Thursday, June 30, 2016

2016 Debut Authors Bash- Featuring Meghan Rogers


Welcome to one of the final stops on the 2016 Debut Authors Bash, hosted by Nichole at YA Reads. This is a tour to celebrate and spotlight the authors that have burst into the publishing world this year, as well as encourage you to give one of their books a shot. Believe me, we've got some pretty great ones on the tour this year (especially my stop, but I'm a bit biased ;) )

Be sure to scroll down! We have a book review, author bios, a Q&A with Meghan Rogers, and a tour-wide giveaway!

SO.

Without further ado, let me introduce you to the author of one of my favorite 2016 releases so far... Meghan Rogers!


Author Bio


Meghan Rogers has been telling stories since she could talk and writing creatively since she was first introduced to the concept in third grade. She spent her high school years completing her first novel and has been actively writing ever since. After college, Meghan went to work with high school writers while earning her MFA in Creative Writing from Rosemont College. She is currently living in the Philadelphia area and working on the next Raven Files novel.




Book Review


Title: Crossing the Line (The Raven Files #1)
Author: Meghan Rogers
Publisher: Philomel Books
Release Date: April 12, 2016
Format Read: ARC
Rating: Five stars

Description from Goodreads: If Jason Bourne were a teenaged girl...

Jocelyn Steely was kidnapped as a child and raised in North Korea as a spy. When her agency sends her to the U.S. to infiltrate the very group her parents once worked for, Jocelyn jumps at the chance to turn double agent and finish off her kidnappers once and for all. She convinces the head of the American spy agency to trust her, but it's not quite as simple as that: Jocelyn has to fight the withdrawal symptoms from the drug that the North Koreans used to keep her in line, and her new fellow spies refuse to trust their former adversary. Worst of all, there might be some new information to uncover about her parents-- if she even wants to find out.

This action-packed spy thriller is part GALLAGHER GIRLS, part ALEX RIDER, and part BOURNE IDENTITY.

I received an ARC of CROSSING THE LINE back in April, and I read it as soon as I got it, because I wanted to have it reviewed on release date, as is my policy. But then I found the sign-up sheets for this tour, and I post-poned my review so that I could add it in with the Bash. I chose to do this because CROSSING THE LINE was a five star read for me.

First off.

I've read a lot of thrillers. I've read a lot of spy books. I've read a lot of assassin books. Take the best of each of those, add a fresh, creative plot, killer characters (Literally), and wrap it up with a page-turning bow, and you get the first book in The Raven Files. 

I was hooked from, like, page two. Meghan had me in her clutches from the prologue, and that's something that happens very rarely. In fact, when it does happen, it generally means that the book is going to suck. Because, and I've mentioned this before, if I start out liking it, I'll probably be feeling polar opposite by the end of the book. But with CROSSING THE LINE, I was into it from start to finish. So into it that I did the unthinkable. The thing that I never, ever do. The thing that only happens once or twice a year:

I read it again the day after I finished it.

And this time, I read it aloud to my mom, who also thought it was crazy good.

Reading it to her, I would break into fits of laughter so long that it would leave me in tears, because this book is also extremely hilarious. Not in a joke-y way, but in a way of character personalities and responses. Mostly from one named Scorpion, because I just could not handle him. He sent me laughing every few pages with his constant anger and arrogance. And then Jocelyn, with her fierce take-no-crap attitude. And Sam, with his carefree, everything's a game smirk.

Pulling the drug, Gerex, into the story made everything ten times better. Not only was the situation surrounding Jocelyn and her past making everything tense, as well as the feelings towards her from her peers, but you also had the drug plucking away at the already-too-tight strings, and it kept me constantly on the edge of my seat, just waiting to see which string would break first.

What may have been my favorite thing about this book (other than the characters that I loved to bits and pieces) is that there were none of your typical YA cliches. I have a specific one in mind, but I can't share it with you, because I want you to be just as shocked as I was when it didn't happen. Though, there are multiple times that I expected something cliche to happen and it didn't, so maybe your biggest one will be different than my biggest one.

CROSSING THE LINE definitely earned and worked for it's five stars. This is a book I'd highly recommend to anyone who likes thrillers, mysteries, spy books, annnnnd anyone who likes Black Widow, AKA Natasha Romanoff. After all, Natasha *is* where Meghan got the inspiration for Jocelyn... 



Q&A With Meghan Rogers

I was lucky enough to get to interrogate Meghan about the first book in her Raven Files series. This is definitely a NON-spoilery interview, so don't worry about reading anything that you shouldn't!

The interview is as follows.


Q1.) I know that your inspiration for CROSSING THE LINE came from Natasha Romanoff. How much of Black Widow's character influenced your creation of Jocelyn?

A1.) Very little intentionally, though inadvertently, it seems more of her snuck in than I planned. When I first saw THE AVENGERS, I didn't have any real backstory for the characters, including Black Widow. And after I saw it, I didn't want to do too much research. The beginnings of the idea for CROSSING THE LINE came to me halfway through the movie, and I purposefully didn't want to be too influenced by Black Widow's story. I wanted Jocelyn's backstory to as much as much of my own as possible. To this day I still haven't looked into it, so all I know is what I've seen in the movies. The part of her character that intentionally influenced Jocelyn was her general history-- that she had worked for an enemy and done horrible things for them before joining "the good guys," and that she would be switching sides. The rest of Jocelyn's character I created around those concepts.

Then comes the part I didn't plan. One thing I like to so is give each of my characters a Myers-Briggs personality test. So after I created her character enough to have a good feel for her, I took the test answering the questions as she would answer them. Jocelyn is an ISTP, and as I was doing more research on her personality type, I learned that Black Widow is an ISTP too. This was totally unplanned-- I mean, I wouldn't even know how to manipulate the test to get that result even if I wanted to. I have no idea who determined Black Widow to be this type, but if it's accurate I think it's pretty fitting.



Q2.)If THE RAVEN FILES were turned into a virtual reality, who would you want to spar with? Be partnered with? 

A2.) This is such a fun question! I think I'd want to spar with Nikki because my real-life sparring existence is non-existent, and I think she'd be patient enough to teach me a little bit. And I'd want to be partnered with Travis because I totally trust him to have my back.



Q3.) GEREX. Where did the idea for the drug come from?

A3.) The Gerex was primarily born out of necessity. I knew from the start I didn't want Jocelyn to spend half the book earning the trust of both the IDA director and the reader. I wanted you to be on her side from the very beginning. I also needed a way to explain how KATO had such a hold on her for all these years. That's how I came to the idea of a drug. But then I knew it couldn't be a drug that already existed. After all, if Jocelyn could get the drug after she left KATO, then it still wouldn't explain why she didn't try to leave sooner. That's when I realized I'd have to create the drug myself. I think it added a really interesting and complex layer to Jocelyn's character that I hadn't originally thought of.



Q4.) If you could choose one of your characters to pull out of the book and bring to life for a day, who would you choose, and what would you want to do with them?

A4.) I would definitely choose Jocelyn and I would want her to teach me how to beat a security system, break into a building, and steal something. I (probably;) wouldn't actually want to steal something with her, but I think it'd be cool to know HOW to do those thing.



Q5.) If you were to pin Scorpion (I can't seem to think of him as "Travis". It's always Scorpion.) and Jocelyn together in a fight to the death, how do you think it would turn out?

A5.) You are not the only one who can't think of him as Travis! I tend to refer to him as Travis though, because to me he's been Travis a lot longer than he's been Scorpion (but more on code names later. ;) Anyway, this is a hard question mostly because there are so many factors! But if we're talking before Jocelyn joined the IDA, Jocelyn would definitely win. If you've read the first chapter of the book, you'll know that she definitely had her chance Jocelyn's strength is her speed and agility. She's also a lot more reckless than he is, so she'll take more risks than he will. Ultimately, Jocelyn doesn't like killing but she'll do what she has to in order to survive. Id she found herself in a situation where it was her or Travis, she'd pick herself and I don't see Travis being able to get to her first.



Q6.) Were you a pantser or a planner when it came to writing CROSSING THE LINE?

A6.) I am a totally hardcore planner for everything that I write. I've learned that I have a hard time thinking about the story and writing the story at the same time, so first I think and then I write. I have, like, three phases for brainstorming. First, is the idea phase, where I just free write about what the plot and characters could be. Then comes the plotting stage where I map out the key plot points and track the pace of the story. Then I'll create a fairly detailed chapter-by-chapter outline that's color coded by storyline to keep it all straight. And even with all of this, there's a really good chance that I'll get in there and the story will start to head in a different direction and that I'll have to re-plan. But even when I have to stop and re-plan. I get a draft down a lot faster this way than when I try to think and write at the same time. Once I have a draft written I'll repeat the process as needed.



Q7.) Which chapter (or scene) was your favorite to write? Least favorite?

A7.) I don't think I really have one favorite scene or chapter, but my favorite moments were any time Jocelyn was pushed to trust someone before she was really ready to. When I started writing this, I focused Jocelyn's character development around her learning to trust, so I loved backing her into a corner and forcing her to grow. And I'm not too sure I have a least favorite either! Generally speaking if a scene isn't fun for me to write, it probably isn't that much fun to read either, so the ones that weren't that fun to work on probably got cut a long time ago. Sorry this was such a lame answer!



Q8.) How did you come up with each of the characters' code names?

A8.) I actually have a hard time with code names! I don't know why, but they take me a lot longer to figure out than they should. For about three drafts I had typed **CODE NAME** every time Travis's code name came up (which is why he's always been more Travis to me than Scorpion.) Travis got his code name when I started asking for help. I was working and volunteering in a high school when I was working on this book and it was a student who helped me come up with Scorpion.

Jocelyn's code name has a little but more meaning behind it-- or at least it does now. Originally her code name was White Rose, and there wasn't too much meaning behind that. We had to change it for publishing and historical reasons, and my editor had suggested making it a bird that had some kind of meaning behind it, which I liked. Since Jocelyn was smart and couldn't be controlled by KATO, I went looking for a bird that has the same qualities to use as a code name. So I talked to my sister who is an animal behaviorist and was interning at the Philadelphia Zoo at the time. She said the Raven at the Zoo was very difficult to control-- he would only cooperate for one of his kepers-- and super smart, which made Raven the perfect fit!



Q9.) We know that The Raven Files is a series... will book two be from Jocelyn's point of view as well? Or multiple POVs?

A9.) Book two is in Jocelyn's point of view. I'm a never say never type of person, so I don't want to say this series will never be told from another point of view, but as of now, I consider this series to be Jocelyn's story, so she gets to be the one to tell it.



Q10.) What is your number one tip for writers?

A10.) My number one tip for writers is to work on figuring out a process that makes you both happy and productive. The internet is full of writing advice-- try as much of it as you can. Try things that sound just a little bit crazy. Some of it you may hate, but you might surprise yourself by the approaches you love. What works for one writer may not work for you, and someone else's little used crazy idea might be magic. There's a quote from Dorothy Parker, "I hate writing, I love having written." I used to feel like that. Bus since I played around with different techniques and created a process that really works for me, I can honestly say I love writing. I don't know if this will get you published any quicker, if that's your goal, but I think it makes the long journey a lot more fun if you can say you truly love the process.



Giveaway



a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

BEA Wrap-Up Part 2


Today's post holds my wrap-up for day two of my BEA adventures. Last week, I detailed out my first day of BEA 16, AKA my first-ever BEA experience, and if you haven't checked out that post yet, you can do so by clicking this link.

So, day two. Thursday.

The first thing that happened with my second day of BEA is that I woke up and immediately realized that my feet were STILL sore. Seriously, people tell you that your feet are going to hurt, but you don't think YOURS will, because you're used to walking for eight hours in your black leather boots with a two inch heel. But let me tell you a thing: IT HAPPENED. THE PAIN WAS REAL.

Day two was interesting in that, though there were many more people than the day before, it was ten times less stressful. Because we'd pretty much gotten the layout of the show floor and a feel for the way things worked on Wednesday, we had a pretty good idea of how to handle Thursday, which ended up being a bigger blessing than we realized at the time.

For me, Thursday was a super busy day, but it was also a great day in terms of hauls, because whereas most people had to catch a flight and were forced to limit what they picked up, I would just be driving back to my house at the end of the week. So my schedule was super packed. Sometimes, I had three to four signings or drops going on at the same time, and I'd have to choose between them, but I was fortunate enough that my mom has a lot of the same tastes as me, and if there was something that  I wasn't going to be able to get, the odds were that Mom wanted it too, and would go get a copy.

So the schedule.

Upon making it to the convention center, I immediately made my way over to The BFG booth. I'd taken a picture with the standee the day before, but I took another one after talking with the gals at the booth, because The BFG is a very important book in my life. If you'd like to find out what it is that makes the BFG so special to me, check back with me on July 7. You can find out all about it, and maybe even find yourself with an opportunity to enter a giveaway.                                                                                           First thing that morning, I made my way to Macmillan, where Kristen Simmons was signing METALTOWN. When I got there, they had already run out of tickets, so I changed directions and headed to the BOOKISHLY EVER AFTER signing, where I managed to get a copy of the book and tell Isabella how excited I was for her debut. From there, I went for RESURRECTING SUNSHINE and THE WOMEN IN THE WALLS, an upcoming YA horror novel that has me salivating at the thought of reading it.

 After that, I had an hour and a half gap between items on my schedule, so I used the time to make a quick check-in with Stephanie from OhanaReads and grab lunch. Thanks to the group chat Andye set up for us, we actually found out that one of the bloggers we'd been talking to a bit was in the line that Stephanie was heading to. So we got to meet Bayram from NeverEndingBooks, who actually ended up being our line buddy for nearly every line for the rest of the show.


After lunch, we made our way to Jennifer Niven's signing of HOLDING UP THE UNIVERSE, A Revelation. And from then on out, my mom and I perused the booths and drops, managing to pick up my most anticipated grab of the day, GILT HOLLOW by Lorie Langdon. This is a mystery/suspense book that comes from Blink later this year.




After HOLDING UP THE UNIVERSE, we walked around the corner to put our books in our bags when I saw the Booksplosion crew just casually hanging out in line and talking to Ransom Riggs. Earlier that morning, I'd managed to get a picture with a bunch of the guys and gals from the Booktube community, but I had missed Christine Riccio, and some of you may know that Christine is my FAVORITE Booktube person (Jessethereader comes close for second). So as we put our books in our bags, I decided to use my small time gap to wait for the crew to finish their talk with Ransom before I snuck in and asked for a picture with her. We probably waited a good ten minutes, because Ransom wanted pictures with them too (Duh. Booksplosion Crew.) but IT WAS WORTH IT because I came away having met Christine and gotten THIS LOVELY THING. In case some of you aren't as familiar with the Booktube Community, the above picture features Tiernan @ TheBookTuber , Jesse @ Jessethereader, Kat @ Katytastic , and Whitney @ WhittyNovels



By the end of the day we were starving, with sore backs, doubly sore feet, and two suitcases full of books between the three of us. But we'd had a fun and productive day, and on our way out we ended up seeing Adam Silvera. Of course, I stopped to get a picture with him since I hadn't managed to make it to his signing line earlier that day, and wanted to say hello after having met him for the first time at NTTBF. 

We ended our night with a trip to Giordano's for that famous Chicago-style pizza, and came back to the hotel to check out each other's hauls and hash out the schedule for the next day. My top grabs for the day was GILT HOLLOW, which I am over-the-moon excited for! 

The best part of the night, though? Taking off those shoes.

Happily,
Stephanie

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Tuesday Reviews: The Last Star by Rick Yancey


Title: The Last Star (The 5th Wave #3)
Author: Rick Yancey
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
Release Date: May 24, 2016
Format Read: Hardback
Rating: 5 stars

Description from Goodreads: The enemy is Other. The enemy is us.

They're down here, they're up there, they're nowhere. They want the Earth, they want us to have it. They came to wipe us out, they came to save us.

But beneath these riddles lie one truth: Cassie has been betrayed. So has Ringer. Zombie. Nugget. And all 7.5 billion people who used to live on our planet. Betrayed first by the Others, and now by ourselves.

In these last days, Earth's remaining survivors will need to decide what's more important: saving themselves... or saving what makes us human.

Okay, if you're reading this, I'm going to assume you've already read INFINITE SEA, book two in The 5th Wave series. Having assumed that, I'm going to use INFINITE SEA spoilers in this review. If you haven't read book two, you need to leave. Because this review will spoil many things, and I'd rather not do that to you.

And now for the review.

As you know, book two left off with Razor blasting Teacup to oblivion to free Ringer. Poundcake blowing the hotel up with himself, Grace, and Evan Walker inside of it. Ben Parish managing, once again, not to die from that God-awful gunshot wound. And miraculously, Evan Walker escaping Dubuque and coming to meet up with Cassie, Ben, Sams, Meghan, and Dumbo.

Now, in case you didn't read my review of THE 5TH WAVE or INFINITE SEA, I'm going to let you in on a little secret.

The only reason,

literally the ONLY reason,

that I decided to read THE INFINITE SEA is because I told a friend that I wasn't going to finish the series because Evan Walker died at the end of 5TH WAVE. I enjoyed the book, but I wasn't attached enough to the characters to finish the trilogy out, because Evan Walker was my favorite and Evan Walker died. Thankfully, said friend made eye contact and gave a slight shake of his head. Just enough for a spark of hope to ignite inside of me.

So I read INFINITE SEA. And for a good while there, I thought Evan was going to die. Again. IT'S OKAY, HE DIDN'T DIE IN BOOK ONE BUT HE'S GOING TO DIE IN BOOK TWO. And then Cassie's last chapter in the book brought him back to us, and all was well. I was lad, but I also knew that there was another book coming, and it very well had the potential to take Evan away from me.

But I read it anyway.

And now I sit here writing this review, feeling like I took a trip to Dubuque myself, because guys, this book has completely wrecked me. I was right to save my five stars for the last book, because ho-ly geez.

Going into it, I knew three main characters were going to die-- Rick confirmed that during his tour for THE LAST STAR, and I thought I had it figured out as to who would die, but I had it all so wrong. Not only did the deaths shock me, but the way he tied up the plot with a nice little ribbon and left me emotionally raw and crying and in denial was amazing.

This finale lacked nothing. Everything that made INFINITE SEA incredible was here, plus so many plot twists that I never saw coming that made the story ten times better. Obviously, I'm not going to talk about them so that I don't spoil you, but just know that you probably won't see them coming. I only saw one of them coming, one of the ones that had to do with Ringer, and even the way THAT turned out ended up shocking me.

I absolutely loved this book, and I cannot wait to go find my friend that's already read it so I can spazz out about everything with him.

For those of you who have read it, or are reading it now, or will read it: If you want to discuss this book, COME FIND ME. I will happily discuss it with you on a more in-depth level on a platform that promises no spoilers for the general public.

Five stars from me for THE LAST STAR. I can't believe it's over. I can't believe what I just read. But then again, I can. It was the perfect ending to a very fierce, very action-packed trilogy that has just joined the ranks of my top ten series finishers.

Happily,
Stephanie

Friday, June 24, 2016

Tuesday Reviews: The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey


Title: The Infinite Sea (The 5th Wave #2)
Author: Rick Yancey
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Release Date: September 16, 2014
Format Read: Hardback
Rating: 4.5 stars

Description from Goodreads: How do you rid the Earth of seven billion humans? Rid the humans of their humanity.

Surviving the first four waves was nearly impossible. Now Cassie Sullivan finds herself in a new world, a world in which the fundamental trust that binds us together is gone. As the 5th Wave rolls across the landscape, Cassie, Ben, and Ringer are forced to confront the Others' ultimate goal: the extermination of the human race.

Cassie and her friends haven't seen the depths to which the Others will sink, nor have the Others seen the heights to which humanity will rise, in the ultimate battle between life and death, hope and despair, love and hate.

After finishing THE 5TH WAVE, I wasn't too sure whether or not I wanted to continue with the series or not. I get attached to characters, not to plot, and (This is a spoiler for book one. But if you're reading this review, you've probably already read book one. Anyway, here's your chance. If you haven't read THE 5TH WAVE, skip to the next paragraph.) since Evan was my favorite character in the book, and he didn't exactly look like he'd come out of things alive, I was ready to stop reading the entire series.

Thankfully, I expressed my thoughts on this to a friend, who assured me that I should keep reading because the series got better***

So I read book two.

And let me tell you, INFINITE SEA >>>>> 5TH WAVE

EASILY FIVE TIMES BETTER THAN BOOK ONE.

While the POVs were still inconsistent, I was able to enjoy it so much more this time, because THE INFINITE SEA didn't switch between Cassie and Ben and back and forth a bajillion times. In this book, we get POVs from Cassie, Ben, Ringer, Poundcake, and one other character that I shall refrain from spoiling for you. One POV may be five chapters, while one may be a hundred pages, but this time it was much more enjoyable due to CLIFFHANGERS at each POV end, and the way that it swapped between more than just two characters.

I also feel like, with THE 5TH WAVE being such an original alien invasion story, THE INFINITE SEA was more of an adventure. Because we didn't know where the story was supposed to go. There were no guidelines to follow, because this isn't your typical, green-alien-from-outer-space invasion book, this is new and fresh, and just because the aliens showed up, that didn't mean that the next step was going to be a full out humans vs aliens war. So there was the element of surprise with everything that happened, which made the reading experience so much fun. 

Also, the character development, just from one book to another, was spectacular. I could feel each of the kids grow, even the secondary characters whose POVs we didn't get to see from, and it was just as heart-breaking (because circumstances) as it was enjoyable (because good writing on Yancey's part).

All in all, THE INFINITE SEA was another solid read from Rick Yancey. I did enjoy it a lot more than 5TH WAVE, but I'm saving that five star review for the last book, because I know it's going to be worthy of it. If you read THE 5TH WAVE, you absolutely must continue on with book two. It's definitely necessary, and you'll be missing out on some of the most original storylines I've ever come across.  Four and a half stars for THE INFINITE SEA, and I'm now moving on to THE LAST STAR.

*SCREAMS*

Happily,
Stephanie


***SPOILER ALERT: EVAN LIVES *DANCES*

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Tuesday (MG) Reviews: The Mysterious Abductions by Tracey Hecht


Title: The Mysterious Abductions (The Nocturnals #1)
Author: Tracey Hecht
Publisher: Fabled Films Press
Release Date: August 19, 2016
Format Read: Hardback
Rating: 4 stars

Description from Goodreads: A flabbergastifying adventure under the stars!

"The characters are delightful and the nighttime landscape is captivating. It was just as I expected-- because the best stories always take place in the dark!"-- R.L Stine, author of GOOSEBUMPS.

The Nocturnals features three unlikely friends: Dawn, a serious fox, Tobin, a sweet pangolin and Bismark, the loud mouthed, pint-sized sugar glider. The stories all play out in their nighttime world with teamwork, friendship and humor in every adventure.

In THE MYSTERIOUS ABDUCTIONS, the animals form a brigade of the night after a random encounter with an blood-thirsty snake, and just in time because something is threatening their night realm. Animals are disappearing without a trace. Together with the help of a wombat, a band of coyotes and many others, Dawn, Tobin and Bismark journey to the depths of the earth in a wacky, high stakes game that will determine all of their survival.

It's not often that I read a Middle Grade novel, but after having spoken to a lovely lady at Fabled Films about The Nocturnals, my curiosity was piqued. So of course, I picked up a copy and went to see what it was all about-- and what I found was that THE MYSTERIOUS ABDUCTIONS is a pretty stellar book for kids.

Not only is this one a quick read, but it had illustrations on each chapter heading, and loveable characters, which makes it a triple-threat in the world of MG. Tobin the pangolin had my heart from page one, but I loved how each of the characters were so diverse. Each one had specific traits that made them distinctly their own, (i.e. Dawn was quiet and thoughtful, Bismark tended to speak a little French) and that was one of the things that made this book good.

When it comes to plot, THE MYSTERIOUS ABDUCTIONS is pretty solid. There were a couple times when it lost me and I felt like I just wanted the story to move on, but looking at it from a MG point of view, I probably wouldn't have felt that way. 

And like the best of Middle Grade, there's a moral to the story: Everyone Deserves a Second Chance.
Which is a lesson that should always be reinforced, especially in children. Second chances are some of the things that we struggle with the most as humans.

The first book in The Nocturnals Series, THE MYSTERIOUS ABDUCTIONS is a four star MG story that is sure to become one of those beloved childhood sets. If you know any kids that love animals, this is the story for them! Not only does it teach about second chances, but you learn facts about many different animals as the story goes on, which was one of my favorite things about the book. This is a perfect summer read for the Middle Grader in your life.

Happily,
Stephanie

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Under-Appreciated Books Blog Tour Sign-Up!

Everyone has that ONE BOOK that they wish more people would read. The one that seemingly no one has heard of. The one that deserves all of the recognition in the world. The one that changed your life. The one that you just want to spread the word about.

Well, here's your chance.

Today I want to introduce to you the UAB Tour, or, the UnderAppreciated Books blog tour. I've recently been wondering about a lot of books that seem not to get much attention, and I've decided that this just won't do. It's time we take matters into our own hands.

I set up this blog tour so that we can all have a chance to spotlight the book that is the most UnderAppreciated in each of our opinions. There are six days to the tour, and I will be joining in and posting on one of the days, myself. I'm already trying to decide which book I want to promote for my tour date.

The tour will run from September 18-24th, that way everyone has more than enough time to get their posts put together, and all correspondences have more than enough time to arrive (been running into some technical difficulties lately with my emails).

If you're interested, please fill out THIS FORM. Submissions will close on the 29th of the month, and I will send out confirmation emails on the 30th. Please respond to the confirmations by the 2nd, to maximize everyone's time.

I'm so excited to get started on this! Feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns you may have!

Happily,
Stephanie

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

BEA Wrap-Up Part 1




As many of you know from my Instagram and Twitter feed, I was fortunate enough to attend Book Expo America this year. After two years of seeing everyone's wrap-ups and hauls and photos posted to social media, I was finally able to go myself, and the excitement level was through the roof. Thanks to Octavia and Britt, I had access to all of the newbie answers I needed to prep myself, and had everything set up a week before. 

And then changed my mind and didn't have my mind made up on outfits until the day before BEA. 
I'm indecisive, okay?

ANYWAY.

So BEA Day One, Wednesday, started out... oddly. Stephanie Ehmann from OhanaReads had flown in the day before, and she stayed with me all throughout BEA week. We got up mega early, around 5:30 or 6:00, because a little bird told us that it was best to be at BEA around seven in the morning for the best experience.



Now, remember. Neither of us had been to BEA before. 


We walk in through the tunnel, take the escalator, and suddenly it's bookish things EVERYWHERE. Stand-ups, banners hanging from the ceiling, from the railings. The signs from the showfloor were visible from outside the "gates". It was the first time of the week that I was able to appreciate that so many people in the bookish industry were gathered under the same roof, all to talk about the one thing that we all had in common, no matter who we were or where we came from.


After taking a look at all of the banners and food carts, we made our way to the registration desk. We registered, and then... we had nothing to do. Literally nothing. Because the show floor didn't open until 1. So Ehmann (We call her Ehmann because it can get confusing having to say "Stephanie!" and have both of us turn to answer.) and I, as well as my mother who attended BEA as an educator (Go teachers go!) went back to the hotel room, which was s short walk due to our room being at the Hyatt Regency, which had a connecting tunnel to the convention center. So we went back to the room, hung out for a bit, memorized our schedules for the day, and then... napped. Having gotten only around five hours of sleep the night before, and Ehmann having had a plane ride before that, we were all wiped.

 But of course, we woke up so that we would have enough time to Skype with Matt and discuss the pre-BEA spazzes that were going on inside of us.

At noon, we slipped back across the road to the convention center and found ourselves a place in the (very short) line to get into the show floor. There were two lines, and since we could see most of the locations of the booths from our spot, we chose the line closest to our first item on the list, which was a Harper drop. Once in our spot, we managed to pick up some food, because by that time we were ready for lunch, and we waited. 

Of course, we had an hour in that line, so we visited the BFG booth, which was located near the food carts. I found it extremely fitting that the first booth I would visit was this Roald Dahl film adaptation. To find out why this was so fitting for me, and why I felt the need to take a picture with the standee, check back here on July 7th. I can't wait for you to find out. There also may be a giveaway with that post... *winks*

At around five til, the line was moved. The McCormick staff moved us about ten feet away, and you could feel the buzz in the air. The showfloor was about to open, and people were getting ready. We pulled out our schedule and made sure we knew what we were doing for the day, knew what we were doing first, and then we put it away.

Well. Ehmann and my mom did.

I, however, kept it in my hand 24/7 all of BEA bc I am a major control and schedule freak.

At this point, I would like to send a big thank you to my mom for being the best mom ever by taking us to BEA/BookCon, and for taking the absolute best pictures.

Especially ones I would never think to take.

Like pictures of the line, and pictures of our view of the showfloor before it opened. See below.




After having our badges scanned for entry, 1pm stuck and things were on. We made a beeline to the EpicReads booth, because we'd gotten intel that there was going to be a drop of REPLICA. We get there, there's already a line forming for the drop (The drop was late) and we secure a spot. And then the drop goes, and it's our first drop of BEA, and we're super excited to grab our copies of... A Middle Grade book.

*Minion voice* Whaaa?

Our intel had been faulty. But on the bright side, both of the Middle Grade books sounded interesting, and even if I didn't read them, I knew my mom would, because she loves Middle Grade. The next thing for us wasn't until two, so we wandered the showfloor and picked up a few books thanks to the different drops that were going on at that time.

And like I said, we were all newbies. We had absolutely no idea how to handle BEA in terms of how to work drops and signings and such. But it is at this time that I would like to thank Nori from ReadWriteLove28 for making this glorious schedule and sharing it with the people. Because if not for her spreadsheet, we would have been even more lost than we already were. We took Nori's paper and added a few things to it. Color coordinated it. And printed it.

 Best. Decision. Ever.

As I mentioned earlier, I'm a major control freak. ALWAYS STICK TO THE SCHEDULE!

And because of this beautiful thing (Only half of day one) I had a BEA lifeline that only failed me a couple times, when one of us had gotten the added times wrong.


The first signing of the day was one of my most anticipated grabs from BEA-- REBEL GENIUS by Michael Dante DiMartino, AKA one of the co-creators of AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER and LEGEND OF KORRA. If you know me, you know I loved both (But AVATAR was better!) so of course I had to go pick up a copy. The signing line actually wasn't that long, and Michael talked to each person for a solid two or three minutes. I was able to tell him how much I enjoyed AVATAR, and it was a great way to kick off the signings of BEA.

And then we stopped by the Penguin/Random House booth, where there were totes being handed out, as well as some swag and a promo standee for PENGUIN PROBLEMS by Jory John. Of course, I had to try my best to make a penguin face.

I can't even with this standee.

"I have so many problems! And nobody even cares!"

I literally spent all of BEA saying this every time something went wrong.

Now I can't wait to pick up this picture book. It has some pretty great potential. It's a book about penguins. Penguins that have problems.

Will read.






So the rest of the day consisted of drops and signings and wandering the booths. Getting a layout for the land and standing in a LOT of lines, until I found out that Scotty McCreery's line had run through it's tickets, and people were allowed to go and get a book signed even if they hadn't gotten a ticket. As soon as I found this out, I made straight for Scotty. My mom came with me, and the thing that we noticed was that most of the people in his line were middle-aged women, not teenage girls. Anyway, I did get to have my book signed. He was super quiet and super sweet, and yes, his eyes really ARE that blue in person.



We were finally at the last line of the day, and I'd brought some swagpacks to hand out-- signed bookmarks, tattoos, stickers, etc.-- and that's how I killed time the last hour. I passed out swag packs and swapped my trusty tote (Best tote, in terms of quality, came from Hachette) from one arm to another.

After that, we were done. We made our way to baggage check, where we had all three shared and filled a small suitcase. None of us knew it yet, but baggage check would be a lifesaver for BEA. By this point in the day, all of us were ready to take our shoes off and go to bed. After just four hours, I was regretting my decision to wear boots with heels, but food was set as a priority, so we ended up having dinner at one of the hotel's restaurants. From there, we went upstairs to gaze at our treasures and finalize the schedule for day two.

For a first day of BEA, it was pretty great. Had a funky start to it, but ended up being a day full of learning experiences for us, which is exactly what we needed.

My top grab for the day was probably THE GRACES. I'm super excited for that one, because it seems like an out-of-the-box YA story. A family of witches and a girl who wants to be part of their family, no matter what it takes to get there? Let me at it!

To hear about more of my BEA adventures, check back next Wednesday.

I hope to see you then

Happily,
Stephanie



Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Tuesday Reviews: Nil On Fire by Lynne Matson


Title: Nil On Fire (NIL #3)
Author: Lynne Matson
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Release Date: May 31, 2016
Format Read: Hardback
Rating: 4.5 stars

Description from Goodreads: Despite Rives and Skye's attempt to destroy Nil, the island remains. And back in this world, Nil won't let Skye go. Haunted by a darkness she can't ignore, Skye wrestles with Nil nightmares that worsen by the day and threaten to tear her apart. As Skye fights to keep her mind intact, she realizes that to finally break free of Nil, she must end Nil's vicious cycle once and for all-- and she can't do it alone.

Who will return to Nil, and in the end, who will survive? In this thrilling final installment of the Nil series, the stakes have never been higher: everyone's fate hangs in the balance, including Nil's own-- and Nil will fight to the death. When the full force of the island is unleashed, SKye faces an impossible choice, a cruel one she'd never imagined she'd have to make. Soon one Nil truth becomes painfully clear: only one side can win.

Losing isn't an option, but winning will cost Skye everything.

perfect for fans of LOST and survivalist stories, NIL ON FIRE is a stunning conclusion to the Nil trilogy that will leave readers breathless.

A stunning conclusion is right. This book had me on the edge of my seat from chapter one. One of the only series to ever have so much power over me that I can stress out over the ending, Nil's final book brought everything to the table once more, and left me feeling very hollow, yet very satisfied.

Spectacular characters, of course. Killer plot (get it, get it?) Raw brutality that only Lynne can create and make me love... this book has everything I wanted for in an ending and then some. I loved how everything was finished, leaving no questions, no concerns, no lingering qualms. Each of the problems was solved, each of the loose ends tied, and things ended up happening in such a way that I can't help but adore this last book.

NIL ON FIRE receives a 4.5 star review for me. The only reason it doesn't earn a five star review is because of the POV switching. While I loved getting all of the different (old and new Nil-goers) POVs, I know I would have loved to have gotten into certain characters' (main characters, possibly spoilery characters) heads a bit more.

Each of these characters has taught me so much, and I know that they will always be hiding out in that part of my heart that holds the fictional people that mean the most to me. And I hope that someday, somehow, I'll be able to revisit these characters in a new book and see how the survivors' lives have gone in the time since they've left. I hope for this, and yet I don't because I know a new book means more trouble and more death for the characters who have already been through so much.

I've been following the NIL story since day one. To know that this is the last time I'll get to visit this world, the last time I get to hang out with Charley and Thad, Rives and Skye, and the creatures running around Nil... it's a surreal feeling. When you read, you feel like it takes FOREVER for the next book in the series to come out, but once you hold the ending in your hands, it really hits you how much time you've spent with these characters. How many hours you spent reading about their journeys, how many times you've caught yourself day-dreaming about them while you're awaiting the next book. 

This series has left such a footprint on my life-- the past three years I've spent reading the books, posting and trying to get the word out about the series, being a part of the #NILtribe, swapping tweets and emails back and forth with Lynne-- and I know I'll always be grateful that I had these books to fill my summers. I know that every time I see a bottle of Sprite, I'll think of Charley. When I see dreads, or hear someone say merde, the French word we've all become so familiar with, I'll think of Rives. When I see someone make a sacrifice for the person they love, I'll think of Thad. And when I see someone stand up against all odds, determined to do what people say can't be done, I'll think of Skye. 

Fiercely, proudly, #NILtribe forever.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Book Review: One Paris Summer by Denise Grover Swank


Title: One Paris Summer
Author: Denise Grover Swank
Publisher: Blink
Release Date: June 7, 2016
Format Read: ARC
Rating: 5 stars

Description from Goodreads: Most teens dream of visiting the City of Lights, but it feels more like a nightmare for Sophie Brooks. She and her brother are sent to Paris to spend the summer with their father, who left home a year ago without any explanation. As if his sudden abandonment weren't betrayal enough, he's about to remarry, and they're expected to play nice with his soon-to-be-wife and stepdaughter. The stepdaughter, Camille, agrees to show them around the city, but she makes it clear that she will do everything in her power to make Sophie miserable.

Sophie could deal with all of the pain and humiliation if only she could practice piano. her dream is to become a pianist, and she was supposed to spend the summer preparing for a scholarship competition. Even though her father moved to Paris to pursue his own dream, he clearly doesn't support hers. His promise to provide her with a piano goes unfulfilled.

Still, no one is immune to Paris's charm. After a few encounters with a gorgeous French boy, Sophie finds herself warming to the city, particularly when she discovers that he can help her practice piano. There's just one hitch-- he's a friend of Camille's, and Camille hates Sophie. While the summer Sophie dreaded promises to become the best summer of her life, one person could ruin it all.

Contemporary Ya is probably my most favorite genre of all time. I love seeing these stories of girls and guys from all different lifestyles, and experiencing their struggles and dreams and romances, because, doesn't everyone have those? It's nice to have stories that are so close to real life. I took this into consideration as I read this book. ONE PARIS SUMMER is one of the ARCs that I picked up at BEA, and I've been so excited for it, but I've recently read a lot of bad contemporary, so I didn't want to let my hopes get too high. But what I found in this story so much more than met my expectations.

ONE PARIS SUMMER is one of those classic contemporaries. Girl moves to Paris, girl meets boy, add in an evil step sister, and a complication with the boy, and bam, you've got a classic contemporary. Generally, these kinds of stories bore me, but I was pleasantly surprised with what I found in the pages of this one. Not only was the writing done expertly, but Sophie is an incredibly relatable character. I've never had to deal with divorce in my family, but Sophie and her inner monologue had me sympathizing with her in every way. From her perspective on whose fault the split was to the way she handles the situation with her dad and new stepmom, she had me on her side at every turn of the page.

The setting being in Paris was enough to keep me interested, especially since most of the story consisted of Sophie and friends playing tourist in the City of Love and falling for unavailable French boys. Plus, the relationships between the Brooks siblings, and the ease at which I fell in love with the secondary characters (Nearly all of them!) made the experience that much better.

Another thing, is that besides a very very low amount of language, this was a completely clean contemporary! No sex, no strong language, no super steamy scenes. This is something that I am highly pleased to be telling you, because clean contemporary is so rare, it must be treasured and pointed out when it's found.

Easily one of the best contemporaries I've read in a long, long time, ONE PARIS SUMMER earns five stars from me. I read it in a matter of hours, and when I reached the last page, I wanted more. It was so much fun to read, and I absolutely adored the story of Sophie and Mathieu. If you're a fan of contemporaries, you definitely should check this out. 

BUT.

Don't read it unless you're okay with closing the book and longing to go to Paris. 

Because that's exactly what happened to me, and it's not just because of the cute French boys.

Happily,
Stephanie

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Book Review: Frayed by Kara Terzis


Title: Frayed
Author: Kara Terzis
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Release Date: June 7, 2016
Format Read: ARC
Rating: 2 stars

Description from Goodreads:

Dear Kesley,

My therapist tells me I should write you a letter. Like flushing all my thoughts and feelings out of my system onto paper. I tell her it's a stupid idea.

But here I am, writing a letter to a dead girl. Where do I start? Where did our story begin? From the moment you were born... or died?

I'll start with the moment I found out the truth about you. Your lies and my pain. Because it always begins and ends with you.

And that end began when Rafe Lawrence came back to town...

Ava Hale will do anything to find her sister's killer... although she'll wish she hadn't. Because the harder Ava looks, the more secrets she uncovers about Kesley, and the more she begins to think that the girl she called sister was a liar. A sneak. A stranger.

And Kesley's murderer could be much closer than she thought...

A debut novel from Wattpad award-winner Kara Terzis, FRAYED is a psychological whodunnit that will keep you guessing!

Recently, I've been loving YA mysteries and thrillers. So of course I jumped at the chance to get ahold of FRAYED by Kara Terzis. I was pretty excited about it, and was hoping for another fantastic one to add to my shelves, but here I am giving it a two star review.

And the thing about it is that I can't even tell you why I didn't like it, because I'd be telling you who killed Kesley. So... I guess I can tell you that, while the ending did catch me completely off-guard and cause me a good bit of shock, it felt wrong. To me, it feels very much like a pre-existing novel that I've read, that I can't name because then you'll be spoiled for the entire book. Once I learned who the killer was, everything fit and made sense, but it was almost like it was too much. 

Throughout the entire story I was going back and forth between killers, picking out who had motive, opportunity, and capability, and while I love that it wasn't someone I guessed, the ending feels kind of copy/pasted to me, in a sense that it felt like it was used just to add more darkness to an already (maybe even unnecessarily) dark story. And I LOVE dark books. But this one was a little over-the-top, in my opinion.

A little too dark, and a little too immature, maybe, for YA in terms of how things ended and were stitched together. 

I was not a fan of this book, which pains me, because the premise was SO promising. It earns a two star review from me. If you don't mind spoilers, feel free to contact me and I'll give you some more information as to why I disliked it so much.

(Un)Happily,
Stephanie

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Tuesday Reviews: How It Ends by Catherine Lo


Title: How It Ends
Author: Catherine Lo
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Release Date: June 7, 2016
Format Read: ARC
Rating: 3.5 stars

Description from Goodreads: There are two sides to every story.

It's friends-at-first-sight for Jessie and Annie, proving the old adage that opposites attract. Shy, anxious Jessie would give anything to have Annie's beauty and confidence. And Annie thinks Jessie has the perfect life, with her close-knit family and killer grades. They're BFFs... until suddenly they're not.

Told through alternating points of view, HOW IT ENDS is a wildly fast but deeply moving read about a friendship in crisis. Set against a tumultuous sophomore year of bullying, boys, and backstabbing, the novel shows what can happen when friends choose assumptions and fear over each other.

Not too long ago, I had a bestfriendship fall apart. I've never been one to get along that well with females, and yet I'd been close with this girl for five years, and then suddenly there was a betrayal, and things went downhill from there. Reading the back of this book was like reading a summary of how things went down for us, so I was highly intrigued when I received an ARC of HOW IT ENDS in the mail.

I actually really enjoyed this story, The differences between Jessie and Annie, and the drastic changes when swapping between POVs, were done perfectly. Annie is her own person, and Jessie is hers. Their friendship is forged around chapter three, and then you see it grow, and shape, and slowly start to fall apart, and it was great to be able to see if from both of their sides versus just one. 

What made me laugh was how much of a parallel this book drew with my own personal experience of losing a best friend. The accuracy of reactions and events in comparison to what happened with me were spot on, which was nice compared to how cliche Hollywood has made the break-up of a bestfriendship. It was increasingly odd to find similarities, which were on nearly every page... until about 3/4 of the way through the book, That's when things took a turn that I wasn't expecting, and suddenly it wasn't just an argument, it was a full blown fight. 

Things started to get really good, and that's when I got to the ending.

The ending of this book just didn't work for me. I thought I knew where it was leading, and I was super excited for it, and then... that's not what happened. The last ten chapters or so really took the book's rating down for me. I felt like a different outcome would have been so much better for this plotline.

Taking the ending into account, I give HOW IT ENDS a 3.5 star rating. It's a great story of friendship, typical high-school life, and the average obstacles that you face when you have a BFF.

Happily,
Stephanie

Subscribe by Email