Monday, June 27, 2016

Author Spotlight: Beware That Girl by Teresa Toten + Interview

Posted by Jenn Christensen at 11:00 AM 0 comments


Teresa’s earliest and most fervent ambition was to grow up and take her rightful place among the other mermaids. When cruel and insensitive adults crushed that dream by insisting that mermaids did not exist, Teresa settled on the more mature aspiration of becoming an intergalactic astronaut. Then she realized that math would likely be involved. So, in the end, Teresa went to Trinity College at the University of Toronto where she got a BA and then an MA in Political Economy taking great care not to take a single English or Creative Writing class. The only thing Teresa knew for sure was that she was never ever going to be a writer. That would be silly, fanciful and well, unrealistic. For a full bio please go here.
Title: Beware That Girl
Author: Teresa Toten
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publication: May 31st 2016
Cover Rating: 4/5

Let me first start off by saying that If you are a strict parent or just don't like reading about gruesome topics in young adult books then this book isn't for you. I would say this is for ages 16+ due to most of the content. But I do advise reading this book because, although the book is centered around rich people, this stuff can really happen and probably does happen every day. So this book is on the mature side of young adult and I do recommend reading it. With that said, on with the rest of the review!

I didn't like Kate. But I don't think I was supposed to. She had a pretty crappy childhood and she experienced some stuff no one should ever have to go through but instead of growing from that she turned into her father when you would think that would be the last person on this earth she would want to be like. She uses her excellent manipulation skills to get herself into the better things of life but this time, she was no match for what she found herself up against. Is Yale really worth all of this trouble?

Olivia is coo-coo for Cocoa Puffs. Kate thinks that makes her an easy target but the kind of crazy Olivia is isn't anything near being easy. Sometimes it feels like Olivia is just stressed or misunderstood but as the book went on I started to see that she really had some issues that medication barely helped.

All the characters in this book were whacked-out. Mental issues flying all over the place. It gave the book this mysterious, don't know what to expect around the corner, feel. I really enjoy when books can keep me guessing. I am one of those people who can pretty much guess the plot of any movie or book. I guessed some things but other things were just too far out there even for my imagination.

For some reason this was one of those books where I felt like I was watching a movie. Every time I had to put the book down I kept thinking Oh boy, can't wait to go back and finish watching that movie. This would make one hell of a Lifetime Network movie!

This book is actually quite startling. People like Mark Redkin actually exist in this world. You probably pass someone like him every day. And people like Olivia exist everywhere too. Probably more than people like Mark. But, honestly, I wasn't exactly expecting the book to end the way it did. The book is a standalone and I didn't get a lot of answers. What happened with Kate? What happened with Johnny? Will Olivia get help? So many mysterious, unsolved answers. Dun, dun, dunnnnn.

Overall, I gave the book 4.5/5 stars.




1) Are you currently working on any new books?
I’m deep into the first draft stage of my next novel. The working title is Three on a Match and it’s turning out to be a rather unsettling mystery/thriller in tone and plot.

2) What was the inspiration behind Beware That Girl?
While I was working on the first draft of The Unlikely Hero of Room 13b, I read an elegant and disturbing book called The Silent Wife. It sort of crawled into me. I fell in love. I was so inspired by what AHA Harrison pulled off that it was the only thing I could think of to try to do next!

3) If you could recommend one book everyone should read before they die, what would that book be?
And especially if you want to write . . . it would be Tim O’brien’s The Things They Carried. It’s about young soldiers in Vietnam so it’s classic war fiction but it breaks a lot of rules. It’s certainly one of the most compelling books I’ve ever read, but I also use it in all my Writing Workshops when we’re tackling character development.

4) If you had to pitch your book to someone in a bookstore that didn't know you were the author what would you say?
Beware That Girl is a very dark and disturbing pathological thriller set in New York City. On the first page, we meet two beautiful blond girls in an Hospital ICU. One girl is in a coma and hooked up to machinery and the other is in a chair by her side covered in mud and blood and sweat. The rest of the novel is about which one is in which position and how they got there!

5) What is the best part about being an author?
The people. No really! Yes, a lot of a writer’s time is spent in utter solitude but a whole lot is also spent touring, going to conferences, high school auditoriums, bookstores events and festivals. Then there’s all of your publishing team, your fellow writers and most of all the readers that you get to meet. I can’t think of any other profession which offers up a better crop of fabulous people. Book people are the best people!!

6) What is your favorite food?
Popcorn! Hands down—popcorn.

7) Describe yourself in 5 words.
Passionate/joyful/anxious/curious/grateful!


Friday, June 17, 2016

Author Spotlight: Dreamers Often Lie by Jacqueline West + Interview

Posted by Jenn Christensen at 1:00 PM 0 comments

Jacqueline West is the author of the award-winning middle grade series The Books of Elsewhere.The Books of Elsewhere, Volume One: The Shadows (2010) garnered starred reviews, several state award nominations, and a spot on the New York Times Bestsellers List. The series is published by Dial Books for Young Readers (a division of Penguin Random House) in the USA and will also be published in Italy, Spain, Greece, Turkey, Indonesia, Sweden, Norway, France, Germany, Russia, China, and Catalonia. Her first YA novel, Dreamers Often Lie (Dial Books for Young Readers, April 2016), is a dark and twisty romance that braids HamletRomeo and Juliet, and A Midsummer Night's Dream into a modern-day teen's life.
Jacqueline's short fiction for adults and children has appeared in a variety of publications, and her poetry has received many honors, including two Pushcart nominations, a Rhysling Award nomination, and a Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg prize. Cherma, her series of poems about Wisconsin's Bohemian immigrants, was published in March 2010 by the University of Wisconsin's Parallel Press chapbook series.
Jacqueline loves dogs of all shapes and sizes, is sadly allergic to cats (though she manages to write about them without developing a rash), and is at least a little bit afraid of all fish larger than a hot dog bun. If you are sharing a pizza, she will ask for the crust pieces. Don't get her talking about Kurt Vonnegut, Tori Amos, Northern Exposure, or Sylvia Plath, or you'll be sorry. Jacqueline lives amid the bluffs of Red Wing, Minnesota, with her husband, her son, and her dog, a Springer Spaniel mix named Brom Bones.
Title: Dreamers Often Lie
Publisher: Dial
Publication: April 5th 2016
Cover Rating: 4/5
If I was asked to describe Dreamers Often Lie in as few words as possible I would say it's a psychological roller-coaster. This would have been a 5 star book but that ending killed me.

Jaye is athletically impaired and being so lands her in the hospital with a pretty bad injury. This injury results in seeing things. Things that aren't there. Or, maybe they are. Who am I to judge whether someones delusions are real or not? But, delusions and head injuries aside, the show must go on!

This book is centered around a high school performance of A Midsummer Night's Dream so that just adds to the insanity of everything. Pierce, Jaye's former best friend turned hottest guy in school, joined the play and that makes for a lot of confusing feelings. But then there is Rob. The new guy. Or is he the new guy? Maybe he is just another one of Jaye's delusions. But having these two boys in the same area vying over Jaye's heart, who will win? Will there be bloodshed? We shall see.

Another thing the book centers around is Jaye's father. He was a coach at her school and everyone adored him. So how can Jaye ever fully grasp everything that has happened if she is constantly reminded of the past?

Pierce was Jaye's Dad's stars. He did all the sports and was so amazing and how could her father not love him? Pierce acted like it was his father this happened to. Pierce acted like a lot of things and I didn't like him at all. He was violent and full of rage. And him wanting to be a part of Jaye's life again wasn't a decision he made on his own. It is so sad that some people just can't think for themselves.

I feel like Sadie, Jaye's sister, was in on all of Pierce's crap. Which would bring a lot of questions and concerns to my mind. But Sadie just seemed iffy to me. One minute she was caring for Jaye and the next minute she was calling her a drama queen because she couldn't handle the truth of their father. I also didn't like Sadie because she made it seem like everything Jaye said was crazy. I know Jaye was seeing imaginary people after she hit her head but her sister treating her like an insane person wasn't called for.

I am glad that Jaye's mother came clean in the end about the entire living situation of the father. Her mother telling her nothing happened kind of added to the whole "Jaye is crazy" situation and I don't like how her mother or sister were treating her. I think one of the final, unanswered questions I still have is was her dad really how she said he was? Or was she really being a drama queen? Was Rob real? Was anything real? Real or not real?

The author did a wonderful job with this book. I would have lost my mind at least once trying to keep everything straight. But isn't that what a psychologically thrilling book is supposed to be? As previously stated, I would have loved some more answers but the book keeps you guessing and that is a great way to keep readers involved.

Overall, I gave the book 4.5/5 stars.




1) What was the inspiration behind Dreamers Often Lie?
Years ago, long before I started putting the story that would become DREAMERS OFTEN LIE on paper, I had this mental flash of a girl waking up in a hospital bed to find Shakespeare sitting across the room, staring back at her. This happens to me sometimes: it’s kind of like finding one puzzle piece and having no idea where the rest of the puzzle is or what kind of image it’s going to create. So I just set that piece aside and waited.

From 2007-2009, I taught high school English in a very small school district. I was the entire English department. And theatre department. And speech department. Sometimes I would teach three separate Shakespeare units a day and then direct the school play rehearsal, and I’d go home with my head full of Shakespeare and theatre and high school life—and out of these things, a story began to form. It took a while for it to solidify, but eventually I realized that I wanted to combine a girl’s relationship with her absent but still controlling father (Hamlet), her love of theatre and the concept of reality vs. dreams (A Midsummer Night’s Dream), and young romance and rash decisions (Romeo and Juliet). And I finally had the rest of my puzzle.

2) Who would you pick? Pierce or Rob?
In Romeo and Juliet, the nurse tells Juliet that by picking Romeo she has ‘made a simple choice.’ You can read that two ways: either the nurse is telling Juliet that she’s made a simple-minded, foolish choice and picking Romeo is going to cause all sorts of trouble, or she’s saying that it’s an easy choice, and of course Juliet should pick Romeo because he’s perfect for her (…or maybe the nurse is saying both, because Shakespeare is crafty like that). I wanted to use that same kind of choice in DREAMERS OFTEN LIE. Maybe there is no right choice, but there is only one choice that’s right for Jaye.

As for me? Rob. Of course. 100%.

3) Do you have a favorite Shakespeare play?
Ooh, I have lots of favorites, but I love Hamlet most of all. I could read that play from now until forever and still find new things in it.

4) Did you do any acting while in school?
I was a giant theatre nerd. (And I still am. I work with the theatre troupes in my town whenever I get the chance.) I acted in scads of community theatre and school theatre productions. During high school, I pretended I was a college student so I could do shows at our local university, and I spent summers performing at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival. And when I was an actual college student, I paid my bills by acting at a nearby dinner theatre.

5) If you had to pitch your book to a potential buyer what would you say?
Do you like Shakespeare? Or theatre? Or dark, twisty romances? If the answer is a giant NO, then this book probably isn’t for you. I’m a terrible book pitcher.

6) Coffee or tea?
Coffee. Coffee, coffee, coffee. (Ideally, French Roast cafĂ© au lait or a nice cappuccino, but I’ll take almost anything.)

7) Did you always want to become an author?
I’ve loved stories for as long as I can remember, but it wasn’t my childhood dream to become an author. That would have been like saying I wanted to be a wizard when I grew up. I was pretty sure that I didn’t have the kind of brilliant magical powers it would take to create the worlds that I found in books. But I kept getting ideas for stories and poems and plays, and even though I was certain that I wasn’t qualified for any of this, I started to write them down—and then I hid them at the bottom of my dresser drawers. For years, I kept my writing secret. Finally, when I went off to college, I began to submit my poetry and short stories to various places, and I even started getting published, and eventually I got brave enough to submit a manuscript to agents, and that’s how I got my book deal for my middle grade series, THE BOOKS OF ELSEWHERE. I’ve been a full-time writer for the last six years, and I still feel astonishingly lucky that I get to do what I do.

*Disclaimer* I received this book from the author/publisher in exchange for an honest review on an author spotlight. Thank you!

Monday, June 13, 2016

Author Spotlight: Burning by Danielle Rollins

Posted by Jenn Christensen at 5:30 PM 0 comments


Danielle Vega is the author of THE MERCILESS and SURVIVE THE NIGHT. She's also the author of BURNING, under the name Danielle Rollins.

Title: Burning
Publication: April 5th 2016
Cover Rating: 5/5

The tagline for Burning says "Orange is the New Black for Young Adult readers", or something along those lines. I have never seen that show, I think I understand the gist of it from seeing commercials, but... I HAVE read the Mara Dyer trilogy and I can definitely say that this book is OitNB meets Mara Dyer. If you like either of those things then this is the book for you.

Angela is one tough main character. The book begins with her being a kid and talking about the stories her father used to tell. I actually had no idea what that had to do with the book until a little further in, but it's definitely relevant, maybe not entirely but it do help with the plot. We get to learn the kind of lifestyle she comes from and then after all that, BAM, she's in Juvi in the middle of this frozen tundra called New York. 

I loved Cara and Issie. Cara was a little bit on the unlovable side but she had her perks. Like the government conspiracies thing. Issie seemed normal. She had a huge family waiting for her and she loved them. I could see Issie being okay when she was released. I am not sure about Cara though. She would have probably ended up in a mental hospital somewhere. People don't take too kindly to paranoid people but Cara had this loving feel about her. After all, she did read Charlies letters for Angela. 

So, while all of these girls are locked up in this center, a new doctor comes in when a new patient arrives. It doesn't seem that odd at first but after SciGirls got thrown in and the doctor replaced the old director, things start to change drastically. It's actually hard to believe that ALL of those girls could be that naive when it came to joining SciGirls. 

We didn't get to know a lot about Jessica but she was extremely interesting. I wanted to know more about her back story. We got a good bit but it didn't satisfy me. 

Ben/Mateo was another character I would have loved to know more about. What did he see in Angela? What made him do the thing with the cassette tape? I would have loved to see further into the future of the book to see what happened with him. 

I really enjoyed this book. The only big things that bugged me were A) Angela backstabbing Jessica. I know she was scared but that was some bad judgement on her part, and B) How could Dr. Gruen not be able to figure out HOW Jessica got to be the way she was? Maybe she was playing stupid. I have no idea. 

By the end of the book I was praying that it would end without a cliffhanger, considering it's a standalone book, but noooo, it ended without answering so much and I NEEEEED more.  Like, what was the reasoning behind Angela's mother writing that letter? What happened to Charlie? Jessica? The doctor? The other girls? And most importantly, BEN?!? AHHHHHHHHH. Hopefully the author will magically write a sequel? Maybe? A girl can hope... right? 

Overall, I gave the book 4.5/5 stars.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

REVIEW: The Selection by Kiera Cass - 5 stars

Posted by Jenn Christensen at 3:00 PM 1 comments
Title: The Selection
Author: Kiera Cass
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publication: April 24th 2012
Cover Rating: 5/5

I really don't like starting a series when I know there will be a lot more books coming out. So I put off The Selection for years, and years. Then, it was 8:45pm and I just picked the book up on a whim and had it finished by 1am. 

America Singer can sing. Shocking? I know, right? But that is just a small part of her life. The world she lives in has been through more World Wars and everything is very different. No more President. Instead, we have a King, Queen, Prince, etc. But in this world there is also no Halloween. It's been gone for so long that it is sort of an urban legend. I have no idea why this one fact sticks out to me so much but it's just stuck in my head.

In this "new" world there aren't high, middle or low classes. There are things called Castes. Royalty and the likes are 1's. America and her family are 5's. But the guy she falls for is a 6 and and it seems like it's a fate worse than death. Because of these castes your true love could be a 7 and you could be a 3. It isn't good to marry below you and there is this entire procedure to go through if you do want to marry lower. The government will give you a grace period before they sign anything just to see if you will come to your senses.

America loves Aspen. She doesn't give two craps whether he is a 6 or an 8. She doesn't care if she goes hungry. She just wants to be with Aspen. But Aspen doesn't see it the same way and wants America to have a better life. Or, at least, that's how he makes it seem. 

Then The Selection comes into play. 35 girls from all over are picks to meet the Prince and live in the palace for a little while all in the hopes that they will be picked as Prince Maxon's wife. America is the right age and gets the application in the mail to sign up. Her mother has to bribe her and Aspen basically pushes her out the door. Aspen needed to swallow his pride. I do not approve of what he did nor the way he did it.

So America enters, gets picked and has to move to the palace. Along the way a lot of funny and sad things happen. America isn't there for Maxon. She is there for her family. So they can eat better, live better. But as things moved on she wasn't so sure what her true reason for being there was. Then someone reappears and confuses America more. She is a no nonsense type of girl but when it comes to this guy... she is pretty much obedient and doesn't want to hurt him no matter what he did to her. 

While America is in the palace you really get to see how truly selfless she is. She befriends servants, talks to the other girls like they are just that, other girls. But, honestly, I was kind of hoping she would roundhouse kick this one girl. We also get to know Maxon a tiny bit. I will judge his character in my next review. 

In the end, I am rooting for Maxon because I don't think Aspen's motives are pure. If you love someone enough you don't do the crap Aspen did. The book ends on a note that just makes readers want to read the next book asap. I think if I would have had the next book in my hands after I put The Selection down I would have consumed that by 5 or 6 in the morning. I definitely can't wait to start the next book. The Selection was a wonderfully pleasant surprise.

Overall, I gave the book 5/5 stars.




Wednesday, June 1, 2016

#FakeReaderGirls

Posted by Jenn Christensen at 2:39 PM 0 comments
At first, I didn't think I was going to respond to this drama that is going on since BEA. It doesn't effect me. I don't wear make up when I do videos, I don't have production lighting. But after watching a few peoples reactions to this I realized that this does effect me because it hurts the people I love to watch everyday. It hurts the book community. 

I like to think of myself as this badass strong woman. And I am. I will stare down a guy in Costco that is looking at me because I am not entirely covered up. My husband gets dirty looks because he isn't "controlling his woman". I like to say that we both wear the pants in this relationship but honestly, if there is a noise outside or if there is trouble or something that looks like it will turn violent I will be the one to step in. Not because my husband is weak. But because if you try to hurt someone I love I will end you. I wouldn't want my husband to get hurt because he was defending me but you better bet your ass that I will get hurt defending him. Just the thought of someone saying shit or touching him sets me off. I protect people. I am a protector. And just because I am a woman doesn't mean I cannot protect the ones I love as well as a man can. My dad raised me as a kid. Not a daughter, not a son, but as a kid. I don't let anything touch me when it comes to sexism. But just because it doesn't touch me doesn't mean it doesn't touch the ones I love or care about. So that is what brought this rant on.

I have ALWAYS been a reader. I am 27 years old and I cannot remember a time when I didn't have piles and piles of books. When I was in 7th grade I started reading Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Anne Rice, Patricia Cornwell, etc. So by the time I was 20 I was kind of burned out by all the adult books I had read. I switched tracks. I started reading Young Adult literature. I love the books that YA authors put out there. This generation has a huge problem with being butt-hurt. This generation also has a huge problem with suicidal kids and adults. These YA books are something I think that is helping some of these kids and adults. Yes, the books are fiction, but reading a book about someone who might be going through what you are going through gives hope. These books help take kids and adults minds off of how truly shitty their life is and gives them a little piece of calm and comfort. Saying Young Adult books aren't real books is like saying "fuck you, you stupid little suicidal, depressed kid" and why would anyone say that? I have watched the YA book world EXPLODE in the last few years. Just this year alone, 2016, I have like 200 new release books. When I first started reading YA there wasn't much of anything out. Mainly Goosebumps and Babysitters Club. Those are great books, don't get me wrong, I grew up on them. But now, books mean so much more than just a spooky read. These books have emotions. They have structure. They have MEANING to A LOT of people. 

So the video this hateful person posted makes no sense to me. How can someone want to tear down children? Young Adult books are read by EVERYONE. And, in a world where technology has taken over, why would someone trash talk a book convention where people are actually interacting with each other, face to face, instead of through a computer screen? To be honest, I don't think this guy even thought about that. I think he just wanted to put his sexist point across and try to hurt a big group on women. But guess what? We aren't just a big group of women. We are readers. We are strong and we will stand behind one-another until the day we die. There is so much shit going on in this world right now and you chose to bitch about young girls wearing makeup and showing off their new books? Shame on you. Some of these people only have books in their lives. Books are the only thing that helps them get through the day. And you want to belittle them? And my nest question is WHY are watching girls haul YA books when you don't read that genre? I know Booktube is open to everyone but I don't see the point in watching girls videos where they haul or talk about books that don't interest you unless you have an ulterior motive. 

I will leave this rant at that before I start saying some nasty things. Don't EVER let anyone belittle you because of something you enjoy. NEVER STOP READING! NEVER GIVE UP! NEVER GIVE IN!

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