Category: Giveaway

Jenn Bennett’s Mood Board for Starry Eyes | Blog Tour + Giveaway

Posted March 30, 2018 by Jana in Blog Tour, Giveaway, Guest Post, Mood Board / 3 Comments

Jenn Bennett’s Mood Board for Starry Eyes | Blog Tour + Giveaway

I’m so excited to be on the blog tour for Jenn Bennett’s Starry Eyes, hosted by The Fantastic Flying Book Club! I posted my review of Starry Eyes earlier this week (spoiler alert: I LOVED IT!), and now I get to share Jenn’s mood board for the book! I absolutely love looking at an author’s mood board. It’s so much fun to see what they pictured while they were writing their story. Jenn’s is pretty amazing! Check it out and read a little more about the book below!


Starry Eyes Mood Board

Curated by Jenn Bennett


Starry Eyes by Jenn Bennett
Published by Simon Pulse on April 3, 2018
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult
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Ever since last year’s homecoming dance, best friends-turned-best enemies Zorie and Lennon have made an art of avoiding each other. It doesn’t hurt that their families are the modern day, Californian version of the Montagues and Capulets.

But when a group camping trip goes south, Zorie and Lennon find themselves stranded in the wilderness. Alone. Together.

What could go wrong?

With no one but each other for company, Zorie and Lennon have no choice but to hash out their issues via witty jabs and insults as they try to make their way to safety. But fighting each other while also fighting off the forces of nature makes getting out of the woods in one piece less and less likely.

And as the two travel deeper into Northern California’s rugged backcountry, secrets and hidden feelings surface. But can Zorie and Lennon’s rekindled connection survive out in the real world? Or was it just a result of the fresh forest air and the magic of the twinkling stars?


About Jenn Bennett

Jenn Bennett is an award-winning author of several young adult books, including ALEX, APPROXIMATELY and STARRY EYES. She also writes romance and fantasy for adults. Her books have earned multiple starred reviews, won the Romance Writers of America’s prestigious RITA® Award, and been included on Publishers Weekly Best Books annual list. She lives near Atlanta with one husband and two dogs.

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The Debut Dish: Kim Chance, Ashley Woodfolk, Jen Petro-Roy, & Sarah Nicole Smetana (+ Giveaways)

Posted March 11, 2018 by Jana in Author Interview, Debut Author Challenge, Debut Dish, Giveaway / 5 Comments

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 Kim Chance (Keeper), Ashley Woodfolk (The Beauty That Remains), Jen Petro-Roy (P.S. I Miss You), and Sarah Nicole Smetana (The Midnights).


Keeper by Kim Chance
January 30, 2018 from Flux Books
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When a 200-year-old witch attacks her, sixteen-year-old bookworm Lainey Styles is determined to find a logical explanation. Even with the impossible staring her in the face, Lainey refuses to believe it—until she finds a photograph linking the witch to her dead mother.

After consulting a psychic, Lainey discovers that she, like her mother, is a Keeper: a witch with the exclusive ability to unlock and wield the Grimoire, a dangerous but powerful spell book. But there’s a problem. The Grimoire has been stolen by a malevolent warlock who is desperate for a spell locked inside it—a spell that would allow him to siphon away the world’s magic.

With the help of her comic-book-loving best friend and an enigmatic but admittedly handsome street fighter, Lainey must leave her life of college prep and studying behind to prepare for the biggest test of all: stealing back the book.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Magic Always Leaves a Mark.

I sorta cheated, but this is the tagline of the book, and in my opinion, nothing could describe it more perfectly!

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
Oh gosh, there are so many! Without giving any spoilers, I think I’d have to say that my favorite scene is the moment when my main character, Lainey, decides to take control of her own destiny. She goes through a lot in the book, and when she finally decides to be active in her fate, not just react to what’s happening to her is a really cool moment. It was a lot of fun to write!

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
I was in the middle of class! My students were working independently on an assignment, so I decided to do a quick check of my email. When I saw the message, I literally squealed out loud! I got to share the news with my students first, which was so special! I wrote the book with those kids in mind, so getting to share the joy of the moment with them was an awesome experience!

What’s your favorite junk food?
I have a major sweet tooth, so anything with chocolate! I especially love white chocolate and Reese cups! For writing sessions though, I have to have jolly ranchers or my caramel apple suckers–I can’t write without them!

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
I have to have a pretty clean space when I work. A cluttered desk stresses me out–I’m a type A personality–so there’s not much on it! I guess the oddest thing is a pacifier and a baby monitor. I have three kids and my youngest is only five months old. I have to balance mom life and writer life pretty much every day!

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The Beauty That Remains by Ashley Woodfolk
March 6, 2018 from Delacorte Press
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Music brought Autumn, Shay, and Logan together. Death wants to tear them apart.

Autumn always knew exactly who she was—a talented artist and a loyal friend. Shay was defined by two things: her bond with her twin sister, Sasha, and her love of music. And Logan always turned to writing love songs when his love life was a little less than perfect.

But when tragedy strikes each of them, somehow music is no longer enough. Now Logan can’t stop watching vlogs of his dead ex-boyfriend. Shay is a music blogger struggling to keep it together. And Autumn sends messages that she knows can never be answered.

Despite the odds, one band’s music will reunite them and prove that after grief, beauty thrives in the people left behind.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Three teens. All the feels.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
My favorite scene is the scene after two of my characters kiss for the first time. Their romance simmers for a little more than half of the novel, and when they finally kiss, it’s pretty epic. But in the scene that follows the male character, Dante, who is the strong, silent type opens up to Autumn, and it feels real and earned and sweet.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
At work. My agent called my cell and left a message and the second I listened to it I jumped up and down in my office all alone.

What’s your favorite junk food?
Salty: Doritos. Sweets: Donuts.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
About four different essential oils.


P.S. I Miss You by Jen Petro-Roy
March 6, 2018 from Feiwel & Friends
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In this epistolary middle-grade debut novel, a girl who’s questioning her sexual orientation writes letters to her sister, who was sent away from their strict Catholic home after becoming pregnant.

Eleven-year-old Evie is heartbroken when her strict Catholic parents send her pregnant sister away to stay with a distant great-aunt. All Evie wants is for her older sister to come back. But when her parents forbid her to even speak to Cilla, she starts sending letters. Evie writes letters about her family, torn apart and hurting. She writes about her life, empty without Cilla. And she writes about the new girl in school, June, who becomes her friend, and then maybe more than a friend.

As she becomes better friends with June, Evie begins to question her sexual orientation. She can only imagine what might happen if her parents found out who she really is. She could really use some advice from Cilla. But Cilla isn’t writing back.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Strict parents; crushing on girl.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
It’s so hard to narrow it down, but one of my favorite scenes is when Evie (my main character) and June, her crush, are working on the scenery for set crew and start to realize they might like each other. It’s a mix of tween girl blushing and hiding and denial, and I just love how it came out.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
I’m a librarian in addition to being a writer, and I was working at my last job as a teen librarian when I got the call from my agent. I had kept my phone on and with me because I knew I might be hearing something that day, but the call still surprised me. I was in the middle of preparing for a program, and after talking to my agent and basically having my dream come true, it was reallllllly hard to concentrate on work after that!

What’s your favorite junk food?
I have a soft-spot for mini-Reese’s Peanut Butter cups. They’re perfect writing fuel!

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
I don’t know if it’s odd, but I love my collection of literary and pop culture Funko Pop! figures. My latest acquisitions are Leslie Knope and Ron Swanson from Parks and Recreation.


The Midnights by Sarah Nicole Smetana
March 6, 2018 from HarperTeen
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Susannah Hayes has never been in the spotlight, but she dreams of following her father, a former rock star, onto the stage. As senior year begins, she’s more interested in composing impressive chord progressions than college essays, certain that if she writes the perfect song, her father might finally look up from the past long enough to see her. But when he dies unexpectedly her dreams—and her reality—shatter.

While Susannah struggles with grief, her mother uproots them to a new city. There, Susannah realizes she can reinvent herself however she wants: a confident singer-songwriter, member of a hip band, embraced by an effortlessly cool best friend. But Susannah is not the only one keeping secrets, and soon, harsh revelations threaten to unravel her life once again.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Music, California, grief, secrets, heartbreak.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
I have so many favorites, but if I have to pick one: This scene on New Year’s Eve, when Susannah first performs onstage. It’s a huge moment for her as an artist, and there’s a lot of emotion that follows. The high of being on stage and playing her own song mixes with the disappointment of other events not going as planned, and wishing her father could have been there. Then *spoilery things* happen, resulting in an empowering—but somewhat dangerous—internal shift.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
I was on the subway. This was before we had wifi in the stations, but my train travels over the Manhattan Bridge, and I was on that stretch when I got a voicemail from my agent. I immediately called her back, without even listening to the voicemail, and was like, “I’m on the train and I’m going to lose service any second but I couldn’t wait WHAT HAPPENED!?!” Pretty sure I then promptly lost service, although not before learning there was an offer.

What’s your favorite junk food?
Chocolate, preferably paired with coffee or tea.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
A fuzzy Totoro pouch, for which I have absolutely no use, but 100% needed to own anyway.

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The Debut Dish: Tanaz Bhathena, T.E. Carter, Tomi Adeyemi, & Brenda Rufener (+ Giveaways)

Posted February 25, 2018 by Jana in Author Interview, Debut Author Challenge, Debut Dish, Giveaway / 7 Comments

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 Tanaz Bhathena (A Girl Like That), T.E. Carter (I Stop Somewhere), Tomi Adeyemi (Children of Blood and Bone), and Brenda Rufener (Where I Live).


A Girl Like That by Tanaz Bhathena
February 27, 2018 from Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers
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A timeless exploration of high-stakes romance, self-discovery, and the lengths we go to love and be loved.

Sixteen-year-old Zarin Wadia is many things: a bright and vivacious student, an orphan, a risk taker. She’s also the kind of girl that parents warn their kids to stay away from: a troublemaker whose many romances are the subject of endless gossip at school.  You don’t want to get involved with a girl like that, they say. So how is it that eighteen-year-old Porus Dumasia has only ever had eyes for her? And how did Zarin and Porus end up dead in a car together, crashed on the side of a highway in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia? When the religious police arrive on the scene, everything everyone thought they knew about Zarin is questioned. And as her story is pieced together, told through multiple perspectives, it becomes clear that she was far more than just a girl like that.

This beautifully written debut novel from Tanaz Bhathena reveals a rich and wonderful new world to readers. It tackles complicated issues of race, identity, class, and religion, and paints a portrait of teenage ambition, angst, and alienation that feels both inventive and universal.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Jeddah: Girl dies. Chaos ensues.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
The very first one, where my main character, Zarin, is dead and looking down at the scene of her accident. That scene hasn’t really changed since I first wrote it in 2006.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
I was eating pizza and wallowing over a short story getting rejected.

What’s your favorite junk food?
I can’t resist chocolate!

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
A measuring tape. And I have no idea why I put it there!


I Stop Somewhere by T.E. Carter
February 27, 2018 from Feiwel & Friends (USA)
April 19, 2018 from Simon & Schuster Children’s UK
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Ellie Frias disappeared long before she vanished.

Tormented throughout middle school, Ellie begins her freshman year with a new look: she doesn’t need to be popular; she just needs to blend in with the wallpaper.

But when the unthinkable happens, Ellie finds herself trapped after a brutal assault. She wasn’t the first victim, and now she watches it happen again and again. She tries to hold on to her happier memories in order to get past the cold days, waiting for someone to find her.

The problem is, no one searches for a girl they never noticed in the first place.

TE Carter’s stirring and visceral debut not only discusses and dismantles rape culture, but it also reminds us what it is to be human.

Describe your book in five words or less.
We need to believe girls.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
Strangely, my favorite is actually a moment where the main character stops and observes the daily routines around her at school. She talks about how everyone interacts, but doesn’t realize it, and I like that. I like the recognition of how we affect each other without realizing it.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
I was at home. I wish I had a more exciting story!

What’s your favorite junk food?
Probably vegan chocolate chip cookies from Whole Foods

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
The WoW game collection.

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Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
March 6, 2018 from Henry Holt Books for Young Readers
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Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zelie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls.

But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were targeted and killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.

Now, Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good.

Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers—and her growing feelings for the enemy.

Describe your book in five words or less.
African: The Last Airbender (or “Black Girl Magic!”)

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
I know you’re only supposed to have one favorite, but I have a few! Though if I really had to narrow it down and not give away any spoilers, there’s one scene at the end of the book that just gets me riled up, excited, and cheering every single time (which means something since I’ve read my book 100+ times lol). It features a character named Amari!

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
I was actually in Hawaii! My boyfriend’s grandmother had a timeshare that she couldn’t use, so she asked us if we wanted it (and of course we were like “yeah!”) I’m surprised no one called the police or at least sent someone to check on us because I was screaming and sobbing very loudly (lol).

What’s your favorite junk food?
Pizza, pizza, pizza, pizza, pizza, pizza, pizza. I spent most of my childhood eating pizza every single day. As an adult I’m trying not to eat it every single day (but the struggle is real).

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
I have friends that bring me cool trinkets for my desk when I’m writing, so I have a little copper owl from Greece, a decorated, heart-shaped rock from Tanzania, and a glass turtle from Hawaii!


Where I Live by Brenda Rufener
February 27, 2018 from HarperTeen
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Linden Rose has a big secret–she is homeless and living in the halls of her small-town high school. Her position as school blog editor, her best friends, Ham and Seung, and the promise of a future far away are what keep Linden under the radar and moving forward.

But when cool-girl Bea comes to school with a bloody lip, the damage hits too close to home. Linden begins looking at Bea’s life, and soon her investigation prompts people to pay more attention. And attention is the last thing she needs.

Linden knows the only way to put a stop to the violence is to tell Bea’s story and come to terms with her own painful past. Even if that means breaking her rules for survival and jeopardizing the secrets she’s worked so hard to keep.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Homeless teen lives at school.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
There’s a scene in WIL where Linden and her friend, Seung, get ready for homecoming. Seung’s mother does Linden’s hair and the moment evokes emotions Linden has carefully stuffed away. When she feels the tender touch of a mother, she can’t help but think about her own. The moment has always tugged at (okay, yanked) my heartstrings.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
In my home office. My agent called and said we had two offers at the same pub house. There were lots of tears after the call and a lot of trembling during.

What’s your favorite junk food?
Is cheese a junk food? If so, it’s my favorite. But it has to be good cheese, not large blocks of yellow cheddar. Aged, white, and the sharpest of sharps.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
A small bottle of vitamin D*. Think I need to venture outside more.

*Obviously, I’m not eating nearly enough cheese.

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Of Sea and Stone by Kate Avery Ellison | Book Review (+ Giveaway)

Posted February 14, 2018 by Jana in Blog Tour, Book Review, Giveaway, Young Adult / 10 Comments

Of Sea and Stone by Kate Avery Ellison | Book Review (+ Giveaway)

Of Sea and Stone by Kate Avery Ellison | Book Review (+ Giveaway)Of Sea and Stone by Kate Avery Ellison
Series: Secrets of Itlantis #1
Published by Self on February 2, 2014
Pages: 260
Format: eBook
Source: From the author
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5 Stars
Aemi lives in a village carved from stones and surrounded by sea. She wins spear-throwing competitions in disguise and earns slaps from her spoiled mistress by talking back. She hates being a slave. She survives by remembering her mother's tales of home, a paradise called Perilous.

Aemi intends to find it.

But then, black ships rise from the sea in the night. Aemi is captured and taken to Itlantis, an underwater world of cities and gardens encased in glass, dazzling technology. and a centuries-long war.

She is determined to escape, even if it means conspiring with fellow prisoner Nol, who fills her with equal parts anger and desire. Even if it means impersonating her mistress. Even if it means fleeing into the territory of the Dron, the bloodthirsty barbarians of the deep.

But when Aemi witnesses firsthand an attack by the Dron, she realizes not all is as it seems below the sea.

And Perilous might be closer than she thinks.

I love everything Kate has written, so I was very eager and excited to read Of Sea and Stone. I’m happy to report that I’m still a Kate Avery Ellison fangirl, and absolutely loved Of Sea and Stone! As always, my main points are bolded. :)

1. I love the world of Itlantis. It’s beautiful! There are different underwater cities spread across the ocean, each one special in its own way. Aemi has been captured from her village at the surface and taken to the city of Celestrus. This city has, what I can only describe to be, glass spheres that are suspended in the water. Each sphere is a library dedicated to each of the different cities of Itlantis. You can see sea life swimming by and light from the surface dancing. The libraries are filled with books, foliage, sculpture, fountains, and walkways. I’d LOVE to visit!

2. Kate’s writing is so beautiful. She describes things as if you were right there! I kept wanting to highlight all the descriptive passages because I loved them so much.

3. I really liked Aemi. She’s strong, versatile, brave, smart, and level-headed. She takes her kidnapping very well. Haha. She adapts well to her new home, but she’s got plans to escape. She’s assertive and makes people fall for her, whether it be in love or in friendship.

4. Nol is pretty swoony. In the beginning he was a very cocky, jerky guy who Aemi loved to hate. But they are the only survivors (that we know of) from their village, so they learn to work together. And I loved watching him grow from such a jerk to such a caring, selfless person.

5. There’s a little mystery, a little romance, and even some action! It’s the perfect blend of everything I love.

6. Holy cliffhanger. I can’t WAIT to buy the second book!

All in all, Of Sea and Stone pulled me out of a deep reading slump. I loved everything about it, and I love Kate’s storytelling and writing style. This is a wonderful fantasy/dystopia, and I’d recommend it to anyone and everyone!


About Kate Avery Ellison

I’m the author of the Frost Chronicles, an Amazon bestselling series and source material for the adventure app game Frost by Delight Games, as well as numerous other fantasy and science fiction novels. I love putting a dash of mystery in everything I write, an ode to a childhood spent reading Nancy Drew, Agatha Christie, and Sherlock Holmes. I can’t resist adding a good twist in the story wherever I can.

I wish I could live in a place where it’s always October, but until that’s possible, I make my home in humid Atlanta with my husband, children, and two spoiled cats.

WebsiteGoodreadsTwitterFacebookAmazon Page

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The Debut Dish: Rebecca Ross, Farrah Penn, Adrianne Finlay, & Deborah Schaumberg

Posted February 11, 2018 by Jana in Author Interview, Debut Author Challenge, Debut Dish, Giveaway / 5 Comments

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 Rebecca Ross (The Queen’s Rising), Farrah Penn (Twelve Steps to Normal), Adrianne Finlay (Your One & Only), and Deborah Schaumberg (The Tombs).


The Queen’s Rising by Rebecca Ross
February 6, 2018 from HarperTeen
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When her seventeenth summer solstice arrives, Brienna desires only two things: to master her passion and to be chosen by a patron.

Growing up in the southern Kingdom of Valenia at the renowned Magnalia House should have prepared her for such a life. While some are born with an innate talent for one of the five passions—art, music, dramatics, wit, and knowledge—Brienna struggled to find hers until she belatedly chose to study knowledge. However, despite all her preparations, Brienna’s greatest fear comes true—the solstice does not go according to plan and she is left without a patron.

Months later, her life takes an unexpected turn when a disgraced lord offers her patronage. Suspicious of his intent, and with no other choices, she accepts. But there is much more to his story, and Brienna soon discovers that he has sought her out for his own vengeful gain. For there is a dangerous plot being planned to overthrow the king of Maevana—the archrival kingdom of Valenia—and restore the rightful queen, and her magic, to the northern throne. And others are involved—some closer to Brienna than she realizes.

With war brewing between the two lands, Brienna must choose whose side she will remain loyal to—passion or blood. Because a queen is destined to rise and lead the battle to reclaim the crown. The ultimate decision Brienna must determine is: Who will be that queen?

Describe your book in five words or less.
Girls overthrowing kings.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
My favorite scene is a HUGE spoiler, so I’ll go with my second favorite, which is when Brienna is about to ride out into battle. There is this moment of peace that comes over her, even though she doesn’t know what’s about to unfold. We truly see her transform from an uncertain young girl into a brave woman dressed in armor who is about to wage war.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
I had just clocked out at work and was walking to my car in the parking lot when my agent texted me, asking if she could call me. I was like, YES, call me! And then I sat in my car and waited a moment for that phone call, thinking I probably shouldn’t attempt to drive just yet. So I was sitting in my car when it happened :)

What’s your favorite junk food?
I have a terrible weakness for Sour Patch Kids.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
A jar of Kombucha. I drink this nearly every day.


Twelve Steps to Normal by Farrah Penn
March 13, 2018 from JIMMY Patterson Books/Little, Brown
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James Patterson presents this emotionally resonant novel that shows that while some broken things can’t be put back exactly the way they were, they can be repaired and made even stronger.

Kira’s Twelve Steps To A Normal Life

1. Accept Grams is gone.
2. Learn to forgive Dad.
3. Steal back ex-boyfriend from best friend…

And somewhere between 1 and 12, realize that when your parent’s an alcoholic, there’s no such thing as “normal.”
When Kira’s father enters rehab, she’s forced to leave everything behind–her home, her best friends, her boyfriend…everything she loves. Now her father’s sober (again) and Kira is returning home, determined to get her life back to normal…exactly as it was before she was sent away.

But is that what Kira really wants?

Life, love, and loss come crashing together in this visceral, heartfelt story by BuzzFeed writer Farrah Penn about a girl who struggles to piece together the shards of her once-normal life before his alcoholism tore it apart.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Love, loss, and repairing relationships.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
Oh man, I am a big fan of kissing scenes. My book is set during the school year, and one character is working on building an enormous Audrey II puppet for the upcoming musical, Little Shop of Horrors. This might be a mild spoiler, but there’s a kissing scene that happens inside the giant Audrey II that was fun and swoony to write.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
I’d left work on my lunch break to run an errand and my agent called me when I was driving. I pulled over into a gas station after she told me the news because I was so shocked and overwhelmed with excitement. I think I kept repeating, “What? Oh my god!” That lunch break lasted longer than I intended because I also had to immediately call my mom and sister—but I don’t think anyone at work noticed, haha.

What’s your favorite junk food?
Pirate’s Booty, cheddar cheese and Wheat Thins, Ghiradelli Dark Chocolate and Sea Salt Carmel, warm chocolate chip cookies are all tied for first place.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
Pencils that have food puns written on the side and a coffee mug that says “Luke’s Diner” on the front. (I love Gilmore Girls)


Your One & Only by Adrianne Finlay
February 6, 2018 from HMH Books for Young Readers
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Jack is a walking fossil. The only human among a sea of clones. It’s been hundreds of years since humanity died off in the slow plague, leaving the clones behind to carry on human existence. Over time they’ve perfected their genes, moving further away from the imperfections of humanity. But if they really are perfect, why did they create Jack?

While Jack longs for acceptance, Althea-310 struggles with the feeling that she’s different from her sisters. Her fascination with Jack doesn’t help. As Althea and Jack’s connection grows stronger, so does the threat to their lives. What will happen if they do the unthinkable and fall in love?

Describe your book in five words or less.
The future, clones, love, humanity

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
This is a tough question! Some of my favorite scenes give a bit too much away and would probably be called spoiler-y, so I’ll choose the scene where Althea-310 and Jack kiss. It’s not a first kiss for either of them, and their past experiences make them wary for different reasons, but they’re still willing to risk their emotions. It’s complicated for both of them, but I love the way Jack handles his need to be cautious.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
In a home improvement store near a display of sinks. It felt pretty random, but a lot of the time big news feels that way regardless of where you are when you hear it.

What’s your favorite junk food?
Potato chips with french onion dip. Crispy, salty, creamy–what else could you want? I can’t have it in the house or it’ll be gone and I’ll have regrets.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
A shrimp bubble. It’s a glass globe self-contained ecosystem with 5 little shrimp swimming around in it. It’s the best I can manage for a pet, only because it requires zero effort on my part.


The Tombs by Deborah Schaumberg
February 20, 2018 from HarperTeen
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Gangs of New York meets Cassandra Clare in this debut YA fantasy set in 1882 Brooklyn

New York, 1882. A dark, forbidding city, and no place for a girl with unexplainable powers.

Sixteen-year-old Avery Kohl pines for the life she had before her mother was taken. She fears the mysterious men in crow masks who locked her mother in the Tombs asylum for being able to see what others couldn’t. Avery denies the signs in herself, focusing instead on her shifts at the ironworks factory and keeping her inventor father out of trouble. Other than secondhand tales of adventure from her best friend, Khan, an ex-slave, and caring for her falcon, Seraphine, Avery spends her days struggling to survive.

Like her mother’s, Avery’s powers refuse to be contained. When she causes a bizarre explosion at the factory, she has no choice but to run from her lies, straight into the darkest corners of the city. Avery must embrace her abilities and learn to wield their power—or join her mother in the cavernous horrors of the Tombs. And the Tombs has secrets of its own: strange experiments are being performed on “patients”…and no one knows why.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Aura seers – sinister underground asylum.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
So hard to choose, especially without spoilers! There are two that come to mind – one where Avery and her drunk father reminisce about a happier time before her mother was taken. And another when Avery stumbles upon a greenhouse in The Tombs, an enchanting place inhabited by one of my favorite characters.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
Wednesday, 3/16/16 at 5:09 pm. I was home, after a long, very ordinary day. I checked my email and the day became magical! My agent informed me that Kristen Pettit at Harper Collins was prepared to make an offer; but she wanted to speak with me first! After an agonizing, jumping-out-of-my-skin, two-day wait, we talked on the phone, and our vision of the book was in perfect alignment! She said she would make the offer! Needles to say, my family and I celebrated that Friday night!

What’s your favorite junk food?
Ice cream, especially anything chocolatey and peanut-buttery! I can eat it every night.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
Hmmm…what’s not odd on my desk? I tend to collect odd things! Right now there is a vertebrae of some animal, fossils, crystals, used bullet cartridges, a naked troll doll from my childhood…I could go on.


The Debut Dish: Jaime Questell & A.M. Rose (+ Giveaway)

Posted February 4, 2018 by Jana in Author Interview, Debut Author Challenge, Debut Dish, Giveaway / 4 Comments

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 Jaime Questell (By a Charm and a Curse) and A.M. Rose (Road to Eugenica).


By a Charm and a Curse by Jaime Questell
February 6, 2018 from Entangled Teen
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Le Grand’s Carnival Fantastic isn’t like other traveling circuses. It’s bound by a charm, held together by a centuries-old curse, that protects its members from ever growing older or getting hurt. Emmaline King is drawn to the circus like a moth to a flame…and unwittingly recruited into its folds by a mysterious teen boy whose kiss is as cold as ice.

Forced to travel through Texas as the new Girl in the Box, Emmaline is completely trapped. Breaking the curse seems like her only chance at freedom, but with no curse, there’s no charm, either—dooming everyone who calls the Carnival Fantastic home. Including the boy she’s afraid she’s falling for.

Everything—including his life—could end with just one kiss.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Girl must escape cursed carnival.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
So I figured that living with a traveling carnival means that sometimes you have to make your own entertainment. There’s a bit where while the whole troupe is stopped to get gas, one of the teen equestrians, nicknamed Whiskey, starts a game that equal parts tag and food fight with some mini doughnuts. I loved letting these characters have some fun, not to mention Whiskey’s dialogue was •always• fun to write.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
I was in the car (Bluetooth for the win!), by myself and certain I was going to be pulled over for freaking out. Luckily I almost immediately came to a red light so I was able to get it together.

What’s your favorite junk food?
I have to pick a favorite?! This is hard, but I think I have to say good, old-fashioned chocolate chip cookies. I make them with the best chocolate I can get and add an extra cup of flour to the classic Toll House recipe so they don’t spread everywhere and •chef kiss• Best. Cookies. Ever.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
A friend of mine gave me one of those unicorn hand puppets, where you put a hoof on four of your fingers/thumb and the head on the remaining finger. The problem is, the hooves and head never stay together, so there’s a hoof here, a severed unicorn head here…I’ve had some really confused colleagues in my office. :D


Road to Eugenica by A.M. Rose
February 5, 2018 from Entangled Teen
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Two dimensions – And the girl who connects them.

Yesterday, Drea Smith couldn’t do anything spectacular—even walking and texting at the same time was a challenge. But today, she suddenly has more answers than Google, can speak and understand numerous languages, and she can fight. Like a boss.

Super freaky.

Drea has no idea where her encyclopedic knowledge has come from, but she’ll take it when she discovers someone out there knows her secret and wants her badly. And that they’ve been searching for her since she was born.

Since she was created.

With the help of her best friend Dylan, who just wants to keep her safe, and Maddox, a mysterious new boy who is prepared to get her answers, Drea will have to push her new skills to their limit as she uncovers nothing is quite what it seems.

As she uncovers…Eugenica.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Yikes! This is tough… I guess I would say,

Two worlds. Too many secrets.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
Phew. I’m glad I get more than five words for this one, otherwise I think it would be impossible. (LOL) I think my favorite scene(s) are Drea interacting with her Dad. He’s such an integral part of her life and they have such a strong relationship that it’s just nice to get to see her be herself. Especially when nothing in her life turns out to be normal.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
I remember I was sitting at my kitchen table going through emails when I got to one from Entangled Teen saying they wanted my book. At first I think I was in shock. I had just gone from winning the NJWR Put Your Heart in a Book contest, to being asked for a full from an Entangled Editor, to an offer of publication. I didn’t even have time to query before this deal came in.

There might have been some screaming too, I can’t remember exactly. It’s all kind of a blur. But I do know my friend brought over some champagne to celebrate with me.

What’s your favorite junk food?
It’s a toss up between ice cream and chips. Depending on if I want something salty or sweet. Maybe I should try mixing them together sometime. (Maybe not.)

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
My desk lately is my couch (since I am recovering from surgery) so there’s everything from stuffed animals, blankets, sleeping cats, a stack of books, and snacks. All within reach of course.

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10 Things Gloria Chao Learned While Writing American Panda | Blog Tour (+ Giveaway)

Posted February 1, 2018 by Jana in Blog Tour, Giveaway, Guest Post / 3 Comments

10 Things Gloria Chao Learned While Writing American Panda | Blog Tour (+ Giveaway)

I’m so excited to welcome debut author Gloria Chao to the blog today as part of the American Panda blog tour hosted by Fantastic Flying Book Club! Gloria is here to tell us what she learned while writing her first novel. Following her post, read more about Gloria and her book, plus enter to win a copy of American Panda for yourself!


10 Things I Learned While Writing American Panda

by Gloria Chao

1. Writing is a form of therapy.

2. Sometimes during the writing process, you need to put your head on the desk or lie on the floor and that’s okay.

3. Sometimes, for the sake of your book, you need to face your demons and ask your mother why she was so strict, why she didn’t let you date, and other horrible questions that are terrifying but necessary.

4. Don’t look at the word count—only bad things will follow. (How bad? Think Mei’s grandma with a knife threatening to cut off her forehead mole to “help her catch a man.” [p. 87 of American Panda])

5. Humor makes writing more fun!

6. Humor is tough and needs a lot of cutting and reworking.

7. Humor is subjective and scary.

8. Everything about writing is subjective and scary, especially sending your book out into the world.

9. And yet it is so rewarding and wonderful, and I want to hug the readers who so kindly let me know how much they connected with the characters, the story, the jokes, the cover, etc.

10. There is nothing in the world quite like writing, and I am the luckiest person that I get to do this as my job, even if it is a roller coaster.


American Panda by Gloria Chao
Published by Simon Pulse on February 6, 2018
Genres: Contemporary, Fiction
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An incisive, laugh-out-loud contemporary debut about a Taiwanese-American teen whose parents want her to be a doctor and marry a Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer despite her squeamishness with germs and crush on a Japanese classmate.

At seventeen, Mei should be in high school, but skipping fourth grade was part of her parents’ master plan. Now a freshman at MIT, she is on track to fulfill the rest of this predetermined future: become a doctor, marry a preapproved Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer, produce a litter of babies.

With everything her parents have sacrificed to make her cushy life a reality, Mei can’t bring herself to tell them the truth–that she (1) hates germs, (2) falls asleep in biology lectures, and (3) has a crush on her classmate Darren Takahashi, who is decidedly not Taiwanese.

But when Mei reconnects with her brother, Xing, who is estranged from the family for dating the wrong woman, Mei starts to wonder if all the secrets are truly worth it. Can she find a way to be herself, whoever that is, before her web of lies unravels?


About Gloria Chao

Gloria Chao is an MIT grad turned dentist turned writer. AMERICAN PANDA is her debut novel, coming out February 6, 2018 from Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster.

Gloria currently lives in Chicago with her ever-supportive husband, for whom she became a nine-hole golfer (sometimes seven). She is always up for cooperative board games, Dance Dance Revolution, or soup dumplings. She was also once a black belt in kung-fu and a competitive dancer, but that side of her was drilled and suctioned out.

Visit her tea-and-book-filled world at gloriachao.wordpress.com and find her on Twitter @gloriacchao.

Website | Goodreads | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Tumblr


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The Debut Dish: Claire Kann, Gloria Chao, C. V. Wyk, & Jackie Yeager (+ Giveaways)

Posted January 28, 2018 by Jana in Author Interview, Debut Author Challenge, Debut Dish, Giveaway / 6 Comments

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 Claire Kann (Let’s Talk About Love), Gloria Chao (American Panda), C. V. Wyk (Blood and Sand), and Jackie Yeager (Spin the Golden Light Bulb).


Let’s Talk About Love by Claire Kann
January 23, 2018 from Swoon Reads
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Alice had her whole summer planned. Non-stop all-you-can-eat buffets while marathoning her favorite TV shows (best friends totally included) with the smallest dash of adulting–working at the library to pay her share of the rent. The only thing missing from her perfect plan? Her girlfriend (who ended things when Alice confessed she’s asexual). Alice is done with dating–no thank you, do not pass go, stick a fork in her, done.

But then Alice meets Takumi and she can’t stop thinking about him or the rom com-grade romance feels she did not ask for (uncertainty, butterflies, and swoons, oh my!).

When her blissful summer takes an unexpected turn, and Takumi becomes her knight with a shiny library employee badge (close enough), Alice has to decide if she’s willing to risk their friendship for a love that might not be reciprocated—or understood.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Alice meets Takumi. Chaos ensues.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
I really like the scene where Alice and Takumi have a Wallow session à la The Gilmore Girls. It involves junk food, horror movies, and onesies.

Bonus answer: Any scene with Alice and her best friend, Feenie.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
I was at work! Sitting at my desk, minding my own merry business, and I got an email. I wrote a blog post about The Experience here.

What’s your favorite junk food?
Pizza!

Fun fact: Pizza is also Takumi’s favorite food. Chicago deep dish style with a pound of cheese on top.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
Probably my Edward Cullen Funko pop. He’s joined by Gerard Way (The Black Parade era), She-Hulk, and Voldemort.

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American Panda by Gloria Chao
February 6, 2018 by Simon Pulse
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An incisive, laugh-out-loud contemporary debut about a Taiwanese-American teen whose parents want her to be a doctor and marry a Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer despite her squeamishness with germs and crush on a Japanese classmate.

At seventeen, Mei should be in high school, but skipping fourth grade was part of her parents’ master plan. Now a freshman at MIT, she is on track to fulfill the rest of this predetermined future: become a doctor, marry a preapproved Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer, produce a litter of babies.

With everything her parents have sacrificed to make her cushy life a reality, Mei can’t bring herself to tell them the truth–that she (1) hates germs, (2) falls asleep in biology lectures, and (3) has a crush on her classmate Darren Takahashi, who is decidedly not Taiwanese.

But when Mei reconnects with her brother, Xing, who is estranged from the family for dating the wrong woman, Mei starts to wonder if all the secrets are truly worth it. Can she find a way to be herself, whoever that is, before her web of lies unravels?

Describe your book in five words or less.
Taiwanese-American teen defies parental expectations.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
My favorite scene in the book is toward the end and involves spoilers, so I will instead discuss my second favorite scene, which is the first chapter. The opening hasn’t changed much since the first draft, and the conversations between the parents and Mei, the main character, perfectly sum up what one of my conversations with my traditional Taiwanese parents look like. And yes, all those things the mother says, like, “There are no ugly women, only lazy women,” are true.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
I was on my way out the door to meet my husband for dinner when my agent called me to tell me about our offer. I remember keeping my composure on the call, but the second I hung up, I began bawling. Like with all news, I told my husband first (and we jumped up and down for a little while), then my parents.

What’s your favorite junk food?
I am a total chocoholic, and it can come in any form. Never met a piece of chocolate I didn’t love!

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
A plush tofu that was made to be a cell phone holder, but with the advent of larger smart phones, it has transitioned into holding my Bluetooth.

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Blood and Sand by C.V. Wyk
January 16, 2018 from Tor Teen
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FORGED IN BATTLE…
FROM THE DUST OF THE ARENA…
A LEGEND WILL RISE

The action-packed tale of a 17-year-old warrior princess and a handsome gladiator who dared take on the Roman Republic―and gave rise to the legend of Spartacus…

For teens who love strong female protagonists in their fantasy and historical fiction, Blood and Sand is a stirring, yet poignant tale of two slaves who dared take on an empire by talented debut author C. V. Wyk.

Roma Victrix. The Republic of Rome is on a relentless march to create an empire―an empire built on the backs of the conquered, brought back to Rome as slaves.

Attia was once destined to rule as the queen and swordmaiden of Thrace, the greatest warrior kingdom the world had seen since Sparta. Now she is a slave, given to Xanthus, the Champion of Rome, as a sign of his master’s favor. Enslaved as a child, Xanthus is the preeminent gladiator of his generation.

Against all odds, Attia and Xanthus form a tentative bond. A bond that will spark a rebellion. A rebellion that threatens to bring the Roman Republic to its end―and gives rise to the legend of Spartacus…

Describe your book in five words or less.
I am Spartacus.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
The scenes featuring Xanthus and his blood-brothers were the most fun to write. Their banter and easy way with each other made me smile or smirk or snort every time, especially the scene where Iduma fights while eating hah!

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
I was at home playing Guild Wars 2 and trying to clear a dungeon with my party when I got The Call. I got tangled up in my headphones and fell off my chair. (The folks in the apartment downstairs came up to ask if we were okay…)

What’s your favorite junk food?
Spicy Cheetos. Whole bag. One sitting. Yes, please.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
Pajama pants…Look, wearing pants at home is totally overrated, ok? All about that sartorial freedom.

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Spin the Golden Light Bulb by Jackie Yeager
January 9, 2018 from Amberjack Publishing
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It’s the year 2071 and eleven year-old Kia Krumpet is determined to build her 67 inventions, but she won’t have the opportunity to unless she earns a spot at PIPS, the Piedmont Inventor’s Prep School. Kia, who has trouble making friends at school, has dreamed of winning the Piedmont Challenge and attending PIPS ever since she learned that her Grandma Kitty won the very first Piedmont Challenge. After she and four of her classmates are selected to compete for a spot at PIPS, they travel by aero-bus to Camp Piedmont to solve a task against forty-nine other state teams to earn their place at the best inventor’s school in the country.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Oh I guess I’d have to say: imaginative, inventive, competitive, heartbreaking, and heartwarming.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
There’s a heartbreaking scene between eleven year-old Kia Krumpet and her Grandma Kitty that was particularly difficult to write. It’s a scene where I hope to show the moment in a child’s life when he or she realizes that a family member (like a parent or grandparent) is not perfect—that moment when that illusion is shattered. It happens to every child at some point in their life and can be a defining moment for them. And it’s one of my favorites!

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
I was home alone in my bedroom ready to fold laundry! My phone was sitting on my dresser when I heard the ding. It was my agent telling me that I had an offer! Of course I didn’t have all the details at that moment, and I didn’t know if we would accept, but at that point I knew someone wanted my story and if everything worked out, it would be published. I literally broke into tears!

What’s your favorite junk food?
That’s easy! Baked goods. I love snickerdoodle cookies, coffee cake, sweet rolls, muffins, donuts…all of it!

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
Well, I have a broken hour glass sitting on it right now! The glass broke out of it so it’s basically a wooden frame. I have plans to spray paint a light bulb gold and place it inside- to make it look like a golden light bulb trophy in honor of my first published book. It will either turn into the coolest thing ever or a mess. We’ll see!


The Debut Dish: Joanna Ruth Meyer, Rachel Lynn Solomon, Lianne Oelke, & Ben Guterson (+ Giveaway)

Posted January 14, 2018 by Jana in Author Interview, Debut Author Challenge, Debut Dish, Giveaway / 9 Comments

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 Joanna Ruth Meyer (Beneath the Haunting Sea), Rachel Lynn Solomon (You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone), Lianne Oelke (Nice Try, Jane Sinner), and Ben Guterson (Winterhouse).


Beneath the Haunting Sea by Joanna Ruth Meyer
January 9, 2018 from Page Street
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Sixteen-year-old Talia was born to a life of certainty and luxury, destined to become Empress of half the world. But when an ambitious rival seizes power, she and her mother are banished to a nowhere province on the far edge of the Northern Sea.

It is here, in the drafty halls of the Ruen-Dahr, that Talia discovers family secrets, a melancholy boy with a troubling vision of her future, and a relic that holds the power of an ancient Star. On these shores, the eerie melody of the sea is stronger than ever, revealing long-forgotten tales of the Goddess Rahn. The more dark truths that Talia unravels about the gods’ history—and her own—the more the waves call to her, and it may be her destiny to answer.

Describe your book in five words or less.
The Silmarillion meets Jane Austen!

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
My favorite scene is actually the epilogue, but I can’t tell you about that because SPOILERS. One of my other favorite scenes is when Talia arrives at the Ruen-Dahr, the dreary, mysterious mansion she’s banished to, and meets Wen. He’s shocked to see her, and things go badly!

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
The initial interest from my publisher came in June 2016—I was checking my email at a stoplight (as you do), and found a note from my agent with Page’s inquiry as to wether SEA was still available. There were other moments leading up to the actual offer, but that’s what started it all!

What’s your favorite junk food?
Oreo cookies. Double stuff, or don’t bother. :D

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
Currently I do a lot of writing *not* at my desk—right now, for example, I have my laptop on the floor. To the left is my 5.5 month old son, to the right my cat! Does that count? ;)


You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone by Rachel Lynn Solomon
January 2, 2018 from Simon Pulse
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Eighteen-year-old twins Adina and Tovah have little in common besides their ambitious nature. Viola prodigy Adina yearns to become a soloist—and to convince her music teacher he wants her the way she wants him. Overachiever Tovah awaits her acceptance to Johns Hopkins, the first step on her path toward med school and a career as a surgeon.

But one thing could wreck their carefully planned futures: a genetic test for Huntington’s, a rare degenerative disease that slowly steals control of the body and mind. It’s turned their Israeli mother into a near stranger and fractured the sisters’ own bond in ways they’ll never admit. While Tovah finds comfort in their Jewish religion, Adina rebels against its rules.

When the results come in, one twin tests negative for Huntington’s. The other tests positive.

These opposite outcomes push them farther apart as they wrestle with guilt, betrayal, and the unexpected thrill of first love. How can they repair their relationship, and is it even worth saving?

From debut author Rachel Lynn Solomon comes a luminous, heartbreaking tale of life, death, and the fragile bond between sisters.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Twin sisters with opposite fates.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
Hmm…most of them are spoilers! I’ll go with this one: there’s a scene about 1/4 into the book where the twin protagonists are on a weekend trip to Canada with their parents. They haven’t been speaking much (for many reasons), and they’re both tiptoeing around each other. In the hotel room, one of them turns on the TV, which is playing a cheesy movie they used to like when they were younger. They start making fun of it, tentatively at first because they’re not sure how the other will react, and slowly slip back into something resembling friendship. It’s a fleeting moment — they’ll have to go through many more obstacles and dig much deeper before they can resolve all their issues — but a very sweet one, I think.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
I work from home, and I was on a conference call when my agent called me. I saw her area code, freaked out, and let the phone go to voicemail. When I listened, she said to call her back asap, and after I learned we had an offer and danced a little with my dog, I had to hop on another conference call. I remember IMing one of my coworkers about what happened, and she told me to get off the conference call right away and go celebrate, which I did!

What’s your favorite junk food?
Lately I’ve been obsessed with these one-minute chocolate mug cakes from the baking aisle of the grocery store — you add milk, zap them in the microwave, and voila, a perfect little cake.

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

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Nice Try, Jane Sinner by Lianne Oelke
January 9, 2018 by Clarion Books
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The only thing 17-year-old Jane Sinner hates more than failure is pity. After a personal crisis and her subsequent expulsion from high school, she’s going nowhere fast. Jane’s well-meaning parents push her to attend a high school completion program at the nearby Elbow River Community College, and she agrees, on one condition: she gets to move out.

Jane tackles her housing problem by signing up for House of Orange, a student-run reality show that is basically Big Brother, but for Elbow River Students. Living away from home, the chance to win a car (used, but whatever), and a campus full of people who don’t know what she did in high school… what more could she want? Okay, maybe a family that understands why she’d rather turn to Freud than Jesus to make sense of her life, but she’ll settle for fifteen minutes in the proverbial spotlight.

As House of Orange grows from a low-budget web series to a local TV show with fans and shoddy T-shirts, Jane finally has the chance to let her cynical, competitive nature thrive. She’ll use her growing fan base, and whatever Intro to Psychology can teach her, to prove to the world—or at least viewers of substandard TV—that she has what it takes to win.

Describe your book in five words or less.
College, reality TV, angst, snark.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
There’s this one challenge in the reality show HOUSE OF ORANGE where Jane and her competitors have to live inside a van. Last person left wins. Jane spends days- DAYS- inside that van, with pretty much the worst character I’ve ever written. It’s disgusting and uncomfortable and kind of hilarious.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
I was at work when my agent called to say I had an offer. I was kind of in shock. I pretty much pretended nothing happened as no one I worked with knew I wrote a book! I definitely had celebratory beers with my boyfriend that night, though.

What’s your favorite junk food?
Caramel popcorn. Or salt and vinegar chips!

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
An engraved, gold plated fidget spinner that my sister gave to me for being in her bridal party.


Winterhouse by Ben Guterson
January 2, 2018 from Henry Holt & Co. Books for Young Readers
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An enchanting urban fantasy middle-grade debut―the first book in a trilogy―set in a magical hotel full of secrets.

Orphan Elizabeth Somers’s malevolent aunt and uncle ship her off to the ominous Winterhouse Hotel, owned by the peculiar Norbridge Falls. Upon arrival, Elizabeth quickly discovers that Winterhouse has many charms―most notably its massive library. It’s not long before she locates a magical book of puzzles that will unlock a mystery involving Norbridge and his sinister family. But the deeper she delves into the hotel’s secrets, the more Elizabeth starts to realize that she is somehow connected to Winterhouse. As fate would have it, Elizabeth is the only person who can break the hotel’s curse and solve the mystery. But will it be at the cost of losing the people she has come to care for, and even Winterhouse itself?

Mystery, adventure, and beautiful writing combine in this exciting debut richly set in a hotel full of secrets.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Heroine discovers a magical book.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
I enjoy a scene early in the novel when my main character, Elizabeth Somers, explores the vast library inside the lavish Winterhouse Hotel, which is where she is staying over the Christmas holiday. I love the winter season, I love enormous lodges and mansions, and I love libraries, of course; so it was fun to write about a character who is drawn, mysteriously, to a strange book seemingly forgotten on a shelf in a quiet room.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
I was at work. I quit about three months later.

What’s your favorite junk food?
Every so often, a hamburger from Dick’s Drive-In in Seattle really hits the spot. If that doesn’t officially qualify as junk food, I’ll go with an Almond Joy candy bar–I really love those.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
Very little that might qualify as “odd” on my desk right now–unless postage stamps are odd. I do have “Puzzle No. 3444,” a cryptic crossword torn from the last page of a magazine to which I subscribe. I love cryptic crosswords and have a folder of them I’ve been filling for years.


A Polish Christmas by Ksenia Winnicki | Guest Post (+ Giveaway)

Posted December 11, 2017 by Jana in Giveaway, Guest Post / 5 Comments

Celebrate the Christmas season with That Artsy Reader Girl and her bookish friends! 

Celebrate #ChristmasWithJanaInstagram ✦ Twitter Event Schedule

I love Ksenia so much! She was the very first publicist who took a chance on little old me and sent me my very first ARC (Of Poseidon by Anna Banks) and put me on my very first official blog tour (again, for Of Poseidon). After she left Macmillan I continued to work with her while she was at ABRAMS, Tor, and Simon & Schuster. Now she’s living her dream and writing, and I can’t wait to see where life takes her next! I love hearing about her Polish heritage, so we’re all in for a huge treat today to read about how she celebrates Christmas.

A Polish Christmas

by Ksenia Winnicki
Ksenia in the kitchen cooking yummies.

I love Christmas! Let’s just get that out of the way. I love the decorations, I love the music, and I love decorating a Christmas Tree. But one of the main things I get really excited for is the FOOD! Growing up Polish, I was always surrounded by Polish food anyway, but for some reason, the Polish food at Christmas was just extra special.

But before I start rambling on about the delicious food, let me take a step back and tell you a bit more about a few Polish Christmas traditions. Poland is a Catholic country, and so Christmas is a very big deal. In our Polish household, the main festivities happen on December 24, Christmas Eve, aka Wigilia.

Below, is a list of some of the Polish Christmas traditions and superstitions (including some that my family and I keep):

The first person to enter the household on Christmas Eve has to be a man, otherwise it will bring bad luck. Because my husband and I rent an apartment from my parents in the same building here in Queens, when my mom wants us to pick something up from downstairs that day, she will insist that it be Josh, not me. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

During the day, you’re supposed to be fasting, in preparation for the Christmas supper. With all the other preparations going on during the day, I do in fact forget to eat anyway.

Christmas Eve table setting.

When setting the table, you are to leave one place setting for an extra guest, whether that guest be someone unexpected who is in search of a place to stay that night, or for someone that has departed. The table also has some hay hidden underneath the tablecloth. My mom brought some with her from Bethlehem when my parents visited one year, so we’ve been using that batch of hay for a few years now.

Christmas supper is supposed to begin when you see the first star light up in the sky. My parents and I do not hold to this tradition, but I know a close friend of mine did when she was growing up.

Right before sitting down to eat, there are two very important things that must happen.

Oplatek (picture from wikipedia)

The first one, is that we all take an opłatek (a thin wafer with a religious Christmas image), and go around the room to each person, breaking off a piece of that opłatek from one another, and exchanging good wishes for the upcoming year. There are some dipped in honey, but that is saved for after the meal, so that you may also have a sweet year, too. In addition to the wafer, we all take a bunch of change, and exchange the coins with one another. That way, at the end, you have coins from everyone else. And you are to tuck those coins away and not spend it, in order to ensure prosperity for the coming year.

Midnight Mass is especially a big occasion. For YEARS growing up, my parents and the family friends we spent Christmas with together talked about going to Midnight Mass. My friend and I always took bets on how many bottles of wine our parents would drink instead. One year, finally, one year when I was in college, we all went to Midnight Mass. It was loud! It was boisterous! It’s a whole church filled with Polish people who have been drinking and have been merry all day and night. It’s quite a sight (and sound)!

At midnight, the superstition is that animals begin talking. We sadly, never got to hear any of our cats and dogs speak, because we were either in bed by then or completely did not notice the time go by, and so we had no idea what wisdom our cats and dogs might have given out! Along that same line, my mom’s father (back in Poland) would go out to the barn to share an opłatek with the horses and cows and other farm animals.

Ksenia’s Pierogi

All about the food: In addition to fasting during the day, there is to be no meat. So all the dishes for Wigilia are vegetarian and of the fish-based variety. Any food that has meat can be eaten on Christmas Day. Supposedly, there are to be twelve dishes, because of the twelve apostles. We do not hold to that tradition. For food we traditionally have red borscht with mushroom dumplings, pierogi (with cheese and potato), stuffed cabbage (with rice and mushroom), and carp. My mom likes to make kompot, a sweet and juicy beverage from pears and other dried fruit; for the longest time she would make kutia, this Polish-style pudding with poppy seed and other grains, but then she gave up when she noticed none of us ate it! Over the last several years, I’ve taken up the mantle of hosting Christmas Eve, as well as cooking the majority of the dishes. If you know me, I don’t cook. So instead, I spend the two days prior to Christmas Eve making and cooking stuffed cabbage, pierogi, uszka (the dumplings for the borscht), and some cookies and pies.

Ksenia’s Polish cookbooks.

I’ve accumulated some Polish cookbooks in the last few years, but when it comes to the pierogi, I make sure to follow my grandmother’s recipe!

After the meal, we will sit down for some light desserts, some Polish Christmas carol singing, and then we open our gifts. Depending on how long everyone stays, our Christmas Eve can last long past midnight.

So those are some of the Polish Christmas traditions from my Polish household. Josh is a real trooper and has adapted quite well. ;) I do insist that he works from home on those days I’m cooking for fear of burning down the house.

The one thing I hate is how quickly it all goes by; I wish I could make Christmas Eve last longer!

So to celebrate in the spirit of the season and this post, I have three Polish-themed books to give away! They are:

 

The Dragon of Krakow and other Polish Stories by Richard Monte: A short but great collection of Polish legends featuring a dragon, a mermaid, and more!

Soldier Bear by Bibi Dumon Tak: One of my favorite real Polish heroes is a bear (yes, a bear), a soldier of the Polish II Corps who fought in WWII. His name is Corporal Wojtek, and his story is pretty much amazing and unbelievable.

Push Not the River by James Conroyd Martin: Polish Historical Fiction! This is an epic saga that takes place during the late 1700s, when Poland is being partitioned by Russia, Prussia, and Austria. The story is based off the diaries of a real noblewoman. There’s romance, scheming, politics and more! I read this like ten years ago and have been meaning to revisit. It’s the first in a trilogy!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Hope you’ve all enjoyed this small peek into my Polish heritage! Happy Holidays everyone!!!!!

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