Jennifer Pickrell

YA Writer


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Blogiversary Giveaway!!!

EDIT: This giveaway has ended. Thanks to everyone who entered and congrats to Keeana!

To celebrate seven years, I’m giving away a book of your choice* and here’s how to enter:

Comment below, telling me what book you’d like to win or what 2017 release you’re most looking forward to.

That’s it.

I’ll order from Book Depository so if they ship to where you live (check the full list here), then you’re eligible to enter.

Contest runs now through Sunday, January 22, 2017 at midnight EST. I’ll randomly select a winner and notify them on Monday so make sure your comment includes some way for me to contact you (email, twitter handle, link to your blog, etc).

It’s not required to enter, but please spread the love and share this post!

*Price limit $20USD

 


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Word of the Year, Confessions and Resolutions

2017 Word of the Year:

AWAKE

Let me rewind to explain. 2015 was horrible. Several things happened, within a short time period, and after the initial, all-consuming wave of rage/sadness/shock had passed, I was left with low-grade grief. That seems the most appropriate term for it. I functioned and went through the motions, but there was always this underlying anxiety that more terrible things were going to happen.

And more inevitably did. 2016 included the scramble to find a new place to live before our apartment was declared unsafe by the building inspector. The home-buying process was stressful, the move overwhelming. I didn’t write or read anything in November/December.

Confession: During the last two months of 2016, all I managed to do most evenings after work was curl up on the couch and binge-watch “Murder She Wrote.” There was something comforting about Jessica Fletcher always catching the culprit. I ignored the fact this character was involved with 12 seasons of murder and somehow wasn’t emotionally scarred.

Then, a few days ago I was setting a newly repotted plant on the dining room table and the sun was shining brightly through the glass patio doors and I felt something I hadn’t in a long time:

Peace. Hope. Happiness.

Or some combination. I don’t know exactly how to describe it. It was the same feeling I used to have, years ago, when my husband and I lived in an apartment in an old house (ironically, it was just as moldy as the last place) and we had a tiny balcony off our bedroom where the sun would shine on our bed in the afternoons and I would curl up like a contented cat to read.

That one moment the other day made me realize how much I’ve been shambling through life the past few years, always steeled for the next crisis and never fully engaged with anything. Now it’s like I’m slowly waking up. 

A-ha! I finally get to the point.

I don’t expect myself to suddenly be a different person. I’ve always been a worrier, a homebody, the one that’s there to take care of the little details in an emergency. Sometimes these traits have felt like burdens, but ultimately I like knowing that my family can count on me. It’s the way I show love because, although my words/emotions flow freely on paper, I’m not demonstrative in real life.

My reticence, compounded with my low-grade grief, means I’ve missed out on a lot of adventures the past few years. I’m not talking about skydiving or snorkeling, I mean little things, like taking spontaneous drives through the wilds of West Virginia or going to a baseball game.

In 2017, I want to be AWAKE. I want to:

  • Go on an adventure every month
  • Read a book a week
  • Finish a draft of EMMA
  • Get back into working out
  • Make my house feel like a home
  • Feel like a contented cat again

I’m posting these resolutions publically because I feel accountable that way. Maybe it’ll also encourage me to blog more because I’ve been a bit (a lot) lacking in that department.

Here’s to waking up in 2017!

P.S. I finally gave my blog a facelift after years of the same drab background. There’s an updated “About” page and I added a tab about my books (with brief excerpts).

P.P.S. Next week is my seven year blogiversary and I’m planning a giveaway. Check back in a few days for details.


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Farewell 2016! And why I’ve been MIA

2016 has been a crapshoot for a number of reasons, but in the midst of all the crap, something good happened to me and my husband:

WE BOUGHT A HOUSE!!!

This was not something we planned, but back in June, I tweeted about this happening in the apartment upstairs from ours:

 

Our neighbor was suddenly homeless and had to move in with family. And the apartment beside that one was also deemed unsafe by the building inspector and our other neighbor had to shove all his belongings into a truck and move to another place (unfortunately owned by the same slumlord).

The cause of the ceiling collapse was a roof full of holes. Every time it rained, the blown in insulation sucked up the water like a sponge (so no water marks as warning) and when it finally became too heavy for the drywall, the entire ceiling came down, all at once. Like I said in my tweet, it’s amazing no one was seriously injured. The noise and the way the building shook when it happened was unbelievable.

Fast-forward two months and nothing had been done about the roof and water was leaking in every which way (evident by fungus growing in the hall) and we were completely fed up, but we have cats so the only way we were moving to another rental was:

  • paying a kajillion dollars a month in pet deposits
  • seeing what other garbage place the owner had available
  • getting rid of our animals

All of these options sucked so we talked to a realtor. Buying a house was something we’d planned to do in a few years, once we saved up a down payment, but we no longer had that time.

The process started rolling and after weeks of searching and 2+ months of submitting documentation about every aspect of our lives, we signed away the next 30 years. And not a moment too soon – a few days after we moved, I met with the building inspector and he told me an entire exterior wall of our old apartment had to be torn down and replaced because of water damage.

I’m not surprised by this news, but it still makes me scream: WTF?!

It’s been a frustrating and uncertain last six months, but I’m glad we took the leap so I can put the memory of that fungus-filled shithole behind me. I’m also glad my first neighbor found another rental (from someone else) and my second neighbor will be doing his own house-hunting in a few months.

Plus happy cats because they have trees to look at now instead of a parking lot!

marty-at-window


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So Long, SummySeries 2016 + Hello September!

I planned to post another set of mini reviews for August, but time got away from me. I will say, though, that A CLOCKWORK ORANGE is not for me. Not in a million years.

So summer is (almost) gone and that means:

It’s YA Bootcamp time again!!! I’ll soon be back in the query trenches with JULES after a revision based on amazing agent feedback and I also plan to assemble EMMA into something coherent.

PLUS:

Fall! Fall! Fall!

I can’t wait to stop sweating and to wear long sleeves and to go for West Virginia drives.


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FEAR ME, FEAR ME NOT cover reveal + giveaway!!!

Fear Me, Fear Me Not
Elodie Nowodazkij
Publication date: September 27th 2016
Genres: Romance, Suspense, Young Adult

SCREAM meets FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS in this new young adult romantic suspense novel by Elodie Nowodazkij.

Fear is power. They fear me. They don’t fear me enough. Every year a girl disappears in Gavert County, Texas. Their bodies are found days, sometimes months, later with an angel wing carved on their face. They call me “the Angel Killer” and I’m on the hunt again. But this time, it’s personal.

Seventeen-year-old cheerleader Erin Hortz has been warned about the Angel Killer all her life. She never walks alone in the dark. She doesn’t talk to strangers. She doesn’t accept drinks at parties. All she wants is to finish her senior year with a win at the Miss Junior Queen of Hearts pageant, capture the perfect light over the lake with her new camera, and finally catch the attention of her best friend Nadia’s brother—former football star Dimitri Kuklev. Since his injury, they’ve been spending a lot of time together. And getting to know the real Dimitri—not the one she put on a pedestal in her diary is better than she could ever have imagined. And she’s falling hard.

Nineteen-year-old Dimitri’s injury brought him from football superstar with universities from all around the country knocking at his door to not knowing what he wants to do with his life. Taking classes at the local community college is supposed to get him back on track, but all he wants is to be on the field again. The only person who seems to understand him is the one he swore to keep in the friend zone: Erin. His sister Nadia’s best friend and the reason why he can’t keep a girlfriend. Between their early morning jogs, their time spent at the lake laughing, and their late night conversations, he’s having a hard time remembering why it’s such a bad idea.

But when Nadia doesn’t come home after a party, Dimitri and Erin know they must find her before it’s too late—even if that means risking their own lives and everything Erin’s ever known.

Because the main suspect is Erin’s father.

Goodreads / Amazon

teaser (2)

 

Author Bio:

Elodie Nowodazkij was raised in a tiny village in France, where she could always be found a book in hand. At nineteen, she moved to the US, where she learned she’d never lose her French accent. Now she lives in Maryland with her husband, their dog and their cat.

She’s also a serial smiley user.

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter / Tumblr / Instagram

 

GIVEAWAY! (click below to enter)
a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

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July 2016 SummySeries Reading Wrap-up

The formatting is screwy in this post, but ah well…

Read on!

SUNRISE OVER FALLUJAH by Walter Dean Myers

From Goodreads: A powerful…novel about the heroics and horror of war…Operation Iraqi Freedom, that’s the code name. But the young men and women in the military’s Civil Affairs Battalion have a simpler name for it: WAR.

This is a sort-of sequel to FALLEN ANGELS, which took place during the Vietnam War and was from the perspective of Richie. In SUNRISE, Richie’s nephew, Robin aka Birdy, has joined the military.

There were a few editing issues (example: Birdy references Jonsey on one page and then a few pages later, they are introducing themselves, as if for the first time), but nothing so large as to overshadow the story.

Myers did a tremendous job with the ambiguity of the situation – Birdy’s confusion over what the “right” thing is, plus the frustration and fear over constantly changing rules of engagement.

He also showed, as Birdy wrote in a letter to his uncle: “that the guys who fought in Nam wouldn’t even recognize today’s army.” (pg 1)

Key word back then being GUYS.

I didn’t connect as much as I did to FALLEN ANGELS, probably because my dad was in Vietnam so it felt more personal, but it definitely made me think.

20160705_213735

GHOST BOY by Martin Pistorius

From Goodreads: In January 1988 Martin Pistorius, aged twelve, fell inexplicably sick…within eighteen months he was mute and wheelchair-bound. Martin’s parents were told an unknown degenerative disease left him with the mind of a baby and less than two years to live.

This is a memoir, about how Pistorius regained awareness and found his voice through the use of speech devices. It’s part hopeful and part horrifying and was an interesting and insightful read.

My one complaint, as with the above book, is the editing. It felt a bit uneven without any real references to time and some of the sections near the end were a bit rambling and written like it was an entirely different book.

Still, it’s worth the read, but be prepared for tough subject matter.

20160713_100941SUMMER SISTERS by Judy Blume

“Adult” Judy Blume book that follows friends Vix and Caitlin from their first summer together on Martha’s Vineyard in 1977 through their adulthoods and separate paths.

This was a very “beachy” read for me although, sadly, I did not read it while on a beach. It dealt with some serious issues, but always from a distance, as if I was a neighbor, peeking in on the dysfunctional household next door. I liked the format a lot, focusing mostly on Vix, but gaining insight into other characters’ mindsets, and it was cool to grow up with the girls and see how they turned out, but I really disliked Caitlin. I’m not sure if I was supposed to like her or not, though.

All in all, a bittersweet read that successfully captured the aches and pains of being young, but made me extremely glad to be a grown up without someone like Caitlin in my life.

IN THE SHADOW OF THE BANYAN by Vaddey Ratner

Adult fiction, based on the author’s own childhood experiences in the 1970s when the Khmer Rouge seized power in Cambodia.

I’m only halfway through this book because real-life has slowed my reading time, but so far it’s heartbreaking and beautifully written. OMG, the writing, seriously, it’s gorgeous. There are times I feel swept away by the mythical legends the main character’s father tells and then I’m yanked back to the horrible reality of the atrocities that are happening.

Side note: Growing up, my older brother was one of those kids that read history books for fun. I’d leaf through them sometimes and I still remember an  image detailing the number of deaths Pol Pot (Khmer Rouge leader) was responsible for: 1.5 million. As a child, I couldn’t comprehend this number. As an adult, I still can’t.

Books like this are so, so important. We shouldn’t ever forget and we should learn from history. Just forty years ago, a megalomaniac and the group that blindly followed him attempted to “take back” their country, separating people by their religious and ethnic backgrounds, forbidding minorities to speak their own languages, and trying to make everyone the same.

One and a half million people died.

That’s terrifying. 


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June 2016 SummySeries Reading Wrap-up

Covers from Goodreads, click on the titles for more info.

SUMMER OF LOST AND FOUND by Rebecca Behrens

MG novel that follows protagonist, Nell, as she searches for clues about the lost colony of Roanoke.

Summer Lost and FoundI loved all the details, both about the past and the present. It seriously felt like I was exploring North Carolina with Nell because Rebecca created such a vivid picture of the small community. And the descriptions of the humidity? SPOT ON. I’m in Virginia, I know that soupy misery.

When a book makes history fun, that’s a big thumbs up.

 

JUST LISTEN by Sarah Dessen

YA contemporary about a girl dealing with family drama and being dropped by her best friend.

This one is up there with THE TRUTH ABOUT FOREVER for me. Annabel was relatable and her family life was realistic. Is there anyone who writes about sisterly bonds better than Sarah Dessen??? Plus Owen. Infuriating music snob, Owen. Somehow I liked him anyway, so kudos to the author.

THE LAST STAR by Rick Yancey

The final book in the YA sci-fi 5TH WAVE trilogy.

I hate to ever say this, but: I didn’t like this book

There were multiple POVs, mostly in first person, and the similarity of voices made the whole story confusing and disjointed. Plus the purple prose, especially during a couple of cringe-worthy Cassie passages.

And I know this is a plot driven book, but the characters just kinda fell flat. Even the ending felt anti-climactic and it shouldn’t have because this is, in theory, an exciting book.

Great potential, but it just didn’t deliver for me.

THE RAVEN KING by Maggie Stiefvater

The fourth and final book in the RAVEN CYCLE. Fantasy? Paranormal? I have no idea how to classify this unique series.

I know I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again – I love being immersed in the world of these books. The magic, the nature…the Ronan.

Ronan, ferocious and loyal and fragile. (p. 263)

YES.

But, really, I adored all the main characters, even Adam, who had to grow on me.

This book was a satisfying conclusion to a magical series.

I’ll never look at trees the same way again.

Under a Painted Sky coverUNDER A PAINTED SKY by Stacey Lee

YA historical fiction, set in 1849, about a Chinese girl and a runaway slave who disguise themselves as boys to escape pursuing lawmen.

This book pulled me in completely. I picked it up one evening, thinking I’d read a few chapters before bed, and before I knew it, I was halfway through and had to make myself put it down so I could sleep.

Then I read it during breakfast the next morning and finished it at lunch because I HAD to know how Sammy and Andy’s journey turned out.

Now I’m sad because the book has ended, but I’ll try to console myself with Lee’s next book, OUTRUN THE MOON, which I need to read ASAP. And she has another book coming out in December!

*fangirls*

LOVE STORY by Jennifer Echols

Girl writes about dream guy for her college creative writing assignment, he joins the class, writes his own steamy stories about her.

I thought this would be a sexy, swoony read, but 95% of the book was misunderstandings that could have been solved by simple conversations and I didn’t get my swoon 😦

Out of Darkness coverOUT OF DARKNESS by Ashley Hope Pérez

From Goodreads, which sums it up beautifully: Ashley Hope Pérez takes the facts of the 1937 New London school explosion—the worst school disaster in American history—as a backdrop for a riveting novel about segregation, love, family, and the forces that destroy people.

This book…

How do I even put my thoughts into words? Beautifully written, painful, real.

Naomi and her twin brother and sister. Their relationship was love. I wanted to put them, and Wash and his family, into a protective bubble and keep them safe forever.

Other characters (no names, as to not spoil anything) made me want to vomit, to scrub my skin off.

The cover is perfection.

The story is haunting.

It’s important.

Read this book.