Sunday, September 30, 2012

Recap: Austin Teen Book Festival 2012

I headed down to Austin this weekend for the Austin Teen Book Festival, an amazing line up of 31 authors. It was a stellar event, with so many awesome moments, and plenty of laughs and memories. From a blogger/writer meet up dinner on Friday to the actual event on Saturday, trust me when I say Texas so does it right.

Saturday kicked off with Libba Bray's keynote speech, which definitely played pinball with my emotions. From laughs to tearing up, she sort of hits it all, but does it so well. Not to mention, with an opening filled with fog and a lightsaber fight, and closing it out with a group sing along of Total Eclipse of the Heart, this was a speech to remember.

From there, I hit up the Real Life Happens panel, moderating by the hilarious John Corey Waley, and featuring Jesse Andrews, Guadalupe McCall Garcia, EM Kokie, and Jessica Lee Anderson. This was a fabulous group of authors, who were hysterical, and played off each other so well. With some great pieces of advice and some great stories, this was my favorite panel of the day.

Next up for me was the Creature Comforts panel, moderated by Sophie Jordan (do you guys know how much I love that woman?) and featuring Scott Speer, Anna Banks, Gina Damico, Tara Hudson, and Martha Brockenbrough. This panel, too, had me cracking up, and totally piqued my interest in the books of theirs I haven't yet read. So, naturally, I bought them while I was there...

Next was the We're Not in Kansas Anymore panel, moderated by Sarah Rees Brennan (do you guys have any idea how funny she is?), and featuring Libba Bray, Leigh Bardugo, Kami Garcia, Margaret Stohl, and Rae Carson. With questions being answered like what is the most embarrassing or enviable thing have you done for research, this panel was a ton of fun, and so interesting.

The last panel I attended was What Would You Do for Love, moderated by Tracy Deebs, and featuring Allie Condie, Kresley Cole, Jessica Shirvington, Tamara Ireland Stone, and Jessica Khoury. Naturally, this panel had much talk of hot boys, and I loved hearing the answers to each author having to describe their hero and heroine in 5 words!

After that final panel, it was time to meet the authors and get books signed! I had a ton of fun getting to meet authors of some of my favorite books, talk to them about their books, writing, etc, and also just hang out with other readers. There really is something so awesome about being in a big room with hundreds of readers, of all ages. The event was a blast, and the panels were all fabulous. There were 6 panels total, but only enough time for 4, but the 4 I did attend were so worth it.

Now for a bunch of pictures of me with the various authors I met and chatted with. I didn't take pictures with everyone because I'm silly, and forgetful....

 Scott Speer (Immortal City)

 Tamara Ireland Stone (Time Between Us)

 Jesse Andrews (Me, Earl and the Dying Girl)

Rae Carson (Girl of Fire and Thorns, Crown of Embers)

 Eliot Schrefer (The School for Dangerous Girls, Endangered)

 Martha Brockenbrough (Devine Intervention)

Ally Carter (Gallagher Girls series, Heist Society)

Jessica Shirvington (Embrace, Entice)
(Also, I love this woman's accent)

 Dan Krokos (False Memory)

EM Kokie (Personal Effects)

And now, I can't wait for next year's event!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Character Interview + Contest: Keefe from Keeper of the Lost Cities

I am so incredibly excited to have Keefe dropping in today! Keefe is just one of many awesome characters from Shannon Messenger's Keeper of the Lost Cities, hitting shelves on Tuesday! This book utterly amazed me in the best of ways, and is definitely high on my Kari Recommends to Everyone List, so make sure you check it out! And if that's not enough to entice you, then meet Keefe, my favorite character from the book!

Tell us about yourself, in 5 words.

Shockingly good-looking and incredibly awesome.
(It's not bragging when it's true)
(and hyphenated words totally count as one)

So... what do you think of Sophie?

Hey, what gives? I thought this was my interview. Doesn't Foster get enough attention with all her, "oh look, I caused another huge, world-changing thing to happen"?

*sighs dramatically*

But she's pretty cool, I guess. Not as cool as me, of course. But pretty cool. And don't believe her when she claims she's not mysterious. Trust me, that girl is one giant mystery.

How'd you and Fitz become friends?

He saw how awesome I was and followed me around school BEGGING me to be his friend. At first I was like, I dunno, this kid's a bit too "I am Captain Perfect" for my taste. But then I decided, eh, why not? I'll make the kid's life and maybe get him to chill a bit. (And don't believe his lies if he tells you anything different. That's exactly how it went down!)

What's the craziest thing you've ever done? And the worst thing you've ever gotten detention for?

I'm going to have to go with "no comment" to that first question, because no one knows that was me yet.


As for the worst thing I've gotten detention for... that would probably be the time I turned the lab table in my alchemy session to silver. I may have overestimated how potent that formula was, and didn't realize that it would turn everything touching the table to silver too. But Elwin was totally able to fix the skin on Lady Galvin's hand, and come on, she told me to impress her! What else was I supposed to do?

So I hear there's been a Great Gulon Incident.... tell us what happened.

Well, since I had nothing to do with this so-called "incident" *coughs* I can't really say what did or didn't happen. Except that of course whoever planned something that awesome was clearly a genius.

There's a Team Keefe forming (of which I am a proud member). How do you feel about that?

Finally, the world is starting to make sense! Now all I need is a day in my honor. Don't you think "Keefe Sencen Day" would be the perfect holiday? Everyone would ditch school to play pranks on each other and then shower me with presents and candy. Can you make that happen? You are a member of Team Keefe, after all, so isn't that kind of your job?

Thank you, Keefe, for stopping in, and I'll see what I can do about Keefe Sencen Day.

Want more of Shannon, Keefe and Keeper of the Lost Cities? Check out the full tour details and hit up Shannon's blog.

While you can get your hands on Keeper of the Lost Cities on Tuesday (maybe even now if you're lucky and your local bookstore has it out already!), you have to wait for Shannon's YA debut coming out next March, Let the Sky Fall (also utterly amazing and stunning and emotional and awesome)... or you can fill out the Rafflecopter form below, and be entered to win 1 of 10 ARCs! Trust me. You want to.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Book Review: Live Through This by Mindi Scott

SUMMARY: From the outside, Coley Sterling’s life seems pretty normal . . . whatever that means. It’s not perfect—her best friend is seriously mad at her and her dance team captains keep giving her a hard time—but Coley’s adorable, sweet crush Reece helps distract her. Plus, she has a great family to fall back on—with a mom and stepdad who would stop at nothing to keep her siblings and her happy.

But Coley has a lot of secrets. She won’t admit—not even to herself—that her almost-perfect life is her own carefully-crafted fa├žade. That for years she’s been burying the shame and guilt over a relationship that crossed the line. Now that Coley has the chance at her first real boyfriend, a decade’s worth of lies are on the verge of unraveling.

In this unforgettable powerhouse of a novel, Mindi Scott offers an absorbing, layered glimpse into the life of an everygirl living a nightmare that no one would suspect.


Live Through This is raw and painful, but also has plenty of fun and sweetness mixed in. This one is truly the perfect blend of something huge, something horrible, mixed with just trying to live your life. Coley very much ignores what’s happening to her, and does a remarkable job putting on an easy and brave front that she has her stuff together. Scott so beautifully weaves this into the book, but also lets Coley grow out of control in a very honest, realistic way.

I love Coley. She is a stunningly done character, a girl who just wants to get together with the boy she’s crushing on, become captain of her dance team, and hang out with her friends. She has a great sense of humor, is so loyal to her family, and is a great friend despite some problems with her best friend. Yeah, something bad is happening to her too, but there is such a strong drive in her not just to hide it, but to not let it ruin her life. While this certainly has its own impact on her, it also speaks so much for who she is, and this not only helps build her character and develop her, but makes her relatable and sympathetic.

Then there’s Reece, the love interest who is charming in the most dorky and sweet ways. He’s not the typical kind of guy, a scrawny guy who’s in band, but he’s open and honest and just so, so caring. Reece wormed his way into my heart, and totally had me rooting for him. I loved the romance in this one, from the Christmas gifts these two exchange to the way they finally tell each other they do, in fact, want to date. It’s so open, so real, and so awkward. Scott nails not only that unsure stage of liking someone and being pretty sure they like you back but also not totally knowing how to handle it, but also what it’s like to let someone into your life when you’ve got your own bits of darkness.

Even more notable about Live Through This, besides the fabulously done characterizations, is how, to me, this book stands apart from others with similar subject matter. In a way, Scott dances in a gray area of abuse, reminding readers abuse doesn’t always look like abuse, even if is still leaves its mark. What Coley goes through, and her reactions to it, are capture so honestly, I couldn’t help but feel punched in the gut. If you ever wonder why someone going through this doesn't just tell, Live Through This absolutely captures the confusion, the feelings, and even hints of loyalty that can come with something like this. Testing the layers of trust, and drawing out some hard truths, this one has a raw potency to it that even the cutest of moments doesn't override. Even if instinct says good things can't keep happening to someone going through what Coley is, or she shouldn't be distracted by the more trivial things in life, Scott proves that wrong without forcing it down the reader's throat. There is something softly fluid about Live Through This that jumps back and forth between the dark and the light, blending them as things progress without losing the reader's interest.

Source: ARC received from author/publisher in exchange for an honest review
Reading Level: 14 and up  
Paperback: 304 pages 
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication Date: October 2, 2012

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Book Review: Veleveteen by Daniel Marks

SUMMARY: Velveteen Monroe is dead. At 16, she was kidnapped and murdered by a madman named Bonesaw. But that’s not the problem.

The problem is she landed in purgatory. And while it’s not a fiery inferno, it’s certainly no heaven. It’s gray, ashen, and crumbling more and more by the day, and everyone has a job to do. Which doesn’t leave Velveteen much time to do anything about what’s really on her mind.


Velveteen aches to deliver the bloody punishment her killer deserves. And she’s figured out just how to do it. She’ll haunt him for the rest of his days.

It’ll be brutal... and awesome.

But crossing the divide between the living and the dead has devastating consequences. Velveteen’s obsessive haunting cracks the foundations of purgatory and jeopardizes her very soul. A risk she’s willing to take—except fate has just given her reason to stick around: an unreasonably hot and completely off-limits coworker.

Velveteen can’t help herself when it comes to breaking rules... or getting revenge. And she just might be angry enough to take everyone down with her.


Dark, funny, and twisted, Velveteen is an enticing tale with some great twists. Velvet is a fascinating character, headstrong and determined, yet also harboring her own bits of weakness, making for a great character arc amidst the bigger going-ons. With a bold, fluid writing style, and a stellar cast, this one had me completely hooked.

I love Velvet. She cracked me up, and especially her interactions and flirty romance with Nick had me in stitches plenty of times. Holding on tight to her anger at the man who killed her, but also scared in her own way of the memories of her last days/hours, Velvet is a beautifully developed, multi-faceted character. Getting to really know her was one of the best parts of the book, from her worst moments to her great ones. She is loyal to others, but also to herself, even if she muddies the lines between the two at times.

Nick is an equally stunning character, a guy who brought so much life and humor to things, even in the dreary place they live. With an interesting view on things, and a knack for getting right to the heart of something, Nick made for a great pairing for Velvet, without letting the book focus or be side railed by the romance. Some hit and steamy kisses along the way play into not only who each character is but how they can be together, and Nick’s character adds a lot of development to the other characters as well. He makes Velvet stronger, letting her lean on him when needed without expecting her to completely stand behind him. The back and forth, and play offs, between the two was easily one of my favorite aspects of this book.

The world Marks has created is vivid, easy to imagine yet shocking in it’s scope. There are so many little things thrown in, capturing the full magnitude of Purgatory, and yet Marks also leaves some things to the reader’s imagination to fill in. The plot, too, has plenty of twists and turns, some parts which can be predicted and others that will kick you in the gut. Small things mean something later, and red herrings are rampant. Velveteen is beautifully scripted and boldly executed to make for a book that holds great elements of story, world and characters. Add in the writing that sucked me, and the dark humor throughout, and Velveteen is a memorable and engaging book.

Source: ARC received from author in exchange for an honest review 
Reading level: Ages 12 and up 
Hardcover: 464 pages 
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Reades
Publication Date: October 9, 2012

Friday, September 21, 2012

Author Interview: Butter by Erin Jade Lange

Stopping in today is Erin Jade Lange, author of the amazing and compelling book Butter. This book utterly enamored me, and is one that is almost impossible for me to accurately say why it got to me so much. I loved this one, and am so excited to be able to interview Erin!

Describe yourself in three words.

Obsessive Compulsive List-maker

Which aspect of creating Butter's character was the most challenging for you?

At times I found Butter unlikeable, and that was difficult, because I wanted everyone to love him. But I had to stay true to the character, and the truth is he is often his own worst enemy.

What was the revising/editing process like for BUTTER?

My editor has a wonderful way of showing me what’s missing or not working… but leaving it up to my imagination to fix it. It helps make revising a creative process for me instead of a tedious chore. I am hyper-organized, so my revision process generally involves a LOT of Post-Its and a pile of notebooks with pages and pages of notes.

Of the entire journey, getting to publication, what moment has stood out the most to you or meant the most?

Oh wow. What a wild ride this has been! There are so many moments that stand out, but I think the biggest one was when I first learned a publisher was interested in the book. I had just stepped off a plane for a visit to my home town, and I turned on my phone to find a string of missed messages from my agent. She let me know that an offer was probably on the way, and I remember just standing in the middle of the airport parking lot frantically texting while my parents were trying to hug me hello. Fortunately, when I finally looked up to tell them what was happening, they were just as excited as I was!

The menu for Butter's final meal is a relatively big part of the book, leading up to his internet show. Was creating the menu easy for you, or difficult?

The menu was more of a challenge than I thought it would be. It definitely went through a few revisions! I had to consider how he would store the food, whether it needed to be prepared ahead of time, and what items he would take off the list when he started to define the parameters of his last meal.

If you could pair Butter with any character from any book, who would you pick?

How about Luna Lovegood from the Harry Potter series? I think Butter would love her eccentricities, and she would be able to see past his outer appearance.

What kind of cupcake would you describe yourself as?

I can tell you the kind of cupcake I’d like to eat! Chocolate cake filled with peanut butter, iced with fudge and topped with fresh banana slices. Mmmm. Now I’m hungry…

Thank you, Erin, for dropping in, and congrats on the release!

Butter is out not, and trust me when I say it is one you do not want to miss! 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Mini Reviews: Defiance, Rage Inside and What's Left of Me

Defiance by CJ Redwine: I admit it. CJ Redwine is a plotting genius. Defiance has an incredibly intricate plot, and a world that is built so tightly, and so magnificently, it lured me in. Though I had a hard time with the romance in this one, and Logan's voice didn't feel all that authentic to me, the plot kept my interest and had me so invested. This isn't just a girl trying to push back against a society where women really only look pretty, nor is it only about a girl standing on her own two feet. There is a great depth to Rachel that had me hooked. My issues with this one mostly were with Logan, who's character arc didn't feel as strong to me, nor did he stay memorable in the way Rachel did. Despite this, he too had his moments that drew me in.

Rage Inside by Jeyn Roberts: I love this series, from how utterly creepy it is to the depths it holds to the characters. This one takes some really unexpected and gutting turns, and though one particular reveal was predictable, Roberts plays up to it and executes it in a way that will still kick you in the gut. With little things thrown in here or there that truly enhance just how psychologically freaky this book is, and characters who are flawed, who are scared, but who are also fiercely determined to survive, Rage Inside continues to build where Rage Within left off, and builds it so amazingly. The world these books portray are way too easy to imagine becoming reality, and yet Roberts so often keeps the focus on the characters themselves, managing her four focused characters in a seemingly easy manner. While there was one twist right at the end that didn't sit right with me, Rage Inside is still a completely satisfying follow up and has me eager for more.

What's Left of Me by Kat Zhang: This book is so original in a lot of ways, but what made it stand out even more for me was how well executed and how well written it was. There is a lot of beauty and depth to this one, subtle meaning behind so much of the more basic and seemingly straightforward aspects. Addie and Eva have their own sorts of struggles, from how strong they are to what they want and everything in between, and there is something stunning about how Zhang has interplayed this. I loved the plot of this one, even if at times it felt a little slow, but even more so, I loved how focused on Addie and Eva the book remained, even with the outside stuff being thrown at them.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Book Review + Giveaway: Speechless by Hannah Harrington

To celebrate the recent release of Speechless, Hannah Harrington's sophomore novel, I've got not only my review for why I loved this book so much, but a chance for you to win a copy, as well as info about the Love is Louder campaign!

SUMMARY: Everyone knows that Chelsea Knot can’t keep a secret. Until now. Because the last secret she shared turned her into a social outcast – and nearly got someone killed. Chelsea has taken a vow of silence – to learn to keep her mouth shut and to stop hurting anyone else.

Speechless explores the real-life teen issues of bullying, mean girls, LGBT awareness and hate crimes. Compared to the many books already out about bullies, Harrington’s novel stands out for its authentic voice and unflinching portrayal of what it means to be part of the bullying. In October 2012, Harlequin TEEN will be releasing a brand new survey that has interviewed 1,500 girls between 13-18 years old on the subject of bullying.


Raw, powerful, and layered, Speechless pulls in several painful elements and weaves them into an impacting story. With an absolute stellar character arc for Chelsea, and some huge undertones of bullying without letting the book be just another bullying book, Harrington’s talent continues to grow and shine. Well written and to the point, and holding a heavy emotional air, especially as things progress, Speechless is a read in one sitting and then think about it for weeks kind of book.

Chelsea is, at the start, relatively unlikeable. She spreads rumors like crazy, and is a major gossip. She doesn’t seem to care if what she says hurts others, she mostly likes the attention, and can’t keep things in. It takes something big to get through to her, but get through it does. From there, her entire character development is done magnificently. She grows in such impressive ways, sometimes small things adding up and other times something big pushing her forward. She not only changes her view on herself, but those around her as well, and doesn’t only suddenly stop spreading rumors just because one person got hurt. The depth of it, the pain she even feels over it, goes far to build her character, but Harrington also keeps a very realistic note. Chelsea still makes mistakes, she still has her moments of being hard to get behind, yet I found myself still wanting her to come out on top.

This one has the perfect romance element to it, something that has a strong impact without being the focus, or necessarily being a specific driving force. With sweet moments mixed into painful ones, and some pretty hefty scenes thrown in, this is easily one of my favorite couples. There isn’t an easy road between the two, and Chelsea faces some of her hardest moments in light of not only her budding feelings but the new friends she meets, but it also pulls things together in a beautiful and memorable way.

Though Chelsea is mute for much of the book, Harrington still keeps the dialogue and banter going with other characters, and perfectly weaves in the change from talking too much to not talking at all, and then navigates Chelsea figuring out when to talk again. This book is unique in some respects but what makes it more notable is how easily Harrington has woven together known concepts into something different.

LOVE IS LOUDER: Harlequin TEEN has partnered with the nonprofit Love is Louder, a movement that started when actress Brittany Snow, MTV and the Jed Foundation decided to do something to help those feeling mistreated. Hundreds of thousands of people just like you have come together to raise the volume around the message that love and support are louder than any internal or external voice that brings you down.

GIVEAWAY: For your chance to win a copy of Speechless, and a branded phone skin, just fill out THIS form. This contest is US/Can only, and ends October 1. Huge thanks to Harlequin Teen for providing these prizes!


Friday, September 14, 2012

Mini Reviews: Being Friends With Boys, Josie Griffin is Not a Vampire, and From What I Remember

Today we're doing another round of mini reviews, apparently all books with long titles. So let's get on it!

Being Friends with Boys by Terra Elan McVoy: I loved this book, for the characters, for the messages it brings, and just for the overall emotional battle it put me through. Charlotte is an amazing character, a girl who isn't at all a girly girl, who doesn't like drama, who just wants to hang out and have fun with the guys in the band and write awesome lyrics for them. There is something so great about the way this group came together, and even more great is what they go through and how they figure things out. Charlotte makes quite a few mistakes along the way, and while there is quite a bit of confusion over which boy she wants to be with, and which boys like her, and it straddles the love triangle line, there is just something so realistic and honest about all of her mixed up thoughts. It's more than having more than one guy to choose from, it's feeling something so new, and so out of her comfort zone, and I think that angle was explored so well. Add in the rawness throughout the book, and the beautifully woven in music element, and this is definitely a read it one sitting and don't stop thinking about it kind of book.

Josie Griffin is Not a Vampire by Heather Swain: This book is utterly hilarious, and so much fun. Not only is Josie dealing with anger management classes, in what seems like a way too strong sentence from a judge after bashing her now ex-boyfriend's windshield in when she caught him cheating on her... with her best friend... she's also suddenly finding out vampires, fairies, and the like are real. This book mixes the paranormal with the normal, and overlaps them back and forth in such a great way. There are some deeper parts of this one, especially about friendship and such, yet it also stays funny and entertaining. This book totally hooked me from page one with the voice and set up, and had enough things thrown in to keep me reading.

From What I Remember by Stacy Kramer and Valerie Thomas: You know those books that have so much random stuff in them, so many crazy events, you're thinking that would never happen? Yet if you use just a little suspension of disbelief, think about it a little more, you can also totally see it? This is one of those books. There was so much adventure in this one, with just the right amount of romance thrown in. Add in a somewhat mystery plot line, and the vividness of the settings, and this one is definitely a hit. Though I did at times feel like things lagged, and though the book was a little long overall, it's still one that keeps you wanting to know more. The interactions between these characters are great, from friendship to more, and they definitely have a lot going on, and a lot to say. This book made me laugh out loud more than once, and left me with a huge grin on my face.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Book Review: Ten by Gretchen McNeil

SUMMARY: And their doom comes swiftly.

It was supposed to be the weekend of their lives—an exclusive house party on Henry Island. Best friends Meg and Minnie each have their reasons for being there (which involve T.J., the school’s most eligible bachelor) and look forward to three glorious days of boys, booze and fun-filled luxury.

But what they expect is definitely not what they get, and what starts out as fun turns dark and twisted after the discovery of a DVD with a sinister message: Vengeance is mine.

Suddenly people are dying, and with a storm raging, the teens are cut off from the outside world. No electricity, no phones, no internet, and a ferry that isn’t scheduled to return for two days. As the deaths become more violent and the teens turn on each other, can Meg find the killer before more people die? Or is the killer closer to her than she could ever imagine?


Thrilling, engaging and brilliantly woven together, Ten is a murder mystery at its best with humor and romance seamlessly blended in. Smoothly written with great descriptions, and a very steady pacing that kept the development coming but the action moving, McNeil’s talent continues to shine. With plenty of shocking twists and a mindblowing climax, Ten is definitely a must read for everyone.

I loved Meg’s character, from the way she saw things maybe a little differently to her fierce protectiveness of her best friend and even those she’s just now meeting on the island. She is awkward at all the right times, yet has a boldness to her that is admirable and says much about her character. Even as the tension starts to rise, and it becomes clear that the deaths are not so random, Meg finds a way to, ultimately, keep her cool and try to figure things out. With a well done romance budding between herself and T.J., a guy she’s crushed on for so long that goes to her school, but selfless to a fault when it comes to her best friend who, in many ways, treats her sort of crappy, Meg is very easily relatable and understandable, and a character that I became fully vested in and rooted for nonstop.

The rest of the characters are all well done, with some having more scenes and development than others depending on how well Meg knows or gets to know them. The murder aspect of this book is so perfectly well done, with seemingly innocent things later becoming something big, and even things that the reader’s are supposed to know are nefarious while anyone in that situation would normally think nothing of it. McNeil times her killings beautifully, building in the shock factor of the deaths and screwing with both the characters and reader’s heads. Building to a stunning and shocking climax, and ending things perfectly for the book, Ten has just the right amount of predictable things mixed into an overall unpredictable who-done-it. Even when readers start to maybe figure things out, McNeil holds enough cards close in that there is still plenty of surprises and hard impact to come.

The writing is fantastic, with plenty of great one-liners and descriptions. Building in intensity right alongside the growing tension in the house, readers will feel like they are right there in the midst of the chaos. Weaving in emotions on top of that, with an awkward but sweet romance, McNeil has hit it out of the park with this one. Though possibly holding elements similar to already done books, McNeil has built this one to hold those lasting aspects while still twisting it to something very much her own.

Source: ARC received as part of a blog tour in exchange for an honest review 
Reading level: Ages 13 and up 
Hardcover: 304 pages 
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Publication Date: September 18, 2012

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Entice Me Day: Phoenix

I am so excited to participate in Entice Me Day, to celebrate the release of Jessica Shirvington's Entice, and even more excited to get to talk to you guys all about Phoenix. And how much I love this boy.

You guys know how much I love the dark, bad boys. The ones who are cocky and sure of themselves, who okay yeah maybe hurt you and treat you sort of wrong... but are also misunderstood, are gushy on the inside, and fall for you even if they shouldn't have. There is just something about that back and forth there, the dark and the light so to speak, at battle because of feelings and love, that totally gets me. And Phoenix most definitely has it. He's witty, charming, alluring, and just the right amount of challenge to draw at least this girl in.

“Not everything is black and white, Violet. Don’t believe everything you’ve been told.”—Phoenix

He’s intense, sexy and otherworldly. Full of secrets, Phoenix is all gray in a world of dark and light. As an exile, he is not to be trusted, but Phoenix always seems to be there to protect Violet when she needs it most. Together, they shared one intense moment of passion. Now, when the electricity between Violet and Phoenix ignites, she discovers his hold over her has become more dangerous than ever.

Sitting in Sydney’s glamorous Water Bar, Jessica reveals some enticing secrets about everyone’s favorite bad boy!

Want to know even more about Phoenix? Of course you do. Check out his character bio here, and take this Favorite Quotes Quiz! And if you want even more about the entire series, check out it's Facebook page, which will, of course, focus on Phoenix all day long.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Author Interview: Jessica Warman

Stopping in today is Jessica Warman to discuss her latest release, Beautiful Lies!

Describe Beautiful Lies in 5 words.

Nothing can stay hidden forever.

This is your fourth published book. How has your drafting and revising changed, from Breathless down the line through Beautiful Lies?

I think I’ve become far more critical of my work over the past few years, which I definitely consider a good thing. When I wrote Breathless, I had a much more inflated sense of ego, because I didn’t have an editor to point out everything I was doing wrong. Now, when I’m working on something, there’s a constant little voice in my head, questioning every decision I make. It can get overwhelming, because if I give it too much attention, I end up paralyzing myself and accomplishing very little. So I’ve also become more thoughtful and deliberate with my writing as a result. I don’t just sit down and write whatever comes to mind and assume it’s all good. I know that I’m capable of producing very poor writing, but I’ve also come to realize that this does not make me a bad writer. It makes me work harder, it makes me set higher expectations for myself, and it keeps me grounded. All good things, I think!

Of all the feedback you've received since Breathless came out, which comment has stuck out to you the most?

I got an email a few months ago from a girl in high school who told me that she wasn’t a good student, and she’d never enjoyed reading until she read Between. What was interesting about her letter was that it was quite well-written, especially for a high school student. So I wrote her back and thanked her, but I also told her she shouldn’t sell herself short because she obviously has a natural ear for language, and clearly was not dumb by any means. Ever since then, she sends me emails from time to time, keeping me updated on the books she’s reading. It’s pretty awesome.

What upcoming YA book are you most excited for?

Whatever Benjamin Alire Saenz writes next. I recently finished his YA novel, Aristole and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, and it was just… I can’t even tell you how it felt to take it all in. It was indescribably awesome, like seeing a unicorn.

What kind of cookie would you describe yourself as? 

 Raw cookie dough. I don’t have the patience to wait for them to cook in an oven. Is that an acceptable answer? If not, then maybe a snicker doodle dipped in some kind of booze.

Thank you, Jessica, and I have to admit, I love your cookie answers!

Beautiful Lies is out now, so be sure you guys check it out!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Mini Reviews: If I Lie + Personal Effects

Starting this week off with mini reviews of two books that have totally captivated and blown me away. Though my instinct says both of these books deserve full reviews, in truth, for both, the things I love the most I can't talk about without giving spoilers. So here's the rest of the reasons I love them, and trust me when I say you need both of these books right away.

If I Lie by Corrine Jackson: This is one of those books that has such a strong emotional air, and has so much depth, I physically ached. My chest hurt, my heart hurt, my head hurt. Quinn faces such huge things, on basically every front. There's the boy she's dating who she's seen off to war, the boy she's kissed who makes her feel some pretty big things. Then there's her old friends, who want nothing to do with her now, and finally her father, who often times seems like he can't even really look at her. Jackson weaves all of this together, and more, in the most stunning of ways. There are some big questions raised and explored with this one, making it far more than a book about a lie, or a book about a girl who kissed someone else, or even a book about a girl living in a huge military area. I was so angry with so many of the characters, yet also felt so much for them. Jackson creates that perfect mix of love and hate, leaving you raw and exposed, yet also better for it. From writing to execution to plot to characters, this one is a grand slam.

Personal Effects by E.M. Kokie: I love broken characters, and Matt most definitely tops that list. He's had a rough life, stuck under an iron-fisted father, and yet, that isn't the only reason he acts like he does, and it most definitely doesn't define him. He is, truly, lost in the aftermath of his brother's death, in a way that can't easily be described yet Kokie captures perfectly. Matt is so far from perfect, even dangerous at times, yet he has such an honesty and goodness that runs through him, I felt so constantly twisted towards him in the best way. Then there's the romance aspect of this one, the kind of thing that toes the line between friendship and something more, with a girl who doesn't take Matt's crap but also doesn't ditch him for being in such a bad place. Add in how well you get to know his brother, T.J., and the new things revealed, and this one definitely tells a powerful but relevant story. Though this book is set five years ago, it still has an impact, and still leaves you breathless and rethinking some things. As if all that wasn't enough, this one is so stunningly written, with such potency in every sentence, and an authentic voice.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Book Review: 34 Pieces of You by Carmen Rodrigues

SUMMARY: A dark and moving novel—reminiscent of Thirteen Reasons Why—about the mystery surrounding a teenage girl’s fatal overdose.

There was something about Ellie... Something dangerous. Charismatic. Broken. Jake looked out for her. Sarah followed her lead. And Jess kept her distance, and kept watch.

Now Ellie’s dead, and Jake, Sarah, and Jess are left to pick up the pieces. All they have are 34 clues she left behind. 34 strips of paper hidden in a box beneath her bed. 34 secrets of a brief and painful life.

Jake, Sarah, and Jess all feel responsible for what happened to Ellie, and all three have secrets of their own. As they begin to confront the darkest truths about themselves, they will also find out what Ellie herself had been hiding all along...


Enthralling, painful, and impacting, 34 Pieces of You weaves the story of three people stuck in the aftermath of a death, while also building the story to that death. Rodrigues beautifully alternates between the past and the present in a way that blends all four character’s stories in a powerful way. This book grabbed me from page one, and I read it straight through in one sitting, utterly captivating.

I love broken people, and this book is certainly full of them. From Ellie, the girl who does end up dead, to Sarah, a seemingly good girl turning bad at the influence of Ellie yet also simply wanting Ellie’s friendship. Then there’s Jess, Sarah’s younger sister, left in an even more good girl type position, who’s lost more than anyone knows. Finally there’s Jake, Ellie’s brother, and a boy who utterly broke my heart. Protective and loving of his sister, despite their problems, and running in some of the worst ways from everything that’s happened, he is a mess, definitely a jerk, but also someone who just wants to figure out how to be okay. Jake’s story stood out the most to me of the four, yet it’s also the way he’s woven into everyone else’s specific stories, and they into his, that really make this book brilliant.

There are a lot of elements to this one, from sexuality and relationships, to just plain sex and kissing, to first impressions and last words. Add in a huge family element, a painful web of secrets, and then of course the mysterious pieces of paper Ellie has left behind, and there are a lot of questions unwound in this book. Even still, Rodrigues navigates everything poignantly and respectfully, yet also doesn’t hold back. This book is raw, and will definitely leave you feeling gutted more than once, yet it is so worth the journey. From the different way each of the three characters dealt with Ellie's death to how they reacted to her and each other in life, to simply the big questions Rodrigues brings up, this one is everything I love in a contemporary YA and more. 34 Pieces of You is a book I can’t recommend enough, and one I will definitely be rereading.

Source: ARC received from publisher in exchange for an honest review 
Reading level: Ages 14 and up 
Hardcover: 336 pages 
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication Date: September 4, 2012

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Letting Go, Before You're Ready

I spent the long weekend furiously revising the book I drafted back in May. Yes, all the revisions, in three days. A seemingly scary process, but one that actually ended up freaking me out more than I expected... for reasons I didn't expect.

I tend to do things in marathon sessions. Last year over Labor Day Weekend, I draft 50K words of a new draft. For much of SlackerBoy's revisions, I settled in over the course of several days and got all my notes for that session accomplished.

But with SlackerBoy, I did six rounds of heavy revisions before I ever sent that book to betas. This one, I did the one revision this weekend, and sent it off. And wow, was that scary.

Granted, this book is single POV, while SlackerBoy is dual. This book is not as steeped in backstory, in things that happened years ago, as SlackerBoy. This book is intricate, but in different ways, some of them less involved.

But I still only did one revision pass before sending.

Most of you are probably thinking 'Uh yeah, that's how it works.'

Not for me, though. To some extent, yes, I am a control freak. But more than that, I just haven't yet fully learned the fact that yes, the book really can have problems, maybe even problems I know exist but haven't figured out how to fix, when I let people read it.

This is much harder to accept than it seems on the surface. 3 of the 4 people who have this one also read SlackerBoy, so in a way, I do feel like they are comparing my work. What if SlackerBoy is better, what if this book is really awful and I am too blind to see it?

Or what if it's still a great concept and book, just in very different ways than SlackerBoy?

These are things I've been thinking about (a little too much) since hitting send. The reason I've figured out this is freaking me out so much isn't that I'm scared they are going to find all these problems in the book, but I'm worried about disappointing them. Worried they will not think this one measures up in any way to the book they already read, a book those three fell in love with as much as I did. This, I think, is why I spent so long on SlackerBoy before I let anyone read it (and then did six more rounds of revisions, after the initial send out...). Although yes, I still firmly believe SlackerBoy really did need much of those revision passes before people read it, I do wonder, now, if maybe I would've benefited from letting someone help earlier, even if it was still messy. Even if a few things weren't quite right yet.

So that's what I'm making myself do this time. Letting myself get help earlier. Sending it to these few people, before revising as needed then sending to my agent.

I'm learning to not think I have to do everything on my own.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Book Review: Freaks Like Us by Susan Vaught

SUMMARY: When Jason Milwaukee's best friend Sunshine vanishes, Jason knows that something is terribly wrong, but solving her disappearance will require pushing through all the voices in his head and then getting the world to listen to him. His schizophrenia is stopping him from remembering the events leading up to her disappearance, and often he discounts his own memories, and his own impressions. But his deep knowledge that he would never hurt his friend, plus the faith of his parents and a few others in the town bring him to the point of solving the mystery. In the end, it's Sunshine's own love for Jason (Freak) that persuades him of his own strength and goodness. By turns brilliantly witty and searingly honest, Susan Vaught's newest novel is a laugh-out-loud, tear-jerking, coming-of-age story.


Freaks Like Us is the perfect blend of emotions, mystery, and humor. Taking a realistic but still at times lighthearted look at mental illness, and having a very strong friendship element, this is one of those books that will change the way you think, and let you enjoy the ride while doing so. With a spry writing style that packs a lot of story in not as many pages, and a protagonist readers will love, Freaks Like Us is fabulous.

Jason is schizophrenic, the kind who still hears voices even when he’s medicated. Struggling between dealing with the voices, or taking higher doses of meds that basically wipe him out, every day is it’s own challenge and balancing act for him. Though he is well aware of the way the world, and especially his classmates, view him, he is also a guy with a huge heart, and his own way of seeing things. Loyal to the end to his closest friends, and having the right mix of awkward, growing teenage boy with someone who is still childlike in other ways, Jason’s characterization is astounding, and so honest. I love this boy, from everything he does, to the way he changes, and he is definitely not a character to pass up.

On top of the mental illness aspect of this book, which includes not just Jason’s schizophrenia, but Sunshine, a selective mute, and Drip’s ADHD, this book also has a very well done and engaging mystery to it. After Sunshine disappears, Jason’s already tenuous world is definitely flipped all around, giving not only him some huge obstacles to overcome, but the people around him as well. Unsure how much he can be trusted, and even sometimes shedding him a guilty sort of light, Vaught keeps readers on their toes with this one, while still keeping a sympathetic and very honest narrative and element going. Even once things start to click into place, the lead up and execution of this mystery are beautifully done, and will most definitely leave it’s mark.

Freaks Like Us had me unable to put it down, and stayed on my mind for weeks after I finished. This isn’t a book that uses mental illness simply as a launching point, or to throw extra problems at the characters. Rather, it’s a book that takes someone just trying to get by, someone wanting what’s best for his friends even if it maybe huts him, and builds the coming of age type story out of it. Vaught incorporates not only the basics of the mental illnesses, and the ramifications both family and social wise, but the extent to which it can not only make things difficult, but also how outside things truly can make life more difficult for the person afflicted. There is a poignancy to this book that shines, and it is definitely a must read, and one I will reread.

Source: TLA 
Reading level: Ages 12 and up  
Hardcover: 240 pages 
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Publication Date: September 4, 2012