my author signature. Book signings will be a new experience for me!

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Grit by Gillian French
May 16, 2017 from HarperTeen
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His presence beside me is like heat, like weight, something I’ve carried around on my back too long.

It’s summer in rural Maine; when seventeen-year-old Darcy Prentiss isn’t raking berries with her sister, Mags, and cousin, Nell, during the day, she’s drinking and swimming with the boys in the quarry by night. She knows how to have a good time, just like anyone else, but when you’ve been designated the town slut, every move you make seems to further solidify your “trashy girl” reputation.

But the fun is what’s been keeping Darcy’s mind off the things she can’t forget: a disturbing secret she shares with Nell, the mysterious disappearance of her ex-best friend, and that hazy Fourth of July party that ended with Darcy drunk, on her back, wondering how she let it get this far.

Then someone in town anonymously nominates Darcy to be in the running for Bay Festival Princess—a cruel, almost laughable gesture that can only be the work of someone with a score to settle. Everything Darcy has been trying to keep down comes bubbling to the surface in ways she wasn’t prepared to handle…and isn’t sure if she can.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Dark, suspenseful, heartfelt.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
I’m not sure I can do this without spoilers! I’ll just say that it’s the climatic scene at the quarry; you’ll have to read it to find out more.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
In my living room. My husband played back the telephone message my agent had left (we had a landline and an old-school answering machine at the time) and found out HarperCollins was interested in Grit! I burst into tears; it had been a long road getting to that point.

What’s your favorite junk food?
Dark chocolate, hands-down.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
The hospital wristbands that my youngest son wore after his birth (he was born 2/1/17.)

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Cold Summer by Gwen Cole
May 2, 2017 from Sky Pony Press
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Today, he’s a high school dropout with no future.
Tomorrow, he’s a soldier in World War II.

Kale Jackson has spent years trying to control his time-traveling ability but hasn’t had much luck. One day he lives in 1945, fighting in the war as a sharpshooter and helplessly watching soldiers—friends—die. Then the next day, he’s back in the present, where WWII has bled into his modern life in the form of PTSD, straining his relationship with his father and the few friends he has left. Every day it becomes harder to hide his battle wounds, both physical and mental, from the past.

When the ex-girl-next-door, Harper, moves back to town, thoughts of what could be if only he had a normal life begin to haunt him. Harper reminds him of the person he was before the PTSD, which helps anchor him to the present. With practice, maybe Kale could remain in the present permanently and never step foot on a battlefield again. Maybe he can have the normal life he craves.

But then Harper finds Kale’s name in a historical article—and he’s listed as a casualty of the war. Kale knows now that he must learn to control his time-traveling ability to save himself and his chance at a life with Harper. Otherwise, he’ll be killed in a time where he doesn’t belong by a bullet that was never meant for him.

Describe your book in five words or less.
A non-typical time-travel book.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
It’s actually the first WWII scene in the book, where the MC is sitting in a foxhole with another guy. It’s one of the first scenes that came to me when I starting writing the book.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
At home—boring I know. I love all those cool stories about people crying in public, but mine was nothing like that. My agent already told me Sky Pony was interested, so I kinda knew what was coming when the call finally came. Still an awesome moment, though.

What’s your favorite junk food?
Cheetos and Oreos (original double stuffed).

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
Actually, I don’t have a desk. Our house is pretty small, but one day I will have an office with a great desk. And when that day comes, the oddest thing will be a couple gamer figurines.


It Started With Goodbye by Christina June
May 9, 2017 from Blink/HarperCollins
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Sixteen-year-old Tatum Elsea is bracing for the worst summer of her life. After being falsely accused of a crime, she’s stuck under stepmother-imposed house arrest and her BFF’s gone ghost. Tatum fills her newfound free time with community service by day and working at her covert graphic design business at night (which includes trading emails with a cute cello-playing client). When Tatum discovers she’s not the only one in the house keeping secrets, she finds she has the chance to make amends with her family and friends. Equipped with a new perspective, and assisted by her feisty step-abuela-slash-fairy-godmother, Tatum is ready to start fresh and maybe even get her happy ending along the way.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Modern Cinderella with no magic.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
My favorite scene is the very first one I wrote. My main character, Tatum is feeling sorry for herself because she’s found herself in a pickle, both legally and with her family. She’s been forced to attend an event for her stepsister. There, she bumps into a cute stranger with whom she has an undeniable connection. Tatum also takes the first step in advertising her new graphic design business at this event. So, it’s the scene where things start to take a turn for her, in some unexpected ways.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
I think I had gone home from work sick that day and was actually laying in bed when the email came through. I burst out crying and called my husband, still in disbelief.

What’s your favorite junk food?
All of it? I love chocolate, pizza, all carbs, but the one I munch on mindlessly while writing is popcorn.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
I’m not sure if this counts as odd, but I have a Golden Girls mug right next to my monitor. My mom gave it to me because one of my characters in ISWG is a big fan of the show.

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The Debut Dish: Katie Nelson, Kate Watson, & Karen M. McManus (+ Giveaways)

May 28, 2017 Author Interview, Debut Author Challenge, Debut Dish, Giveaway 8

The Debut Dish, a bi-monthly Debut Author Challenge feature, is where you go for the scoop on some pretty awesome debut authors and their new books! Hopefully these interviews will inspire you to add many, many more books to your to-read list. Because, really, who doesn’t need more books in their lives?

This issue of The Debut Dish features Katie Nelson (The Duke of Bannerman Prep), Kate Watson (Seeking Mansfield), and Karen M. McManus (One of Us Is Lying).


The Duke of Bannerman Prep by Katie Nelson
May 9, 2017 from Sky Pony Press
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Words are weapons. Facts can be manipulated. And nothing is absolute—especially right and wrong.

Tanner McKay is at Bannerman Prep for only one reason: the elite school recruited him after he brought his public school’s debate team to victory last year. Bannerman wants a championship win. Debate is Tanner’s life—his ticket out of his poor-as-dirt life and family drama, straight to a scholarship to Stanford and the start of a new, better future.

But when he’s paired with the Duke, his plans for an easy ride seem as if they’ve hit the rails. The Duke is the quintessential playboy, beloved by everyone for his laissez-faire attitude, crazy parties, and seemingly effortless favors.

And a total no-show when it comes to putting in the work to win.

But as Tanner gets sucked into the Duke’s flashy world, the thrill of the high life and the adrenaline of existing on the edge becomes addictive. A small favor here and there seems like nothing in exchange for getting everything he ever dreamed of.

But the Duke’s castle is built on shady, shaky secrets, and the walls are about to topple down.

A contemporary retelling of The Great Gatsby, Katie Nelson’s taut debut is perfect for fans of John Green’s Looking for Alaska, Kate Brian’s Private series, and anyone who’s encountered the cut-throat world of competitive high school.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Great Gatsby meets debate team.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
There is a scene where the characters go to the beach for the first time. I love it because there have been some significant conflicts up to that point, and many of them get resolved there. But it opens the door for the drama that is to come in the rest of the novel.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
I was at home, doing something extremely exciting like washing dishes or folding laundry (I can’t remember). I got an email from my agent, but she didn’t have a bunch of details at that point. I remember texting my husband and friends and just being so thrilled!

What’s your favorite junk food?
Mint brownies and diet Pepsi. They cancel each other out. ;)

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
A pile of Starburst wrappers (all pink).

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Seeking Mansfield by Kate Watson
May 16, 2016 from Flux
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Sixteen-year-old Finley Price has perfected two things: how to direct a world-class production, and how to fly way, way under the radar. The only person who ever seems to notice Finley is her best friend, the Bertram’s son Oliver. If she could just take Oliver’s constant encouragement to heart and step out of the shadows, she’d finally chase her dream of joining the prestigious Mansfield Theater.

When teen movie stars Emma and Harlan Crawford move next door to the Bertram’s, they immediately set their sights on Oliver and his cunning sister, Juliette, shaking up Finley and Oliver’s stable friendship. As Emma and Oliver grow closer, Harlan finds his attention shifting from Juliette to the quiet, enigmatic, and thoroughly unimpressed Finley. Out of boredom, Harlan decides to make her fall in love with him. Problem is, the harder he seeks to win her, the harder he falls for her.

But Finley doesn’t want to be won, and she doesn’t want to see Oliver with anyone else. To claim Oliver’s heart—and keep her own—she’ll have to find the courage to do what she fears most: step into the spotlight.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Jane Austen meets Stephanie Perkins.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
One of my favorite scenes in the book has my main character, Finley, in a club setting, which is one of the most uncomfortable and triggering places that she can be. She gets a text from one of her godparents’ sons–Tate–that he needs something, and because she’s Finley, she runs to help him. In the course of ten minutes, she interacts with one of the sons, then the other, though in very different ways. The way they interact with her pushes her into wanting to do something she hasn’t done before: speak up. The scene ends with her seeing the famous Harlan Crawford and yelling at someone (him) for the first time in her life.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
Sitting at my kitchen table, working on another manuscript while my toddler was napping. I think I screamed loud enough to wake her up, but for once, I didn’t care (and if you’ve ever interacted with toddlers, you know how sacred nap time is). I called my husband immediately to tell him the news, and then I called my sisters and screamed some more with them. It was a pretty great day.

What’s your favorite junk food?
Here’s the reality: I *should* be contractually obligated by Diet Pepsi and Cadbury Mini Eggs to name them, given how much I consume them, how much I post on social media about them, and how much money I’ve given them. They really should be paying me at this point. But they’re not. So, um, water and…apples. Yeah, that’s right. Water and apples. (Take that, Diet Pepsi and Mini Eggs.)

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
A sweater. It’s “spring” in Phoenix, which is code word for pushing 100*, so the presence of a sweater anywhere in my house is a sign that maybe I’m having a bit of a breakdown of some kind. Send help. Also ice. Or an ice cold Diet Pepsi…shoot. I’m advertising for them again, aren’t I?

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One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus
May 30, 2017 from Delacorte Press
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One of Us Is Lying is the story of what happens when five strangers walk into detention and only four walk out alive. Everyone is a suspect, and everyone has something to hide.

Pay close attention and you might solve this.

On Monday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention.

Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule.

Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess.

Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing.

Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher.

And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High’s notorious gossip app.

Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention Simon’s dead. And according to investigators, his death wasn’t an accident. On Monday, he died. But on Tuesday, he’d planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they the perfect patsies for a killer who’s still on the loose?

Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them.

Describe your book in five words or less.
The Breakfast Club, with murder.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
One of the best parts of having four narrators is throwing them together and letting them react to one another. In one scene, Bronwyn, Cooper, Addy and Nate are all called to the principal’s office after their secrets have been revealed. They’re suspicious of one another as possible murderers, but also drawn together as the only four people who can understand this strange, shared experience. That mix of distrust and reluctant bonding was fun to write.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
I was at a potluck dinner at my son’s school, chatting with his librarian, when the email came through. She was the first person I told.

What’s your favorite junk food?
Chocolate-covered pretzels.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
Not odd, exactly, but my publisher made pens with my characters’ names on them and I’ve gotten very attached to the Addy pen. It’s a great purple color. I keep writing notes I don’t need just so I can use it.

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The Debut Dish: Erin Beaty, Heather Maclean, & Kelly Garrett (+ Giveaways)

April 30, 2017 Author Interview, Debut Author Challenge, Debut Dish, Giveaway 10

The Debut Dish, a bi-monthly Debut Author Challenge feature, is where you go for the scoop on some pretty awesome debut authors and their new books! Hopefully these interviews will inspire you to add many, many more books to your to-read list. Because, really, who doesn’t need more books in their lives?

This issue of The Debut Dish features Erin Beaty (The Traitor’s Kiss), Heather Maclean (Toward a Secret Sky), and Kelly Garrett (The Last to Die).


The Traitor’s Kiss by Erin Beaty
May 9, 2017 from Imprint
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An obstinate girl who will not be married.
A soldier desperate to prove himself.
A kingdom on the brink of war.

With a sharp tongue and an unruly temper, Sage Fowler is not what they’d call a lady―which is perfectly fine with her. Deemed unfit for marriage, Sage is apprenticed to a matchmaker and tasked with wrangling other young ladies to be married off for political alliances. She spies on the girls―and on the soldiers escorting them.

As the girls’ military escort senses a political uprising, Sage is recruited by a handsome soldier to infiltrate the enemy ranks. The more she discovers as a spy, the less certain she becomes about whom to trust―and Sage becomes caught in a dangerous balancing act that will determine the fate of her kingdom.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Jane Austen with espionage.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
I love them all, even the ones I cried about (either from angst from what was happening in the scene or because I was struggling to get it right), but the one that pops in my mind is when Sage goes to apologize to the matchmaker. I had an end result from the conversation in mind, but the way it ended up getting there was not what I expected. It became much richer and made the matchmaker a complex and likable character.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
I was in our family room with a movie on in the background – North and South, I think – ironing a whole bunch a shirts for a wedding when I found out I was going to an acquisitions board. When I got the news of an official offer, I was at my in-laws’ house, getting ready for the wedding’s rehearsal dinner – interestingly the very same room I was in when I got my future agent’s request for the full manuscript.

What’s your favorite junk food?
Chocolate covered pretzels. I hardly ever eat them, though, because if I do I eat them ALL.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
A packet of stick-on bindis I got from Shaila Patel.

Extra Important Information:
Erin will be on the FierceReads tour May 9th-16th and also at the RT convention May 6th, so stop by to say hi if she’s near you!

Click here for details about Erin’s pre-order giveaway!

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Toward a Secret Sky by Heather Maclean
April 4, 2017 from Blink
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Shortly after 17-year-old Maren Hamilton is orphaned and sent to live with grandparents she’s never met in Scotland, she receives an encrypted journal from her dead mother that makes her and everyone around her a target. It confirms that her parents were employed by a secret, international organization that’s now intent on recruiting her. As Maren works to unravel the clues left behind by her mother, a murderous madness sweeps through the local population, terrorizing her small town. Maren must decide if she’ll continue her parents’ fight or stay behind to save her friends.

With the help of Gavin, an otherworldly mercenary she’s not supposed to fall in love with, and Graham, a charming aristocrat who is entranced with her, Maren races against the clock and around the country from palatial estates with twisted labyrinths to famous cathedrals with booby-trapped subterranean crypts to stay ahead of the enemy and find a cure. Along the way, she discovers the great truth of love: that laying down your life for another isn’t as hard as watching them sacrifice everything for you.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Scotland, secret society, adventure, romance.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
When Gavin, the hero, is forbidden from entering Campbell Hall and must watch his love, Maren, enter on her own. His powerlessness makes him crazy, and he starts bashing his head against the trees. I love extreme physical fits of passion!

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
Driving carpool. My three kids go to three different schools, so I’m pretty much always driving carpool.

What’s your favorite junk food?
Snickers Bites. They should come with an addiction warning.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
My husband’s sgian-dubh (“SKEE-in due”), a traditional Highland knife he wears in his kilt hose.

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The Last to Die by Kelly Garrett
April 4, 2017 from Poisoned Pen Press
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Sixteen-year-old Harper Jacobs and her bored friends make a pact to engage in a series of not-quite illegal break-ins. They steal from each other’s homes, sharing their keys and alarm codes. But they don’t take anything that can’t be replaced by some retail therapy, so it’s okay. It’s thrilling. It’s bad. And for Harper, it’s payback for something she can’t put into words-something to help her deal with her alcoholic mother, her delusional father, and to forget the lies she told that got her druggie brother arrested. It’s not like Daniel wasn’t rehab bound anyway.

So everything is okay-until the bold but aggravating Alex, looking to up the ante, suggests they break into the home of a classmate. It’s crossing a line, but Harper no longer cares. She’s proud of it. Until one of the group turns up dead, and Harper comes face-to-face with the moral dilemma that will make or break her-and, if she makes the wrong choice, will get her killed.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Bling Ring meets Heathers.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
The final scene of the novel is one of my absolute favorites. I can’t say much with spoiling the book, so this will be a bit vague, but Harper, the anti-hero protagonist, has come a long way and grown a lot.

I also had a blast writing the opening scene. The opening line is one of the best sentences that I’ve ever written.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
I was finishing up a three-mile-run and looked at my phone to check the time, and saw the email with publishing offer. So I had dual a endorphins and happy glow thing going on.

What’s your favorite junk food?
Thai Peanut Butter Cups from Alma Chocolate. Coconut milk, Thai chiles, ginger, lime, and red volcanic sea salt, and peanut butter all combine to form a slightly spicy treat.

Sometimes I buy salted peanut butter cups from Alma instead of the Thai version, and they’re also amazing. They’re not very sweet but they’re oh so addictive.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
My coaster with a photo of a bacon on it is a bit odd, but it’s useful. My Alice In Wonderland pillow that’s shaped like an open book is quirky, and isn’t particularly useful on a desk so I should really find a better home for it.

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