So Long, SummySeries 2016 + Hello September!

2 Sep

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.

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

18 Aug

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

 

XBTBanner1

July 2016 SummySeries Reading Wrap-up

29 Jul

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. 

June 2016 SummySeries Reading Wrap-up

30 Jun

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.

SummySeries 2016!

27 May

It’s going to be about 90 degrees in my corner of Virginia today + this weekend marks the unofficial start of summer, which means:

SUMMYSERIES TIME!!!

For those of you who don’t know, SummySeries is a thing I do every summer where I read a bunch of books to avoid going outside into the miserable humidity. It began in 2010 when I hid inside with Harry Potter. In 2011, it was Anne Shirley. Other years, I caught up on half-read series or picked up whatever caught my eye in the library.

Summer Lost and FoundThis year I’m aiming for a little bit of everything and I’ve started SummySeries off in awesome fashion with SUMMER OF LOST AND FOUND by Rebecca Behrens. I am loving this MG mystery so far.

Next up is probably JUST LISTEN by Sarah Dessen. Last summer I had a random side goal to read all her books and I kinda fell off that, so this summer I’m continuing my quest in a more realistic manner by reading only one or two instead of ALL RIGHT NOW.

I plan on writing monthly wrap-ups with mini reviews. In the meantime, let’s get this SummySeries started!

Currently – the 1990s edition

10 May

This week, I’m joining Katy Upperman and some other awesome people and posting CURRENTLY.

LOVING

Sharing the 1990s with my teenage brother. I dug out a few VHS tapes of ‘outtakes’ from my sophomore year, when I wrote, directed and starred in my first and only movie: DEAR DIARY.

Sadly (or thankfully), the movie is warped beyond watching, so we settled on ‘behind-the-scenes’ that mostly consisted of me and my friends flubbing lines and laughing hysterically.

My bro was most impressed by the fashion of the day, from a girl wearing JNCO jeans to my layers of clothing.

My morning routine was pretty much:

  • Start with a long-sleeved shirt at least a size too large
  • Add a t-shirt, a size larger
  • Cover up further with a flannel or other button-up, but don’t button it because that would be lame
  • Finalize with Dad’s 1970’s cardigan, made for a 6-foot tall, burly man, worn with pride by a 100-lb girl
  • Then high-waist jeans and steel-toed combat boots and voila, 1990’s stylish!

I wonder how I, and many others, didn’t collapse from either heat stroke or the weight of two tons of fabric.

READING

SUMMER OF SLOANE by Erin L. Schneider. I’ve been waiting for this book for forever, so I’m reading slowly and vicariously soaking up the Hawaiian sun and sand.

20160503_132249

It’s not a pic without a cat in it!

WATCHING

Hubby and I are about halfway through the second season of DAREDEVIL. We are the slowest binge-watchers ever because we usually only get to an episode a week.

We watch a few other shows together, too, including GAME OF THRONES. You’d think after five seasons, I could remember names, but nope, I’m all, “Where did dragon lady go? Why doesn’t the king kid do something? When is that sociopath* going to get what’s coming to him/her?”

That could refer to many different people so it usually involves me pointing at the screen.

LISTENING TO

Whatever pops up on Spotify. I have a spring playlist, full of happy, sparkly jams (no vampires allowed), but the weather has been drizzly and unseasonably cool in Virginia and it makes me gravitate more to folksy stuff.

THINKING ABOUT

YA Buccaneers Spring Bootcamp!

I have lofty goals of finishing EMMA revisions by the end of June and I’m glad for accountability.

ANTICIPATING

So much. I’ve got a couple of daytrips tentatively planned with my younger bro over the next few months and also:

INDEPENDENCE DAY 2! Holy crap, THIS MOVIE IS ALMOST HERE and if you know me, you know I’ve been waiting for this for approximately 20 years.

Spring is in the air! (Sort-of)

14 Apr

If you don’t count the nightly freeze warnings and the snow flurries last weekend, spring is totally in the air. And what does that mean?

MUSICALS!

Yes, it’s that time of year I geek out over middle and high school plays because tweens/teens are ultra talented and they pour their hearts and souls (not to mention time) into these productions.

So far I’ve watched Hairspray JR and Cinderella. The latter had the coolest costumes. Cinderella’s dress was made to transition from plain to ball-worthy right on stage. The reaction from the kids in the audience  to this “magic” was priceless.

There’s a video of the magic on Facebook, it’s a public page, so hopefully you can see it. It’s short, only about 10 seconds.

Spring also means:

BASEBALL!

The Orioles have won seven games and only lost one. Sings: “We are the champions!!!”

Okay, okay…

I know it’s still VERY early in the season, but allow me this celebration. My Birds once started their season with 21 straight losses.

In other news:

DUCK TAPE!

20160412_190746

My husband and I found this at our local Big Lots. Do you have one of these stores near you? Their stock is so random (and always changing). Sometimes we go in there and lose an hour of time, poking around and stumbling across fun things.

My nickname growing up was a take on my last name (Pickrell became Pickel), so this tape is perfection.

CAT ACNE!

One of my cats had acne on his chin. Cat acne – catne? cacne?

I didn’t even realize this was a thing until the vet told us. I think it was brought on by stress – he and another cat went through a rough patch of growling/chasing which made our sweet boy anxiously (compulsively) rub his face on every surface in the apartment. The vet gave him an antibiotic shot which, thankfully, cleared it up.

Poor fella, look how easygoing he normally is – he’s a friend to all, even toy mice!

20160406_141720

LIFE!

April is National Donate Life Month so please, PLEASE consider donating blood, becoming an organ donor or giving money to your local transplant clinic. If you’ve ever had a loved one in need of blood or waiting for a transplant, you already know how important it is to take a few minutes out of your day to help.

On that note, much love to everyone❤