Top Ten Characters I Liked That Were In Books I Didn’t Like

Posted April 2, 2018 by Jana in Top Ten Tuesday / 18 Comments

Today’s TTT topic was submitted by Annemieke of A Dance With Books through the topic suggestion form. If you have ideas for future topics, submit them here!

Ok, so have you ever come across a character who you actually liked but really didn’t like the book they were in? Maybe the character was amazing, but the author never put him/her in the limelight or developed their character enough. Maybe the author had this character do something really dumb? Or maybe this character was just the only bright spot in the book for you. OH, and my least favorite situation? When I LOVED the character until they turned into someone I didn’t love anymore as the series continued. Today we’re showing those characters some love.

Ok, so… confession time: THIS LIST WAS REALLY HARD. It’s hard for me to curate this list because usually the lack of great characters is what makes me hate a book in the first place! I don’t usually dislike a book if I liked the characters. A great character will make it easier on me to enjoy reading a book, even if the story is not resonating with me as much as I’d like. Needless to say, I was pretty stumped. After a TON of thinking, though, I’ve done it!

1. Nikolai from The Crown’s Fate by Evelyn Skye
Nikolai was wonderful in The Crown’s Game, but his character was unrecognizable in a bad way in this sequel. He went in a very heartbreaking direction that I did not get over by the end of the book. He was one of the main reasons I rated this book so low.

2-4. Rafe, Leah, and Kaden from The Beauty of Darkness by Mary E. Pearson
My beloved characters became flat, shells of themselves. Rafe lost his backbone, Leah got selfish and demanding, and Kaden was completely ignored. This book kind of broke my heart all over the place.

5. September from The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente
Now… I liked September, but not as a twelve-year-old. Her voice is very strong and dynamic, but she does not act her age. She acts WAY older, so it all just felt really weird. And that book is a trip. I don’t even know what happened there. lol.

6-7. Emma and Galen from Of Neptune by Anna Banks
Emma became very selfish and immature in this third and final book of the Syrena Legacy trilogy. Also, things I found funny in book one, like Emma’s “ohmysweetgoodness” and “fan-freaking-tastic” and sarcastic quips were not funny this time. I wanted her to grow up a little and show me that she has changed over the years. I didn’t love Galen anymore either. His uses of marine words inserted into human phrases is not endearing anymore. He calls Emma “Angel Fish” and that really started to bug me! He has also gotten way too broody. I loved the romance in the first book, but things really fizzled in book 2 and even more in this one. I don’t even believe their love story anymore.

8. Jules’s Father in Everless by Sara Holland
This man is sweet and caring and loyal and way too good for his crappy, lying daughter.

9. Catherine in Heartless by Marissa Meyer
Catherine is sweet and spunky and so full of innocence and hope. I just loved her personality and her quirky love of baking and her sarcasm. We all know how she turns out (Queen of Hearts, duh), but boy was I hoping for a different outcome.

10. Rose from Public Relations by Katie Heaney and Adrianna Rebolini
I liked Rose for her ability to stand up for herself (and not keep quiet as she was instructed) and voice her opinions during the client meeting that would inevitably change her life. Her inner monologue was very entertaining. The book itself was pretty awful.

So there you have it! Which characters are you loving on today?
Do you agree with any of my picks?

And did you have as hard a time as I did coming up with your list this week? Do you tend to dislike books, but still like the characters? It’s super rare for me.

 

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The Debut Dish: Lindsay Champion & Amelia Brunskill (+ Giveaways)

Posted April 1, 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 Lindsay Champion (Someday, Somewhere) and Amelia Brunskill (The Window).


Someday, Somewhere by Lindsay Champion
April 3, 2018 from KCP Loft / Kids Can Press
Add to Goodreads | Author Website

Dominique is a high school junior from a gritty neighborhood in Trenton, where she and her mom are barely getting by.

Ben is a musical prodigy from the Upper East Side, a violinist at a top conservatory with obsessive talent and a brilliant future.

When Dom’s class is taken to hear a concert at Carnegie Hall, she expects to be bored out of her mind. But then she sees the boy in the front row playing violin like his life depends on it — and she is transfixed.

Posing as an NYU student, Dom sneaks back to New York City to track down Ben Tristan, a magnetic genius who whisks her into a fantasy world of jazz clubs and opera, infatuation and possibility. Each sees something in the other that promises to complete them.

As Dom’s web of lies grows, though, so does Ben’s obsessive need to conquer Beethoven’s famous Kreutzer Sonata. But Ben’s genius, which captivates Dominique, conceals a secret, and the challenges of her life may make it difficult to help him.

Alternating perspectives and an unreliable narrator create suspense and momentum, romance and heartbreak. Author Lindsay Champion’s deep roots in theater and music are evident on every page — structured like a sonata with hints of West Side Story, her debut novel hits all the right notes.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Teens find art, love, themselves.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
SOMEDAY, SOMEWHERE is written in first-person, with alternating accounts from the perspectives of the two main characters, Dominique and Ben. In my favorite scene, Dom and Ben share their first kiss while riding the subway. As they kiss, the point of view switches to second person (“we” and “us”) and the language becomes more poetic – it’s a cool trick to heighten the stakes of the scene and help readers understand what an important moment this is for the characters. (And because I’m a huge symmetry nerd, I also love that it happens right in the middle of the book!)

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
What an amazing day – I was at my favorite restaurant of all time, Upstate (don’t let the name fool you, it’s in the East Village, in New York City). It was a gorgeous summer day, and my fiancé and I had both gotten out of work early and were hanging out, having an early dinner, which we almost never get to do. He got up to go to the bathroom, I checked my phone, and there it was…the most glorious email to end all emails, from my agent, Sarah Davies: “Kate Egan, the editorial director of KCP Loft, loves your book!” It was a perfect moment I’ll never, ever forget.

What’s your favorite junk food?
It’s an extremely difficult toss-up between peanut butter cups and pizza. Don’t make me choose.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
An alpaca stuffed animal named Andre-Andrew.

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The Window by Amelia Brunskill
April 3, 2018 from Delacorte
Add to Goodreads | Author Website

Anna is everything her identical twin is not. Outgoing and athletic, she is the opposite of quiet introvert Jess. The same on the outside, yet so completely different inside–it’s hard to believe the girls are sisters, let alone twins. But they are. And they tell each other everything.

Or so Jess thought.

After Anna falls to her death while sneaking out her bedroom window, Jess’s life begins to unravel. Everyone says it was an accident, but to Jess, that doesn’t add up. Where was Anna going? Who was she meeting? And how long had Anna been lying to her?

Jess is compelled to learn everything she can about the sister she thought she knew. At first it’s a way to stay busy and find closure . . . but Jess soon discovers that her twin kept a lot of secrets. And as she digs deeper, she learns that the answers she’s looking for may be truths that no one wants her to uncover.

Because Anna wasn’t the only one with secrets.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Twins: One lost, one searching.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
The book is mostly from Jess’s perspective, with snippets of Anna’s thoughts from the night that she died. There is only one scene in the whole book where Anna and Jess are both together, and I think that is my favorite scene, because it is where we get to see them interacting and get a true sense of what they meant to each other.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
I was on the couch at home, and it was in the evening, so I had assumed that there would be no news coming that day. Then I got an email from my agent, who was on vacation in London, with the subject line “Interest from Random House!”. I read it about four times, and then made my husband read it. He thought it was going to be bad news because apparently I looked completely freaked out!

What’s your favorite junk food?
It really is hard to beat Chubby Hubby ice cream from Ben & Jerry’s. There is something miraculous about the combination of malt ice cream and peanut butter filled pretzels.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
An old wooden mannequin hand, which is one of the coolest and the creepiest things that I own.

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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
Add to Goodreads
AmazonBarnes & NobleBook Depository • iBooks • IndieBoundKobo

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.

Website | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook

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Make sure you follow the rest of the tour for more great content!

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Starry Eyes by Jenn Bennett | Book Review

Posted March 28, 2018 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult / 8 Comments

Starry Eyes by Jenn Bennett | Book ReviewStarry Eyes by Jenn Bennett
Published by Simon Pulse on April 3, 2018
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Contemporary Romance, Romance
Pages: 432
Format: eARC
Source: From the publisher through Edelweiss
Amazon Add to Goodreads
5 Stars
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?

Jenn Bennett is a wonderful storyteller, and is quickly becoming a YA author that I trust to provide some really sweet, swoony contemporary romances. After really enjoying Alex, Approximately, I was excited to spot this next book of hers on Edelweiss. I’m happy to report that I loved this one even more. As always, my main points are bolded.

1. I was immediately drawn to the unique plot elements that were mentioned in the synopsis. Former best friends go camping and end up stranded in the wilderness, having to fend for themselves. I love survival stories, and stories that take place outdoors so I really loved this idea. It was done SO WELL.

2. I loved the little tidbits about how to survive outdoors, as well as the beautiful descriptions of scenery. There’s a pretty intense thunderstorm that happens in this book, and I was captivated by the way the author portrayed it.

3. The characters are sweet and quirky. I know I will never forget Lennon, son of a sex shop owning lesbian couple and a punk rocker has-been. He loves reptiles and graphic novels, wears all black, and has spiky hair and a dry sense of humor. He’s also very loving, loyal, kind of broken, and very mysterious. I loved him! Zorie is a wannabe astronomer, who gazes at life through the eyepiece of her telescope. Her birth mother died when she was young, and she’s fallen in love with her dad’s Korean wife, Joy, and adopted her as her real mom. This family, like all families, has some issues. As Zorie and Lennon work to survive the wilderness and the elements, they talk and work through how to survive their lives as well. They both grow so much individually as well as together, and I loved watching them process real emotions together.

4. Things got really good for me once the glamping trip ended and Lennon and Zorie were left to fend for themselves. Don’t get me wrong, I liked the parts leading up to that, but I got super invested at this point in the story and had a really hard time putting my book down to go to bed.

5. There was a strong focus on friendship and relationships that I loved.

6. I don’t want to spoil it, but there’s some major girl power moments towards the end of the book that had me cheering. I love strong women in books because they inspire me to be more assertive and not take crap from anyone.

All in all, I loved Starry Eyes. It’s swoony and deep and angsty and full of so much reality, set against the love-hate relationship between two best-friends-turned-enemies as they traverse the elements and depend on one another to survive the literal wilderness, as well as their own wild, untamed lives.

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Top Ten Books That Take Place In Another Country

Posted March 26, 2018 by Jana in Top Ten Tuesday / 60 Comments

I don’t know about you, but I LOVE going to other countries in books. It’s fun to read about the ones I want to visit and re-visit the ones I’ve been to. In a couple months we’ll be talking about books that awaken the travel bug in us, so I’m being very selective and not including books with strong travel themes so I can share those then. I’m hoping that this week’s topic will expand my TBR like crazy. I can’t wait to see where books have taken you!


Starry Nights
by Daisy Whitney (France)
Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins (France)
The Conspiracy of Us by Maggie Hall (France to Turkey)


Hunting Prince Dracula
by Kerri Maniscalco (Romania)
Heist Society by Ally Carter (Italy, Austria, Poland, France, England)
Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor (Czech Republic)

From What I Remember… by Stacy Kramer & Val Thomas (Mexico)
The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater (Thisby)
(I’m cheating with this one since Thisby doesn’t exist, but the author said that she pictured it as being a place like Ireland or Scotland, and it definitely feels like it!)
Stolen: A Letter to My Captor by Lucy Christopher (Australia)
Dangerous Girls by Abigail Haas (Aruba)

Which countries have you enjoyed visiting through books? I want a ton of recommendations, so I’m going to do my best to visit all of you. But if there’s something you REALLY love, can you tell me in the comments so I definitely don’t miss it?

 

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Books That Belong In the Freezer | Discussion

Posted March 22, 2018 by Jana in Discussion / 32 Comments

Ok, so I re-watch the TV show Friends, in all of its silly and heartwarming glory at least once a year and recently I came across the episode where Joey and Rachel push books on each other. Rachel comes across a copy of The Shining by Stephen King in Joey’s freezer and learns that Joey puts books in the freezer if they get too scary for him to handle. Anyway, they end up trading books: Joey has Rachel read The Shining, and Rachel has Joey read Little Women. Hilariousness ensues.

 

So my question for you today is: have you read any books that you would put in the freezer if you were Joey? Maybe they are scary or something sad is about to happen and you don’t want it to. I don’t read sad books, so that aspect doesn’t apply to me. And I haven’t read many REALLY scary books because I’m a wimp, but I’ve read a few that had me pretty freaked out (you might think I’m a chicken, which is fine):

Hold Your Breath by Katie Ruggle is an amazing romantic suspense book with a bad guy who watches his victim through the window at night while she sleeps. I pretty much only have time to read in bed at night, and I’ve never been more grateful for living on the second floor and having mini blinds AND curtains. Nobody will ever see me.

Till Death by Jennifer Armentrout is terrifying. lol. Luckily I read it while on a cruise with my family, so I was never alone.

The Woman In Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware takes place on a cruise liner, and the heroine hears evidence of a murder and nobody believes her except the killer who is now after her. AHHHH.

Shadowlands by Kate Brian scared me way more than I thought it would. Girl escapes the clutches of a serial killer, enters the witness protection program, and then uh oh. The writing is pretty great, so I was super scared.

Don’t Look Back by Jennifer L. Armentrout features a girl who went missing with her friend and then returned alone with no memory of who she is or what happened to her. This is kind of my worst nightmare, guys.

Ok, so throw your scary/super sad/traumatizing books
at me that make you totally understand where Joey is coming from. 

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Top Ten Books On My Spring 2018 TBR

Posted March 19, 2018 by Jana in Top Ten Tuesday / 23 Comments

If you live on the other side of the world, please tell us what’s on your Fall to-be-read list this year. :)

Happy first day of spring! I love the green and the flowers and the bird songs that spring brings, so I’m excited even though I love cold weather and snow. This week’s topic encourages you to look ahead and see what you’re excited to read this season.

Do you feel like you tend to read certain kinds of books during this time of year? I definitely feel like the seasons influence the books I pick. I tend to gravitate towards contemporary romance and light women’s fiction. But I’m such a mood reader. lol. I always struggled with these seasonal TBRs when we did them at The Broke and the Bookish, but they were so popular that I knew I couldn’t get rid of them when I took over. So… Here’s my list of books that I want to read soon, but who knows if I really will?

 

By the Book by Julia Sonneborn
The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory
Freshmen by Tom Ellen and Lucy Ivison
When Joss Met Matt by Ellie Cahill

 

The Distance from Me to You by Marina Gessner
There You’ll Find Me by Jenny B. Jones
By Your Side by Kasie West
A Field Guide for Heartbreakers by Kristen Tracy

 

Starry Eyes by Jenn Bennett
The Duchess Deal by Tessa Dare

Have you read any of these yet? What did you think?
What’s on your spring TBR?

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Ten Books I Was Surprised Impacted Me the Way They Did

Posted March 12, 2018 by Jana in Top Ten Tuesday / 35 Comments

Today’s topic is the top ten books that surprised you, in either a good or a bad way. Is there a book you thought you’d love, but ended up hating? Was there a book you thought you’d hate but really loved? Major plot twist? Main character ends up with someone you weren’t expecting? Were you expecting a certain something from a certain author and they went completely rogue?

This topic is kind of similar to the “Books I Can’t Believe I Read” topic we did a few weeks ago. At least, that’s how my mind is thinking about this, so I’m forcing myself to spin this topic enough so that I don’t have too many duplicates. My spin is entitled:

Ten Books I Was Surprised Impacted Me the Way They Did
(This is kind of hilarious title, I know…)

Ok, let me explain. I’ve read a lot of books over the course of my life that caused extreme reactions from me, both good and bad. I’ve been scarred by some books, and I’ve also been uplifted and changed by some books. My list today showcases the books that have popped up in my mind for one reason or another over the years, and have impacted me in long-lasting ways I wasn’t expecting. There will most likely be some spoilers in this list, so if you see a book cover of a book you were hoping to read and don’t want to be spoiled, just skip past the words below it and on to the next cover. :) Then you’ll be safe.

 

1. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
Ok, so this is an extreme negative reaction kind of book. I read this in middle school, and it shook me to my core for one reason and has stuck with me ever since. If you’ve read it, I’m sure you remember what George did the Lennie. I was blindsided and really upset by this.

 

2. Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
Here’s another bad book for me. A beloved pet dies in this book, in a very graphic way. The author pretty much spares no details, and readers read every gruesome detail. It killed me. My 4th grade teacher read this in class, and 21 years later I am still scarred by it. If I find out an animal dies in a book, I blacklist it no matter how great the rest of the book might be. It’s a 100% deal breaker for me.

 

3. Night by Eli Wiesel
I tend to really struggle with Holocaust books because it kills me to read about humans doing such awful things to humans. Like, how is the Holocaust a thing that actually happened and not a horror novel that is too bad to be true? I read this in undergrad for my Ethics and Values class, and I was pretty worried it would destroy me. And it is soooo sad, yes. But it’s written in a way that made me hopeful and uplifted. I was super surprised to find such a heartbreaking book that could lift me up at the same time. I really enjoyed Night, and it has stuck with me for years.

 

4. Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
I had no idea that this book would be the book that made me discover the magical world of YA and fall in love with reading again… at age 18, no less (New Moon had just been released… so that shows my age a little. lol). A romance with sparkly vampires pretty much changed my life. I’ll be forever grateful for it.

 

5. The Guardian by Nicholas Sparks
I loved this book until it crushed me. It also made me swear off all Nicholas Sparks books until the end of time. AND it made me realize I need to be better about making sure no animal die in books. IT WAS NICHOLAS SPARKS. What was I thinking!? I should have known… Whatever is pictured on one of his covers… at least 50% of it will die.

 

6. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Every time I hear this title or see this book, a feeling of darkness washes over me. I read this as a child in school, and I was a very very tender and sensitive child. The violence and destruction in this book caused feelings in me that I can still feel if I’m in the right situation.

(Intermission message: I’m quickly being reminded that school stole my love of reading and kind of traumatized me. lol.)

 

7. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
It has been a LONG time since I’ve read a book that has made me THIS MAD. lol. I was very surprised by the extreme rage it drew from me. And honestly, I knew going in that it would make me mad, but my professor in library school made me read it. It did nothing good for me. lol. For more of my thoughts, read my review.

 

8. Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard
This book taught me that books can truly change your life. I mean, I suppose I knew this already. lol. What bookworm doesn’t know this? But Wanderlove reallllly did for me. And this is the first book I ever bought a hardback of after reading an egalley because I wanted to own a finished copy for my collection.

 

9. On the Island by Tracey Garvis-Graves
I feel like this book pops up a lot on my TTT lists because it was so groundbreaking for me. First off, it changed my mind about self-published books (I used to never give them a chance, but then this gem found me… and yeah, On the Island was self-pubbed before Penguin got it). I’d heard so many horror stories of bloggers being harassed by self-published authors, not to mention I’d rarely read a good review for self-published books. I started to see a red flag every time I saw that a book was self-published because I was either convinced it would be a bad read or that I’d get harassed for my inevitably unfavorable review. I know, this is a bad thing to think. lol. Luckily this book changed my mind and I’ve since read a ton of really amazing self-published books I never would have given a second look before. On the Island also changed my mind about age gaps in relationships, and it made me really fall in love with survival-type story lines. I had no idea going in to this book that I would love it soooo much, much less finish it.

 

10. Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch
Ok, so this is my most recent love (and a new favorite book), and I still can’t stop thinking about how much I loved it!! I thought I was kind of done with contemporary YA because nothing had been working for me in a few years (much to my dismay). But I have a major soft spot for Italy books. I mean, it’s Italy. I thought I’d be able to suffer through it at the very least. I was seriously surprised that Jenna Evans Welch was able convince me that there’s still something for me in YA contemporary lit. But she did, and I’ve fallen in love with the genre all over again!

Which books have surprised you?

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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
Add to Goodreads | Author Website

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
Add to Goodreads | Author Website

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
Add to Goodreads | Author Website

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
Add to Goodreads | Author Website

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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Jaime Questell’s Mood Board for By a Charm and a Curse | Guest Post

Posted March 8, 2018 by Jana in Debut Author Challenge, Guest Post, Mood Board / 1 Comment

I’m excited to welcome 2018 debut author, Jaime Questell, to the blog today to share with us her mood board for By a Charm and a Curse! She chose some really pretty pictures, and I love her reasonings for choosing them.

 

Jaime Questell’s Mood Board for By a Charm and a Curse

I’m the kind of writer who finds mood boards incredibly helpful when writing. If I feel a little stumped or unsure what to write next, then I go back to my mood boards to try to recapture that feeling the picture inspired. So here are a few of the photos that I collected while writing By a Charm and a Curse.

To start, obviously, a Ferris wheel. That was one of the first images I had in my mind when I came up with the story and one of the first I found for my mood board. I love the glowing lights and the rickety little cars. And this photo of a Ferris wheel against a twilight sky, feels exactly the way I wanted the start of my novel to feel.

One of the next photos I found was this vintage photo of three tumblers. As someone who is very uncoordinated, I was immediately taken in by how in control these three are, and how each is dependent on the other. The Moretti brothers, for all their faults, operate under that inherent trust and belief in each other.

The Dresden Dolls were a big inspiration for this novel, and this photo of their drummer, Brian Viglione, helped shape my early imaginings of Sidney into a real character. I love how in this pic, Viglione is wearing vintage clothes but seems completely modern, like a person stuck in time. And while the Sidney on the page doesn’t match up exactly with Viglione in this photo, I think the spirit is still there.

Much like the vintage photo of the tumblers, when I came across this vintage photo of a young equestrian being trained by (in my imagination, if not in fact) her dad, I knew I needed characters like this.

Anyone who’s read the book knows that a pivotal scene takes place on a carousel, and I took that opportunity to fill the ride with as many fantastic creatures and bright colors as I could, all while coming back to the soft glow of this photo. I have always loved carousels (my husband and I even took our engagement photos on one!), especially the art of them, the deeply saturated colors and movement captured in the figures.

This photo of a woman in a modified ringmaster’s costume always made me think of Leslie. The confident way she’s holding herself, the sense you get that, even though she’s not looking at the camera, she’s surveying that which belongs to her. All that’s missing to really make her Leslie is blond curls.

And finally, this photo of a carnival as seen from above, in the early morning. Or at least, what I’m choosing to believe is early morning and not sunset. That was a feeling I wanted to capture: what does a carnival feel like when it’s not teeming with people? I hope I succeeded, at least a little.


By a Charm and a Curse by Jaime Questell
Published by Entangled Teen on February 6, 2018
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Add to Goodreads
Buy from Amazon

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.

Editorial Reviews for By a Charm and a Curse

“A dark idea for a YA story, executed deftly and with feeling.” — Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“A real page-turner! I was so charmed by this book filled with mystery and magical mayhem that I wasn’t able to put it down until the end.” — Brenda Drake, New York Times bestselling author

“What a ride! From the very first page, By a Charm and a Curse took me on a roller coaster of emotions—and I never wanted to get off!” — Pintip Dunn, New York Times bestselling author


About Jaime Questell

Jaime Questell is a writer and graphic designer from Houston, Texas. She has also been a bookseller, a professional knitter, a semi-professional baker, and an administrative assistant. None of these jobs involved wrangling corgis, which is quite sad. She lives in the ‘burbs with her husband, children, and pets.

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