Posts Categorized: Giveaway

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 2

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 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 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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The Debut Dish: Sonia Belasco, Andrew DeYoung, Jessika Fleck, & Joanne O’Sullivan (+ Giveaways)

April 9, 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 Sonia Belasco (Speak of Me as I Am), Andrew DeYoung (The Exo Project), Jessika Fleck (The Castaways), and Joanne O’Sullivan (Between Two Skies).


Speak of Me as I Am by Sonia Belasco
April 4, 2017 from Philomel Books
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A moving story of grief, honesty, and the healing power of art—the ties that bind us together, even when those we love are gone.

Melanie and Damon are both living in the shadow of loss. For Melanie, it’s the loss of her larger-than-life artist mother, taken by cancer well before her time. For Damon, it’s the loss of his best friend, Carlos, who took his own life.

As they struggle to fill the empty spaces their loved ones left behind, fate conspires to bring them together. Damon takes pictures with Carlos’s camera to try to understand his choices, and Melanie begins painting as a way of feeling closer to her mother. But when the two join their school’s production ofOthello, the play they both hoped would be a distraction becomes a test of who they truly are, both together and on their own. And more than anything else, they discover that it just might be possible to live their lives without completely letting go of their sadness.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Love, death and Shakespeare.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
I really like the scene in my book where one of the protagonists, Damon, confronts a memory of his friend Carlos outside of the U.S. Capitol. Carlos is so vivid to Damon, even though he’s dead, and in that moment Damon realizes how much he didn’t know about his best friend, even though he thought he knew everything.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
When I got the news from Penguin, I was actually at my parents’ house in DC. It was awesome because I got to tell them in person, and I hadn’t had the chance to share any of my other publishing news that way.

What’s your favorite junk food?
Chocolate. Chocolate is definitely my vice.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
I have a photograph of my grandfather with President Johnson. My grandfather worked in the White House under Johnson, and I keep it there as a kind of reminder of the importance of the hustle. My grandfather believed in hard work, whatever it was you were doing. In my less motivated moments, that photo helps me push through.

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The Exo Project by Andrew DeYoung
April 4, 2017 from Boyds Mills Press
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This fast-paced, sharply written multiple-perspective YA science-fiction debut opens on a future Earth ravaged by solar radiation. Desperate for money to save his sick mother, seventeen-year-old Matthew agrees to participate in the Exo Project, a government plan to save the human race by flying across the galaxy in search of a habitable planet for resettlement. He thinks he’s been given a death sentence: 100 years in cryostasis, followed by a quick death on some barren world. But then he lands on Gle’ah, discovering the strange, beautiful creatures who live there, including Kiva, the captivating teenage girl who leads her planet’s matriarchal society. Kiva views Matthew as a threat and for good reason—if he tells Earth that he’s found a suitable planet, it will mean the end of her people’s way of life. But then Kiva and Matthew discover an emotional connection they never expected—and as they begin to delve into the secrets of Matthew’s mission and the dark truth behind the seeming paradise of Gle’ah, the choices they make will have consequences for both of their worlds.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Boy meets alien. Worlds collide.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
This is hard! I think I’d pick the scene where Kiva, the girl who leads a matriarchal society on another planet, tells Matthew, the human boy who’s come to her world in search of a replacement for Earth, her people’s creation myth. I love it because I got to try my hand at creating a new mythology for a fictional alien race, and also because of a bit of dialogue that happens after Kiva’s done telling the myth.

Matthew asks, “Is it true? Did it really happen like that?”

And Kiva answers, “It’s a story. It doesn’t have to be true to be true.”

I love that line.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
I was in a birthing class with my wife, who was expecting at the time. (Our daughter is now a year and a half old.) We were learning about something or other—breathing techniques? The stages of labor? I was having a little trouble concentrating, because I knew that we’d gotten some interest on the book and my publisher was chatting with the publishing company that had expressed interest. Then my phone buzzed and I glanced at the screen to see it was an email from my agent. During a break in the middle of the class I furtively checked my email to discover that it was now a done deal—I was going to be published!

What’s your favorite junk food?
In Minnesota we have these things made by a local candy company called Nut Goodies which are a layer of maple-flavored cream covered in chocolate and peanuts. My temptation to buy one basically every time I go to the grocery store is strong.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
A big wooden ampersand. I honestly don’t know where it came from. I share a desk with my wife, who’s a designer and a super-crafty person who’s always making something or other, so it’s probably a leftover from one of her projects.

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The Castaways by Jessika Fleck
April 3, 2017 from Entangled Teen
Add to Goodreads | Author Website

“A page-turning fantastical mystery with heartfelt characters.” -Julie Cross, New York Times bestselling author of Tempest

The Castaway Carnival: fun, mysterious, dangerous.

Renowned for its infamous corn maze…and the kids who go missing in it.

When Olive runs into the maze, she wakes up on an isolated and undetectable island where a decades-long war between two factions of rival teens is in full swing.

Trapped, Olive must slowly attempt to win each of her new comrades’ hearts as Will—their mysterious, stoically quiet, and handsome leader—steals hers.

Olive is only sure about one thing: her troop consists of the good guys, and she’ll do whatever it takes to help them win the war and get back home.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Cornmaze. Stranded. Family. War. Be.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
Oh man, this is a tough one. So many options! Without giving any spoilers, one of my faves is definitely when Olive arrives on the island. She’s taken in by one group of kids and ends up pretending to be knocked out. Eyes closed, she tries to figure out what’s going on, who’s who, what sort of shelter she’s in, if these people are kind or not, etc… Being in Olive’s point-of-view, I had to explain everything minus her visual cues. Also, this is the first scene the reader meets anyone from the island and there are four characters, other than Olive, in one room. It was a great challenge and so fun to write.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
At home. I was about to make lunch for my kids and my (now) editor emailed me with the news. Her first line said, “Are you sitting down?” (I was) I read it, whispered, “Holy crap”, stood up, walked in a few circles, sat back down, reread it, and then responded.

What’s your favorite junk food?
French fries. In ketchup. Covered in cheese. Slathered in mustard. Dipped in ice cream. All. Day. Long.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
A wooden plague doctor-esque skeleton. If you push your thumb under the stand, it bends and moves. I love odd.

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Between Two Skies by Joanne O’Sullivan
April 25, 2017 from Candlewick
Add to Goodreads | Author Website

Hurricane Katrina sets a teenage girl adrift. But a new life — and the promise of love — emerges in this rich, highly readable debut.

Bayou Perdu, a tiny fishing town way, way down in Louisiana, is home to sixteen-year-old Evangeline Riley. She has her best friends, Kendra and Danielle; her wise, beloved Mamere; and back-to-back titles in the under-sixteen fishing rodeo. But, dearest to her heart, she has the peace that only comes when she takes her skiff out to where there is nothing but sky and air and water and wings. It’s a small life, but it is Evangeline’s. And then the storm comes, and everything changes. Amid the chaos and pain and destruction comes Tru — a fellow refugee, a budding bluesman, a balm for Evangeline’s aching heart. Told in a strong, steady voice, with a keen sense of place and a vivid cast of characters, here is a novel that asks compelling questions about class and politics, exile and belonging, and the pain of being cast out of your home. But above all, this remarkable debut tells a gently woven love story, difficult to put down, impossible to forget.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Love, loss, longing and hope.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
It’s the penultimate scene of the book, when after a very sad event, fate intervenes to bring my main character exactly what she needs and wants. I like it because it has that bitter-sweet feeling that often accompanies some of the most important things that happen in life!

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
On my couch with my then 13-year-old daughter. But only for a second because then I got up and started jumping around and pacing! : )

What’s your favorite junk food?
Nutella.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
A pair of glasses that my dog chewed up. First, it’s odd that he chewed up glasses- what is appealing about that for him? Second, it’s odd that I kept them. They are undeniably beyond repair! But they were my favorite frames and somehow I can’t let go!

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The Debut Dish: Sara Biren, Whitney Taylor, Jessica Strawser, Danielle Mages Amato, & Michael Miller (+ Giveaways)

March 26, 2017 Author Interview, Debut Author Challenge, Debut Dish, Giveaway 5

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 Sara Biren (The Last Thing You Said), Whitney Taylor (Definitions of Indefinable Things), Jessica Strawser (Almost Missed You), Danielle Mages Amato (The Hidden Memory of Objects), and Michael Miller (Shadow Run).


The Last Things You Said by Sara Biren
April 4, 2017 from Amulet Books
Add to Goodreads | Author Website

Last summer, Lucy’s and Ben’s lives changed in an instant. One moment, they were shyly flirting on a lake raft, finally about to admit their feelings to each other after years of yearning. In the next, Trixie—Lucy’s best friend and Ben’s sister—was gone, her heart giving out during a routine swim. And just like that, the idyllic world they knew turned upside down, and the would-be couple drifted apart, swallowed up by their grief. Now it’s a year later in their small lake town, and as the anniversary of Trixie’s death looms, Lucy and Ben’s undeniable connection pulls them back together. They can’t change what happened the day they lost Trixie, but the summer might finally bring them closer to healing—and to each other.

Describe your book in five words or less.
First love, loss, grief, forgiveness.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
My favorite scene takes place at Ben’s cousin’s wedding. The wedding itself was inspired by my niece Maria’s wedding in July of 2011, the month I started writing the book. There’s so much tension and longing between the two main characters, and an unexpected slow dance, followed by harsh words and more heartbreak.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
At my kitchen table, about to make dinner for my kids.

What’s your favorite junk food?
White Cheddar Cheez-It Grooves.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
The Minnesota Motor Vehicle Registration Card for my very first car, a 1987 red 4-door Pontiac Sunbird, which I sold in August of 1998.


Definitions of Indefinable Things by Whitney Taylor
April 4, 2017 from HMH Books for Young Readers
Add to Goodreads | Author Website

This heartbreaking, humorous novel is about three teens whose lives intersect in ways they never expected.

Reggie Mason is all too familiar with “the Three Stages of Depression.” She believes she’s unlocked the secret to keeping herself safe: Nobody can hurt you if you never let them in.

Reggie encounters an unexpected challenge to her misanthropy: a Twizzler-chomping, indie film-making narcissist named Snake. Snake’s presence, while reassuring, is not exactly stable—especially since his ex-girlfriend is seven months pregnant. As Reggie falls for Snake, she must decide whether it’s time to rewrite the rules that have defined her.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Depression. Fear. Friendship. Love. Hope.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
There’s an awkward scene in which the MC, Reggie, gets stuck taking her arch-frenemy and crush’s baby mama, Carla, to a birthing class. It was one of my favorite scenes to write because it’s a refreshing break from the heaviness of the book, and starts to sew the seeds that eventually blossom into an unlikely and satisfying female friendship.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
Honestly? This may be TMI….but I was on the toilet. (My agent called me a few minutes after she said she would, and I couldn’t hold my pee any longer! Sue me!)

What’s your favorite junk food?
Good ol’ fashioned potato chips. Salty. Greasy. Will probably clog my arteries and kill me one day. Just my speed.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
A package of tissues that I refuse to blow my nose in because they’re cute.


Almost Missed You by Jessica Strawser
March 28, 2017 from St. Martin’s Press
Add to Goodreads | Author Website

Violet and Finn were “meant to be,” said everyone, always. They ended up together by the hands of fate aligning things just so. Three years into their marriage, they have a wonderful little boy, and as the three of them embark on their first vacation as a family, Violet can’t help thinking that she can’t believe her luck. Life is good.

So no one is more surprised than she when Finn leaves her at the beach—just packs up the hotel room and disappears. And takes their son with him. Violet is suddenly in her own worst nightmare, and faced with the knowledge that the man she’s shared her life with, she never really knew at all.

Caitlin and Finn have been best friends since way back when, but when Finn shows up on Caitlin’s doorstep with the son he’s wanted for kidnapping, demands that she hide them from the authorities, and threatens to reveal a secret that could destroy her own family if she doesn’t, Caitlin faces an impossible choice.

Told through alternating viewpoints of Violet, Finn and Caitlin,Almost Missed You is a powerful story of a mother’s love, a husband’s betrayal, connections that maybe should have been missed, secrets that perhaps shouldn’t have been kept, and spaces between what’s meant to be and what might have been.

Describe your book in five words or less.
“Perfect” couple questions fate’s role.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
Because the story is not told chronologically, it’s virtually impossible to describe any of my favorites without inadvertently including a spoiler–which is lucky for me, because it lets me off the hook of having to decide which one is my top pick! (I’m awful at choosing favorites.)

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
I’d taken the day off work to chaperone my 4-year-old’s pre-K pumpkin patch field trip, and saw that I’d missed the call while corralling the kids under cover when it started to rain on the farm. I didn’t have good enough cell phone reception to call my agent back until I was well into my drive home–the suspense was killing me!

What’s your favorite junk food?
Ice cream (preferably with some sort of chocolate and peanut butter ripples involved) with pretzels sprinkled on top.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
I’m at my daytime desk at the Writer’s Digest office right now, so here, it’s a tie between an origami elephant (sent in a holiday card from one of our contributors) and a 16″ lifelike Mark Twain doll (which, believe it or not, came with my house, left for me by the previous owners after they learned I was an editor and writer).

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The Hidden Memory of Objects by Danielle Mages Amato
March 21, 2017 from Balzer + Bray
Add to Goodreads | Author Website

Megan Brown’s brother, Tyler, is dead, but the cops are killing him all over again. They say he died of a drug overdose, potentially suicide—something Megan cannot accept. Determined to figure out what happened in the months before Tyler’s death, Megan turns to the things he left behind. After all, she understands the stories objects can tell—at fifteen, she is a gifted collage artist with a flair for creating found-object pieces. However, she now realizes that her artistic talent has developed into something more: she can see memories attached to some of Tyler’s belongings—and those memories reveal a brother she never knew.

Enlisting the help of an artifact detective who shares her ability and specializes in murderabilia—objects tainted by violence or the deaths of their owners—Megan finds herself drawn into a world of painful personal and national memories. Along with a trusted classmate and her brother’s charming friend, she chases down the troubling truth about Tyler across Washington, DC, while reclaiming her own stifled identity with a vengeance.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Mystery, History, Murderabilia, Grief, Adventure

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
I might have a favorite character rather than a favorite scene, because I pretty much love every scene that Eric Bowling (my book BFF) is in. He was a joy to write, because he’s just so wholehearted and curious and quirky and unafraid. Which made it a pleasure to unleash him anytime he appears.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
I was at the DENTIST, of all places, waiting in the lobby to have my teeth cleaned. When my phone rang and I saw it was my agent, I stepped outside to take the call. Screaming and jumping up and down followed. Of course, I had overlooked the fact that I was standing in front of a big picture window, so everyone inside the dentist’s office could see me. When I came back in, they all demanded to know what had happened. That is how a room full of random strangers knew I was going to be a published author before my own family did. All the strangers clapped — they were probably the happiest group of people in a dentist’s office ever. Then I had my teeth cleaned.

What’s your favorite junk food?
Anything that combines mint and chocolate. In any form. Anywhere. Thin mints, peppermint patties, peppermint bark. MUST CONSUME.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
I have two young children, so there is never a shortage of odd things on my desk (and in my purse). Right now there’s a handful of feathers, some plastic doll hair, and assorted mini bouncy balls. But the oddest thing *I* keep on my desk is probably a set of Abe Lincoln salt and pepper shakers. Keeping it honest! :-)


Shadow Run by Michael Miller and AdriAnne Strickland
March 21, 2017 from Delacorte Press
Add to Goodreads | Michael Miller’s Website

Firefly meets Dune in this action-packed sci-fi adventure about a close-knit, found family of a crew navigating a galaxy of political intrigue and resource-driven power games.

Nev has just joined the crew of the starship Kaitan Heritage as the cargo loader. His captain, Qole, is the youngest-ever person to command her own ship, but she brooks no argument from her crew of orphans, fugitives, and con men. Nev can’t resist her, even if her ship is an antique.

As for Nev, he’s a prince, in hiding on the ship. He believes Qole holds the key to changing galactic civilization, and when her cooperation proves difficult to obtain, Nev resolves to get her to his home planet by any means necessary.

But before they know it, a rival royal family is after Qole too, and they’re more interested in stealing her abilities than in keeping her alive.

Nev’s mission to manipulate Qole becomes one to save her, and to survive, she’ll have to trust her would-be kidnapper. He may be royalty, but Qole is discovering a deep reservoir of power–and stars have mercy on whoever tries to hurt her ship or her crew.

Note from Jana: Debut author Michael Miller is the one answering these questions.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Firefly meets Dune!

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
My absolute favorite scene in the book is when Qole, our seventeen year old starship captain, finds herself very out of her element on a world very different from her own. My co-author actually wrote it, but it’s by turns funny, touching, insightful, and tense. An all around excellent bit of writing.

If you mean that I actually wrote, my absolute favorite scene would be riddle with spoilers. There is a scene earlier in the book where we visit the home planet of Basra, the genderfluid trader on board the Kaitan. It was a chance to introduce a number of characters that feature only briefly, but actually have tremendous back stories. I love that sort of stuff.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
Wow, good question! I vividly remember where I was when I first talked to our agent, because I was in the middle of an on-site with a client and had to duck into an empty conference room. But when the deal was actually closed with Delacorte? Again, at work, but it didn’t feel real until later… so the moment didn’t sink in until clashing beer glasses with my co-author to celebrate.

What’s your favorite junk food?
I love all chips, chips are truly one of the great leaps that humanity has made, but in the pantheon of chips, one chip rules supreme: The Dorito.

Nacho Cheese, specifically.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
My desk is typically my lap, as I’m footloose and fancy free with this laptop of mine. So I can’t answer! At least not in any way that wouldn’t be somewhat surrealist.

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The Debut Dish: Katie Bayerl | Blog Tour (+ Giveaway)

March 21, 2017 Blog Tour, Debut Author Challenge, Debut Dish, Giveaway 5

The Debut Dish: Katie Bayerl | Blog Tour (+ Giveaway)

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’s special edition of The Debut Dish is brought to you by Penguin and their blog tour for Katie Bayerl’s A Psalm for Lost Girls.


A Psalm for Lost Girls by Katie Bayerl
March 14, 2017 from G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Add to Goodreads | Author Website

Tess da Costa is a saint — a hand-to-god, miracle-producing saint. At least that’s what the people in her hometown of New Avon, Massachusetts, seem to believe. And when Tess suddenly and tragically passes away, her small city begins feverishly petitioning the Pope to make Tess’s sainthood official. Tess’s mother is ecstatic over the fervor, while her sister Callie, the one who knew Tess best, is disgusted – overcome with the feeling that her sister is being stolen from her all over again.

The fervor for Tess’s sainthood only grows when Ana Langone, a local girl who’s been missing for six months, is found alive at the foot of one of Tess’s shrines. It’s the final straw for Callie.

With the help of Tess’s secret boyfriend Danny, Callie’s determined to prove that Tess was something far more important than a saint; she was her sister, her best friend and a girl in love with a boy. But Callie’s investigation uncovers much more than she bargained for: a hidden diary, old family secrets, and even the disturbing truth behind Ana’s kidnapping.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Sainthood is hella complicated.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
Tough one! I have to go with a flashback, a memory that has stuck with Callie of the night when her sister’s reputation as a saint really began. I won’t give the whole scene away, but Tess hears a mysterious voice that calls her down to the city’s docks before dawn. Callie (ever the loyal sister) goes with Tess to meet the captain of a fishing boat Tess believes is in danger. What happens then is history…

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
I got the heads-up email when I was in my car at the intersection of Columbus Ave and Malcolm X Blvd in Boston (vivid memory! and it was a red light, I swear!)

I was on the Red Line (subway) when the official call came in.

Theme: transportation

What’s your favorite junk food?
Cheese-Its.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
A small stuffed flying pig. (I won a writing contest sponsored by the Flying Pig Bookstore a few years ago.)

When Katie Bayerl isn’t penning stories, she coaches teens and nonprofits to tell theirs. She holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts and has taught creative writing in schools and a variety of community settings. Katie has an incurable obsession with saints, bittersweet ballads, and murder. A Psalm for Lost Girls is her first novel.


Two Giveaway Opportunities!

Tour Wide:
Enter for a chance to win one (1) of five (5) copies of A Psalm for Lost Girls by Katie Bayerl (ARV: $17.99 each).

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Enter between 12:00 AM Eastern Time on March 13, 2017 and 12:00 AM on March 27, 2017. Open to residents of the fifty United States and the District of Columbia who are 13 and older. Winners will be selected at random on or about March 29, 2017. Odds of winning depend on number of eligible entries received. Void where prohibited or restricted by law.

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Exclusive to That Artsy Reader Girl:
This giveaway is sponsored by Katie Bayerl, who will be mailing the prize to the winner. Entrants must be 13 years old or older, and must honestly follow the rules for entries. Entrants caught cheating will be eliminated in full from the giveaway. This giveaway is open to residents of the USA and Canada only.

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Top Ten Beauty and the Beast Retellings I Want to Read

March 13, 2017 Giveaway, Top Ten Tuesday 17

TTT

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted over at the other blog I write for, The Broke and the Bookish.

In honor of A Week of Beauty and the Beast, hosted by Bonnie and me, I decided to alter this week’s topic a little. Instead of my Spring TBR (to be read) list, I’m presenting you with my Beauty and the Beast Retellings TBR list!

Beauty by Robin McKinley
Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge
Of Beast and Beauty by Stacey Jay
Uprooted by Naomi Novak
The Rose and the Mask by Victoria Leybourne
When Beauty Tamed the Beast by Eloisa James
Beauty and the Beast by Jenni James
The Bride and the Beast by Teresa Medeiros
Beauty and the Highland Beast by Lecia Cornwall
To Beguile the Beast by Elizabeth Hoyt

Are there any I need to get to sooner rather than later?
Give me some advice! Are there any I’m missing?

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The Debut Dish: Cecilia Vinesse, Lilliam Rivera, Peternelle van Arsdale, and Rebecca Denton (+ Giveaways)

March 5, 2017 Author Interview, Debut Author Challenge, Debut Dish, Giveaway 9

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 Cecilia Vinesse (Seven Days of You), Lilliam Rivera (The Education of Margot Sanchez), Peternelle van Arsdale (The Beast Is An Animal), and Rebecca Denton (This Beats Perfect).


Seven Days of You by Cecilia Vinesse
March 7, 2017 from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Add to Goodreads | Author Website

Sophia has seven days left in Tokyo before she moves back to the States. Seven days to say good-bye to the electric city, her wild best friend, and the boy she’s harbored a semi-secret crush on for years. Seven perfect days…until Jamie Foster-Collins moves back to Japan and ruins everything.

Jamie and Sophia have a history of heartbreak, and the last thing Sophia wants is for him to steal her leaving thunder with his stupid arriving thunder. Yet as the week counts down, the relationships she thought were stable begin to explode around her. And Jamie is the one who helps her pick up the pieces. Sophia is forced to admit she may have misjudged Jamie, but can their seven short days of Tokyo adventures end in anything but good-bye?

Describe your book in five words or less.
Tokyo + crushes + karaoke + friends + good-byes.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
I loved writing the scene where two of the characters spend all night wandering around Shibuya–a fun, bright, noisy district in Tokyo. I grew up in Tokyo and miss it every day so getting to dive back in and wander the streets again was such a joy. I would usually work on this scene till the early hours of the morning and fall asleep with the sounds of Tokyo still playing in my dreams.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
I was *just* about to take my dog on a walk and ended up wandering the streets for hours and standing by the harbor (I lived in Scotland by the North Sea then) for a long time. I remember feeling buoyed and elated and it was all probably very confusing for my dog.

What’s your favorite junk food?
Enormous, warm, chocolatey cookies. I could write them a book of sonnets.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
A tiny light-up squid one of my best friend’s gave me the last time I moved away from Japan in 2012. I miss her and I miss Japan so I’m pretty attached to it.

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The Education of Margot Sanchez by Lilliam Rivera
February 21, 2017 from Simon & Schuster
Add to Goodreads | Author Website

Pretty in Pink comes to the South Bronx in this bold and romantic coming-of-age novel about dysfunctional families, good and bad choices, and finding the courage to question everything you ever thought you wanted—from debut author Lilliam Rivera.

THINGS/PEOPLE MARGOT HATES:

Mami, for destroying my social life
Papi, for allowing Junior to become a Neanderthal
Junior, for becoming a Neanderthal
This supermarket
Everyone else

After “borrowing” her father’s credit card to finance a more stylish wardrobe, Margot
Sanchez suddenly finds herself grounded. And by grounded, she means working as an indentured servant in her family’s struggling grocery store to pay off her debts.

With each order of deli meat she slices, Margot can feel her carefully cultivated prep school reputation slipping through her fingers, and she’s willing to do anything to get out of this punishment. Lie, cheat, and maybe even steal…

Margot’s invitation to the ultimate beach party is within reach and she has no intention of letting her family’s drama or Moises—the admittedly good looking but outspoken boy from the neighborhood—keep her from her goal.

Describe your book in five words or less.
A Bronx Princesa gets schooled.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
My favorite scene in the book would be when Margot Sanchez is up on the roof with Moises. They are watching fireworks and trying to figure each other out. I love how magical that scene is and the struggle Margot has with her feelings. Rooftops in New York city hold so many amazing moments for me.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
I was away at a six-week writing workshop in San Diego called Clarion when I heard that editor Zareen Jaffrey at Simon & Schuster was interested in the novel. Because I was so involved in this writing workshop, attending classes and writing short stories, I had no time to completely freak out. I freaked out internally. I had to wait until I left to share the news with my friends. But when I did, they both screamed!

What’s your favorite junk food?
My favorite junk food is M&Ms. I can’t get enough of them. They fuel my writing as does most candy.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
I don’t actually have a desk. I work off of my kitchen table. I guess the oddest thing right now on my kitchen table would be the semi-naked Taylor Lautner in Twilight doll that belongs to my 5 year old but she insisted I needed it.


The Beast Is An Animal by Peternelle van Arsdale
February 28, 2017 from Margaret K. McElderry Books
Add to Goodreads | Author Website

A girl with a secret talent must save her village from the encroaching darkness in this haunting and deeply satisfying tale.

Alys was seven when the soul eaters came to her village.

These soul eaters, twin sisters who were abandoned by their father and slowly morphed into something not quite human, devour human souls. Alys, and all the other children, were spared—and they were sent to live in a neighboring village. There the devout people created a strict world where good and evil are as fundamental as the nursery rhymes children sing. Fear of the soul eaters—and of the Beast they believe guides them—rule village life. But the Beast is not what they think it is. And neither is Alys.

Inside, Alys feels connected to the soul eaters, and maybe even to the Beast itself. As she grows from a child to a teenager, she longs for the freedom of the forest. And she has a gift she can tell no one, for fear they will call her a witch. When disaster strikes, Alys finds herself on a journey to heal herself and her world. A journey that will take her through the darkest parts of the forest, where danger threatens her from the outside—and from within her own heart and soul.

Describe your book in five words or less.
An original, dark fairytale.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
My favorite scene is when my protagonist, an orphan named Alys, is caught looking at a book she shouldn’t. The books I read as a child that I suspected were too old for me or contained secret knowledge that adults might not want me to have are highly memorable to me.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
Oh! I was standing in a knitting store on West 79th Street when I found out my agent felt the novel was ready to be sent out. That was the most dramatic moment for me, because I had a feeling that once she was happy with it, she’d sell it. Then I was prosaically home at my desk when I found out that Margaret K. McElderry books would be my publisher–and that they were acquiring a second novel by me as well. That was a very exciting moment, and not necessarily what I expected back when I was standing in the knitting shop.

What’s your favorite junk food?
I confess I’m not a junk food eater. The closest thing I could call my junk food is roasted, salted peanuts. I could probably (definitely) happily live off of them.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
Not odd but kind of fabulous: I ordered Wonder Woman stamps from the U.S. Postal Service, and they just arrived. I like to send thank you notes, so Wonder Woman is going to be thanking some people for me. We all need some Wonder Woman right now.


This Beats Perfect by Rebecca Denton
February 2, 2017 from Atom Books
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Amelie Ayres has impeccable taste in music. Bowie. Bush. Bob. So when she finds herself backstage at The Keep’s only UK gig she expects to hate it; after all they are world’s most tragic band. In fact she feels a grudging respect – not (obviously) for their music, but for the work that goes in to making them megastars. And when lead singer, ‘Maxx’, is not dressed up as a cross between Elvis and a My Little Pony, he is actually rather normal, talented and has creative struggles not too dissimilar to her own.

But the next morning she wakes up rolls over and discovers a million new @’s on social media. Overnight a photo of her backstage has made her a subject of global speculation. Suddenly the world needs to know #Who’sThatGirl? – but for all the wrong reasons.

All Amelie wants is to play her music. She’s got the guitar, the songs, the soul and, in the safety of her bedroom, she’s got the voice. But when it comes to getting up on stage, she struggles with self-doubt.

Immaculate’s a concept. Flawless is fake. But just sometimes music – and hearts – can rock a perfect beat.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Boys, Bands and Breaking Through

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
I love the scene at The Moth Club where Maxx and Amelie are competing over their knowledge of music. I did this so many times with boys I had just started dating.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
I was at work – in a news room – surrounded by very serious people doing newsy things and I squealed a lot and rang my old boss, hot Seb. I don’t know why I rang him, I guess you call the people you want to be proud of you and my mum was asleep (time zones!). Critically I was pregnant so I couldn’t drink anything to celebrate. But I more than made up for it….

What’s your favorite junk food?
I don’t really like junk food. I know that sounds lame, but I feel *crap* after i eat it so I just tend to avoid it. That said, I cannot turn down fish and chips with curry sauce.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
I don’t have a writing desk, I have a shed with a day bed and write with my lap top on my knees. I’m surrounded by torches, head lamps and candles though, since there’s no electricity here.

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The Debut Dish: Vic James, Tricia Levenseller, and Jilly Gagnon (+ Giveaways)

February 19, 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 Vic James (Gilded Cage), Tricia Levenseller (Daughter of the Pirate King), and Jilly Gagnon (#famous).


Gilded Cage by Vic James
February 14, 2017 from Del Ray Books
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Not all are free. Not all are equal. Not all will be saved.

Our world belongs to the Equals — aristocrats with magical gifts — and all commoners must serve them for ten years. But behind the gates of England’s grandest estate lies a power that could break the world.

A girl thirsts for love and knowledge.

Abi is a servant to England’s most powerful family, but her spirit is free. So when she falls for one of the noble-born sons, Abi faces a terrible choice. Uncovering the family’s secrets might win her liberty, but will her heart pay the price?

A boy dreams of revolution.

Abi’s brother, Luke, is enslaved in a brutal factory town. Far from his family and cruelly oppressed, he makes friends whose ideals could cost him everything. Now Luke has discovered there may be a power even greater than magic: revolution.

And an aristocrat will remake the world with his dark gifts.

He is a shadow in the glittering world of the Equals, with mysterious powers no one else understands. But will he liberate—or destroy?

Describe your book in five words or less.
Downton Abbey if Voldemort won.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
My favourite one that isn’t spoilery is at the heart of the book, where Silyen Jardine, a (possibly) wicked young aristocrat encounters a young woman in an abandoned moated manor house. The house contains a fabulous library, and in the library is a cedarwood box containing ivory-bound journals that could help Silyen unlock the secrets of his dark powers. But neither the woman, nor the house, are what they seem, and an unexpected bond is formed.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
I was in the edit suite of a TV documentary I was making on the Cayman Islands! I was a TV director before becoming a full-time author, and I’d been filming in the Caribbean when I received an email from my dream agent offering representation. I hadn’t finished the programme edit before we sold it at auction in the UK, and by the time it aired we had sold it in the USA, France and Germany!

What’s your favorite junk food?
Chocolate. (Come on, is there any other answer??)

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
A box of Japanese bird-shape paperclips. I ordered them thinking they’d be great for when I did mail-out of ARCs or swag (both my UK and US covers have birds on them). But when they arrived they were really a bit too cute (my book’s rather dark…). So now I use them for all my boring business paperwork, to brighten it up!

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Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller
February 28, 2016 from Feiwel & Friends
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A 17-year-old pirate captain intentionally allows herself to get captured by enemy pirates in this thrilling YA adventure.

Sent on a mission to retrieve an ancient hidden map—the key to a legendary treasure trove—seventeen-year-old pirate captain Alosa deliberately allows herself to be captured by her enemies, giving her the perfect opportunity to search their ship.

More than a match for the ruthless pirate crew, Alosa has only one thing standing between her and the map: her captor, the unexpectedly clever and unfairly attractive first mate, Riden. But not to worry, for Alosa has a few tricks up her sleeve, and no lone pirate can stop the Daughter of the Pirate King.

Debut author Tricia Levenseller blends action, adventure, romance, and a little bit of magic into a thrilling YA pirate tale.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Pirates. Sirens. Kissing. Sword fighting.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
There is a scene where my main character, Alosa, is locked into the love interest’s (Riden’s) quarters on the ship. She quickly discovers that he is a neat freak. There’s not a shoe out of place. So, naturally, she starts trashing the place and breaking all of his things.

That’ll teach him to lock her up!

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
I had just picked up the keys to the new apartment I’m renting. I was standing in the empty space surveying it all, when I received an email from my agent on my phone.

What’s your favorite junk food?
Extra-buttered popcorn.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
The enormous dragon cross stitch I’ve been working on for years.

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#famous by Jilly Gagnon
February 14, 2017 from Katherine Tegen Books
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In this modern-day love story, Girl likes Boy, Girl takes photo of Boy and posts it online, Boy becomes accidentally insta-famous. And what starts out as an innocent joke spirals into a whirlwind adventure that could change both their lives—and their hearts—forever. But are fame and love worth the price?

Told in alternating points of view, #famous captures the out-of-control thrill ride of falling for someone in front of everyone.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Viral Fame + Love = Chaos (hoping those symbols count as .5 words each ;))

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
Probably my favorite scene is the first time Rachel and Kyle go bowling. The picture has already gone viral, and both of them have been catapulted to notoriety, but in this moment, they’re just two teenagers trying to get to know one another better. It’s one of the first moments where sparks fly between them, and one of the scenes that shows how differently they see the world. It’s not their meet cute, exactly, but it’s their “actually seeing you for who you are”-cute, if that makes sense!

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
I was at my day job, in the middle of an open-office, and had to “go to the bathroom” and sneak out the back door to take the call.

So technically I was on a driveway, shivering because I hadn’t grabbed my coat, next to a series of trashcans. Who ever said this business wasn’t glamorous?

What’s your favorite junk food?
I’m gonna have to say pizza–it combines my two favorite “not QUITE junk” foods, bread and cheese, in a way that is undeniably bad-for-you awesome.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
A hand-crocheted stuffed owl. A friend got married a few years ago at the nature conservancy he ran at the time, and raided the gift shop for my “thanks for coming” present.

Either that or the rhinestone tiara. But who doesn’t love tiara decor? That’s just STYLE.

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The Debut Dish 2017: Stephanie Elliot, Laurie Devore, Diana Gallagher, and L.E. Delano (+ Giveaways)

February 5, 2017 Author Interview, Debut Author Challenge, Debut Dish, Giveaway 16

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 Stephanie Elliot (Sad Perfect), Laurie Devore (How to Break a Boy), Diana Gallagher (Lessons In Falling), and L.E. Delano (Traveler).


Sad Perfect by Stephanie Elliot
February 28, 2017 from Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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The story of a teen girl’s struggle with Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder and how love helps her on the road to recovery.

Sixteen-year-old Pea looks normal, but she has a secret: she has Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID). It is like having a monster inside of her, one that not only dictates what she can eat, but also causes anxiety, depression, and thoughts that she doesn’t want to have. When she falls crazy-mad in love with Ben, she hides her disorder from him, pretending that she’s fine. At first, everything really does feel like it’s getting better with him around, so she stops taking her anxiety and depression medication. And that’s when the monster really takes over her life. Just as everything seems lost and hopeless, Pea finds in her family, and in Ben, the support and strength she needs to learn that her eating disorder doesn’t have to control her.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Girl with eating disorder struggles.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
My favorite scene is the opening chapters. I didn’t set out to write a novel. My teen daughter had come home from a river rafting trip and she met a boy on the river that day. It sounded like the best day and just so adorable so I wanted to write a vignette about how I thought her experience went. I sat down to write about it — the rafting, the holding hands, the sun on her skin. The next thing you know I didn’t stop writing for three months!

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
Love this question! I was getting ready to walk into a yoga class and the teacher is very strict about being late. The call came in and I looked at the teacher and was like, “I have to take this call.” After I took the call from my agent, I wasn’t sure what to do. I didn’t want to call anyone to share the news so I just walked into yoga class and did yoga, trying to be all zen-like about it! But I was freaking out inside!!

What’s your favorite junk food?
If pizza is a junk food, then pizza. But i think that pizza is a basic food group. I guess I would say Salt and Vinegar kettle chips.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
A bar of Lotion … like handmade lotion in a bar form. And the scent is Arizona Rain. Since I live in Arizona and it never rains they bottle up the smell for you.

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How to Break a Boy by Laurie Devore
January 31, 2017 from Imprint
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Keep your enemies close, but your friends closer.

Olivia Clayton has mastered the art of tearing others down to stay on top. She and her best friend, Adrienne, rule their small southern town like all good mean girls do–through intimidation and manipulation.

After Olivia suffers a family tragedy and catches Adrienne sleeping with her boyfriend, Olivia is over it. She decides to make a change–but it’s impossible to resist taking Adrienne down one last time. Up to her old tricks, Olivia convinces golden boy Whit DuRant to be her SAT tutor and her fake boyfriend. But when it starts to feel real, Whit gets caught up in Olivia and Adrienne’s war.

Olivia may ruin everything she touches, but this time she won’t go down without a fight–not if it means losing Whit.

And definitely not if it means losing what’s left of herself.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Mean girls, secrets, fake relationships.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
Ah, how to not be spoilery here…there’s a scene about three fourths through the book where Olivia and her ex-best friend Adrienne have a major showdown. This causes Olivia to go on a really destructive tear with Whit trying to stop her – it’s the perfect amount of her finally acknowledging the pain she feels and coming face-to-face with all her screw-ups and how much she hates the person she’s become. It really feels like a turning point where Olivia realizes the whole deck of cards she’s built is about to come crashing down and I love all the angst that brings to the surface.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
I was in a Tiki bar called Three Dots and a Dash in downtown Chicago for a work event when my agent called me. The best part of finding out at Three Dots was that I later found out my editor LOVES Tiki bars and we were able to go visit it together when she came to Chicago.

What’s your favorite junk food?
Any baked goods – chocolate chip cookies, brownies, pie – gimme.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
I never actually use my desk so it’s covered in all sorts of things – books, nail polish, golf balls.

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Lessons In Falling by Diana Gallagher
February 7, 2017 from Spencer Hill Press
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When Savannah Gregory blows out her knee –and her shot at a gymnastics scholarship – she decides she’s done with the sport forever. Without gymnastics, she has more time for her best friend, Cassie. She’s content to let her fun, impulsive best friend plan a memorable senior year.

That is, until Cassie tries to kill herself.

Savannah wants to understand what happened, but Cassie refuses to talk about it and for the first time, Savannah has to find her own way. The only person she can turn to is Marcos, the boy who saved Cassie’s life. Being with him makes her see who she could be and what she really wants: gymnastics.

But Cassie doesn’t approve of Marcos or of Savannah going back to gymnastics, and the tighter she tries to hold onto Savannah, the farther it pulls them apart. Without Cassie to call the shots, Savannah discovers how capable she is on her own—and that maybe her best friend’s been holding her back all along.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Best friends torn apart.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
My favorite scene is the one where Savannah competes at a gymnastics meet for the first time since her injury. It was one of the first scenes I wrote, and I love how it shows Savannah’s emotional growth and newfound willingness to take chances, regardless of the outcome.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
I was living with two awesome writer roommates, so once I received the email, I went straight into the kitchen to tell them!

What’s your favorite junk food?
Dark chocolate, always!

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
A glitter-covered Dia de los Muertos skull.

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Traveler by L.E. Delano
February 7, 2017 from Swoon Reads
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Jessa has spent her life dreaming of other worlds and writing down stories more interesting than her own, until the day her favorite character, Finn, suddenly shows up and invites her out for coffee. After the requisite nervous breakdown, Jessa learns that she and Finn are Travelers, born with the ability to slide through reflections and dreams into alternate realities. But it’s not all steampunk pirates and fantasy lifestyles…Jessa is dying over and over again, in every reality, and Finn is determined that this time, he’s going to stop it… this Jessa is going to live.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Reality shifting YA fantasy romance.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
Jessa steps through a mirror into an alternate steampunk reality and attends her first ball with a dashing pirate.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
In my upstairs bedroom, trying hard not to hyperventilate and pass out before they could finish the offer.

What’s your favorite junk food?
Candy Halloween pumpkins.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
A rather ordinary looking rock. I took it from a shoreline in Ireland, plucked it from the cold Irish Sea. It doesn’t look like much but the history that rock has seen makes it eternal.

Note from the author:
My book also contains a major character on the autism spectrum (non-Aspergers). I am the parent of a child with autism, and I wanted to show someone on the spectrum who wasn’t a “Sheldon Cooper.” It was also important to me to highlight the role of being the sibling of a special needs child, and how that lends greater maturity and resilience to those siblings.

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