Hi guys! I’m so excited to be here to help promote When Summer Ends by Jessica Pennington. I had the chance to be part of the street team for this book, and it was so much fun!
Title: When Summer Ends
Author: Jessica Pennington
Release Date: April 9, 2019 Published by: Tor Teen/Macmillan
Two teenagers discover how an unexpected turn of fate can bring new love to heal old wounds in Jessica Pennington’s stunning, romantic YA novel When Summer Ends.
Aiden Emerson is an all-star pitcher and the all-around golden boy of Riverton. Or at least he was, before he quit the team the last day of junior year without any explanation. How could he tell people he’s losing his vision at seventeen?
Straight-laced Olivia thought she had life all figured out. But when her dream internship falls apart, her estranged mother comes back into her life, and her long-time boyfriend ghosts her right before summer break, she’s starting to think fate has a weird sense of humor.
Each struggling to find a new direction, Aiden and Olivia decide to live summer by chance. Every fleeting adventure and stolen kiss is as fragile as a coin flip in this heartfelt journey to love and self-discovery from the author of Love Songs & Other Lies.
Jessica Pennington is no stranger to the combination of love and drama. She’s a wedding planner, after all. A writer since the age of ten—when she sought publication for her poem about a tree—Jessica likes the challenge of finding the humor in a sad situation or highlighting the awkwardness in a romantic one. A serial entrepreneur with a B.A. in public relations, Jessica has a passion for grassroots marketing. She lives in a Michigan beach town, where she owns more YA novels than many teens and spends most of her time on a laptop, rather than on a beach.
Hi, Jessica! Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions and for being here today. I can’t wait to discuss your next book as I loved the first one so much!
How about starting off by describing your book in emojis?
We get to see a more in-depth appearance of Riverton this time! I love how you based it off your own West Michigan town. What was your favorite part about fleshing out this world? Did you include anything from your own town in Riverton?
Yes, I was so excited to explore Riverton further, after it made its appearance in Love Songs & Other Lies. Riverton is a mash-up of three Michigan beach towns—the one I grew up in, the own I currently live in (very close by) and one further North, where I vacationed for a week every summer with my family. All three towns are somewhat similar, but I mixed and matched pieces of them to create my ultimate Michigan beach town. Almost every location in When Summer Ends—from the beach scenes and River Depot, where they work, to the dunes they climb—is inspired by a real-life place.
This book is an ode to summer jobs and ruined plans. How did your own experiences influence your writing of Olivia and Aiden?
The real-life place that inspired River Depot, where Aiden and Olivia work, is one of my favorite places, and I always thought it would have been a really cool summer job. Much cooler than the one I had.
Did you have a summer job? If so, what did you like about it?
Not much? Okay, a little! I worked at a garden center during the summer, and mostly I was covered in dirt, and out in the hot sun (it had that in common with River Depot) and it was pretty miserable. But like Olivia, I lived in a small town and my options were limited. I would have given anything to have somewhere great like River Depot to work! But we did sell bulk candy in the gift shop, and I got to work with some of my best friends, so that was by far the best part!
When Summer Ends also includes disability rep. Why was it important for you to include this? How were you able to accurately capture this experience?
The visual impairment rep in When Summer Ends is 100% based on my own experiences in high school being diagnosed with a degenerative eye disease. This isn’t a book ABOUT visual impairment, but it was important to me to write a character that shared that experience with me, because it had a huge impact on my high school experience, and into adulthood. As far as his vision goes, everything that happens to Aiden was pulled from my own experience. Minus being a star pitcher. I was a very mediocre pitcher LOL.
Hi, there! Welcome to my last post in this series. If you wanted to read the previous posts I had in this series, you can read them here and here.
Today I’m going to talk about the swoon-worthy novel Save the Date by Morgan Matson. This was the second Matson book I read, and it was such a sweet read. I found the characters so relatable, and I loved the Grant family so much! If you wanted to know more of my thoughts on this book, be sure to check out my review. I can’t wait for you to read this interview I did with Morgan!
A little about Morgan:
Morgan Matson was born in New York City and grew up there and in Greenwich, Connecticut. She attended Occidental College as a theater major, but halfway through, switched her focus to writing and never looked back. She received an MFA in Writing for Children from the New School, and then a second MFA in Screenwriting from USC.
She is the New York Times bestselling author of five books, all published by Simon & Schuster.
She currently lives in Los Angeles with her rescue terrier, Murphy, in a house with blue floors that’s overflowing with books.
Want to know more about Save the Date? Here’ the synopsis!
Charlie Grant’s older sister is getting married this weekend at their family home, and Charlie can’t wait for the first time in years, all four of her older siblings will be under one roof. Charlie is desperate for one last perfect weekend, before the house is sold and everything changes. The house will be filled with jokes and games and laughs again. Making decisions about things like what college to attend and reuniting with longstanding crush Jesse Foster all that can wait. She wants to focus on making the weekend perfect.
The only problem? The weekend is shaping up to be an absolute disaster. There’s the unexpected dog with a penchant for howling, house alarm that won’t stop going off, and a papergirl with a grudge.
There are the relatives who aren’t speaking, the (awful) girl her favorite brother brought home unannounced, and a missing tuxedo. Not to mention the neighbor who seems to be bent on sabotage and a storm that is bent on drenching everything. The justice of the peace is missing. The band will only play covers. The guests are all crazy. And the wedding planner’s nephew is unexpectedly, distractedly cute.
Over the course of three ridiculously chaotic days, Charlie will learn more than she ever expected about the family she thought she knew by heart. And she’ll realize that sometimes, trying to keep everything like it was in the past means missing out on the future.
Hi, Morgan!! Thank you so
much for taking time to chat with me about Save
the Date. I can’t wait for everyone else to read it. It was such a fun
To start things off, why
don’t you start by describing your book in 10 words or less.
Okay, I’ll give it a shot! I don’t write short books, so brevity is always a challenge for me. But how about this:
Wedding disaster, little sister, cute boys, unexpected dog, happy ending?
Perfect!! Weddings are so much fun. What made you want to write about one?
Aren’t they? I feel like there’s so much inherent drama in a wedding! All the family members coming together, and people from two different families joining up. I’ve never been to a wedding where there wasn’t at least one last minute crisis, and so I thought it would be a great setting for a novel. And I also thought it would be fun to write about a wedding not from the POV of the bride or of a planner, but the younger sister, who’s both a part of the wedding and seeing it from the outside. It let me have my (wedding) cake and eat it too!
wedding goes through quite a few classic wedding disasters. What was the most
fun one to write about?
I think the most fun one to write about was the decorations mishap. I thought to myself, what would be the worst event to have your wedding decorations mixed up with? And a nine-year-old’s Australia-themed birthday party seemed to be just the perfect amount of terrible. Nobody wants a wedding with koala decorations!
Yes! That scene was hilarious!! Who doesn’t love koalas anyway 🙂 Do you have a favorite part of a wedding (both fictional and in real life)?
I have two favorite parts of any wedding. The first is the moment when the officiant asks if anyone knows a reason why the couple should not be married, to speak now. The part of me that loves drama is always holding my breath at that moment, even though I’ve never been to a wedding where anyone has ever said anything. But we’ve all seen so many movies and TV shows that we’re primed for high drama at that moment!
And my other favorite is the couples’ first dance. It always makes me well up! I love that moment when these two people, who’ve been through this whole ceremony together, are now able to exhale and dance together as a married couple for the first time ever. In every wedding, you can kind of see the couple look at each other like, “We did it! We’re married!” It’s just my favorite moment.
The dance is so touching! I love it too. I loved the Grant family! They reminded me of mine. Do you have a lot of siblings too? Does the Grant family remind you of your family?
Oh, I’m so glad you liked them! They were such a blast to write. I do not have a lot of siblings – I have just one older brother, so we were a smaller family. But maybe because of that, I always wanted a ton of siblings and a big family. I was even jealous of my friends who had three siblings in their families – it just seemed like there was always more going on!
So the Grant family was more of what I’d imagine a big family to be – lots of coming and going and drama and fights and laughter. I wrote the big family that I always wanted to have! But of course, bits of my family made it in there too – the little sayings and rituals that are totally normal to your family that nobody else understands. My mom, like Mr. Grant, is a really accomplished gardener, so that’s where that came from. And parts of the Grant house, especially the front hall and the kitchen, were based on my family’s home in Connecticut.
I also noticed a lot of
Easter eggs hiding within your book. How many did you include? What was your
favorite part of writing them in?
Good eye! I love including little Easter eggs in my book – it’s one of my favorite parts of writing a new book, getting to check in with characters from other books. My favorite part was probably getting a bunch of characters from Unexpected Everything in there, especially because in the past, many of my Easter eggs have just been passing references or little hints. When I saw a way to actually have these characters engage with the Grants, in a way that didn’t feel forced, I got really excited. I felt like I actually got to reconnect with the characters from Unexpected Everything, and catch everyone up on what they’d been up to.
There’s also a pretty quick reference to Amy from Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour, and most of my books now have had a long-running reference to something first set up in Second Chance Summer, and it pops up again here too.
Charlie struggles a lot
with change throughout the book, whether it be moving houses or choosing which
school to go to in the fall. Is this something you struggle with yourself? How
did your own experience help you shape Charlie’s?
This trait, of struggling with change, is absolutely something that Charlie and I both share. I hate change, and have ever since I was little. And Charlie’s feeling regarding going to college in the fall – her ambivalence about it – was my exact same feeling. All my friends were so excited to be going to college and I just didn’t feel that way. It was like I could sense that what we’d had during our high school years was going to be very different very soon and I just wanted to hold onto it a little longer rather than rushing onto the next chapter. But like Charlie, I soon realized that life moves only forward and if you can (it’s hard to do) it’s better to think of change like an exciting adventure rather than something to be dreaded.
But since I had this feeling that I hadn’t seen expressed much in books or movies, I wanted to give this to Charlie – and maybe someone else who feels this same way will see their feelings reflected!
I love this! Thank you so much for your time!
Big shout out to Morgan for being amazing! Her interview was awesome, and I had so much fun coming up with questions. Be sure to check out Save the Date if you haven’t already.
Hi guys! In the spirit of continuing my mini-series on some fabulous 2018 reads, I have an interview with the great Brendan Kiely, the acclaimed co-author of All American Boys. In 2018, Kiely published his latest novel, Tradition. This book tackles tough topics in an accurate yet sensitive manner. I devoured this book once I started it! I hope you love it as much as I did, and be sure to keep an eye out for a review of it on the blog soon.
Here’s some things you might want to know about Brendan:
Brendan Kiely received an MFA in creative writing from The City College of New York. His writing has appeared in Fiction, Guernica, The AWP Writer’s Chronicle, and other publications. Originally from the Boston area, he now teaches at an independent high school and lives with his wife in Greenwich Village.
Want to know more about Tradition? Here’s the synopsis below!
Prestigious. Powerful. Privileged. This is Fullbrook Academy, an elite prep
school where history looms in the leafy branches over its brick walkways. But some traditions upheld in its hallowed halls are profoundly dangerous.
Jules Devereux just wants to keep her head down, avoid distractions, and get into the right college, so she can leave Fullbrook and its old-boy social codes behind. She wants freedom, but ex-boyfriends and ex-best friends are determined to keep her in place.
Jamie Baxter feels like an imposter at Fullbrook, but the hockey scholarship that got him in has given him a chance to escape his past and fulfill the dreams of his parents and coaches, whose mantra rings in his ears: Don’t disappoint us.
When Jamie and Jules meet, they recognize in each other a similar instinct for survival, but at a school where girls in the student handbook are rated by their looks, athletes stack hockey pucks in dorm room windows like notches on a bedpost, and school-sponsored dances push first year girls out into the night with senior boys, the stakes for safe sex, real love, and true friendship couldn’t be higher.
As Jules and Jamie’s lives intertwine, and the pressures to play by the rules and remain silent about the school’s secrets intensify, they see Fullbrook for what it really is. That tradition, a word Fullbrook hides behind, can be ugly, even violent. Ultimately, Jules and Jamie are faced with the difficult question: can they stand together against classmates—and an institution—who believe they can do no wrong?
Hi, Brendan!! Thank you
for taking time to sit down to answer some of my questions. I loved Tradition, and I can’t wait to discuss
Thank you so much for reading it, and
caring, and thank you for this interview!
To start things off, why
don’t you give a brief overview of your book.
Tradition is about two outsiders, Jules
Devereux, a whip-smart, confident, rabble rouser, and James Baxter, a tough,
and sensitive kid on a hockey scholarship, who become friends as they learn just
how dangerous the school’s old-boy, misogynistic traditions can be. When Jules
is assaulted by an ex-boyfriend, she and Bax risk everything they’ve spent
their entire high school careers working for to break the school’s culture of
silence and complicity.
This is a very heavy, but
important topic that you cover, and you write it in such a lovely way. What was
it like trying to tackle it?
for this question. It means a lot to me. I write contemporary realistic
fiction, and though this is a novel, and Jules and James are characters, not
people, I try to be as careful as I can because their stories are so viscerally
similar to real people’s stories, and so, when I write, I try to listen to the
characters with as much care and consideration as if they were real people
sitting in front of me, telling me their stories.
I think writing, like living, is all
about practicing empathy.
Did you write this book
with a certain intention or message?
my books begin with a question that is deeply affecting me. In this case it was
this: How can our community better listen to and support women, especially
those who have been speaking out about misogyny, harassment, and assault for so
long, and in particular, how can men become better feminists? I tried to
address that question by writing Tradition.
Jules is so awesome. Can you talk a little about
where the characters came from? Do you start with characters or a place?
you! I think Jules is awesome too, because she reminds me of some of those
awesome students I had the honor to teach, advise, and watch soar out into the
world. I worked in a high school for ten years, and the students who peered
around the school’s walls and stared out into the wider world, are the students
who inspired Jules. And Bax too. So many young men (myself included) grow up
with so much pressure to try to be tough athletes, and when those some of those
boys get together, in order to prove to each other how tough they are, how much
of a “man” they are, they say terrible things about women, or worse, sometimes
act in disrespectful or even harmful ways towards women. But then there are the
guys who witness all this and think to themselves, “this isn’t right.” I
remember those students too—the guys who did want to listen, the guys who
turned around to the other guys and said, enough is enough. Bax and his big,
soft heart reminds me of those guys who are out there too.
I always start with characters. I write
scene after scene after scene getting to know them, and though most of those
scenes get thrown out, I do it because it takes time getting to know
someone—just like in real life!
How did writing these
characters and this story contrast from your other works?
I love this question, because I think
Jules in particular is so different and unique. As a man writing a book in
which half of it is from a woman’s perspective, it was essential for me to get
feedback from women along the way. In order to try to be as accountable as
possible, I asked nine women to read over my shoulder as I wrote Tradition—while I’ve always asked for
feedback from readers while working on a project, I’ve never had so much
feedback at once, and I’m forever grateful for the time, attention, and care!
There’s a distinction
between a harmful tradition and a fun, silly one. Is there a fun one that you
Absolutely. Tradition itself isn’t a bad thing, it’s only when the tradition is
used an excuse to protect some people while others are being harmed that it’s a
problem. Every year in Barcelona, on April 23, couples exchange books and roses
with each other, the tradition is called the festival of St. Jordi. It’s been
going on forever, and no one really knows how it started, but it’s awesome and
still continues today—it’s like a super bookish Valentine’s Day! And closer to
home, right where I grew up, it was a tradition for many years that many of the
neighborhood families would gather at my friend Adam’s house for Christmas Eve,
and his father would make the same calzone every year, and we’d all sit around
the piano and sing while another friend’s father played the songs. But what
makes these traditions fun is that they are inclusive—everyone feels a part of
it. The traditions that bother me are those designer to make some people feel
excluded, or insignificant, or disrespected in some way. Those are the kinds of
traditions Jules and Bax want to tear down and expose for their ugliness.
Is there anything you’re
currently working on that you can share a little about?
Ahhhh!!! This is always the hardest question because when I’m in the middle of something I never know what it really is until I get to the end of the first draft. I will say this though, I love telling stories that are full of heart and emotion and people learning how to better listen to each other, and my next project follows in the same… well… tradition. Ha! Thanks so much for asking!
Thank you so much to Brendan for taking the time to speak with me on the blog! I encourage you all to go out and get yourselves a copy of this excellent novel.
Hi there! I hope you’ve had a good new year so far! I’m going to feature a few authors whose books I read and absolutely loved last year. I had the chance to interview them thanks to their amazing publicist.
Today I’m talking with Siobhan Vivian, author of Stay Sweet, and many other novels. (Read my review of Stay Sweet here.) Siobhan was actually the first author who did an interview on my blog here! You can read that here.
Here’s a little more about her formally:
Siobhan Vivian is the author of THE LAST BOY AND GIRL IN THE WORLD (April 2016), as well as THE LIST, NOT THAT KIND OF GIRL, SAME DIFFERENCE, and A LITTLE FRIENDLY ADVICE. She also co-wrote BURN FOR BURN series with her best friend JENNY HAN. She currently lives in Pittsburgh.
I absolutely loved Stay Sweet, and couldn’t put it down when I took it with me over spring break! Here’s some more info about the book.
Summer in Sand Lake isn’t complete without a trip to Meade Creamery—
the local ice cream stand founded in 1944 by Molly Meade who started making ice cream to cheer up her lovesick girlfriends while all the boys were away at war. Since then, the stand has been owned and managed exclusively by local girls, who inevitably become the best of friends. Seventeen-year-old Amelia and her best friend Cate have worked at the stand every summer for the past three years, and Amelia is “Head Girl” at the stand this summer. When Molly passes away before Amelia even has her first day in charge, Amelia isn’t sure that the stand can go on. That is, until Molly’s grandnephew Grady arrives and asks Amelia to stay on to help continue the business…but Grady’s got some changes in mind…
Hi, Siobhan! Thank you so much for taking time to sit down and answer my questions. It’s lovely getting to work with you again, but this time forJustine! I wish you the best with Stay Sweet, and I’m already looking forward to your next book We Are the Wildcats.
Thank you so much for the great questions, Sophie! It’s always a pleasure to “speak” with you! J
Let’s start with you describing your book in ten words or less.
Simply put, it’s about sisterhood, summer, ice cream, and romance.
A big part of this novel is about Molly Meade, a self-made woman who owned her own business. Where did you come up with the character of Molly?
Molly is based in large part on a teenage version of my grandmother, who was very resourceful, ambitious, and driven, particularly for a girl in the 1940s. And the more research I did about that time in American history, I realized that many of the challenges young women were facing back then parallel the issues of our time.
If you were the proprietor of your own business, what would it be? Why?
I would love to run a small coffee shop with homemade baked goods, because coffee and baked goods are fundamental to my daily existence.
While it’s written in third person, this follows mainly Amelia. What was it like writing in her headspace? Did you think about writing a little from Cate’s perspective too?
I actually wrote several drafts of Stay Sweet in first person, and it just never felt right. I found it very difficult to capture the timelessness and history of Meade Creamery through Amelia’s contemporary perspective. I also didn’t like how the story transitioned from Amelia’s POV into Molly’s diary entries in first person. There wasn’t enough POW to the change in perspective. Once I made the decision to change it to third person, I felt more deeply immersed in the storytelling.
I love the best friendship in this book. It reminded me of all the girls who have been there for me in the same way. Did you draw on your own relationships to help build the friendship between Cate and Amelia?
Oh absolutely. I’m extremely lucky to have befriended several strong, successful, sparkly women throughout my life and I used lots of different facets of them to build the friendship between Amelia and Cate.
Have you ever worked in an ice cream shop yourself? If so, what was your favorite part?
I never did! But one of my former students at The University of Pittsburgh worked at a small ice cream parlor and she gave me many incredible details.
How did you come up with the flavor Home Sweet Home?
I had a really in-depth conversation with Katie Heldstab—one of the founders of Pittsburgh’s Leona’s Ice Cream (www.leonaspgh.com) –about what ingredients someone might use to sweeten ice cream if they didn’t have access to sugar. Katie is a graduate of the infamous Penn State Ice Cream program and super well-versed in the science and chemistry of ice cream making. Her input was beyond helpful!
Alright to wrap this up, is there anything you can share about your upcoming novel with us?
Yes! It’s a 24-hour clock, which is a device I’ve always wanted to use in a book. And I’m returning to a mutli POV ala my book The List. Finally, the story allows me to explore one of my favorite themes—all the complicated and magical ways that girls form friendships with each other.
Thank you so much, Siobhan, for taking the time to answer my questions! I can’t wait to read We Are the Wildcats!! Please be sure to check out all of her books — they’re divine!!
Welcome to out tour stop for Love Songs & Other Lies by Jessica Pennington! We’re so happy to host Jess here with an interview.
About the Book
Title: Love Songs & Other Lies
Author: Jessica Pennington
Publisher: Tor Teen
Release Date: April 24th, 2018
Genre: YA Contemporary Romance
Synopsis: It’s summer romance and second chances, the songs that stay in your head, and the boy you’ll never forget.
Two years after rock-song-worthy heartbreak, Virginia Miller is looking forward to a fun, carefree summer. Her friends just landed a spot on a battling bands reality show, and Vee is joining them for her dream internship on tour. Three months with future rockstars seems like an epic summer plan. Until she learns she’ll also be sharing the bus with Cam. Her first love, and her first heartbreak. Now Vee has more than just cameras to dodge, and Cam’s determination to win her forgiveness is causing TMZ-worthy problems for both of them. With cameras rolling, she’ll have to decide if her favorite breakup anthem deserves a new ending. And if she’s brave enough to expose her own secrets to keep Cam’s under wraps.
Jessica Pennington is no stranger to the combination of love and drama. She’s a wedding planner, after all. A writer since the age of ten—when she sought publication for her poem about a tree—Jessica likes the challenge of finding the humor in a sad situation or highlighting the awkwardness in a romantic one. She lives in a Michigan beach town suspiciously similar to the one in her books, where she’s currently finishing her second novel, WHEN SUMMER ENDS, out April 2019.
Hi, Jess! So glad you could be here with us today. Why don’t you kick things off by telling us something we can’t find in your bio.
Hi, Sophie! I’m so excited to chat with you! I’m mildly obsessed with penguins. Is that in my bio? I don’t think so. But I am. I have a collection of penguin Christmas ornaments, and I don’t consider a zoo “legit” unless they have penguins on exhibit. The selfie I’m most proud of is one I took with a penguin (which was not easy!).
Describe your book in five words or less.
Oh, this is torture! Here goes nothing… first-love gets a second chance
A big part of this book is music (obviously lol). Do you listen to music while you write? What music got you through this novel in particular?
I listen to basically basically any time I’m awake. This book in particular, I listened to a lot of songs about love and breaking up. Which are my favorite kinds of songs anyway!
I love Vee! She’s an awesome MC. What was your favorite part about writing her?
Oh man, this is hard because I love a lot about Vee! I love how strong she is—even though she’s flawed and has fears like any teen girl—and also that she’s really open with people. I think there’s a real vulnerability about Vee and how she connects with people—you see it even in the way she connects with some of the crew on the tour bus.
If Vee were a song, which one would she be?
Well, most literally, she would be Meet Virginia by Train, because her parents named her after that song. But Yellow Shirt by The Icarus Account (which is Vee’s favorite song in the book) is one that I think describes her…she doesn’t see herself quite as clearly as those around her, but when she does, she’s this really magnetic kind of force.
There are a lot of details about touring and the music competition. Did you have to do a lot of outside research for this novel?
You know, there’s never been a reality TV show like the one in LS&OL (maybe there should be??) so I did have to rely on piecing together what I could find out about music tours and TV production and reality shows in general. I looked up layouts for tour buses, and for some of the venues they visit on the tour, and I had to map out the whole tour and how long it would take them to get from place to place. I have a whole road-trip map somewhere! That was actually one of the biggest pieces of research…figuring out the schedule for the whole show, and when they’d land where!
This is set after Vee’s first year at college which is awesome! I love books set in this time period. Why did you decide to write about that summer?
I didn’t set out to write anything set in college, or even to write a dual-timeline novel, it just happened! I had written most of the THEN chapters before realizing that their story wouldn’t end in high school. But I chose that timing for them to meet again, because I wanted them to have enough time to grow and change a bit, but not enough that they’d totally healed from what happened between them.
Okay let’s wrap things up here, if you could collab with any author who would it be and why?
Oh man, this is a hard question! I think I’d say Katy Upperman, because I loved her debut novel Kissing Max Holden, and just finished an ARC of her second, The Impossibility of Us, which left me reeling. I think we have similarities in the kinds of stories we like to tell and the way we tell them. And she loved Love Songs & Other Lies, so I think we have that mutual appreciation for each other’s work, which would be important when doing a collab!
Thank you, Jess for this amazing interview!! Be sure to pick this awesome book up!! Follow the rest of the tour here:
Let’s talk about the last book by one of my all-time favorite authors. Jenny Han is a freaking goddess, and I had the pleasure of meeting her this past May when her book released. It was a phenomenal experience that I will never forget.
Title: Always and Forever, Lara Jean
Author: Jenny Han
Publisher: Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
Release Date: May 2nd, 2017
Edition: Hardcover, US
My Rating: 5/5 stars
Lara Jean is having the best senior year. And there’s still so much to look forward to: a class trip to New York City, prom with her boyfriend Peter, Beach Week after graduation, and her dad’s wedding to Ms. Rothschild. Then she’ll be off to college with Peter, at a school close enough for her to come home and bake chocolate chip cookies on the weekends.
Life couldn’t be more perfect!
At least, that’s what Lara Jean thinks…until she gets some unexpected news.
Now the girl who dreads change must rethink all her plans—but when your heart and your head are saying two different things, which one should you listen to?
Oh Lara Jean, I have missed you dearly. I am Team #JohnAmbroseMcClaren, but I understand why people are Team #Kavinsky. I just feel that John Ambrose was so much kinder to Lara Jean, but that’s not really the point of this review right now, right? 😉
If you haven’t read the first two books in this series, I’m going to redirect you to my review of those right here. This will be spoiler free of the third book, but I can’t review this without making references to the previous two in the series.
I read this right at the tail end of my own senior year of high school, and all of the stress that Lara Jean goes through I had just been through. It was like reading about my own college application process from afar, which was a bit weird and meta. One thing that irks me with books is that they still include paper applications in their application process. This isn’t very realistic because most, if not all, applications are done online now. There are no longer paper applications that you have to reach out to certain schools to request that I’m aware of.
That small complaint aside, the emotions are all the same. The stress, the worry, the panic — it’s all the same whether you’re applying on paper or digitally. Han captures the thoughts and feelings of the application process well, and I’m sad to have a conclusion for Lara Jean and the gang.
Let’s talk about how awesome Marie Lu is. She is the author of The Young Elites and Legend series, and now Warcross. This is classic Lu, and one that won’t disappoint. I even had the privilege of interviewing this lovely lady, and you can find it in the August/September issue of Justine Magazine as well as online here.
Author: Marie Lu
Publisher: Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Expected release: September 12, 2017
For the millions who log in every day, Warcross isn’t just a game—it’s a way of life. The obsession started ten years ago and its fan base now spans the globe, some eager to escape from reality and others hoping to make a profit. Struggling to make ends meet, teenage hacker Emika Chen works as a bounty hunter, tracking down players who bet on the game illegally. But the bounty hunting world is a competitive one, and survival has not been easy. Needing to make some quick cash, Emika takes a risk and hacks into the opening game of the international Warcross Championships—only to accidentally glitch herself into the action and become an overnight sensation.
Convinced she’s going to be arrested, Emika is shocked when instead she gets a call from the game’s creator, the elusive young billionaire Hideo Tanaka, with an irresistible offer. He needs a spy on the inside of this year’s tournament in order to uncover a security problem . . . and he wants Emika for the job. With no time to lose, Emika’s whisked off to Tokyo and thrust into a world of fame and fortune that she’s only dreamed of. But soon her investigation uncovers a sinister plot, with major consequences for the entire Warcross empire.
I CANNOT stress how much I’m excited for everyone to read this book!! I was lucky enough to score a signed ARC at BookCon, and I finally got around to reading it this past August.
The first chapter was a bit of a slow start, but right after that it picks up. Emika is such a fun character, and I love how Lu writes her as a whole. She is one of my favorites written thus far of 2017. It was a blast getting to know her with each page turned.
Lu’s entire cast of characters is pleasing to read about. They are rich in diversity including people of color, abled and disabled, etc. as some of the players central to the plot. I LOVED seeing Emika, but also keep an eye out for one of Daniel’s relatives! The representation isn’t something that is forced into your face, but subtle and well done to normalize seeing these people in books. Lu isn’t seeking to prance her progressive characters into the center stage, but to weave them into the fabric of storytelling so they have their rightful places in literature.
The setting of the book is also wonderful. I love how she took the modern world and gave it the tech upgrades that fit seamlessly. It is rich in detail with memorable icons that we know today while providing new take on them to make them more Warcross-like. This is the world that we could become if we follow the technological track that we’re on, but only one of many possibilities. There is a depth to this world, an underbelly that we are exposed to, and they co-exist in ways you wouldn’t suspect.
The game of Warcross itself was a little confusing at first. Once I got a handle on what the point of the game was and how to play, I loved delving into each world that Tenaka and his team created. They were worlds from a video game you wish existed. I can only describe it as something like Smash Bros but with so many different elements of every video game that can be combined to create a game that is both thrilling and exciting at the same time.
I can’t wait for everyone to read this one! Put it on your tbr and make sure it comes right to your door on release day!
Hi, guys!! I read this way back in February, but to this day I still love it so much. Maybe this calls for a re-read… Anywho, I cannot wait to finally write my thoughts down about this book. MY HEART WAS JUST A LITTLE BIT BROKEN AFTER IT NO BIG DEAL HAHAHAHA *tear*
Title: Seven Days of You
Author: Cecilia Vinesse
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Release date: March 7, 2017
Sophia has seven days left in Tokyo before she moves back to the States. Seven days to say good-bye to the electric city, her wild best friend, and the boy she’s harbored a semi-secret crush on for years. Seven perfect days…until Jamie Foster-Collins moves back to Japan and ruins everything.
Jamie and Sophia have a history of heartbreak, and the last thing Sophia wants is for him to steal her leaving thunder with his stupid arriving thunder. Yet as the week counts down, the relationships she thought were stable begin to explode around her. And Jamie is the one who helps her pick up the pieces. Sophia is forced to admit she may have misjudged Jamie, but can their seven short days of Tokyo adventures end in anything but good-bye?
I had a lot of feelings about this book when I finished it — and when I was reading it. Here are some things I said on my Goodreads account:
WHAT IS THIS LIFE?!?!? THIS BOOK. I’M CRYING RIGHT NOW OH MY GOD.
Okay, well this is a beautiful story about beginnings and endings and everything that comes with both. It’s lovely to see everything play out (even though it’s ripping me apart right now) and I can’t help but feel the bittersweetness of the entire situation. More thoughts to come with a full review!
So maybe some tears were shed. Just because I get really invested in characters doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing! It was poignant and fresh and I loved the setting!
Maybe it’s because her name was Sophia, but I loved her. I could picture her in Tokyo savoring her last few days there, and dragging her feet to leave. I couldn’t imagine that kind of move. I moved houses within the same city and that was hard.
The characters are what made this book amazing for me. I loved their development and their quirkiness. Mika was hilarious and the *perfect* (but flawed) best friend. David was the brooding-but-lovable guy friend. Honestly, their trio reminded me of my trio of friends I had at the time. When Jamie enters the scene, it was fun to see their dynamic change and shift around him. They seem like great people to be friends with overall.
I wish I had more details that helped me get around Tokyo a bit better. A map on the end pages would have been so fun! I did like the small details that Vinesse added about it, but there could have been a few more to make it more immersive.
I really wanted to finish this book, but also I wanted more than seven days. I wanted a year. Or more. Really, anything more that Cecilia would give me I would read. I want to know what happens after. PLEASE TELL ME THERE’S A COMPANION NOVEL OR SEQUEL IN THE WORKS I’M DYING OVER HERE.
I can’t believe it’s Friday already. I feel like this week flew by! I am so excited to share with you some interviews I did for Justine with Laini Taylor and Cecilia Vinesse. Both of these ladies had events in the past couple of weeks and I had the pleasure of speaking with both of them.
Laini and I played a quick round of 5 Quick Questions. It was fun to hear how she would place herself within her book. You can find the link to the full article here. Here is a snapshot of it:
Would you rather be a Godspawn or human?
Godspawn, if I could choose!
Who wins in a fight, Lazlo or Thyon?
Oh man, what kind of fight? I’m gonna have to go with Thyon.
I got to have a full conversation with Cecilia. It was so fun speaking with the debut author (Seven Days of You). Our full chat can be seen here. Here is one of my favorite responses from her.
Sophie: Hi, Cecilia! So glad to have you here today. To kick things off, why don’t you tell us something that isn’t in your bio.
Cecilia Vinesse: Hi! Oh my, something that isn’t in my bio. Hmm, let me think about this. I was a really, really big musical theater person for a really long time. I had the all original cast albums of different shows, and I had all the lines memorized. I used to, this is embarrassing, I’m sharing something embarrassing, I used to, when my family was out of the house, we used to have this really steep set of stairs so I would play the music really loud and I would sing it at the top of the stairs like I was in a production of the show. I really thought that was what I wanted to do, like I really thought that was—for a large portion of my teen years that was my dream, but then I realized I’m actually really nervous in front of crowds and that I like telling big stories, but maybe in a quieter way. So slowly over the years all of my Broadway posters came down off the wall. I still like it but not in the same obsessive way that I used to.
Hey book dragons (and Friday)! I hope you’ve had a great week so far. I know there has been so much drama lately on the internet, but thankfully the book things aren’t all that dramatic (unless your prose is drama of course).
A few weeks back, my final assignment for Brown was to interview a journalist that I admire. Yin Chang is the amazing host of the podcast 88 Cups of Tea. The focus of 88 Cups of Tea is to bring authors and other people in the literary/performing arts field(s) to listeners and help them learn from experts who have already succeeded there. Yin has had the opportunity to speak with people like Morgan Matson (The Unexpected Everything), R. J. Palacio (Wonder), and most recently Matt de la Peña (Last Stop on Market Street). I’ve linked the pages of each chat and the Amazon page of each book in case you wanted to check them out. I highly encourage it – Yin is so warm and engaging with each guest that I can’t help but love each episode I listen to.
Here’s a bit about our amazing host Yin:
Yin Chang is an actor-turned-podcast-host, a #1 Amazon bestselling co-author, short film producer, and writer. She was born and raised in New York and currently resides in Los Angeles.
Yin is the creator and host of 88 CUPS OF TEA, a podcast show dedicated towards helping storytellers move forward in their careers. Yin interviews bestselling authors, and successful directors, screenwriters, and producers. Yin asks engaging questions where her inspiring guests discuss how they created opportunities for their careers, allowing listeners to apply actionable steps towards their own. Through the podcast, Yin creates a tribe, a safe space, for storytellers to learn and feel empowered, inspired, and motivated.
As an actor, Yin made her feature film debut in Walt Disney’s PROM. She is most recognized for her work in three seasons of CW’s GOSSIP GIRL, a TV show hailed by New York Magazine as, “The greatest teen drama of all time.” Yin has also made numerous appearances on major TV shows and starred in THE BLING RING. Learn more about Yin’s work as an actor here.
This is what she hopes to achieve with her podcast
Everyone has a story to tell.
88 CUPS OF TEA is a podcast crafted for the novelist, the screenwriter, the filmmaker, and the creative in you. I interview directors, writers, and producers who are responsible for the successes of shows like 30 ROCK, ONCE UPON A TIME IN WONDERLAND, RIZZOLI & ISLES, TWISTED, LAW & ORDER: SVU, and many more. I document my chats with inspiring international and New York Times bestselling authors and award-winning writers and filmmakers.
I have my own stories I need to share, just like you. I’ve taken writing classes and joined writing workshops, and from these classes I’ve learned that there’s still so much more to learn.
Through this curiosity, I chat with those who are “doing it”: Those who are able to balance their passion for storytelling, make a living, and more importantly, those who are able to prioritize time for their family, friends, and hobbies. I’m still learning to balance all of that. I want to do work that brings me joy and do it in a way that still provides a roof over my head, and most importantly, I want to always be grounded and human about it all.
I crave for real talk. I get a high from picking the brains of those I’ve worked with and became friends with throughout my acting career, and of those who I’ve admired from afar. That hunger for conversation with storytellers birthed 88 CUPS OF TEA, a podcast for fellow curious storytellers just like me.
The conversations with my guests constantly leave me feeling so moved and inspired, and it will leave you feeling just as inspired through their generous and invaluable tips and advice. These motivating discussions will keep you moving forward in your career by learning how these guests create opportunities for themselves.
88 CUPS OF TEA is a safe space where we all gather together to learn together from these mentors, to be each other’s cheerleaders, and to root for the underdogs in all of us.
So if you haven’t caught on by now, I chose Yin to interview for my final project, and I want to thank her a million times for agreeing to do this for and with me. Below is our own discussion on her career, how she started, and some amazing episodes she captured.
Sophie: Hi Yin! Thank you so much for being here with me! How do you choose what guest you want on your show? Is it hard to contact them?
Yin: Before I launched the podcast, I reached out to friends and colleagues I
made while working on set. At the time, they were my directors,
producers, and screenwriters of TV shows/movies I acted in. Interviews
with them helped me build a very solid roster of guests as a foundation
to reach out to other guests I had never met.
My initial process for selecting guests for the show was pretty organic
and spontaneous. I would either pass through Barnes & Noble and gravitate
towards books that stood out to me, or I would read through summaries of
books that were displayed in the bestsellers list and reach out to
authors whose stories resonated with me most. As the show progressed, I
became more involved with social media and found fantastic guests by
paying attention to whose work the listeners are currently reading. I’ve
also had several authors pitched to me by publicists, publishers, and
literary agencies, and I bring on the ones who would fit the show best.
For guests outside of the world of authors, I make sure to keep an ear
out for cool new movies or TV shows that are in the works, or are in the
film festival rounds before they’re released to the public. I tend to
lean towards creative people who have created something from absolutely
General rule of thumb I like to stick to: Only invite or accept guests who
I’m interested in having a genuine conversation with. Something about them
needs to jump out at me and keep me interested, or else it wouldn’t be
interesting for my listeners either.
For all of my guests, aside from a few guests who were already my friends,
I reach out to them via email.
S: What’s your strategy for interviewing people? Is there one question you like to ask every time?
Y: Generally, the guests and I have about 3-5 minutes to ourselves before we
get into the interview. This is where I give them a friendly reminder
about the audio technicalities. In those few minutes, I’m usually able to
feel out their personalities. Although rare, there are times we instantly
click like long-lost best friends and we’ll hop right into a beautiful
conversation about life overall, and if appropriate, I’ll steer the
direction of the interview with questions I feel would best benefit
listeners. Most of the times, I like to kickstart conversations by
having guests backtrack all the way to their earliest memories of the
first steps towards their creative path. From there, I pay close
attention and engage by listening intently, asking questions, and giving
my two cents, like I would with a close friend.
At the very end of the episode, I love to wrap it up by asking each guests
what kinds of books they recommend for listeners to check out!
S: How long does it take for you to conduct an interview for a podcast? Does this include editing as well?
Y: It usually takes about an hour for an interview. Unfortunately, that
doesn’t include editing. I wish it did! Editing takes about 10 hours.
S: Do you usually conduct your interviews in person or another way? Do you have a preference?
Y: I’ve yet to do an in-person interview, though I’d love to when the time
is right! I travel quite a bit and am always on the go, so I conduct all
of my interviews via Skype. S: What’s your favorite part of doing research on an author?
Y: I love learning about their personal lives (I also love chatting with
them about their personal lives!), their favorite hobbies, and their
daily routine. It humanizes them beyond the work that they’ve created and
are most recognized for, and I’m able to connect with them on a deeper
level in addition to just talking-shop.
S: Why a podcast? What do you like about publishing your work through a podcast?
Y: I was obsessed with podcasts about a year (might’ve been about a year and
a half) before creating one. I love the ease and convenience of podcasts.
I’m able to multi-task— hike, shower, put on makeup, cook, drive, etc.—
all while learning and feeling productive with each episode I’m listening
S: How did you figure out that this is what you wanted to do after your work as an actress? Have you always also been a writer?
Y: Shortly after moving out to LA to work as an actor, I created a short
film, “Strain”, about bullying prevention. My intentions were to have it
available as a free resource that would spark important conversations
amongst teens about the effects and consequences of bullying. The short
film went on to do way more than I had hoped and was used as an
educational tool for teachers, parents, and students. Having experienced
what it was like to tell a story that mattered to at least one viewer,
and experiencing first-hand the kind of effort it took behind-the-scenes
to bring something to life, together with the entire team, was enough to
hook me into the “other side” of acting.
From there, I reconnected with my love for writing. I took fiction and
screenwriting classes online and joined an in-person writing workshop. I
realized through those classes that I had so much more to learn, not just
about the craft of writing but also about real-world experiences. I had
listened to a ton of podcast episodes about small business start-ups and
entrepreneurial topics, and I desperately searched for podcasts that were
in the same vein but geared towards writers. I couldn’t find a show I
could relate to, either I wasn’t vibing with the host’s personality or I
couldn’t relate to the conversations.
Around the same time, I had a handful of friends from the entertainment
industry I wanted to catch up with and chat about their career and how
they got started. I was sure that there were other people out there who
shared the same kinds of questions, thoughts, hopes, and fears as a fellow
creative soul. Everything clicked from there on out, I realized I could
basically record our conversations so that listeners could learn along
S: Have you ever interviewed someone then decided against publishing? Why or why not?
Y:There’s only been two people I’ve interviewed that I couldn’t publish.
One was due to extremely poor audio quality. I had the file sent to
several different editors and even they couldn’t do anything about it.
The other guest’s file was corrupted when I brought the laptop to Asia
while I was traveling for three months. I had that file passed around to
about 5 different computer repair shops over a span of about 7 months
hoping to somehow recover the file. I was devastated and still am because
those are precious quality time that was set aside for the conversation
and moments like that can never be re-created.
Aside from that, I’ve published every single interview because there’s
always something someone can take away from that particular conversation!
S: What is your favorite part of this job?
Y: I’m so lucky to have listeners like you see this as a job. Podcasting was
a dream formed from another dream, and it’s incredible to watch it grow
into something very “real” through hard work and commitment. Seeing it
from idea through execution is one of the proudest moments I’ve had.
Having incredible conversations with guests give me an absolute high.
Hands down though, my favorite part of this job is hearing directly from
listeners about how the podcast has helped them. When they go the extra
step of dedicating a blog post to the podcast, it’s outrageous, I’m
overwhelmed with happiness.
S: What has been your favorite episode to record? The most challenging one?
Y:This is a tough one! Been thinking about this for nearly an hour and I’m
still having difficulty narrowing it down to one favorite episode. I’ll
give you three of my favorites: Jean Kwok, Tyler Knott Gregson, and
Jacqueline Woodson. The most challenging episodes are the ones where the
guest and I have the best time chatting for nearly two hours and then
having to edit it down to about 45 min – 1 hour.
S: Would you mind chatting about those episodes?
Y: Jean Kwok, Tyler Knott Gregson, Jacqueline Woodson were guests I
immediately clicked with emotionally and shared very similar values and
view points. Talking to Jean was like re-connecting with a long-time
friend, we had so much to talk about, to laugh about, and to ponder about.
We shared very similar upbringings because of our Asian cultural
backgrounds it was so natural and easy for us to understand where we came
from, and the kinds of struggles our parents had and how that influenced
and impacted us growing up. That laid a great foundation in touching other
topics with genuine and authentic ease.
With Jacqueline, I resonated with the racial injustices she and her
children have to face every single day. It was the show’s very first
episode where we removed all guards and had a very honest and raw
discussion about race, injustices, and diversity. I always tend to focus
on topics about writing but with Jacqueline, I felt a heavy responsibility
and urge to dig deeper and discuss the grim reality of race and
injustices. In order to create change, we need to start with honest
conversations. I’m honored to have had the chance to touch on where my
frustrations and concerns were coming from with one of the brightest
Tyler was someone that I immediately connected with on an emotional and
psychological level. We’re both very sensitive to our surroundings and
share a very similar outlook on life and the philosophy of it. I loved
learning how Tyler sees the world in a way that magnifies the littlest
details that most people overlook. It automatically creates a shift in
perspective and makes you so much more grateful for the things you already
have and the people in your life.
Rita Williams-Garcia was another fantastic guest that I thoroughly enjoyed
chatting with. We met up at her favorite coffee shop in Queens, New York
while I was visiting my family! The coffee shop is cozy and welcoming, and
Rita was just as I had expected– warm, inviting, open, and a bundle of
positive energy. Man, we were chatting for nearly 3 hours and it was the
very first time we met face-to-face! If I didn’t have a lunch meeting to
get to, we could’ve chatted more! She is just one of those people who you
can talk to for hours at a time and swap stories like long-lost best