An Interview with Rebecca Phillips

Hey y’all! Welcome back to your regularly programmed content on Willa’s Ramblings. Today, I have a super exciting interview with the phenomenal Rebecca Phillips, author of THESE THINGS I’VE DONE!

And even more exciting: I’m blessed with the tour date that falls on the publication date!!!!!!!

excited gif

(aka go buy it now and put rebecca at the top of the NYTimes list pls and thx)

I read THESE THINGS I’VE DONE a couple weeks ago and fell absolutely in love. Rebecca is a stunning writer, and the story just comes alive on the page. I’m so excited for you all to read it and love it just as much as I do.

A contemporary YA perfect for fans of Courtney Summers and Jessi Kirby, THESE THINGS I’VE DONE is the story of a seventeen-year-old girl who accidentally caused her best friend’s death and, a year later, is still grappling with the consequences.

Before:
Dara and Aubrey have been inseparable since they became best friends in sixth grade. However, as they begin their sophomore year of high school, cracks in their friendship begin to form, testing the bond they always thought was unbreakable.

After:
It’s been fifteen months since the accident that killed Aubrey, and not a day goes by that Dara isn’t racked with guilt over her role in her best friend’s death. Dara thought nothing could be worse than confronting the memories of Aubrey that relentlessly haunt her, but she soon realizes it isn’t half as difficult as seeing Ethan, Aubrey’s brother, every day. Not just because he’s a walking reminder of what she did, but because the more her feelings for him change, the more she knows she’s betraying her best friend one final time.

And now, without further adieu, the interview! (I’m in the bold)

What was the inspiration for THESE THINGS I’VE DONE?

The inspiration for the main plot actually didn’t come from me. My friend Cara gave me the idea and I sort of ran with it. Aubrey was very loosely based on one of my daughter’s friends, and Ethan’s band was sort of modeled after a band my husband was in during high school. Dara’s dad was actually a tiny bit inspired by Coach Taylor from Friday Night Lights (!!!! Friday Night Lights!), which I was binge-watching as I wrote the first draft.

Friendship is a big theme in your novel. What inspired you to tackle this theme specifically?

I love YA books that have a heavy friendship theme. Relationships can be such a minefield in high school. Aubrey and Dara’s friendship started showing cracks when Aubrey fell in love with the boy Dara liked. It was interesting to explore this dynamic. I also loved showing the friendship between Dara and Ethan in the “past” chapters, and how all that history carried over into their present situation.

What are some friendship dynamics you think need to be discussed more?

Jealousy and insecurity are always interesting to get into while writing friendships. I also love to see friends who really have each other’s backs, through everything. The little routines and inside jokes between friends are fun to see too.

If you could go back to your childhood and change one thing, would you? What would you change?

That’s a tough question. There are a lot of things I wish had been different, or better, but I don’t think I’d go back and change anything. My childhood and all its joys and challenges brought me to the life I have now, which I wouldn’t change for the world.

If you could spend a day with Dara and Aubrey, what would you all go and what would you do?

We’d totally go to a Taylor Swift concert. Or we’d bake cookies in Dara’s kitchen.

This book is an emotional rollercoaster- what was the experience of writing it? How did you approach the emotionality of it?

Writing it was an emotional rollercoaster too. The subject matter was so disturbing for me that sometimes my first instinct was to keep the heavy emotions at arm’s length. But I knew I had to delve into them, so I did. Living in Dara’s head and putting myself in her place was difficult. She broke my heart often. Tapping into her guilt and grief was cathartic, in a way, but also really exhausting at times.

What has been something about the process of publishing your book that surprised you?

I was surprised at how little time I spent on submission. Two months! That’s short. (I hear my writer friends booing me as I type). Also, I’ve been traditionally published and gone through edits before, but the revisions for These Things I’ve Done were more intense than I was used to. In the end I was glad about that, because I think the book is so much better now.


Now that you all have fallen in love with Rebecca and THESE THINGS I’VE DONE go buy it and read it and fall in love!

(remember is came out today! go congratulate Rebecca over on Twitter!)

BEA 2017 Wrap Up

I’ve been waiting desperately to return to BEA since I went years ago (2012 I think?) and this year IT FINALLY HAPPENED. I took the plunge and bought tickets, not knowing if anyone I knew was going, and just told myself it would work out.

And it did.

It was amazing.
Emily, aka someone who came into my life from blogging and mutual friends and has been there to sign on to all of my crazy escapades and read my manuscripts at midnight, ended up COMING TO BEA!!! She flew in and stayed with me and we got to see each other for the first time in four! years!

Emily and I spent much of BEA hanging out with this AMAZING GIRL IN THE MIDDLE OF THIS GIF AKA MARY. Mary joined Lit Up Review and Emily and I low-key are now in love with her. Talk about positivity and happiness literally radiating from someone–that’s Mary.

Mary helped Emily and I get up to date on all things bookish because Emily and I quickly realized we were not prepared for BEA at all. We even thought the show floor was open on Wednesday. (Oops.) We were so out of the loop on books that Mary would be like, “Oh, I really want this one!” And we’re like, “What is that?” This happened repeatedly over the weekend but Mary stuck with us and it was so hard saying goodbye.

And this brings me to exciting part of BEA part two: THE BOOKS!!!!!!! ! !! ! ! ! ! !

I got so many amazing books at BEA. Books I had no idea existed but decided I had to have in my life or I may not make it another day. Here are my hauls from Day One (on the left) and Day Two (on the right):
I went ahead and compiled a list of all the books on a Goodreads shelf for convenience. You can check it out here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/list/1293180-willa?shelf=bea2017&utf8=%E2%9C%93

I’ve already read GIRLS MADE OF SNOW AND GLASS and it was incredible so I have high hopes for this year. I’m working my way through DAUGHTER OF THE BURNING CITY and also enjoying it!

And then there’s the authors and industry peeps.

These are the people that just MAKE book festivals for me. Authors and the people who work in the industry make book events even better for me, and they remind me why I want to go into publishing and why I love to write. They inspire me, they set a fire in me, and I love them to bits.

At BEA this year, I saw a bunch of old friends, and also met a couple new people!

Old friends include: Leigh Bardugo, Jason Reynolds (who I’m SO FREAKING PROUD OF THIS GUY IS KILLING IT), Adam Silvera, Eric Smith (literary agent), Jenny Bent (literary agent), Lyndsey Sands, Tamara Ireland Stone, and Molly Ellis (publicist @ Macmillan).

New friends include: Lynn Weingarten (we’re hair twins!!!), Ryan Graudin, Katherine Locke, Sasha Alsberg, and Nic Stone.

To check out more of my escapades (and pictures with authors) from BEA check out my Twitter, which was revitalized for the occasion. It also includes my live tweets from the Hillary Clinton event where I absolutely lost my cool in the crowd and almost cried four times.

I think that’s pretty much it.

I just want it to keep going.

I miss all my friends.

I miss the Javits (a sentence I never thought I’d say).

BEA 2018 COME FASTER PLEASE!

Thoughts on GIRL IN PIECES by Kathleen Glasgow

girl in pieces
I read a lot. (That’s a fairly well-known fact, especially if you check my Goodreads profile and see how many books I read in a year.) I read many different genres–fantasy, contemporary, dystopian, science fiction, literary, even some memoirs and non-fiction. I read pretty much everything.

But there’s this certain kind of book that I’ve always gravitated towards.

The “sad” books. The “hard” books. The books that push us to read about pain and grief and suffering and healing–the kind of books that make us sit in un-comfortability and force us to feel. The books about addiction, about screwing up, about depression, about self-harm, about abuse.

The thing about books like these is that they aren’t fantasy. They aren’t made up. Sure, the characters may be, but that plot? That idea? That topic? That’s not made up. That’s real. That pain? Real.

Growing up, I’ve been blessed to not live through that kind of pain, but I’ve always read books about it. These books made me realize that everyone has their own kind of pain, their own demons, their own daily struggle. Whether it be a parent’s divorce, a guilt that you can’t shake, a friend who you’ve been trying to let go of for years and just can’t. These books made me realize that all of our pain is valid and real and that we’re not alone.

Girl in Pieces reminded me of all of this. It reminded me of why I fell in love with Jellicoe Road six years ago, why Wild Awake still gets me thinking, why What We Saw made me understand in a different way. It reminded me why we all read–we read to understand. We read to understand people’s lives, to understand our own, to get a telescope into a new dimension we ourselves don’t experience. We read to feel. To feel deeply and fully and without questions.

And these books? These “hard” books, the books that break us apart and leave us in a puddle of tears, begging the characters to heal, and aching to know what their lives become? These books are vital. These books change people’s lives. These are the kinds of books we have to read. These are the books we should give every teenager to remind them that they aren’t alone, that there are hundreds of people out there just like them. That they can heal.

Charlotte Davis is a girl with a past. A past filled with a father in a river, a mother with a palm on Charlotte’s cheek, a best friend who doesn’t want to feel anymore. A past with a home under an overpass, a past with glass shards and skin, a past with Frank who takes so much and gives nothing in return. Charlotte is, in many ways, broken. She’s what people would call broken, a girl who will never heal. Except Charlotte wants to heal. She wants to get better.

And Girl in Pieces is her story. Her story of pain and relapses and trying to get better and having all the wrong people in her life, but maybe a few good ones. Her story of drawing and washing dishes and getting her first apartment and stumbling through her life, searching for a new story.

Girl in Pieces is a book I don’t think I’ll ever forget, because it made me remember that we’re never alone. Not really. We may feel like we’re the only ones in the darkness, stumbling around for a light, but there’s always someone there, standing next to the switch, just waiting for us to ask them to turn it on. It made me remember that we all have our own Mikey, Blue, Linus, and Tanner. Our own Alice. Our own Casper. Our own Evan, our own Ellis.

Kathleen Glasgow has written a book that feels. It understands what it’s like to be human, to suffer, to want to heal, to struggle to keep it together. It understands what it’s like to start over, to find new friends, to find the good in people. It is real.

Girl in Pieces is a song I never wanted to end.

HOLDING SMOKE and blurred lines

A month or two ago, Elle Cosimano (whose books Nearly Gone and Nearly Found are some of my all-time faves) sent me an advanced copy of her newest book, Holding Smoke. It’s a book about a young man in a juvenile correctional facility who can separate from his body and travel through walls, among other things. Smoke, the main character, has been convicted of two crimes, but is only guilty of one of them – the other, though, he can’t prove his innocence of. The book follows Smoke slowly uncovering the truth about what happened and also understanding the hazy line between good and bad.

First off, the book is fantastic. It’s gritty and well-written and poignant all at the same time. You fall in love with these characters who have done horrible things, and yet, seem so normal. You question if the “good guys” are actually good, and what it means to even be “good.” You see the things young people grow up with, and no matter how different we are, there are always things that make us the same: grief, loss, and love.

This book made me think a lot about good and bad. In Cosimano’s author note at the end of the book, she talks about growing up as a warden’s daughter, and how she learned that the line (between good and bad) is hazy – just like Smoke does in the book. She talks about meeting inmates at the prisons where her father worked and see the good sides of them – the sides that don’t let you believe people can do bad things. She talked about having to learn that good people make bad choices; choices that can define the rest of their lives.

And this all made me think a lot about recent events and about life in general. It made me think about crime and loss and the criminal justice system. Holding Smoke portrays a variety of corrections officers, and the cruelty and kindness that I saw in them seemed like a reflection of the people we meet on a day-to-day basis. It made me think that there is no such thing as a “good” person in many ways. We are all filled with contradiction and bad choices. Choices we have to live with. Choices that can define us.

The recent events of violence and hatred and fear, they are all a reflection of that in many ways. Whenever there is a shooting (it sickens me to write those words because the word “whenever” means they are common) you always hear about the shooter. How the people that knew them never could’ve seen this coming. How they were kind, generous, did good things. Maybe how they were troubled. Struggling with grief. In a low point in their lives. And I think that that juxtaposition is something to remember.

That very juxtaposition is a part of our daily lives. It’s part of the news, part of what we see when we walk down the streets, part of the sirens we hear in the middle of the night, part of the people we meet and the experiences we have. That juxtaposition is part of what makes us human. Part of what makes us so beautifully and terribly human.

Even as a child, you have friends in school who suddenly, out of the blue it seems, says something hurtful. And there’s that part of us that says, that’s not them. But it is, isn’t it? The part of them that is your friend is them, but so is the cruelty they sometimes exude.

And I don’t think this juxtaposition is bad because it’s part of us. But then, events like Orlando happen. Orlando and all of the countless, horrible, heart-breaking, shooting that have happened before, and we can’t but wonder: why? What is it inside us – inside humans – that can make us do such horrible things? Is there an “On” switch that is flipped in us that turns us into killers? And we start pointing fingers in an effort to understand. To understand the complexities of the human nature.

The thing is that many times, I believe, there isn’t someone or something to blame. And that’s the hardest thing to understand. Somewhere, along the way, a good person made a bad choice. And that bad choice led to another bad choice. And that bad choice changed their life.

And as much as I want to desperately, desperately, find an answer, I don’t know if there is one. And that’s what scares me sometimes. That the line between good and bad is too blurred.


Holding Smoke was published on May 3rd from Hyperion Publishers, and can be found in bookstores. Thank you to Elle for sending me a copy of this incredible book, and I encourage you all to read it. Read it and think. 

SUMMER DAYS + SUMMER NIGHTS | Blog Tour

I’m incredibly honored and excited to be on the blog tour for Stephanie Perkin’s new anthology, Summer Days and Summer Nights! It’s perfect for a summer day (as mentioned in the title) and is just what I’ve been needing in these days when the end of school is coming faster than I can think.

Today, I have a Q&A with Stephanie, and I’m super excited for you to read!


Summer Days GIF Novel: Summer Days & Summer Nights: Twelve Love Stories  edited by Stephanie Perkins | Goodreads
Release Date: May 17th, 2016
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin

Internationally bestselling author Stephanie Perkins brought together some of her closest friends and fellow bestselling young adult authors for the holiday anthology My True Love Gave to Me that a starred Publisher’s Weekly called “a rare holiday treat” and Romantic Times claimed “this is what all anthologies should aspire to be”. Now, she’s doing it again with SUMMER DAY AND SUMMER NIGHTS: Twelve Love Stories (St. Martin’s Griffin / On Sale: May 17, 2016), another anthology filled with twelve new stories from a superstar lineup of young adult authors. Already receiving rave reviews, this anthology is the perfect beach companion for those long, hazy summer days. Featuring twelve brand new short stories from:

  • Stephanie Perkins (Anna and the French Kiss, My True Love Gave To Me)
  • Leigh Bardugo (Six of Crows, The Grisha Trilogy)
  • Francesca Lia Block (Love in the Time of Global Warming)
  • Veronica Roth (The Divergent Trilogy)
  • Lev Grossman (The Magicians Trilogy)
  • Cassandra Clare (The Mortal Instruments Series)
  • Jennifer E. Smith (The Statistical Probability of Falling in Love, The Geography of You and Me)
  • Libba Bray (A Great and Terrible Beauty)
  • Tim Federle (The Great American Whatever)
  • Nina LaCour (Everything Leads to You, You Know Me Well)
  • Jon Skovron (Misfits, Man Made Boy)
  • Brandy Colbert (Pointe)

SUMMER DAY AND SUMMER NIGHTS, written by twelve bestselling young adult writers and edited by the international bestselling Stephanie Perkins, will have you dreaming of sunset strolls by the lake. So set out your beach chair and grab your sunglasses. You have twelve reasons this summer to soak up the sun and fall in love.

Q&A

  • What was it like working on this project compared to the first one, My True Love Gave To Me? Is it easier to do the editing and collaborations with other authors now that you have experience from the first one?

This one was significantly harder. The first anthology felt like a fluke—something with my friends, just for fun! A lot more planning went into this one. I’d already been a critique partner to several of the authors in the holiday anthology, so they were used to working with me. I’d already earned their trust.

With the summer anthology, I reached out to a lot of authors whose work I admired, but I didn’t personally know them as well. Relationships had to be established. That takes time. But the work was great fun, and I loved getting to know them, and it was a tremendous honor for these incredibly talented authors to have trusted me with their work. I’m so, so grateful.

  • This is the second anthology you’ve edited. What was the inspiration? What did you give your contributing authors in the way of guidance or prompting as they began their stories?

The inspiration for the second anthology was . . . the first anthology. Working with my friends was such a joy, and I relished the opportunity to work with eleven new authors. All of them had so much to teach me both as an author and an editor. I’m always looking for opportunities to become better at my craft. Pulling apart these stories, inspecting their seams, digging in deeper—it’s a brilliant way to learn new tricks. And I’m a good editor, so I think/hope that my work was helpful for them, too.

I gave the authors only three guidelines: Their story had to take place during the summer, romantic love had to be involved, and—no matter how dark the situation got—it had to end on a note of hope.

  • Why did you decide to bring these particular authors together for this anthology?

I reached out to authors who are writing stories that I love. All of them have strong voices and—whether or not they primarily write romance—a kind and romantic heart.

The crazy and fantastic thing is that there are literally dozens of other YA authors who also fit this description. There are so many talented, inspiring writers in this industry! I had to make some tough decisions, and a lot of it just came down to keeping a balance between the genres.

  • Your contribution to this collection is a new story featuring Marigold and North (previously seen in My True Love Gave to Me). What was it like revisiting these characters? Did you always know that there would be more to their story? Will there be more in the future?

I’m not sure if I always knew a continuation of their story was worth telling, but I did know where their future was headed. In the early days, I was working under the assumption that I wouldn’t HAVE another chance write about them, so I was trying not to think about it too much. If that makes sense.

But . . . I have a hard time letting go of characters. I always have. So when the summer anthology came to fruition, I knew immediately that I would continue their story. Now, I’m happy with how I’ve left them. In the first story, North helped to heal Marigold. This time, she helped to heal him. They’re good.

  • How does editing a short story collection compare to writing a full-length novel? Did your process as an author influence your process as an editor?

It’s easier. A lot easier. I only had to come up with original content for 1/12th of the 400 pages! My writing process is slow and generally agonizing, so . . . yeah. It’s just not even close.

But it’s a huge part of the reason why I love to edit. I’m a slow drafter, and I prefer the tinkering, shimmering stages of editing and revising. It’s where a good story becomes great. My nitpicky brain loves working on that level—finding a better word, a tighter theme, a more developed character, a more textured setting. And I absolutely love helping other authors to find their own deeper, truer stories.

I think most authors become a better editor as they become a better writer. I’m the opposite. I started off with stronger editorial skills, and, as they improve, they’re helping me to become a better writer.

But, being an author, I will say that when I’m wearing my editorial hat, I heap a LOT of praise onto the other authors. I leave tons of notes for them in the margins and mark every single passage or phrase that I love. Writing is difficult work, and I always appreciate it when my own editors take the time to mark their favorite bits. Praise also shows me how to revise my work! It teaches me which parts are the good parts! And that’s revising in a nutshell: adding more good parts, removing the bad parts.

  • What are your favorite summer love stories?

Several of the authors in my two anthologies have written swoony summer romances. A few that immediately spring to mind: I’m pretty sure all of Jennifer E. Smith’s books take place over summer (The Geography of You and Me is a favorite), as well as Nina LaCour’s The Disenchantments and Everything Leads to You, and Jenny Han’s Summer series, starting with The Summer I Turned Pretty

  • Do you have any go-to summer books you like to re-read summer after summer?

I’ll recommend one of my mother’s favorite summer reads: Sarah Dessen’s Keeping the Moon. It might be my favorite Dessen novel, too.

  • If you had to pair Summer Days and Summer Nights with a summer-y drink, what would it be?

Watermelon juice. It’s so simple—it’s just watermelon that’s been put into a blender, but it’s heaven.

  • In other interviews you’ve described yourself as an introvert. What does your writing space look like? How do you organize a typical writing day?

Yes. I’m very introverted, and I’m very comfortable being alone. I’d love to be one of those cool, coffee-shop authors, but I need silence to write.

My office is in my house. It has lime green walls and a bold pink desk. (If I remember correctly, the name of the paint was “Sweet Sixteen Pink.”) My desk is covered with trinkets from loved ones, and my shelves overflow with research books and foreign editions of my own novels. There are also a lot of tiny, creepy items—animal skulls and teeth. I have a dark sense of humor.

I wear noise-cancelling headphones, and I start work at ten o’clock in the morning. I work for four hours. Five, if it’s going well. After that I stop, because I’m prone to burnout. Then I’ll eat a late lunch, and then I’ll answer email or pop on social media until my husband comes home.

But if I’m nearing the end of a deadline, all of these rules are thrown out, and I work around the clock until it’s done. And then I crash for about two weeks.

  • What books from your younger years as a reader contribute to your stories now as a writer?

Francesca Lia Block’s Weetzie Bat was hugely influential on Lola and the Boy Next Door, which was the first novel that I worked on. Lola wouldn’t exist without Weetzie. My first published book, Anna and the French Kiss, was largely influenced by the voices of Meg Cabot, John Green, and Maureen Johnson. And everything I write has been influenced by my love of fairy tales and happily-ever-afters.

  • What can we expect to see from you next? Are there any plans of releasing a new full-length novel soon?

My next novel is a teen slasher, which hopefully (if I finish it on time!) will be published next year. I’m having such a blast writing in the horror genre. And it’s honestly not as big of a departure as it seems. There’s still an attractive boy, an intriguing setting, and quippy friends. It just also contains a lot of murder.

  • If readers could take away one thing from having read Summer Days And Summer Nights what would you hope it would be?

It always sounds corny, but . . . hope is the hope. No matter what’s going on in your life right now—and as teenagers, so much of your life is out of your own control—it will get better. You’ll get more control, you’ll get to make more choices. Make good choices. Learn from your mistakes. I promise—with every single fiber of my heart—that life gets better. There is always hope.


I hope you all enjoy Summer Days & Summer Nights as much as I did!

THE ONLY THING WORSE THAN ME IS YOU | Blog Tour

I’m super excited to be sharing The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You by Lily Anderson – a debut book that is perfect for the summer time! I have an excerpt from the book below, and let me know in comments if you’re as excited about this book as I am.


The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is YouNovel: The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You by Lily Anderson | Goodreads
Release Date: May 17th, 2016
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin

Trixie Watson has two very important goals for senior year: to finally save enough to buy the set of Doctor Who figurines at the local comic books store, and to place third in her class and knock Ben West–and his horrendous new mustache that he spent all summer growing–down to number four.

Trixie will do anything to get her name ranked over Ben’s, including give up sleep and comic books–well, maybe not comic books–but definitely sleep. After all, the war of Watson v. West is as vicious as the Doctor v. Daleks and Browncoats v. Alliance combined, and it goes all the way back to the infamous monkey bars incident in the first grade. Over a decade later, it’s time to declare a champion once and for all.

The war is Trixie’s for the winning, until her best friend starts dating Ben’s best friend and the two are unceremoniously dumped together and told to play nice. Finding common ground is odious and tooth-pullingly-painful, but Trixie and Ben’s cautious truce slowly transforms into a fandom-based tentative friendship. When Trixie’s best friend gets expelled for cheating and Trixie cries foul play, however, they have to choose who to believe and which side they’re on–and they might not pick the same side.


EXCERPT

Ben West spent summer vacation growing a handlebar mustache.

Seriously.

Hovering over his upper lip—possibly glued there—was a bushy monstrosity that shouted, “Look out, senior class, I’m gonna tie some chicks to the train tracks and then go on safari with my good friend Teddy Roosevelt. Bully!”

            I blindly swatted at Harper with my comic book, trying to alert her to the fact that there was a mustachioed moron trying to blend in with the other people entering campus.

“I know I should have made flash cards for the poems that Cline assigned,” she said, elbowing me back hard, both acknowledging that she wasn’t blind and that she hated when I interrupted her monologues about the summer reading list. “But I found Mrs. Bergman’s sociolinguistics syllabus on the U of O website and I’m sure she’ll use the same one here.”

The mustache twitched an attempt at freedom, edging away from West’s ferrety nose as he tried to shove past a group of nervous looking freshmen. It might have been looking at me and Harper, but its owner was doing everything possible to ignore us, the planter box we were sitting on, and anything else that might have been east of the wrought iron gate.

“So,” Harper continued, louder than necessary considering we were sitting two inches apart. “I thought I’d get a head start. But now I’m afraid that we were supposed to memorize the poems for Cline. He never responded to my emails.”

Pushing my comic aside, I braced my hands against the brick ledge. The mustache was daring me to say something. Harper could hear it too, as evidenced by her staring up at the sun and muttering, “Or you could, you know, not do this.”

“Hey, West,” I called, ignoring the clucks of protest coming from my left. “I’m pretty sure your milk mustache curdled. Do you need a napkin?”

Ben West lurched to a stop, one foot inside of the gate. Even on the first day of school, he hadn’t managed to find a clean uniform. His polo was a series of baggy wrinkles, half tucked into a pair of dingy khakis. He turned his head. If the mustache had been able to give me the finger, it would have. Instead, it stared back at me with its curlicue fists raised on either side of West’s thin mouth.

“Hey, Harper,” he said. He cut his eyes at me and grumbled, “Trixie.”

I leaned back, offering the slowest of slow claps. “Great job, West. You have correctly named us. I, however, may need to change your mantle. Do you prefer Yosemite Sam or Doc Holliday? I definitely think it should be cowboy related.”

“Isn’t it cruel to make the freshmen walk past you?” he asked me, pushing the ratty brown hair out of his eyes. “Or is it some kind of ritual hazing?”

“Gotta scare them straight.” I gestured to my blonde associate. “Besides, I’ve got Harper to soften the blow. It’s like good cop, bad cop.”

“It is nothing like good cop, bad cop. We’re waiting for Meg,” Harper said, flushing under the smattering of freckles across her cheeks as she turned back to the parking lot, undoubtedly trying to escape to the special place in her head where pop quizzes—and student council vice presidents—lived. She removed her headband,  pushing it back in place until she once again looked like Sleeping Beauty in pink glasses and khakis. Whereas I continued to look like I’d slept on my ponytail.

Which I had because it is cruel to start school on a Wednesday.

“Is it heavy?” I asked Ben, waving at his mustache. “Like weight training for your face? Or are you just trying to compensate for your narrow shoulders?”

He gave a half-hearted leer at my polo. “I could ask the same thing of your bra.”

My arms flew automatically to cover my chest, but I seemed to be able to only conjure the consonants of the curses I wanted to hurl at him. In his usual show of bad form, West took this as some sort of victory.

“As you were,” he said, jumping back into the line of uniforms on their way to the main building. He passed too close to Kenneth Pollack, who shoved him hard into the main gate, growling, “Watch it, nerd.”

“School for geniuses, Kenneth,” Harper called. “We’re all nerds.”

Kenneth flipped her off absentmindedly as West brushed himself off and darted past Mike Shepherd into the main building.

“Brute,” Harper said under her breath.

I scuffed the planter box with the heels of my mandatory Mary Janes. “I’m off my game. My brain is still on summer vacation. I totally left myself open to that cheap trick.”

“I was referring to Kenneth, not Ben,” she frowned. “But, yes, you should have known better. Ben’s been using that bra line since fourth grade.”

As a rule, I refused to admit when Harper was right before eight in the morning. It would just lead to a full day of her gloating. I hopped off of the planter and scooped up my messenger bag, shoving my comic inside.

“Come on. I’m over waiting for Meg. She’s undoubtedly choosing hair care over punctuality. Again.”

Harper slid bonelessly to her feet, sighing with enough force to slump her shoulders as she followed me through the front gate and up the stairs. The sunlight refracted against her pale hair every time her neck swiveled to look behind us. Without my massive aviator sunglasses, I was sure I would have been blinded by the glare.

“What’s with you?” I asked, kicking a stray pebble out of the way.

“What? Nothing.” Her head snapped back to attention, knocking her glasses askew. She quickly straightened them with two trembling hands. “Nothing. I was just thinking that maybe senior year might be a good time for you to end your war with Ben. You’d have more time to study and read comics and…”

Unlike the tardy Meg, Harper was tall enough that I could look at her without craning my neck downward. It made it easier to level her with a droll stare. Sometimes, it’s better to save one’s wit and just let the stupidity of a thought do the talking.

She rolled her eyes and clucked again, breezing past me to open the door.

“Or not,” she said, swinging the door open and letting me slip past her. “Year ten of Watson v. West starts now. But if one of you brings up the day he pushed you off the monkey bars, I am taking custody of Meg and we are going to sit with the yearbook staff during lunch.”

“I accept those terms,” I grinned. “Now help me think of historical figures with mustaches. Hitler and Stalin are entirely too obvious. I need to brainstorm before we get homework.”


This book is out today and is SERIOUSLY worth the buy. Go forth and purchase!

THE STAR-TOUCHED QUEEN | Blog Tour + Review

I’m incredibly honored to a part of the blog tour for The Star-Touched Queen, the beautiful debut title for Roshani Chokshi. Today I have a review and an excerpt for you from the book (!!!!). Let me know in comments what you think!

The Star-Touched Queen High ResNovel: The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi | Goodreads
Release Date: April 26th, 2016
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

The Star-Touched Queen is a lush and vivid standalone debut young adult fantasy that seamlessly weaves the Greek myth of Hades and Persephone with Indian folklore. Featuring a smart, independent anti-princess who must take her place as queen and a forbidden romance that defies the odds, debut author Roshani Chokshi pairs beautiful writing with a thrilling pace and compulsive plot, using her own Filipino and Indian heritage to create a culturally diverse and vividly imagined world.

Fate and fortune. Power and passion. What does it take to be the queen of a kingdom when you’re only seventeen?

Maya is cursed. With a horoscope that promises a marriage of Death and Destruction, she has earned only the scorn and fear of her father’s kingdom. Content to follow more scholarly pursuits, her whole world is torn apart when her father, the Raja, arranges a wedding of political convenience to quell outside rebellions. Soon Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Neither roles are what she expected: As Akaran’s queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar’s wife, she finds something else entirely: Compassion. Protection. Desire…

But Akaran has its own secrets — thousands of locked doors, gardens of glass, and a tree that bears memories instead of fruit. Soon, Maya suspects her life is in danger. Yet who, besides her husband, can she trust? With the fate of the human and Otherworldly realms hanging in the balance, Maya must unravel an ancient mystery that spans reincarnated lives to save those she loves the most…including herself.

From an incredibly fresh voice, Roshani Chokshi’s THE STAR-TOUCHED QUEEN is a beautifully written standalone novel that will enchant young adult and fantasy readers until the last page.


 Review

When I got The Star-Touched Queen, I screeched. Literally. Screeched.

When I finished it, I screeched again, but this time out of sheer love and adoration and a tumble of emotions.  ((I also have no coherent thoughts, so I deeply apologize for the rest of this review.))

If you love fantasy and romance and mythology, go get this book now. As a lover of all of those things, it was everything I could want in a book and more. Maya and Amar are my loves and I want them to stay together until the end of time and this book put me through the wringer. The plot broke me multiple times and had me wanting to throw the book at the wall, but also made me almost cry with beauty. The world Chokshi builds in this book is truly magical and I never wanted to leave.

I also got some intense Alice in Wonderland vibes from the book, so if you’re a fellow Alice fan, this book could definitely appeal to you. It features weird creatures, multiple worlds, falling into holes, and a STRONG imagination that I loved. While reading, I felt like my brain was stretching to comprehend the world Chokshi created, and I couldn’t get enough of it.

Sadly, this book is a standalone so I won’t get more of Maya and Amar *cries* but I hear there’s a companion novel in the works, so I’m eager to see who it features.

Roshani Chokshi, you get a standing ovation from me. Just. YES.


Excerpt

Chapter 2: LESSONS IN SILENCE

The archives were cut like honeycombs and golden light clung to them, dousing every tome, painting, treatise and poem the soft gold of ghee freshly skimmed from boiling butter. I was only allowed to visit once a week—to meet with my weekly tutor before I inevitably scared him away. Every time I left the archival room, my arms brimmed with parchment paper. I loved the feeling of discovery, of not knowing how much I wanted something until I had discovered its absence.

The week before, I had lost myself in the folktales of Bharata. Stories of elephants who spun clouds, shaking tremors loose from ancient trunks gnarled with the rime of lost cyclones, whirlwinds and thunderstorms. Myths of frank-eyed naga women twisting ser- pentine, flashing smiles full of uncut gemstones. Legends of a world beneath, above, beside the one I knew—where trees bore edible gems and no one would think twice about a girl with dark skin and a darker horoscope. I wanted it to be real so badly that sometimes I thought I could see the Otherworld. Sometimes, if I closed my eyes and pressed my toes into the ground, I could al- most sense them sinking into the loam of some other land, a dream demesne where the sky cleaved in two and the earth was sutured with a magic that could heal hearts, mend bones, change lives.Read More »

Announcing A NOVEL CHAT

anovelchat-banner

I’m breaking my hiatus to announce to you all my newest project that I’m involved in.

My beloved friends Aneeqah (of the Writing Hustle and My Not So Real Life) and Emily (of Forever Literary) and I are officially co-hosting a YA podcast called A Novel Chat.

What is A Novel Chat?

A Novel Chat is a discussion about YA books, trends, and topics. It was birthed from the desire for those of us who, like Emily, Aneeqah, and I, love podcasts AND books to have something to listen to that was fun and interesting. Aneeqah originally came up with the idea, and Emily and I hopped on board as co-hosts! The structure of A Novel Chat is to have a monthly book that all podcasts in that month will be based around, and then weekly topics inspired by the book of the month. We will be posting weekly on Mondays with new episodes!

What is March’s theme?

For March, we chose the Harry Potter series, which is a beloved book for all of us. We wanted to pick something that a lot of people have read and also that can spark interesting conversations about books for us to have on the podcast. Our first episode (which is live now!) is about YA books that we want to become classics.

Where can you find A Novel Chat?

We’re on every podcast format (we think–let us know if you can’t find us!). Check us out on iTunes here or search us in your neighborhood podcast app and we should pop up. You can find us online at www.anovelchat.com and on Twitter @aNovelChat.

Here’s our first episode, Soundcloud style:

To find out more head over to Aneeqah’s blog here.

IN REAL LIFE Blog Tour

Today I’m honored to be a part of the blog tour for In Real Life by Jessica Love! I’ve got a review, excerpt, playlist, and giveaway of the book to share with you all. It’s a long post, so bear with me!

Here’s the playlist for the book on Spotify – listen while you read this post if you’d like! Check it out here.


In Real Life by Jessica Love | Goodreads
Release Date: March 1st, 2016
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books

Hannah Cho and Nick Cooper have been best friends since 8th grade. They talk for hours on the phone, Skype all the time, regularly send each other presents, and know everything there is to know about one another.

There’s just one problem…Hannah and Nick have never actually met.

Hannah has spent her entire life doing what she’s supposed to, but when her senior year spring break plans get ruined by a rule-breaker at school, she decides to finally break a rule or two herself.  She impulsively decides to road trip to Vegas, with her older sister and BFF in tow, to surprise Nick and finally declare her more-than-a-friend feelings for him.

Hannah’s romantic gesture backfires when she gets to Vegas and meets Nick’s girlfriend, whom he failed to mention to Hannah for the past three months.  And it turns out his relationship status isn’t the only thing he’s been lying to her about.  Hannah knows the real Nick can’t be that different from the online Nick she knows and loves, but now she only has one night in Sin City to figure out what her feelings for Nick really are, all while discovering how life can change when you break the rules every now and then.

One of the reasons I was so excited for this book is because I relate to Nick and Hannah’s relationship. Their online relationship that blurs the line between in real life and only internet, the fantasizing about meeting them in real life but also a bit frightened. I’ve experienced that friendship with countless friends who I’ve made through blogging, and so for me, I hope that this book would succeed in encapsulating this relationship.

And it was. Hannah’s narration about her fears about meeting Nick, but also the crazy excitement. The feeling like they know you just as well as the people you know IRL, but also in a different way. I loved how real this book was – the awkwardness when you meet one another for the first time, but how it gets better. What makes In Real Life so great, though, is the surprise thrown Hannah’s way. You’re wanting Hannah and Nick to get together for the ENTIRE book, but there’s a girlfriend in the way (who I kind of hated) and the fact that both Hannah and Nick are completely frightened of telling the other one how they feel.

What results from this quandary, though, is an adorable and addicting novel. I was hooked from the beginning and read the entire book in about an hour and a half. Hannah and Nick are the kinds of friends I have, and their journey from friends to maybe something more results in both of them taking risks and following their heart. In Real Life funny, relatable, and the perfect novel to lose yourself in. For fans of contemporary, get this book – you’ll adore it – and for anyone who has internet friends, trust me, you’re going to love it. A lot.


Excerpt

CREDIT: In Real Life by Jessica Love; Courtesy of Thomas Dunne Books.

My best friend and I have never met.

We talk every day, on the phone or online, and he knows more about me than anyone. Like, deep into my soul. But we’ve never actually seen each other in real life.

Sometimes, when I’m talking to Nick, I wonder how we man- aged to get ourselves into such a bizarre, complicated friendship. At first glance, our relationship probably doesn’t seem all that odd. Like right now, it’s the Friday afternoon that kicks off the spring break of my senior year. I’m lying out next to my pool with my feet dangling in the chilly water, my back flat on concrete, and I’m talking to him on the phone. This is how I spend pretty much every Friday from 3:30 to 4:25-ish, before he goes off to band practice and I have one of my various school or family obligations. Sounds pretty normal.

But the thing is, Nick lives in a different state, 274 miles away. Yes, I looked it up.

“Ghost,” he says, because he never calls me Hannah, “you know I will do anything for my best friend, and this is no exception. I’ll have this girl killed for you without a second thought. Just give me twenty-four hours.”

I laugh as I swish my feet back and forth in the pool. “There’s no need to resort to murder. It’s just a stupid student government trip. I’ll be over it by the end of the week.”

As tempting as it is to plot Aditi Singh’s violent end, the only reason she applied to go to the national leadership conference when it should have been a given that the senior class president (aka me) was going was because I got into UCLA and she didn’t, so a big ol’ middle finger to her. But she can’t see my middle finger, because she’s in Washington, D.C., for spring break and I’m at home with no plans like a big loser.

“Well, if you change your mind,” Nick says, “just let me know. That’s how much our friendship means to me. The code word is ‘Platypus.’ Just say it, and—poof!—I’ll make her disappear.”

I sit up and pull my feet from the pool, crossing them in front of me. “And how can you do that?”

“Hey, I live in Vegas. I have connections to the mob. Everyone here does.”

“You’re a senior in high school, and you live in a tract home in Henderson. You’re not exactly Al Pacino.”

“You don’t know. Everything I’ve told you for the past four years could be a front. I need to have a cover. No one suspects the quiet, nondescript white boy.”

“You’re right. There is a lot I don’t know about you. I mean, there are any number of huge secrets you could be keeping from me.” I say it just because I’m playing along, but it’s not true at all. I’m pretty sure I know everything there is to know about Nick Cooper.

I know when my sister met his brother at a concert four years ago and they told us we should start talking online, he thought I was one of his brother’s friends playing a joke on him until I e-mailed him a picture. I know in the middle of junior year, he shaved his head when his favorite English teacher started chemo. I know the gravelly scratch of his voice when he wakes up in the middle of the night to answer one of my random “I’m bored, talk to me” phone calls. I know the hole in the sleeve seam of the lucky Rage Against the Machine T-shirt he inherited from his brother, Alex, since I’ve seen so many pictures of it. I know his middle name (Anthony), the date and time he was born (September 24 at 3:58 A.M.), and his favorite color (gray). And he knows more about me than absolutely anyone else, even the über-embarrassing stuff. We’ve IM’d, texted, sent a million pictures, mailed each other packages, video-chatted, and talked on the phone.

We’ve just never been in the same place at the same time.

I don’t think it’s strange to be so close to someone I’ve never met. Yeah, he’s in Nevada and I’m in Southern California, but I talk to him more than to people I’ve been in classes with since kindergarten. I do wish we could go to the movies together or something normal like that, but we watch the same movies at the same time and mock them over video chat, which is pretty much the same thing.

On the other end of the phone, his laugh stops abruptly and his voice changes. “Secrets? What kind of secrets could I have?”

“Who knows!” I try to sound shocked and serious, but I can’t keep a laugh from creeping in. “For all I know, you do have a secret mob life. Do you have some sort of gangster name I’m supposed to call you?”

His voice lightens again when he realizes I’m joking. “Oh yeah. Knuckles Nick. Or, no. Wait. Nick the Click.”

“What does that even mean?”

“I don’t know. It rhymed. Don’t those names always rhyme?”

“I know nothing about mob names, Nick the Click. But rhyming names do make mobsters seem a bit less murder-y.”

There’s a shuffle, a thump, and a squeak on his end of the phone, and I imagine him collapsing backwards onto his twin bed. “I just hate that you’re still bummed over missing out on the trip.”

“It’s not that I’m bummed, it’s just . . . I followed all the rules, Nick. I did exactly what I was supposed to do. Serving four years as class president means I go on that trip, not Aditi Singh. Onetime vice-presidents don’t get to go! It’s supposed to be my year. She broke the rules, but she got picked. How do you break all the rules and get what you want like that? It isn’t fair.”

“Well, you know what they say. . . .”

“Life’s not fair?”

“Well, that, too. But I was thinking rules are made to be broken.”


Giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The giveaway is open until March 8th, and is open US + Canada only. Thanks so much to St. Martin’s Griffin for inviting me to be a part of the blog tour, and for reading! https://widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js

In Honor of Valentine’s Day, My Favorite YA Romances

romances for vday

I’m a sucker for a good romance, as I think most readers of YA are. In honor of this day of chocolate, Hallmark, and love, I bring you my favorite YA romances!

Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry | Goodreads

This is one of my favorite, favorite, favorite romances in YA. I love Echo and Noah as separate characters, but together they simply are perfection. They care for one another in such a beautiful and heart-wrenching way, and everytime I read about them, my heart heals a little bit.

(Also, any Katie McGarry is a good bet. Literally. ANY.)

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas| Goodreads

Feyre and Tamlin are just.

YES.

Their romance is beautiful, powerful, and utterly unstoppable. I loved seeing them grow and develop over the course of this book, and also learning more about their fantastical world. Maas is a world-builder extraordinaire, and if you somehow HAVEN’T read her books before, do it. The worlds + the romance = FREAKING AMAZING.

The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh | Goodreads

This was one of my favorites of 2015, and one of those reasons was the romance. Shahrzad, the main character, is planning to kill 18-year-old Capliph of Khorasan, Khalid. Except, when she gets to know him, she realizes that she may not be able to kill him.

In fact, she may be falling in love with him.

(That was my little summary and if you are like HOLY WOW I NEED THIS, aka me upon reading the actual summary, then GO. NOW. GO GET IT.)

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin | Goodreads

Oh, Mara and Noah, how I love you.

This is one of the few paranormal series that I truly love (you’ll meet the other one later in this list) and one of the reasons I love it so is the romance. Noah and Mara are incredibly supporting of one another, and this series is filled with sacrifices, pain, and true love.

I need to reread this series.

A Thousand Piece of You by Claudia Gray | Goodreads

Thisis a recent read of mine and OH I LOVED IT. It’s kind of historical fiction, but also futuristic and also science fiction. And time travel. It’s kind of everything rolled into one book.

Also, the romance between Marguerite and Paul? *heart eyes*

(Get excited for the part set in Russia. Get really freaking excited.)

If I Stay by Gayle Forman | Goodreads

One of my favorite authors and one of my favorite love stories.

If I Stay is stunning. It’s heart-wrenching, poetic, romantic, and packed with a punch. Mia and Adam take my breath away everytime I read their story. I love their fierce love filled with music, and how their love tells the truth about long-distance relationships.

Gayle Forman is also a queen of romance, so all of her stuff is a go-to for me.

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater | Goodreads

This is my other favorite paranormal series. It’s about werewolves, something I’m not really a fan of as a general rule, but the wolves of Mercy Falls? YES. Grace and Sam’s love story is all about fighting for the people you love, and oh boy do they fight for each other. It’s a tale of forbidden love against a backdrop of the woods, and it takes my breath away every time I read it.

Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi | Goodreads

If somehow you haven’t read this book already, go find a copy. I don’t care where you have to go to get one – GO.

Tahereh Mafi is not only a stunningly beautiful writer, she also is a talented crafter of love stories. Whether it be Juliette and Adam or Juliette and Warner, each time I’m as in love with the couples as they are themselves. This story is also one of the first dystopians I read and made me fall in love with the genre.

Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta | Goodreads

You thought you could get away with not seeing Jellicoe Road on this list, hmm?

Well guess what. You failed.

Jellicoe Road is my everything. Taylor Markham and Jonah Griggs are also my everything.

Please go read this book. I beg of you.

PLEASE.


I hope you enjoyed my list and let me know yours in the comments!

Have a lovely day of love and chocolate and books.