Monday, March 12, 2018

0 New Releases this week 03/12 - 03/18

Happy Monday! While we don't have any giveaways this week, there are still so many awesome-sounding books releasing this week, like Chaotic Good and Nothing Left to Burn, that you have to check out below.

Happy Reading,

Shelly, Halli, Jocelyn, Martina, Erin, Susan, Kelly, Laura, Emily, Anisaa, and Lori Ann


A Kiss in the Dark by Gina Ciocca: Jessica P.
Dark Tracks by Philippa Gregory: Maggie L.
Genesis by Brendan Reichs: Miranda H.
Lies That Bind by Diana Rodriguez Wallach: Courtney W.
Olivia Twist by Lorie Langdon: Lisa M.
The Place Between Breaths by An Na: Susan L.
The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw: Megan S.


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In Sight of Stars
by Gae Polisner
Wednesday Books
Released 3/13/2018

Seventeen-year-old Klee’s father was the center of his life. He introduced Klee to the great museums of New York City and the important artists on their walls, he told him stories made of myths and magic. Until his death.

Now, forced to live in the suburbs with his mom, Klee can’t help but feel he’s lost all the identifying parts of himself―his beloved father, weekly trips to the MoMA, and the thrumming energy of New York City. That is until he meets wild and free Sarah in art class, with her quick smiles and jokes about his “brooding.” Suddenly it seems as if she’s the only thing that makes him happy. But when an act of betrayal sends him reeling, Klee lands in what is bitingly referred to as the “Ape Can,” a psychiatric hospital for teens in Northhollow.

While there, he undergoes intensive therapy and goes back over the pieces of his life to find out what was real, what wasn’t, and whether he can stand on his own feet again. Told in alternating timelines, leading up to the event that gets him committed and working towards getting back out, Gae Polisner’s In Sight of Stars is a gorgeous novel told in minimalist strokes to maximal effect, about what makes us fall apart and how we can put ourselves back together again.

Author Question: What is your favorite thing about In Sight of Stars?

Ah, this is always such a hard question when the word favorite is used. . . but one thing I love a lot about IN SIGHT OF STARS is Klee’s (pronounced Clay) relationship with Sister Agnes Teresa. She has such humor and directness, and he responds to that from her in a way he might not from someone else. She teaches him not to take it all so seriously, while also taking responsibility for himself, his thoughts, and his actions, and even to accept help from others. I also gravitate personally to those simple captured moments – so small, yet hopefully powerful – a game of Chutes and Ladders (yep, in a YA book), or the mist from a fountain collecting on one’s face. I’m a big fan of the tiny moments.

Purchase In Sight of Stars at Amazon
Purchase In Sight of Stars at IndieBound
View In Sight of Stars on Goodreads


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Chaotic Good
by Whitney Gardner
Knopf Books for Young Readers
Released 3/13/2018

Cameron's cosplay creations are finally starting to earn her attention--attention she hopes to use to get into the CalArts costume design department for college. But after she wins a major competition, she inadvertently sets off a firestorm of angry comments from male fans online.

When Cameron's family moves the summer before her senior year, she hopes to complete her costume portfolio in peace and quiet away from the abuse.

Unfortunately, the only comic shop in town--her main destination for character reference--is staffed by a dudebro owner who challenges every woman who comes into the shop.

At her twin brother's suggestion, Cameron borrows a set of his clothes and uses her costuming expertise to waltz into the shop as Boy Cameron, where she's shocked at how easily she's accepted into the nerd inner sanctum. Soon, Cameron finds herself drafted into a D&D campaign alongside the jerky shop-owner Brody, friendly (almost flirtatiously so) clerk Wyatt, handsome Lincoln, and her brother Cooper, dragged along for good measure.

But as her "secret identity" gets more and more entrenched, Cameron's portfolio falls by the wayside--and her feelings for Lincoln threaten to make a complicated situation even more precarious in this geek girl anthem from You're Welcome, Universe author Whitney Gardner, complete with fully illustrated comic pages inked by Gardner herself.

Purchase Chaotic Good at Amazon
Purchase Chaotic Good at IndieBound
View Chaotic Good on Goodreads

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Nothing Left to Burn
by Heather Ezell
Released 3/13/2018

The autumn morning after sixteen-year-old Audrey Harper loses her virginity, she wakes to a loud, persistent knocking at her front door. Waiting for her are two firemen, there to let her know that the moment she's been dreading has arrived: the enormous wildfire sweeping through Orange County, California, is now dangerously close to her idyllic gated community of Coto de Caza, and it's time to evacuate.

Over the course of the next twenty-four hours, as Audrey wrestles with the possibility of losing her family home, she also recalls her early, easy summer days with Brooks, the charming, passionate, but troubled volunteer firefighter who enchants Audrey--and who is just as enthralled by her. But as secrets from Brooks's dark past come to light, Audrey can't help but wonder if there's danger in the pull she feels--both toward this boy, and toward the fire burning in the distance.

Purchase Nothing Left to Burn at Amazon
Purchase Nothing Left to Burn at IndieBound
View Nothing Left to Burn on Goodreads

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by Amie Kaufman
Knopf Books for Young Readers
Released 3/13/2018

Kady, Ezra, Hanna, and Nik narrowly escaped with their lives from the attacks on Heimdall station and now find themselves crammed with 2,000 refugees on the container ship, Mao. With the jump station destroyed and their resources scarce, the only option is to return to Kerenza--but who knows what they'll find seven months after the invasion? Meanwhile, Kady's cousin, Asha, survived the initial BeiTech assault and has joined Kerenza's ragtag underground resistance. When Rhys--an old flame from Asha's past--reappears on Kerenza, the two find themselves on opposite sides of the conflict. With time running out, a final battle will be waged on land and in space, heros will fall, and hearts will be broken.

Purchase Obsidio at Amazon
Purchase Obsidio at IndieBound
View Obsidio on Goodreads

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by Matthew Laurence
Released 3/13/2018

Her fight for freedom is over,
but the fight for power is just beginning.

After Freya escapes from the power-controlling Finemdi Corporation, her quest to defeat her new enemy takes her to Hollywood. The ancient Norse goddess of love, beauty, war, and death disguises herself once again as Sara Vanadi, now an up-and-coming star on a scandalous television series. Freya knows that today’s modern gods live on the screen, and Los Angeles offers her both fame and believers.

And she desperately needs strength from her believers. With sinister forces at her heels, an ancient enemy returned, and an unknown threat lurking in the shadows, Freya must walk a dangerous line between mortal and goddess. Because if she loses her humanity, who will save the world?

Blending fantasy and science fiction in a contemporary Hollywood setting, Slay: A Freya Novel is the second book in Matthew Laurence’s action-packed series about an ancient goddess in a modern world.

Purchase Slay at Amazon
Purchase Slay at IndieBound
View Slay on Goodreads

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The Falling Between Us
by Ash Parsons
Philomel Books
Released 3/13/2018

Just eight months ago, fifteen-year-old Roxanne Stewart was stuck in her tiny, middle-of-nowhere hometown with no prospects of leaving. But after her boyfriend, Joshua Blackbird, posts a performance of an original song on YouTube, he becomes an overnight sensation, catapulting to the dizzying heights of celebrity, and Rox joins him on the whirlwind ride of a massive national tour.

But it's not long before the never-blinking eye of fame begins weighing them both down--the constant hunger of managers, diehard fans who call themselves "Birdies," record execs, paparazzi, and even family, all leeching onto Joshua.

Then one day, Joshua Blackbird disappears. Was it a suicide? An accident? Rox will stop at nothing to find out the truth. The Falling Between Us is a haunting love story and a piercing look at the costs of fame.

Purchase The Falling Between Us at Amazon
Purchase The Falling Between Us at IndieBound
View The Falling Between Us on Goodreads

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Time Bomb
by Joelle Charbonneau
HMH Books for Young Readers
Released 3/13/2018

A congressman's daughter who has to be perfect. A star quarterback with a secret. A guy who's tired of being ignored. A clarinet player who's done trying to fit in. An orphaned rebel who wants to teach someone a lesson. A guy who wants people to see him, not his religion.

They couldn't be more different, but before the morning's over, they'll all be trapped in a school that's been rocked by a bombing. When they hear that someone inside is the bomber, they'll also be looking to one another for answers.

Told from multiple perspectives, Time Bomb will keep readers guessing about who the bomber could be—and what motivated such drastic action.

Purchase Time Bomb at Amazon
Purchase Time Bomb at IndieBound
View Time Bomb on Goodreads

Sunday, March 11, 2018

1 Randy Ribay, author of AFTER THE SHOT DROPS, on testing an idea as a short story

We're thrilled to have Randy Ribay stop by to tell us more about his latest novel, AFTER THE SHOT DROPS.

Randy, what was your inspiration for writing AFTER THE SHOT DROPS?

At the time I wrote After the Shot Drops, I was teaching English at an all-boys' charter high school, and my kids loved any books about sports--basketball, in particular. However, there were only a limited number of YA basketball books out there, so I decided I'd try my hand at adding another one. Since I'm not the world's biggest watcher of sports, I didn't want to tell a straightforward rise-to-success tale. I decided I'd focus more on the friendship between a kid who was on the verge of "making it" and his best friend who felt like he was getting left behind. I tested the idea first as a short story, and then expanded it into a novel.

What book or books would most resonate with readers who love your book--or visa versa?

Hoops and Slam! by Walter Dean Myers, Next by Kevin Waltman, and Ball Don't Lie by Matt de la Peña are all basketball stories set in the inner-city that have a similar feel. But beyond basketball novels, I think fans of anything by Adam Silvera, Angie Thomas, Nic Stone, Jason Reynolds, Brendan Kiely, or Jeff Zentner would also enjoy After the Shot Drops.

How long did you work on AFTER THE SHOT DROPS?

I finished the first draft in the fall of 2013, and my agent sold it in 2016. In between those three years there were several rounds of edits I did on my own and after input from early readers and my agent at the time. After HMH acquired it, I went through three more rounds of edits with my editor, Margaret Raymo. The core of the story has remained the same, as well as a few scenes, but much was entirely rewritten at some point or another.

How long or hard was your road to publication? How many books did you write before this one, and how many never got published?

I started writing seriously in 2010. Each year for three years, I wrote a manuscript, queried agents, and watched the rejections roll in. I then went back and heavily revised the second manuscript. I found an agent and publisher in 2014, and it came out in fall of 2015 with Merit Press as An Infinite Number of Parallel Universes. I then went back and did heavy revisions on the third manuscript I had written, and that became After the Shot Drops. The first manuscript will forever chill in a dark corner on my hard drive, as I think it's pretty bad. It was important to write it, though, because it showed me that I could actually do this writing thing.

What advice would you most like to pass along to other writers?

It's nothing original, but I think it's important that you both read a lot and write a lot. To use a sports analogy--which feels appropriate give my book--somebody watching basketball all the time isn't going to become a good player if they never actually practice playing, and somebody who plays but never bothers to analyze film or professional games probably isn't going to understand the game as much as they need to.


After the Shot Drops
by Randy Ribay
HMH Books for Young Readers
Released 3/6/2018

Bunny and Nasir have been best friends forever, but when Bunny accepts an athletic scholarship across town, Nasir feels betrayed. While Bunny tries to fit in with his new, privileged peers, Nasir spends more time with his cousin, Wallace, who is being evicted. Nasir can't help but wonder why the neighborhood is falling over itself to help Bunny when Wallace is in trouble.

When Wallace makes a bet against Bunny, Nasir is faced with an impossible decision—maybe a dangerous one.

Told from alternating perspectives, After the Shot Drops is a heart-pounding story about the responsibilities of great talent and the importance of compassion.

Purchase After the Shot Drops at Amazon
Purchase After the Shot Drops at IndieBound
View After the Shot Drops on Goodreads


Randy Ribay is the author of the contemporary YA novels AFTER THE SHOT DROPS (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018) and AN INFINITE NUMBER OF PARALLEL UNIVERSES (Merit Press/Simon & Schuster, 2015). He's also a high school English teacher, reader, gamer, watcher of great TV, husband, and father of two dog-children. He can probably be found somewhere making lightsaber sound effects with his mouth.


Have you had a chance to read AFTER THE SHOT DROPS yet? Do you have a novel that will forever chill in a dark corner on your hard drive? When it comes to writing are you both practicing and analyzing? Share your thoughts about the interview in the comments!

Happy Reading,

Jocelyn, Halli, Martina, Anisaa, Charlotte, Erin, Susan, Shelly, Kelly, Laura, Emily, and Lori Ann

0 Gina Ciocca, author of A KISS IN THE DARK, on not forcing yourself to write in ways that don’t work for you

We're excited to have Gina Ciocca join us to share more about her latest novel, A KISS IN THE DARK.

Gina, what was your inspiration for writing A KISS IN THE DARK?

I seem to be the only person who remembers this, which is all the more odd because I’m not a football fan, but during Superbowl XLVII, the power went out. I think it was during that same Superbowl when an Audi commercial aired that showed a boy driving to the prom, planting a kiss on the stunned-but-clearly-impressed prom queen, and then driving home with a black eye from her boyfriend. The wheels started turning in my head, and I knew I wanted to write a story about an unexpected kiss that occurred during a blackout on a football field. I also wanted there to be a mystery surrounding more than just the kiss, so I wrote flashback chapters that tie the identity of the kisser to a fire that nearly destroyed Macy’s best friend’s house – and was also the final straw in destroying their friendship.

How long did you work on A KISS IN THE DARK?

Two years, which was way longer than I expected it to take me! I sold the idea to my editor on proposal in 2015, and it took me nearly a year to complete the first draft. At the time, my son was 2 and not yet in preschool, so I wound up hiring a babysitter for 6-9 hours a week just so I could work on KISS. I’m pretty sure I’d still be drafting if I hadn’t. I sent the first draft to betas and did some revising, but it was nothing compared to what was to come. My first edit letter from my editor basically asked me to rewrite the whole story. And so I went back to the drawing board, deleting over 50 pages and totally rewriting them for the first of two major revisions. I think it was May of 2017 when I finally got the email saying we were ready to move on to copy edits. And what a relief that was!

What advice would you most like to pass along to other writers?

Listen to the advice of other authors, but don’t force yourself to write in ways that just don’t work for you. Some authors swear by outlines, whereas others (like me) find them confining and end up straying from them. Other authors may sit down and write every scene in chronological order, whereas some (me again) write scenes as they come to their minds, and figure out the order later on. As long as the end result is a finished, cohesive manuscript, don’t worry about how you got there. You’re doing just fine.


A Kiss in the Dark
by Gina Ciocca
Simon Pulse
Released 3/6/2018

When the lights go out at a Georgia high school football game, senior Macy Atwood finds herself in the arms of a boy who kisses her senseless—but he’s gone by the time the lights come back on. All she knows is that there was something special—and oddly familiar—about her mystery kisser.

Noah Granger, Ridgedale’s resident bad boy and newest transfer student, has no problem taking credit for the kiss, but Macy can’t shake the feeling that he’s lying. Especially since a photograph of Macy and former star football player Joel Hargrove resurfaced online moments before the blackout, a not-so-random reminder of how hard she fell for Joel last year. And how doing so ultimately sent her lifelong friendships with Meredith Kopala and Ben Collins up in literal smoke.

Soon last year’s wounds begin to reopen as Macy realizes the events that unfolded during junior year are somehow tied to her mystery kisser.

But the closer Macy gets to figuring it all out, the more she starts to worry that the boy who kissed her in the dark and the boy who is stealing her heart might be two very different people.

Purchase A Kiss in the Dark at Amazon
Purchase A Kiss in the Dark at IndieBound
View A Kiss in the Dark on Goodreads


Gina Ciocca is the author of LAST YEAR'S MISTAKE (Simon Pulse, 2015), BUSTED (Sourcebooks Fire, 2018), and A KISS IN THE DARK (Simon Pulse, 2018). Respecter of the Fluff. Lover of love.


Have you had a chance to read A KISS IN THE DARK yet? Have you had a story inspired by a Superbowl commercial? Have you figured out how to pick and choose what writing advice works for you? Share your thoughts about the interview in the comments!

Happy Reading,

Jocelyn, Halli, Martina, Anisaa, Charlotte, Erin, Susan, Shelly, Kelly, Laura, Emily, and Lori Ann

Saturday, March 10, 2018

0 Elizabeth Acevedo, author of THE POET X, on writing a scene that unlocks the entire novel

We're delighted to have Elizabeth Acevedo stop by to tell us more about her debut novel, THE POET X.

Elizabeth, what scene was really hard for you to write and why, and is that the one of which you are most proud? Or is there another scene you particularly love?

One of the very first scenes I wrote, that unlocked the writing of the entire novel for me, was a scene where Xiomara gets in trouble for an interaction with a boy she’s dating and in the midst of her punishment begins comparing herself to an ant.

Xiomara is a voluptuous girl, and so to write this moment where she wants to be small but strong; where she wants to disappear between the floorboards but also be able to build and climb her own hills, that moment really let me know who she was as a character and also what the main conflict of her story would be.

That poem ANTS actually ended up in the middle of the manuscript, but it was one of the touchstones I was writing towards. And I love it because it breaks my heart. That moment in the story acts as a hinge as to who Xiomara was and who she must become, and it can’t be someone who hides.

What book or books would most resonate with readers who love your book--or visa versa?

THE EDUCATION OF MARGOT SANCHEZ by Lilliam Rivera—Both Lilliam and I write passionate Latina protagonists who are shaped by their community but not defined by them. I think Margot and Xiomara would probably side-eye one another if they met in real life, but ultimately become homegirls once they got to know one another.

ELECTRIC ARCHES by Eve Ewing— this is a stunning collection of poetry that thinks about blackness and marginality, the beauty of Shea butter and braids, the stunning creations of pop culture icons, and what it means to grow up girl in a major city. Eve and I read together recently in Washington, D.C. and so many of her poems were in conversation with THE POET X.

THE CLOSEST I’VE COME by Fred Aceves— I think this will resonate not just because Fred’s last name is so similar to mine, but I also think as an author he has such a deft ear when it comes to getting the nuances of how folks speak and move and love onto the page—all things I attempted to do in THE POET X. He also knows how to write joy even when his characters are facing unimaginable circumstances, and that’s always worth a read.

What are you working on now?

I am currently working on my second YA novel, WITH THE FIRE ON HIGH, about Emoni Santiago, an Afro-Latina from Philadelphia trying to figure out how to manage college applications, her aging grandmother, and her three year-old daughter— all without sacrificing her dreams of being a top chef.


The Poet X
by Elizabeth Acevedo
Released 3/6/2018

Xiomara Batista feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood. Ever since her body grew into curves, she has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking.

But Xiomara has plenty she wants to say, and she pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook, reciting the words to herself like prayers—especially after she catches feelings for a boy in her bio class named Aman, who her family can never know about.

With Mami’s determination to force her daughter to obey the laws of the church, Xiomara understands that her thoughts are best kept to herself. So when she is invited to join her school’s slam poetry club, she doesn’t know how she could ever attend without her mami finding out. But she still can’t stop thinking about performing her poems.

Because in the face of a world that may not want to hear her, Xiomara refuses to be silent.

Purchase The Poet X at Amazon
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View The Poet X on Goodreads


Elizabeth Acevedo is the youngest child and only daughter of Dominican immigrants. She holds a BA in Performing Arts from the George Washington University and an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Maryland. With over fourteen years of performance poetry experience, Acevedo is a National Poetry Slam Champion, Cave Canem Fellow, CantoMundo Fellow, and participant of the Callaloo Writer's Workshop. She has two collections of poetry, Beastgirl & Other Origin Myths (YesYes Books, 2016) and winner of the 2016 Berkshire Prize, Medusa Reads La Negra’s Palm (Tupelo Press, forthcoming). The Poet X is her debut novel. She lives with her partner in Washington, DC.


Have you had a chance to read THE POET X yet? Have you written a scene that unlocked the entire novel for you? Are you writing character who are shaped by their community but not defined by them? Share your thoughts about the interview in the comments!

Happy Reading,

Jocelyn, Halli, Martina, Anisaa, Charlotte, Erin, Susan, Shelly, Kelly, Laura, Emily, and Lori Ann

1 Sarah Nicole Smetana, THE MIDNIGHTS, on finally realizing she was writing a YA book

We're excited to have Sarah Nicole Smetana join us to chat about her debut novel, THE MIDNIGHTS.

Sarah, what scene was really hard for you to write and why, and is that the one of which you are most proud? Or is there another scene you particularly love?

The scene at the Troubadour was the hardest. I don’t want to say too much about it because *spoilers*, but there’s a pretty pivotal scene that takes place at the Troubadour in LA (which is an amazing historic music venue that I absolutely love), and for so many drafts, the scene kept falling flat. Yes, it was tricky from a craft standpoint, with so many threads coming together. But there was something more that I just couldn’t crack. Eventually, I realized that I was being protective of my own experience and my own feelings. I loved the Troubadour, and I loved the opportunity I had to play there, and so it was hard for me to write an emotionally resonant scene that didn’t totally match that.

In the end though, I figured it out, and I am proud of the final product. This just goes to show that sometimes “writing what you know” can actually backfire.

How long did you work on THE MIDNIGHTS?

From the time I started the book in earnest to the time of publication, it will have been seven years. And I like saying this so that people remember to never give up. It takes however long it takes. Each journey is different.

What did this book teach you about writing or about yourself?

First, it taught me that I can really do this. I can be a writer. I can finish a book—and I swear, I thought I’d never finish this one! But I did it, and now here it is in the world, and I’m so freaking proud of this thing that I created. I also learned to find a balance between trusting myself and my instincts, and listening to the feedback of others (which can be so hard when you’re just starting out).

Was there an AHA! moment along your road to publication where something suddenly sank in and you felt you had the key to writing a novel? What was it?

I’ve had quite a few, actually, but I’ll just highlight one. For a long time, I thought I was writing an adult book. I had planned to have this older narrator looking back, and I was really interested in the tension that arises from that narrative distance. But, as the story progressed, that older perspective stopped really mattering, and eventually it stopped being in the story much at all. However, that idea of distance was still firm in my head, and hard for me to let go of. Once I finally did, though, and fully embraced this book as YA, all these pieces that I struggled with before (particularly the ending!) clicked into place, which was really quite amazing. It’s like the key was there all along—I just had to shift my own perspective of the story.

What’s your writing ritual like? Do you listen to music? Work at home or at a coffee shop or the library, etc?

I have a full time job that has nothing to do with writing, which means that I have to stick to a pretty strict routine if I want to get anything done. Luckily, though, the job has pretty great hours, and I don’t go into the office until 11:30, which allows me to write in the morning. I wake up at 6:45, make coffee and feed my cat, then sit down at the computer. I try to work straight through until 9:30. Occasionally, on the weekends, I’ll do some coffee shop writing, in which case I’ll listen to music. But when I work at home, I need silence so that I can hear the rhythm of the sentences in my head. I also constantly read aloud.

What advice would you most like to pass along to other writers?

My #1 go-to advice is: keep going. Honestly, it’s the only thing that matters. If you’re starting out with nothing but a blank page, it can be so daunting to try to figure out where to begin, and so disappointing to see how terrible the early ideas are. But you absolutely need to get through that junk to get to the good stuff. And even if you throw it all away later, if you have to start over—that’s okay! The pages you’ve already written, even if discarded, still matter, because they helped you get to the next step, helped you build out your world and discover your characters. It’s hard to let go, but sometimes it’s necessary to move forward in the best way possible. Remember: the books you love only got so good through years of work, and countless rounds of editing. So don’t be too hard on yourself. You got this.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on a secret second book, but it’s still in the early stages, and so I don’t feel totally comfortable talking about it yet (superstitions, and all that). Sorry. Hope to have news about it in the near future, though!

Make sure to enter Sarah's giveaway for a copy of THE MIDNIGHTS!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


The Midnights
by Sarah Nicole Smetana
Released 3/6/2018

Susannah Hayes has never been in the spotlight, but she dreams of following her father, a former rock star, onto the stage. As senior year begins, she's more interested in composing impressive chord progressions than college essays, certain that if she writes the perfect song, her father might finally look up from the past long enough to see her. But when he dies unexpectedly, her dreams--and her reality--shatter.

While Susannah struggles with grief, her mother uproots them to a new city. There, Susannah realizes she can reinvent herself however she wants: a confident singer-songwriter, member of a hip band, embraced by an effortlessly cool best friend. But Susannah is not the only one keeping secrets, and soon, harsh revelations threaten to unravel her life once again.

Set against the scintillating landscape of Southern California, The Midnights is an evocative coming-of-age debut about loss, creativity, and finding your voice while you're still finding yourself.

Purchase The Midnights at Amazon
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View The Midnights on Goodreads


Sarah Nicole Smetana grew up in Orange, California, where she wrote songs, played in a few bands, and successfully pilfered all of her parents’ best vinyl records. She received her BFA in Creative Writing from Chapman University and her MFA in Fiction from The New School. Currently, she lives in Brooklyn with her husband and their three-legged cat.

Her debut novel, The Midnights, will be out from HarperTeen in March 2018.


Have you had a chance to read THE MIDNIGHTS yet? Have you learned to find a balance between trusting your instincts and listening to the feedback of others? Are you able to remember that the books you love only got that way through years of work? Share your thoughts about the interview in the comments!

Happy Reading,

Jocelyn, Halli, Martina, Anisaa, Charlotte, Erin, Susan, Shelly, Kelly, Laura, Emily, and Lori Ann

Friday, March 9, 2018

0 Brendan Reichs, author of GENESIS, on being inspired by bad action movies of the '80s

GENESIS is book two in the Project Nemesis series, and we're thrilled to have Brendan Reichs stop by to share more about it.

Brendan, what scene was really hard for you to write and why, and is that the one of which you are most proud? Or is there another scene you particularly love?

The opening scene of Genesis was difficult to write, and some have found it difficult to read. But I wanted the brutality of this new world to be apparent right from the opening lines. Noah finds himself enthralled by his new environment, while Min later takes a more moralistic approach. What I enjoyed about writing this book is that both viewpoints feel defensible. Inside the Program, it’s very unclear what right and wrong mean anymore, given the lack of lasting effects. Is killing amoral if it doesn’t take? What about destruction? At what point are we more defined by what we do than what we are? These questions linger in every page of the book.

What was your inspiration for writing GENESIS?

The first inkling of the Project Nemesis series came to me while I watching Highlander, an all-time great bad action movies of the '80s. The premise is amazing, and it inspired a line of thought that led not only to Genesis, but also to the first book in the series, Nemesis. I plotted out my basic idea and quickly realized it was two books instead of one. Before the core idea I had come up for Genesis could work, I had a lot of story to tell explaining how we got there. I’ve never backed into an idea that like before, but it quickly became all-consuming. Writing these two books has bene the most fun I’ve ever had in publishing. FYI, the final story ended up being almost nothing like Highlander, but that’s always how it goes.

What are you working on now?

I’m currently working a THIRD book in the Project Nemesis series that will release in Spring 2019. No title yet, but I’m writing it as we speak! I’m also co-authoring a brand new middle-grade series with the great Ally Condie called The Darkdeep, which releases this October. It’s about a group of friends who uncover a dark secret lurking in a cove near their tiny hometown of Timbers, Washington. I like to described it as The Goonies meets Stranger Things with a touch of Stand By Me. I can’t wait to share more details about both these projects, as well as a secrecy fantasy project I'm also working on. Busy busy busy! But the best kind, so I can’t complain.


by Brendan Reichs
G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
Released 3/6/2018

"Reichs knows exactly how to mix action, suspense, and characters into a breathless read. This is one thriller that will keep you up into the night. " Marie Lu #1 NYT bestselling author

Can the Fire Lake sophomore class survive in a world without consequences?

Noah Livingston knows he is destined to survive.

The 64 members of Fire Lake's sophomore class are trapped in a place where morals have no meaning and zero rules apply. But Noah's deaths have trained him-hardened him-to lead the strongest into the future ... whatever that may be. And at any cost.

Min Wilder knows that survival alone isn't enough.

In a violent world where brute force passes for leadership, it's tempting to lay back and let everyone else battle it out. But Min's instincts rebel against allowing others to decide who lives and who dies. She's ready to fight for what she believes in. And against whomever might stand in her way.

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Brendan Reichs was born and raised in Charlotte, North Carolina. He graduated from Wake Forest University in 2000 and The George Washington University School of Law in 2006. After three long years working as a litigation attorney, he abandoned the trade to write full time. He lives in Charlotte with his wife, son, daughter, and a herd of animals that tear up everything.


Have you had a chance to read GENESIS yet? Have you written a scene that was difficult for others to read? Have you had an idea for a book that ended up being the second book in a series? Share your thoughts about the interview in the comments!

Happy Reading,

Jocelyn, Halli, Martina, Anisaa, Charlotte, Erin, Susan, Shelly, Kelly, Laura, Emily, and Lori Ann

Thursday, March 8, 2018

0 Alexandra Monir, author of THE FINAL SIX, on switching from pantser to plotter

We're pleased to have Alexandra Monir here to give us the scoop on her latest novel, THE FINAL SIX.

Alexandra, what was your inspiration for writing THE FINAL SIX?

The idea came to me around the same time that the hypothetical Mars One mission was in the news. I was listening to a radio interview with an aspiring astronaut, who had applied to be a candidate for this experimental mission to Mars, and that's when the idea just hit me like a ton of bricks: what if the conditions on Earth were to make this kind of quest no longer voluntary--but an urgent, government-mandated mission, with a military-style draft? And what if the people most likely to survive such a mission, and remain fertile by the time the new planet is terraformed and ready for a human population, are the teenagers? Those were the two big ideas that came to me all in the span of a few minutes, and changed the course of my next few years in a really exciting way!

What book or books would most resonate with readers who love your book--or visa versa?

I think THE FINAL SIX is just right for fans of Beth Revis's Across the Universe series and Romina Russell's Zodiac series. That's actually why I asked them to blurb the book- so you can probably imagine how thrilled I was when they both liked it enough to say yes!

How long did you work on THE FINAL SIX?

It was about four months of outlining and drafting, and then another couple months of revising with my editor.

What did this book teach you about writing or about yourself?

Before this book, I'd been very much a pantser. But with such an involved plot, I knew I needed to outline- and I ended up writing a super-detailed one too, at over 50 pages! That outline served me so well, I've decided I'm officially a plotter. :)


The Final Six
by Alexandra Monir
Released 3/6/2018

When Leo and Naomi are drafted, along with twenty-two of the world’s brightest teenagers, into the International Space Training Camp, their lives are forever changed. Overnight, they become global celebrities in contention for one of the six slots to travel to Europa—Jupiter’s moon—and establish a new colony, leaving their planet forever. With Earth irreparably damaged, the future of the human race rests on their shoulders.

For Leo, an Italian championship swimmer, this kind of purpose is a reason to go on after losing his family. But Naomi, an Iranian-American science genius, is suspicious of the ISTC and the fact that a similar mission failed under mysterious circumstances, killing the astronauts onboard. She fears something equally sinister awaiting the Final Six beneath Europa’s surface.

In this cutthroat atmosphere, surrounded by strangers from around the world, Naomi finds an unexpected friend in Leo. As the training tests their limits, Naomi and Leo’s relationship deepens with each life-altering experience they encounter.

But it’s only when the finalists become fewer and their destinies grow nearer that the two can fathom the full weight of everything at stake: the world, the stars, and their lives.

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View The Final Six on Goodreads


Alexandra Monir is an Iranian-American young adult novelist and recording artist. She often integrates music into her work by writing and recording original songs that are released in tandem with her books. She lives in Los Angeles and frequently speaks at schools, book festivals and fan conventions across the country.

Visit her website:, follow her on Twitter:
@TimelessAlex, Facebook: @AlexandraMonirAuthor, and Instagram:


Have you had a chance to read THE FINAL SIX yet? Have you had a story inspired by listening to a radio interview? Are you a pantser or a plotter? Share your thoughts about the interview in the comments!

Happy Reading,

Jocelyn, Halli, Martina, Anisaa, Charlotte, Erin, Susan, Shelly, Kelly, Laura, Emily, and Lori Ann

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

1 WoW: Writing a Synopsis with Pintip Dunn

Ah, the dreaded synopsis. An agent or editor request for a synopsis can strike fear into the heart of seasoned and newbie writers alike. Today, we're SO lucky to have NYT Bestselling Author, Pintip Dunn with us. She's put together an incredible, step-by-step post sure to make writing a synopsis stress-free. Stay tuned after the post for a bit more info about Pintip and her books. 

Writing a Synopsis
by Pintip Dunn
Show of (virtual) hands . . . Who loves writing synopses? Who hates them? Ha. Why do I get the feeling that there are more of you in the latter category?

Unfortunately, synopses are a necessary evil, no matter where you are in your writing career. I hope you’ll find the following tips helpful in writing a synopsis. Remember, this is MY perspective on how to write a synopsis. You may not agree with me, and that’s totally okay! There isn’t one correct approach.

First and foremost, I’d like to share a strategy I use to tackle this arduous task. I set the timer to one hour, and then I write, as quickly as I can, without stopping. By the time the hour is finished, I have a draft with which to work. I've found that it is WAY easier to revise and improve upon a draft than to start from scratch. 

Secondly, do NOT include every single event, every single scene, every single detail in your synopsis. The most common mistake I see are synopses that read like this: "...and then this happened, and then this happened, and then this happened..." Your synopsis is not a summary of events. The purpose of your synopsis is to TELL A STORY. If there's only one thing you should remember about my post today, it should be this. 

Remember in elementary school, when our teachers taught us how to structure a paragraph? One main topic sentence per paragraph, with three supporting details. I'm not saying you should necessarily have three supporting details, but if the fact or event you want to include doesn't support your main topic sentence in some way, it shouldn't be there. 

But let's take this idea one step further. The topic sentences of each paragraph need to connect to one another, and each successive one needs to show forward progression through the story. In other words, taken together, the topic sentences should form a short summary paragraph of your story. 

Put another way: your synopsis should focus on your TURNING POINTS, with as minimal information as possible to connect them and have the story make sense. If I had to sum up how to write a synopsis in one sentence, this would be it. 

What is a turning point, you ask? Clearly, the above statement would be much more helpful if you knew the answer to this question. Simply put, turning points are the key moments in a story that incite the most change. I would venture to say that the better grasp you have of story structure, the easier it will be for you to write a synopsis.
I can't sum up story structure in a single blog post about synopses. There are many different forms a story can take, and my own novels employ different structures depending on the story’s needs. However, I will provide a quick overview of basic turning points, and these will correspond to the paragraphs of a synopsis.

If you’d like to learn more about story structure, I'd recommend the following sources: Michael Hague's Story Mastery, Blake Snyder's Save the Cat, and Laura Baker's Story Magic. 

The first paragraph: The introduction. Some people like to put in the hook or the story premise here -- that special something that sets your manuscript apart. Or, they like to give some background on the world. However, unless the world-building is intense and I need to explain it immediately (which I have done on one occasion), I like to jump right into the story. This means that I usually skip this paragraph, but that's just my personal preference. In my opinion, this type of summary paragraph belongs in the query letter, not the synopsis.

Second paragraph: The inciting incident. This is the moment that takes everything the character thought he or she knew and turns it on its head. It is the incident that throws us into the story and sets it in motion. A rule of thumb is that it occurs about 10 percent into the story, but it can start earlier or later. In some YAs, which tend to move faster, you might see the inciting incident by the end of the first chapter. 

A note about Ordinary Life, which is who the character is at the beginning of the story. Remember what I said about including the minimal information necessary for the story to make sense? This is necessary information for readers to understand exactly how and why the inciting incident rocks the main character’s world. 

Third Paragraph: Act I Climax: around 25 percent. The point of no return. Your character doesn’t have the option to go back to his normal life. She has no choice but to move forward. At this point, the character is still clinging desperately to his ways, but he is coming under more and more stress.  

Fourth Paragraph:  Midpoint: 50 percent. For most plots, this is the moment when the main character feels like she has a handle on the situation and that everything is going to work out. In a W plot, this is the top of the curve, right before it all goes to hell. (In an M plot, this would be the bottom of the curve). Also, if there is a romance, this is typically the first moment of intense emotional connection, whether it be a kiss (in YA) or something more (in adult genres).

Fifth paragraph: Act 2 Climax: 75 percent. This is when it all goes to hell. 

Sixth paragraph: Black Moment. All Seems Lost. Lost Night of the Soul. There are many names for this moment, but this is the point when the character has retreated completely to his old ways and it doesn't seem like anything can pull him out of this awful situation. 

Seventh Paragraph: Act 3 Climax. This is the main character's big moment. When she makes a decision that shows how irrevocably changed she is as a result of the story. Sometimes, this action also saves the day (if you're telling that kind of story). Most importantly, your main character should be driving the action here; the ultimate resolution should come about because of his action, not someone else's.

Eighth Paragraph: Resolution. Yes, you give the ending of the story in your synopsis. Remember, the agent or editor or contest mentor does NOT want to be surprised here. You lay it all out on the table, because you want to show the agent or editor or mentor how well you understand story structure. So, don't keep those twists hidden! 

And, that’s it: my basic advice for writing a synopsis. I hope you’ll find it useful!

Pintip Dunn is a New York Times bestselling author of YA fiction. She graduated from Harvard University, magna cum laude, with an A.B. in English Literature and Language. She received her J.D. at Yale Law School, where she was an editor of the YALE LAW JOURNAL. 

Pintip’s novel, FORGET TOMORROW, won the RWA RITA® for Best First Book. It is also a finalist for the Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire, the Japanese Sakura Medal, the MASL Truman Award, and the Tome Society IT list. In addition, THE DARKEST LIE was nominated for a Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award. 


She lives with her husband and children in Maryland. 

Find out more at

The third book in the New York Times bestselling and RITA®-award-winning Forget Tomorrow series is a thrilling conclusion to an epic trilogy.

Seventeen-year-old precognitive Olivia Dresden is an optimist. Since different versions of people's futures flicker before her eyes, she doesn't have to believe in human decency. She can literally see the path to goodness in each person—if only he or she would make the right decision. No one is more conflicted than her mother, Chairwoman Dresden, and Olivia is fiercely loyal to the woman her mother could be. 

But when the Chairwoman captures Ryder Russell, a boy from the rebel Underground, Olivia is forced to reevaluate her notions of love and faith. With Ryder's help, Olivia must come to terms with who her mother is in the present—and stop her before she destroys the world.