Tag Archive: authors

December, briefly

Tree decorating fun!

Ah, December… the last month of the year, and possibly my favorite month of this year? (Which is saying a lot, because I have been pretty vocal about how much I hate any kind of snow that isn’t Jon Snow.) But this December has really been amazing for a few special reasons. Not to mention, Christmas is a magical time on its own. I love the traditions– picking out a tree and decorating it, reciting National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation word for word, making pancakes and bacon on Christmas morning– and as much as I don’t love my annual procrastination when it comes to buying gifts, I was able to relax and really enjoy the holidays this year.

This month, I have been…

Working on: For the first time in several months… not very much! After finishing the first draft of a new YA thriller last month for NaNo, I took a few weeks off to mentally recharge. It worked, because I’m itching to get back to new words!

Reading: I finished Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon, and it really was everything. Heartfelt, hilarious, and so insightful, with characters who felt real. I’m not surprised that this book has not only been optioned for film, but will be an actual movie next year! So excited to see Maddie and Olly on the big screen. I also read Beautiful Broken Things by Sara Barnard, a story about the twists and turns of female friendship (a theme I am forever excited about reading in YA). And I was lucky enough to read Riley Redgate’s sophomore novel, Noteworthy, in ARC form before its 2017 release date, and I completely fell in love with it! It’s both funny and serious, a study in gender and what that means, and explores sexuality and sexual orientation with so much nuance and sensitivity.

Watching: Aside from the traditional Christmas movies (National Lampoon! Scrooged! A Christmas Story! It’s a Wonderful Life!), my husband and I binge-watched the first season of Stranger Things and were completely captivated. Not the most Christmas-y show, but… we couldn’t stop watching! I’m a huge Winona Ryder fan, so I was very excited to see her on TV, and I really liked the entire concept… the dark, twisty nature, plus the Stephen King-esque vibe. Can’t wait for the next season!

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season and enjoy the last days of December before we ring in 2017!

Spotlight on Sixteens: Girls In The Moon

I was extremely lucky to read an advance copy of a seriously amazing late 2016 debut that releases next week. Girls In The Moon by Janet McNally gave me a serious book hangover, because its pages are rich and sumptuous and soaked in gorgeous language and depth.

Girls In The Moon is the story of Phoebe, the daughter of rock stars who were famous in the 90s with their band, Shelter. Phoebe lives with her mother, Meg, and hasn’t seen her father in over three years. In the heart of summer, she visits her older sister Luna in New York City, where Luna has recently dropped out of school to pursue her own musical career—a choice Meg isn’t too happy about. Phoebe wants to get the kind of answers from her family that nobody can provide, as Meg avoids talking about Shelter and Luna has seemingly convinced herself that she doesn’t need her father in her life. Phoebe’s story in the present is interlaced with flashbacks from Meg’s point of view in the early days when Shelter was being formed, and I loved the contrast—that as Phoebe surges forward in her quest for truth, Meg’s journey is going backwards, from marital breakup to the first seedlings of fame.

I cannot adequately describe how incredible the writing is in this book. Janet McNally is a poet as well as a writer, and this comes as no surprise—her use of words is thoughtful, visceral, lush, and utterly original. Her descriptions of things through Phoebe’s eyes are so unique and compelling that I wanted to highlight pretty much every line. Her sentences are infused with grace, hope, curiosity, sometimes sadness, always so much insight.

This is a book that deals with a lot of things. It’s about relationships—sisters, mother-daughter, father-daughter, friends, romantic love. It’s about regret and mistakes and choices. It’s about faith and taking chances and finding not only yourself, but different versions of yourself that you may not have yet stepped into. It’s the brassy collision of music and reality and fame and responsibility. And it’s completely captivating.

I’m so excited for everyone to discover Girls In The Moon. This is a book I’ll come back to when I need to feel inspired, because it has this magnetic energy. If there’s a formula to make words jump off a page, Janet McNally has fully mastered it.

Add Girls In The Moon to your Goodreads bookshelf.

Preorder your copy!

Learn more about Janet McNally and her writing.

A Halloween giveaway spectacular!

Halloween is just around the corner… and what’s even better than candy? How about winning $220 to spend on books? My Sixteen To Read sis Jennifer Bardsley has teamed up with nine authors to stir up a pretty sweet giveaway. In the cauldron is a $220 USD e-gift card to spend on Amazon.

Abby isn't what you'd call an avid Halloween fan...

Abby isn’t what you’d call an avid Halloween fan…

Click on the Rafflecopter giveawayhttp://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/bc26dd6f9/ to enter!

Want to find out more about the awesome authors involved with this giveaway? You can learn about each author at her website!

Amy Allgeyer http://www.amyallgeyer.com/
Jennifer Bardsley http://jenniferbardsley.net/
Jennifer DeGiovanni http://jenniferdigiovanni.com/
Laurie Elizabeth Flynn http://www.laurieelizabethflynn.com/
Donna Galanti http://www.donnagalanti.com/
Shaila Patel http://www.shailapatelauthor.com/
Caroline T. Patti http://carolinetpatti.com/
Meghan Rogers http://meghanrogersbooks.com/
Liza Wiemer http://lizawiemer.com/

Spotlight on Sixteens: Unscripted Joss Byrd

Today’s Spotlight on Sixteens is all about Unscripted Joss Byrd, a book I adored that’s written by an author I adore just as much! Lygia Day Peñaflor’s debut is honest and authentic, and it hits shelves August 23rd!

I have a fascination with actors. The roles they play, their processes, their lives on and off screen. So when I first heard about Unscripted Joss Byrd, I was incredibly excited to start reading. A glimpse into the life of a young actress trying to leave her mark on Hollywood? Yes, please.

In Unscripted Joss Byrd, the titular character, Joss, is a twelve-year-old actress who has been praised for her movie roles thus far. But on the set of her most recent movie, The Locals, she struggles with script changes, jealousy, a director who is less than honest, difficult scenes, and her difficult mother. From the outside, Joss has it all. She has a promising career and she’s still cute enough to get “kid” roles. But being in Joss’s head is a different story. She grapples with playing a character based on a real person who doesn’t want her story being told, and feelings of inadequacy– that she’s not smart enough, not pretty enough, not enough. She desperately wants to do the right thing. But is what’s right for her right for everyone else– her mother, her director, her costars?

Joss’s voice is absolutely, stunningly real. She’s young and inexperienced, but also older than her years. She wants a movie career, but is terrified on a daily basis that she’s going to forget her lines. She’s afraid her career will end when she hits puberty. At times, she’s a mess of contradictions. She’s hopeful and confident and scared and insecure. My heart went out to her. I wanted to hug her and tell her everything was going to be okay. But that’s the point– there’s no guarantee everything will be okay, especially in the movie industry, when longevity only befalls the lucky ones. There’s luck and there’s hard work, and Joss is no stranger to either.

Unscripted Joss Byrd is deep. It’s an honest, unflinching look at the underbelly of Hollywood life from the eyes of a girl trying to make what she has last as long as she can, while simultaneously living in fear of what comes next. I love how Lygia Day Penaflor is unafraid of showing the gritty reality under the sparkling surface. This is a book that will make me think twice the next time I open a magazine and see the beautiful celebrities within. Because all that glitters really isn’t gold.

Add Unscripted Joss Byrd to your Goodreads bookshelf.

Preorder a copy!

Visit Lygia Day Peñaflor’s website to learn more about her.

Spotlight on Sixteens: Gemini

I was gripped the instant I heard the premise for this book. As someone with a sister, I know how difficult it is to put words to the special bond siblings share when they’re incredibly close. I’m talking emotional closeness, mental closeness, the kind where you can practically read each other’s minds and show up to an event dressed the same by accident. But in Gemini, Sonya Mukherjee tackles all of this and so much more. Because the main characters in her book, Hailey and Clara, aren’t just sisters—they’re twins, and they’re conjoined at the base of their spinal columns.

Hailey and Clara are in their senior year of high school in tiny Bear Pass, where they don’t have to endure too many stares because everyone knows them. Their parents expect them to attend Sutter College nearby, the same school at which both parents teach, for more reasons than free tuition. The adjustment from high school to college will be hard enough for the girls to handle—the idea of going elsewhere is out of the question.

Or so everybody thinks. Even Hailey and Clara think this, at the beginning of the story. They have managed to live without much scrutiny or ridicule, and they have friends who care about them. But is that really the definition of living, or are they closing doors on opportunities because people think they can’t thrive outside of their small town?

Despite the fact that they’re conjoined, Hailey and Clara are wildly different. Hailey is an artist who dreams of learning at a real art school and traveling the world, savoring new experiences. Clara’s dreams are, in a way, even bigger—an astronomy buff, she knows just about everything about the stars and planets and doesn’t as much want to travel everywhere as travel somewhere the most distant and unattainable of all—outer space, where she could see what Earth looks like.

I found the dichotomy between the sisters to be so powerful, and the exploration of limitations here—both physical and emotional—is brilliant and insightful. Hailey and Clara have to figure out how much of what they’re not doing is because they can’t, and how much is because they haven’t yet found a way to make it happen. Are they limiting each other, or can they find a way to work together and forge a new path? At times, Hailey and Clara think of dreams as a dangerous thing, because they’ll only lead to inevitable disappointment. But dreams are also what ignites a whole realm of excitement and possibility within each girl. Dreams give strength, which comes in different sizes. Strength to ask a boy to the dance. Strength to consider other schools and other life experiences. Dancing. Kissing. Living in dorm rooms.

Clara wants to know what Earth looks like from another planet. She wants a new perspective. In this book, told in alternating POVs, we get two unique perspectives, and two new voices in Young Adult literature that are bound to imprint on readers.

Sonya Mukherjee’s writing is insanely beautiful and profound. She raises so many questions in such a sensitive, nuanced way. This is, unquestionably, a story that the world needs, and I’m so happy that it will be in the world as of July 26!

Add Gemini to Goodreads and preorder a copy!

Find out more about Sonya Mukherjee at her website.

Spotlight on Sixteens: How to Hang a Witch

Today’s spotlight is on a book getting a lot of buzz in the YA world. How to Hang a Witch will be on shelves everywhere July 26– perfect timing for a book you can spend a hot summer day with!

I was lucky enough to get a copy of this book at ALA Midwinter. I’d heard amazing things about it, and as a huge fan of all stories involving witches or witchcraft, it was definitely a debut that piqued my curiosity. Not only that, but Adriana Mather is a descendant of Cotton Mather of Salem witch trial infamy!

I was invested in Sam, the main character, from page one– she’s exactly my type of heroine. She’s snarky and smart and guarded, and her emotions feel very realistic as she grapples with being uprooted from New York to Salem, moving into a new home (that may or may not be haunted), starting at a new school (that may or may not be pretty much run by the descendants of the Salem witch trial witches), her relationship with her stepmother, and her father being in a coma. Oh, and let’s not forget meeting two new boys– both very cute, one alive, one not so much. And a curse hundreds of years old that just might be coming back with a vengeance.

Are you intrigued yet? Yup, I thought so. This book is the perfect fusion of so many elements. Mystery and romance and humor and snark and a pinch of supernatural. That’s not an easy balance to pull off, but Adriana Mather does it masterfully. I was furiously turning pages, waiting to find out every secret. Mather’s handle on suspense is brilliant. She manages to keep you guessing, trickling out little bits of information in ways that feel genuine and authentic. Her attention to detail is incredible.

A twisty, smart, funny debut that’s all about how history can repeat itself– and what needs to be done to break the cycle.

Add How to Hang a Witch to your Goodreads bookshelf and preorder it here.

Follow the multi-talented Adriana Mather on Twitter (she’s a gifted actress, too)!

February, briefly

Well, it’s safe to say February was a whirlwind month. Between my launch party, my first official book signing, and lots of reading and writing, I didn’t have much free time for anything else. But I feel as though I have finally achieved that elusive work-life balance that was missing since Firsts came out, and I’m in a good mental place coming into March. Plus, I finally get to reveal something I’ve been bursting to share with all of you: A series of ten short stories from the perspectives of the first ten virgins Mercedes hooks up with in Firsts. These have been in the works for awhile, and I really hope fans of Firsts love getting into the guys’ brains! I’ll be sharing one story per week starting March 1st on my Tumblr and Wattpad accounts, so I hope you’ll tune in!

At my first book signing at the Chapters Indigo in Erin Mills. What a fun day!

At my first book signing at the Chapters Indigo in Erin Mills. What a fun day!

This month, I have been…

Working on: Two different YA contemporaries have been preoccupying my head. One, I’ve been able to write quickly ,but the other has put up some resistance. I’m a firm believer that working on more than one project at a time can help you get unstuck if you’re not sure where one of the projects is going. Next up for both projects is revision-land, and I’m confident I know the changes that need to be made.

There’s also an extremely shiny idea percolating in my head, but I’m not letting myself touch it until I revise both of the aforementioned projects! It’ll be the ultimate reward for surviving the revision trenches. (That, and champagne, of course.)

Reading: February has been a seriously stellar reading month. I read eight books, all of which I absolutely adored! I started the month with Unscripted Joss Byrd by Lygia Day Peñaflor. It’s an amazing story about a child actress struggling to find her place in Hollywood, and both the internal and external obstacles she faces. Next, I read Genesis Girl by Jennifer Bardsley– it’s a fast-paced, action-packed look at a future where the lack of an Internet footprint is the most valuable form of currency. Then I read Flirting with Fame by my agent-sister Samantha Joyce (which just so happens to be out TODAY!). It’s a gorgeous New Adult book about nineteen-year-old Elise, who has written a successful book series… but because she’s so self-conscious about her appearance, she put another girl’s photo on her book jacket, and nobody knows about her secret career.

Next up was Gemini by Sonya Mukherjee, a debut with one of the most gorgeous covers I’ve ever seen (and the words inside are even more beautiful). It’s the story of conjoined twins Clara and Hailey and how they learn to live and dream both together and apart. Then I read Jerkbait by Mia Siegert, wherein twins Robbie and Tristan are skilled high school hockey players– but it’s Robbie, who everyone thinks is destined for hockey stardom, who is hiding a huge secret.

I’d heard so many amazing things about Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli. Well, this book more than exceeded them. It’s a brilliant story about friendship, sexuality, secrets, and, well, plenty of Oreos.

Another debut novel that seriously impressed me was Please Don’t Tell by Laura Tims. It’s dark and twisty and complicated and the language is so gorgeous and original. This is the kind of book where you dog-ear every second page because you want to revisit the words later. Similarly powerful was Seven Ways We Lie by Riley Redgate, Told from seven different perspectives, each embodying one of the deadly sins, this story was ambitious and bold and I loved every page of it.

Watching: My husband and I discovered the new show Love on Netflix. I promptly fell in, well, love with it. It’s hilarious and actually made me laugh out loud, which is rare when I’m watching TV. I only wish there were more episodes!

I’m looking forward to what March has in store… hopefully some warmer weather and more great reads!

Don’t miss the first short story, which will be live on Tumblr and Wattpad at 10am tomorrow!

Spotlight on Sixteens: AFTER THE WOODS

AFTER THE WOODS by Kim Savage will grace bookshelves everywhere with its dark beauty on February 23, but for Spotlight on Sixteens, I’m sharing my review of this incredible debut!

I was immediately intrigued after I heard the premise for this book. I love a good twisty plot, and it sounded like Kim Savage’s debut had just that. But I wasn’t prepared for just how twisty, just how deep and dark and gorgeous and terrifying this story would be. I wasn’t prepared to feel like I was getting yanked in by a pair of claws, unable to put the book down until I read just one more chapter. Even now, after turning the last page, what happened after the woods haunts my brain and hurts my heart.

AFTER THE WOODS is the story of two best friends, Julia and Liv. One year after they were attacked in the woods, they’re both living in the aftermath of what happened. Liv chose flight. Julia chose fight, and saved Liv in the process. But it’s not that clear-cut. After a girl’s body is found in the woods and Julia starts to piece together what happened, and as she faces memories of her time spent with her attacker, a whole new layer is exposed—a rotten layer, an underbelly even more grotesque than Julia could have imagined.

The friendship between Julia and Liv is so beautifully drawn. I loved the details about how close they were before the woods, and what changed for each girl. Julia is the kind of protagonist I feel lucky to have spent a book with. She’s whip-smart, perceptive, sarcastic but sensitive, and determined—determined to find out why her best friend is self-destructing after getting a second chance at life, determined to face her own fears, and most of all, determined to figure out why the woods happened at all.

This book is at times a thriller, at times a highly emotional contemporary, and at times, a puzzle with jagged edges that you’ll be increasingly desperate to put together. I was breathless with the desire to know what happened—as much as I wanted to savor Kim Savage’s incredible writing, I was flipping pages lightning-fast to figure out the mystery of what happened to Julia and Liv in the woods. And without giving anything away, I’ll say that this book was never once predictable. The plot twists had twists. And for this reason, AFTER THE WOODS is a book I will continue to think about for a long time.

Add AFTER THE WOODS to your Goodreads bookshelf here and preorder it here!

Visit Kim Savage’s website here!

Learn about other awesome Sweet Sixteens debuts here!

July, briefly

Since I was away on vacation for just over two weeks, July felt like an especially fleeting month. My husband and I took an epic road trip and drove through parts of Alberta, British Columbia, the Yukon, the Northwest Territories (briefly), and Alaska. It was a truly amazing trip and now I’m already excited for our next adventure, whenever and wherever that may be!

Needless to say, July wasn’t a typical month for me. But this month, I have been…

A FIRSTS first pass, complete with furry BFF.

A FIRSTS first pass, complete with furry BFF.

Working on: While I didn’t do much writing on our road trip, I can tell you that I’m working on something related to FIRSTS that I’m really excited to share with everyone prior to release! I also finished first pass pages this month, which was really awesome. It’s hard to believe that what was formerly a Word document on my computer is almost an actual book!

The writing I did do our on road trip mostly happened in my head or in the Notes app on my phone. I was really inspired by the different Northern settings we visited and I have a new story idea percolating in my head, so… we’ll see where that goes!

Reading: Pre-road trip, I loaded my Kobo with two books I was super excited about: Dahlia Adler’s UNDER THE LIGHTS and Laura Salters’ RUN AWAY. I told myself I should sleep on the plane ride to Calgary since it was the crack of dawn, buuuut… Dahlia’s book beckoned and I read it all in one sitting. Guys, you need to read UNDER THE LIGHTS. It’s brilliant and funny and heartwarming and a million other amazing things and Dahlia writes with such humor, boldness, and insight. The dual POV between Josh, the Hollywood bad boy with lots of insecurity lurking under his cocky facade, and Vanessa, the Korean-American actress who starts to question everything about her life, works so well. Josh’s POV was done perfectly. I love, love, love reading “unlikeable” characters, and with his actions, Josh fits the bill. I really liked learning what was going on in Josh’s head and the ways he wanted to change his life but felt stuck. Vanessa’s journey throughout the course of the book was inspiring, humorous, fulfilling, but most of all, real. I adored her relationship with Bri and all the conflicting emotions she felt when she realized she was attracted to a girl and what that meant– in terms of her sexuality, relationships, and career. This is the kind of story teens need to have– the kind of story YA needs.

RUN AWAY by Laura Salters is another book I have been coveting. I love a good, twisty story, and this one definitely delivers– plus, the gorgeous Thailand locales are described so well that the book really transported me and sucked me in. RUN AWAY is the story of Kayla, who escapes her dreary reality in Northumberland following her brother’s suicide for a tour group in Thailand. Here, she meets some new friends– and Sam, with whom she shares a strong attraction. But when Sam disappears, leaving behind a pool of blood, Kayla is left with unanswered questions– along with the sense that something doesn’t quite add up.

When I got back from my road trip, I had a little surprise waiting for me in the mail… an ARC of ARROWS by my Sweet Sixteens friend Melissa Gorzelanczyk. I had been dying for this book since I first heard about it. Greek mythology spun together with the drama of MTV’s Teen Mom? Sign me up. I’ll be writing a more detailed review about this one later, but in the meantime, add ARROWS to your TBR now! It’s available for preorder and just so happens to share a book birthday with FIRSTS!

Much better than any TV show, and no commercials!

Much better than any TV show, and no commercials!

Watching: I haven’t really been watching anything religiously since we were gone for the first half of the month. So I guess in July, I watched mountains and valleys and sunsets and glaciers and all kinds of wildlife from car windows. And that was even better than any TV show.

I’m really looking forward to August and everything it has in store. As the months creep closer to the release date for FIRSTS, I find myself getting more and more bouncy with excitement, like a little kid counting the months until Christmas.When I get my ARCs, there may be flailing on the same scale as the year Santa brought me and my sister a dollhouse on Christmas morning.

Who am I kidding? There will be even more flailing than that.

#SixteensBlogAbout: Summer Reading

With the summer months practically here (seriously, how is it June already? Slow down, 2015…), the Sweet Sixteens are blogging about a particularly timely topic: summer reading.

This got me thinking about a lot of things. All the fabulous books I want to be reading right this second. The massive TBR list I’m dying to catch up on. The chair on my deck, beckoning me to sit down with a glass of Riesling and my Kobo.

Beach

Beach reading: one of the ultimate reading locations.

But the very first thought that came to mind? Being a kid and having the whole summer off, and not even appreciating how awesome that was. I  remember complaining to my parents, loudly and dramatically, that I was bored during those summers. Bored. There were only so many hours that could be spent playing outside, so many afternoons reading The Babysitter’s Club and hacking the hair off Barbies with my sister. So many days with nothing to do.

(It goes without saying that I also didn’t appreciate nap time back then. Because I had a lot to learn.)

As an adult, I relish any free time I get. There’s absolutely nothing more exciting for me than a whole day stretching ahead with no plans at all, nothing to do at all. It’s funny how things change— how what I now call the perfect day used to be a dime a dozen, ferociously underappreciated. What would summer reading look like for me, if I had back those endless summer days bereft of responsibilities that I didn’t value as a kid?

Summer reading would be both leisurely and fervent. It would involve starting and finishing a book in the same day. Maybe two books a day, since there wouldn’t be laundry to do or groceries to buy or meals to burn cook. Summer reading would happen everywhere. On my deck, where a waiter would magically refill my champagne when my glass got empty. (Hey, it’s my fantasy here!) At the beach, where I’d be careful not to get SPF 60 all over the pages. In the passenger seat during road trips, because let’s face it, I’m a useless navigator anyway. In my bed, where I’d sleep until at least noon like I did when I was a teenager. In an inflatable pool chair, floating from the shallow end to the deep end and back again, my toes dangling in the water. (In this wishful summer, I of course have a pool.) In the park, on a blanket in the grass. On a boat while my husband fishes. Summer reading would swallow up my days and the word “boredom” would never be used.

But that’s not the summer I have to work with. In reality, summer reading fits in wherever it can. On my breaks at work. While a TV show plays in the background. At the library. In coffee shops, accompanied by lattes. In my office. While I’m quickly eating breakfast before work. With a little lamp-light, under the covers at night. (Maybe I have something in common with kid-me after all.) I’ll read everywhere and anywhere, in whatever time I have, because quite simply, there is no better summer vacation than the ones found within a book’s pages.

And just for fun, here are some of the (many) books I hope to read this summer:

The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins

More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera

In A World Just Right by Jen Brooks

Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

The Queen of Bright and Shiny Things by Ann Aguirre

Learning Not to Drown by Anna Shinoda

Devoted by Jennifer Mathieu

Mania by J.R. Johansson

Black Iris by Leah Raeder

Love and Other Theories by Alexis Bass

How to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran

Happy reading, everyone, whether it’s under the covers after dark, on a deck with champagne, or everywhere in between!

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