Blog Tour Stop: Danika Stone’s Internet Famous!

 

Welcome to the last stop on the Raincoast Books blog tour for Canadian author Danika Stone‘s Internet Famous! Danika is the author of the YA contemporary novel All the Feels, as well as the author of adult fiction titles including Edge of Wild. Today, I am sharing a special guest post from Danika as well as an excerpt from Internet Famous, Danika’s recently released contemporary YA romance. Enjoy!

Internet Famous by Danika Stone
Publication: June 6, 2017 by Swoon Reads, Feiwel & Friends
Book Description:

An engaging and relatable novel for the digital age that perfectly captures the complicated interaction between what goes on in our real lives and what we say online.

Internet sensation Madison Nakama has it all! Her pop-culture rewatch site has a massive following, and fans across the world wait on her every post and tweet. And now Laurent, a fellow geek (and unfairly HOT French exchange student!), has started flirting with her in the comments section of her blog. But Laurent’s not the only one watching for Madi’s replies…

Internet fame has a price, and their online romance sparks the unwanted attention of a troll. When Madi’s “real life” hits a rough patch, she feels her whole world crumbling. With Laurent’s support, can Madi rally her friends across the globe to beat the troll, or will he succeed in driving her away from everything—and everyone—she loves?

Internet Famous is a fresh, contemporary young adult romance for the iGeneration from Danika Stone, author of All the Feels.

Writing with a Soundtrack by Danika Stone
If there’s one truth about writing it’s that somehow, someday, no matter how dedicated you are to scheduling writing or working through the stress, you WILL experience writer’s block. For me, it was the aftermath of a rough grad school thesis meeting. I was mentally burned out, physically exhausted. I finished my thesis, but when I tried to return to my beloved fiction, I found—
Nothing.
The words simply wouldn’t come.
I’d open the project and stare at it with baleful eyes. Where were the voices of my characters? What had happened to the plot I’d so carefully crafted? As days stretched into weeks, I knew that I had to get my writing juices going. And with this in mind, I decided to create a soundtrack.
This was my breakthrough moment!
A soundtrack is the voice of your story. It breathes the lives of your characters and the choices they make, it provides an auditory link to scenes and setting, it IS your story without the words. When writing is tough, putting together a series of songs can make the difference between breaking through the hurtle of writer’s block and getting stuck in the quicksand of self-doubt.
Since that long-ago day, I’ve made soundtracks for every one of my books. I don’t always play them while I write, but I use them when I feel the rush of words slow to a trickle. For Internet Famous, this group of songs was it:


“New Slang”, The Shins
This song captures the unique language of the internet. I love how many phrases that appear in Internet Famous are words that have developed in the last year or so.
“Shyer”, London Grammar
Madi has a great, outgoing personality online, but the jump to real life friendship is terrifying for her. This song matches the feelings of uncertainty that happen before she moves from the internet famous blogger of the MadLibs blog to “Madi” herself.
“Here”, Alessia Cara
I don’t there there’s a single one of us who hasn’t been lost at a party. This song evokes the feelings of Madi when she’s caught up in the MadLibs crowd in New York.
“Nicest Thing”, Kate Nash
I love Laurent! The purity of Kate’s voice really captures the feeling of his relationship with Madi.
“Wreck of the Day”, Anna Nalick
I struggled a bit with what song fit for the troll. (I don’t listen to a lot of ANGRY music. Ha ha!) But this song felt like the aftermath of an attack to me.
“Dreams”, Beck
Madi’s dream for herself is one of the driving forces behind the plot. I love the idea that we all have the chance to live our dreams if we just have the strength and determination to make the leap.
“What Kind of Man”, Florence + The Machine
Madi has a personal crisis in the book when she finds herself questioning everyone and everything she knows. This uncertainty – not trusting yourself – is key to her finally taking a stand against the troll.
“Tether”, CHVRCHES
The connection between Madi and her sister, Sarah, is one of my favorite parts of the book!
“Gold Guns Girls”, Metric
I love the energy of this song even more than the words. It captures online energy!
“Happy Idiot”, TV on the Radio
Of all the songs on this list, this one really shows the distance between where Madi and Laurent start and where they (for a time) end up. I love the idea of “ignorance is bliss”.
“Roses” (feat. ROZES), The Chainsmokers
Any kind of conflict gets to have a reunion scene (in my opinion) and this 80’s movie worthy last scene is one of my faves!
“Happy”, Pharrell Williams
I won’t lie, “happily ever after” is always end-game for me. This song just GETS it!
So how about you? What songs are the go-to for your current work-in-progress? Do you have other tricks of the trade? Give YOUR answers in the comments below!

…after the break…an excerpt!

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Blog Tour: Secrets in the Snow by Michaela MacColl

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Welcome to one of the stops on the Raincoast Books organized blog tour for Michaela MacColl‘s latest historical YA title, Secrets in the Snow: A Novel of Intrigue and Romance! Be sure to check out the other stops on the tour!

 

secretsinthesnow9781452133584Review: Secrets in the Snow: A Novel of Intrigue and Romance by Michaela MacColl
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of Raincoast Books. Thank you!
Publication: October 4, 2016 by Chronicle Books
Book Description:

Jane Austen’s family is eager to secure her future by marrying her off. But Jane is much more interested in writing her novels, and finds every suitor lacking-until the mysterious Mr. Lefroy arrives. Could he be the one? Before Jane can find out, she must solve a murder, clear her family’s name, and face a decision that might cost her true love.

Author Michaela MacColl has a number of well-reviewed historical teen titles to her name. Her latest novel, Secrets in the Snow, centers on a dramatic time in Jane Austen’s young life. Mixing biographical facts from Austen’s life with a fictionalized story of mystery and possible romance, Secrets in the Snow offers an engaging mystery with an iconic author as its protagonist.

With a strong and terrifically sharp and droll nineteen-year-old Jane Austen as our main character, readers are taken on an eighteenth century-set adventure full of deception, some dancing, and a murder. After eavesdropping on a charged conversation between her brother and a member from the War Office accusing one of their family cousins of being a spy for France, Jane becomes entwined in a life-changing chain of events. Altering her plans and returning to her family home, Jane takes it upon herself to approach her beloved, vivacious and widowed cousin, Eliza- the family member under suspicion of being a traitor to England. Back at home, Jane also finds herself mixed up in another drama- that of the possible attractions of a young, handsome man named Tom LeFroy, who appears, at first, to be a disagreeable and slightly haughty. MacColl easily blends Austen-esque attributes of character friction, witty banter, grand dances at halls, and pointed conversations of class and money with that of an unfolding mystery. While the murder mystery and suspenseful aspects of the story are well-done (if a tad hurried toward the end), I found that one of the most thoroughly enjoyable aspects of the novel is that of Jane’s voice. MacColl interestingly writes Jane from the third-person rather than first-person narrative, and she does a fantastic job in how Jane is presented and written as a thoughtfully-defined, energetic and wholly rooted character.

Overall, I found Secrets in the Snow to be a delightful and cozy read. A lovely surprise of a historical fiction title and very smoothly written, MacColl more than capably takes on what could be a daunting prospect and creates lively, well-imagined characters and a fun story with a dash of suspense. Any readers interested in an intriguing but not overly intensive look inside the imaginings of Jane Austen’s life, or have interest in a charming mystery might do well to check Secrets in Snow. MacColl also includes a generous Author’s Note section which divulges more about Jane Austen’s life, her family, her relationship with sister Cassandra and her history with Tom LeFroy. Readers who have enjoyed work by authors such as Katherine Longshore, Jennifer McGowan, Y.S. Lee or Sharon Cameron might especially enjoy this title!

I received a copy of this title courtesy of Raincoast Books in exchange for an honest review and for the purposes of this post. All opinions and comments are my own.

Must Read Monday (49): The Memory of Light & Girl Mans Up…plus upcoming Blog Tour!

Welcome to another edition of Must Read Monday…with a preview of an upcoming blog tour I will be participating in this week! This feature is where I spotlight older, recent, or upcoming releases I am looking forward to. The lists will include all genres I like to read, everything from picture books to comics, children’s lit to adult fiction!

It’s been a few weeks since the last Must Read post, and it’s been a little quiet on the blog for a number of days…my last week was, to paraphrase from Lorelei and Rory Gilmore, more than nutty with extra nuts on top! Hardly any time for reading, let alone writing and editing. Anyhow! Back to this week’s Must Read Monday.

This week: The Memory of Light by Francisco X. Stork and Girl Mans Up by M-E Girard. These are two contemporary titles which I have been reading and hearing tremendous praise about, written by two authors whose work is new to me. Stork has penned critically acclaimed YA titles such as Marcelo and the Real World and others; there is just something about The Memory of Light’s description and snippets of Stork’s writing I have read that has me captivated. M-E Girard’s Girl Mans Up is a title that has slowly crept into my field of vision due to starred reviews and social media sharing, and now one that I am eager to read. Girard is not only a Canadian writer, but Girl Mans Up is also a contemporary fiction debut: two general features which immediately catch my attention as a reader.

 

memoryoflight25665016The Memory of Light by Francisco X. Stork Publication: January 26, 2016 by Arthur A. Levine Books

Vicky Cruz shouldn’t be alive. That’s what she thinks, anyway—and why she tried to kill herself. But then she arrives at Lakeview Hospital, where she meets Mona, the live wire; Gabriel, the saint; E.M., always angry; and Dr. Desai, a quiet force. With stories and honesty, kindness and hard work, they push her to reconsider her life before Lakeview, and offer her an acceptance she’s never had. Yet Vicky’s newfound peace is as fragile as the roses that grow around the hospital. And when a crisis forces the group to split up—sending her back to the life that drove her to suicide—Vicky must find her own courage and strength. She may not have any. She doesn’t know. Inspired in part by the author’s own experience with depression, The Memory of Light is the rare young adult novel that focuses not on the events leading up to a suicide attempt, but the recovery from one—about living when life doesn’t seem worth it, and how we go on anyway.

girlmansup28218947Girl Mans Up by M-E Girard Publication: September 6th 2016 by HarperCollins

All Pen Oliveira wants is to be the kind of girl she’s always been. So why does everyone have a problem with it? They think the way she looks and acts means she’s trying to be a boy—that she should quit trying to be something she’s not. If she dresses like a girl and does what her folks want, it will show respect. If she takes orders and does what her friend Colby wants, it will show her loyalty. But respect and loyalty, Pen discovers, are empty words. Pen makes tough choices, has her friends’s backs, and is done feeling bad about who she is. Old-world parents, disintegrating friendships, and strong feelings for other girls drive Pen to see the truth—that in order to be who she truly wants to be, she’ll have to man up.

Now a look at the blog tour coming up this week! I will participating in a tour, organized by the lovely folks at Raincoast Books, for Michaela MacColl’s newest historical YA fiction title Secrets in the Snow: A Novel of Intrigue and Romance. Secrets in the Snow is a story revolving around beloved author Jane Austen, intertwining facts of Austen’s real life with a fictionalized mystery. Take a look below at the tour schedule; the tour stops here this Wednesday, October 5th! Be sure to check out the other terrific stops on the tour as well! secrets-in-the-snow-blog-evite

Blog Tour: Janet B. Taylor’s Into the Dim!

Welcome to one of the last stops on the special blog tour for Janet B. Taylor‘s Into the Dim!

Into The Dim Blog Tour Evite

As part of the tour, I had the opportunity to ask the debut author herself a question! Read on for that Q&A as well as for my review!

Q:I am always fascinated by authors’ favourite characters or protagonists. As a teen and young adult, who were some of your most-loved or admired characters? Did that shape how your crafted Hope, your own leading heroine in Into the Dim?

A: Ha! In another blog post here, I mentioned Meg Wallace from ‘A Wrinkle in Time.’ Meg wasn’t a super-hero. She was smart, though. And cared about her family. She definitely had an influence on Hope’s character. .Also…I always seemed to connect more with some of the secondary characters in classic kids novels. For instance—I was a Mary Ingalls fan in the ‘Little House on the Prairie’ series. No joke, when I was in the fourth grade I even wrote a letter to Melissa Sue Anderson, who played Mary in the TV show, And she wrote me back!!!!! And even sent me an autographed photo! I also related more to (another) Meg. This time it was Meg March in ‘Little Women’. I think it was because I like the gentler, more level-headed characters—who used their brains—better than the ‘spunky’ characters who always got into trouble, like Jo March and Laura Ingalls.

And—of course—I related to every Judy Blume character EVER. Margaret, from ‘Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret,’ and Katherine, in ‘Forever’ to name a few.

Thank you, Janet!

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Review: Into the Dim (Into the Dim #1) by Janet B. Taylor
Source: ARC courtesy of Raincoast Books. Thank you!
Expected publication: March 1, 2016 by HMH Books for Young Readers
Verdict: Very Good

Book Description:

When fragile, sixteen-year-old Hope Walton loses her mom to an earthquake overseas, her secluded world crumbles. Agreeing to spend the summer in Scotland, Hope discovers that her mother was more than a brilliant academic, but also a member of a secret society of time travelers.

Trapped in the twelfth century in the age of Eleanor of Aquitaine, Hope has seventy-two hours to rescue her mother and get back to their own time. Along the way, her path collides with that of a mysterious boy who could be vital to her mission . . . or the key to Hope’s undoing. Addictive, romantic, and rich with historical detail, Into the Dim is an Outlander for teens.

A taut and intriguingly wound story, Janet B. Taylor’s YA debut, Into the Dim, is a treat. Part historical fiction, part sci-fi/time travel, this novel successfully bridges multiple genres in a carefully structured story that boasts strong action and engaging characters. Through the first-person narrative of our protagonist, slightly prickly teenager Hope Walton, readers are taken on a whirlwind of incredible adventures. As the book description promises, we learn that Hope’s mom- thought by almost everyone to have died in an earthquake (except by Hope herself)- is most likely alive. But alive and trapped without any promise of escape in the twelfth century.

As someone who has had a bumpy go with reading time travel fiction (especially in YA), I am happy to say that I found this novel to be extremely entertaining and addictive. I think Taylor managed to keep the explanation behind the time traveling society grounded enough that it flowed and made sense within the context of this story. The world-creation of Eleanor of Aquitaine’s time period is done well: the ways in which Taylor crafts the particulars of the time- through sartorial elements, disease(s), sicknesses, prejudices and racism, pungent odours, lack of respect toward and lack of safety of women- all add to how smoothly the historical aspect of the novel works.

With respect to characters, I found myself growing more enthusiastic of Hope’s narrative- as the story unfolded. Her character took a little while to get into; she comes across as believably unhappy and lost, and fighting anxieties and demons but standoffish and judgmental. It was good to see her broaden her emotions and abilities as the story went on. On top of the sci fi angle, there is also a romance that starts to flourish as we reach major turns within the story. While a little bit on the ‘immediate attraction’ side of things, Taylor works this aspect out with a backstory (perhaps slightly rushed, but still cleverly done!) to make Hope’s intense romantic interest much more tenable and understandable.

Now, as someone who has not read any of Diana Gabaldon’s work nor watched Outlander, I cannot comment on the veracity of the comparison being drawn between Taylor’s work and Gabaldon. I absolutely see the appeal in having Gabaldon- a hugely popular author!- blurb the book and having the marketing promote Into the Dim as a YA Outlander…However! I would hope that readers who aren’t into Outlander or similar titles/genres not be turned away from Into the Dim as it stands on its own as a very well-developed and highly entertaining creation!

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed Into the Dim and would recommend for readers interested in historical YA, time travel lit, or YA with a sci-fi angle. With intriguing characters, a tightly wound plot, and action to spare, Into the Dim is a great and much welcome surprise. Readers who enjoy everything from Jennifer McGowan’s Maid of Secrets series, Katherine Longshore’s historical YA, Kevin Sands’ The Blackthorn Key, or writers such as Maureen Johnson or Maggie Stiefvater might especially enjoy Into the Dim. I really look forward to what book two in this planned series will bring!

If you get a chance, be sure to check out the other posts on the Into the Dim Blog Tour!

I received a copy of this title courtesy of Raincoast Books in exchange for an honest review and for the purposes of this blog tour. All opinions and comments are my own.

Spotlight Tour & Giveaway: Pippa Morgan’s Diary by Annie Kelsey

PIPPAMORGANSDIARY26457243Welcome to a special feature, courtesy of Sourcebooks, spotlighting Annie Kelsey’s December 2015 children’s fiction release, Pippa Morgan’s Diary!

Read on for a sneak peak as well as a link to a Rafflecopter giveaway!

Pippa Morgan’s Diary by Annie Kelsey
Publication: December 1, 2015 by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Hardcover ISBN 9781492623281

Praise for Pippa Morgan’s Diary:

“With its approachable style and friendly language, this is sure to please both older fans of Rebecca Elliott’s “Owl Diaries” (Scholastic) and reluctant readers alike.” –School Library Journal

“Likable characters in humorous situations make for a promising series opener.” –Kirkus

“A charming story about the lengths you can go to win someone over, this is a great addition to the perennially popular illustrated-journal trend in middle-grade fiction. Although the character-created sketches can draw Wimpy Kid comparisons, the tone more closely matches Marissa Moss’ Amelia’s Notebook (1995)… the perfect quick read for any student with starry-eyed aspirations and a big imagination.”- Booklist

Summary:

Sometimes a little white lie can land you in a whole lot of trouble…

Pippa’s new BFF Catie Brown is perfect. So perfect, that Pippa tells her a teeny tiny lie—that she once auditioned for Voice Factor—to impress her. And it works. It works so well, in fact, that Catie enters Pippa into the school talent show.

The only problem? Pippa can’t sing. Not at all. In fact, her singing is so bad it scares the neighbors. But if she doesn’t participate in the talent show, Catie will know she lied. But if she does participate, the whole school will find out what a horrible singer she is…including Catie!

It’s up to Pippa to put an end to this pesky problem!

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EVERY WORD Blog Tour, Day Four: Review of Ellie Marney’s Every Word

elliemarneyWelcome to day four of the Tundra Books sponsored Blog Tour for Ellie Marney‘s Every Word!

Today on Fab Book Reviews, I am featuring a review of Every Word, the second book in the Every series from author Ellie Marney!

 

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Review: Every Word (Every Breath #2) by Ellie Marney
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of Tundra Books. Thank you!

Publication: September 18, 2015
Verdict: Very Good
Book Description:

James Mycroft has just left for London to investigate a car accident similar to the one that killed his parents … without saying goodbye to Rachel Watts, his ‘partner in crime’.

Rachel is furious and worried about his strange behavior – not that Mycroft’s ever exactly normal, but London is the scene of so many of his nightmares. So Rachel jumps on a plane to follow him … and lands straight in a whole storm of trouble.

The theft of a copy of Shakespeare’s First Folio, the possible murder of a rare books conservator, and the deaths of Mycroft’s parents…. Can Watts help Mycroft make sense of the three events – or will she lose him forever?

Sparks fly when Watts and Mycroft reunite in this second sophisticated thriller about the teen sleuthing duo.

Warning: There will be some spoilers from book one here!

In book one of Marney’s Every Breath series (the author’s debut), we are introduced to James Mycroft and Rachel Watts, two very different teens, from two disparate backgrounds, who have ended up neighbors in an Australian suburb; they are close friends, with an intense and never-talked-about undercurrent of attraction. Mycroft and Watts, through their closeness in spending every day and late night together, find themselves involved in a homicide investigation of a homeless friend that leads to some deadly events…and leads the two to face their feelings for one another.

At the start of book two, it seems as though certain aspects of their lives are under control. While Mycroft can be thorny and distant, his excellence (and obsession) with forensics has started to serve him well and he is asked to travel to England to assist an investigation of a carjacking and death of an Australian national. But. Rachel immediately recognizes the potential danger in Mycroft’s involvement with this case: at a young age, Mycroft’s parents were killed in similar circumstances in England. An unsolved tragedy in which Mycroft- a passenger in a the car- survived… but not without unspeakably horrible memories permanently looped into his brain. And a obsession with solving his parent’s murders. So, even while knowing she will likely be facing an unpleasant, reticent and hurting James in England, Rachel prepares herself to help Mycroft and the investigation in any way that she can.

Uncomfortable, dark and somber for large portions of the novel, Marney doesn’t hold back in writing and describing situations that bring about visceral reactions. This seems to be an author who, as much as you can feel a tremendous love for Rachel and Mycroft (as individual characters and as love interests), is not afraid of placing them in the most stressful, dire of circumstances. I must admit that, at certain points, I almost became weary by the constant state of distress our protagonists were in, and kept hoping that happier, frothier times would follow. But with a third (and final book) and holes yet to be filled, it would seem as though not all on the horizon is calm and quiet…

Overall, I found Every Word to be a more than worthy second book in what is shaping up to be an accomplished and exciting series. The action and investigation surrounding the Folio was tight and well-plotted; my minor quibbles regarding tone aside, the action and investigation in this novel read as more compelling (though sometimes too extraordinary?) than the mystery presented in book one. Marney’s writing is interestingly and refreshingly both clean and poetic. Through Rachel’s strong and reflective first-person narrative, we get some wonderfully expressive passages that touch upon the senses, memories of childhood and sibling love.  When it needs to be for the romance, the dialogue and description are searing and tender (but never saccharine); for the intense and more action-based sequences, things are fluid and fast, but all keeping in line with Rachel’s distinct voice. The author manages, rather impressively, to balance the daunting task of bringing readers an urgent and aching teen romance with terrific and interesting leads while not compromising on the clever and intriguing components of the suspense.

For readers looking for taut, raw and romantic new contemporary YA novels to dive into, I would recommend trying out Ellie Marney’s Every Breath series.

Don’t forget to take a look at some of the great posts coming out tomorrow, the final day of the tour!

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I received a copy of this book courtesy of Tundra Books as part of the Every Word blog tour, in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and comments are my own.

November Blog Tour for Ellie Marney’s Every Word

EveryWord-BadgeComing up this month, I have the pleasure and delight of participating in the Tundra Books sponsored Blog Tour for Ellie Marney‘s Every Word.

Every Word is the second book in Marney’s Every mystery series, which takes on the epic legend of Sherlock Holmes and turns him into a brilliant and troubled seventeen year old, obsessed with forensics…

 

 

 

Here is the roster of bloggers participating and the schedule:

MONDAY, NOVEMBER 16, 2015
Samantha at Bellsie Books
Mandy C. at Forever Young Adult
Eri at Airy Reads
Heather at Books and Quilts
Nicole at Reading Lark

TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 17, 2015
Shelly at Books and Writing
Michelle at Michelle & Leslie’s Book Picks
Jen at The Starry-Eyed Revue
Amanda at Gun in Act One

WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 18, 2015
Gillian at Writer of Wrongs
Shilpa at sukasareads.com
Sabrina at Hiver et Café
Adrienne at Books and Bassets

THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 19, 2015
Michelle at FAB BOOK REVIEWS
Marie at Ramblings of a Daydreamer
Liz at Midnight Bloom Reads
Amy at Tripping Over Books
Rachel at The Readers Den

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 20, 2015
Lauren at Love is not a triangle
Kristen at My Friends Are Fiction
Morgan at Gone with the Words
Leanne at Author Leanne Dyck

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Be sure to check out all the goings on, the features, the reviews, and more- and don’t forget to stop by on Thursday, November 19th for my featured review of Every Word!

 

Spotlight Tour & Giveaway: Dream on, Amber by Emma Shevah

DreamOnAmber25965546Spotlight Tour:
Dream On, Amber By Emma Shevah

Title: Dream On, Amber
Author: Emma Shevah
Release Date: October 6, 2015
Publishers: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Hardcover ISBN 9781492622505

Summary:

My name is Ambra Alessandra Leola Kimiko Miyamoto. But call me Amber. I have no idea why my parents gave me all those hideous names but they must have wanted to ruin my life, and you know what? They did an amazing job.

As a half-Japanese, half-Italian girl with a ridiculous name, Amber’s not feeling molto bene (very good) about making friends at her new school.But the hardest thing about being Amber is that a part of her is missing. Her dad.  He left when she was little and he isn’t coming back. Not for her first day of middle school and not for her little sister’s birthday. So Amber will have to dream up a way for the Miyamoto sisters to make it on their own.

Welcome to a special feature spotlighting the middle-grade fiction debut of Dream On, Amber by Emma Shevah!

With a certain flair, bustle  and ache that reminds me of Louise Rennison, Jeff Kinney, Alan Silberberg, and Tom Angleberger’s offerings, Dream On, Amber is a simultaneously funny and bittersweet read.

Through Amber’s charming and swift first-person narrative, we’re brought into her ever-changing, confusing, and slightly anxious world. Brought up by her Italian mom Bob (Roberta) and their Nonna, Amber and her six year old lively sister Bella have one major unknown in their lives: their Japanese father who left one day when Amber was six and Bella was one. Not only is Amber one of the few biracial kids at her new middle school, but she also is one of the handful of students enrolled in a school-based ‘counseling’ class. An amalgamation of events including: her younger sister being taunted at school; a menacing classmate; her big lie to Bella their father; and more questions than ever about fitting in and why her father might have left; leave Amber with heightened worries and phobias that come to a bursting point.

In an unexpected turn of narration and arc, Amber begins to look to her dad for advice and converses with a figment of her dad about her life, her fears, and what she should do. It’s an interesting shift in tone, and provides a richer angle for getting to know Amber; but I am not entirely convinced of its necessity. I think that with an already-packed story with multiple topics this particular direction- at times- read as an add-on. As a whole, though, I did enjoy Dream On, Amber: Amber’s relationship with her sister and her Nonna, were especially rich and lovely, as were Amber’s exploration of her passion for art and her new-found friendship.  Perhaps it would have made for a more complete story to have Amber and Bella learn the truth of their father’s disappearance from their lives– but perhaps Shevah has more stories in mind for these likable and grounded characters?

For readers who are clamoring for contemporary children’s lit, for something that combines elements of humour, and coming-of-age with deeper resonance, Shevah’s debut is a solid pick. Those who love the ‘doodle’ style, or journal style writings along the lines of The Popularity Papers, Gossip from the Girls Room, Notebooks from a Middle School Princess, or The Strange Case of Origami Yoda and are looking for something new to explore might also really enjoy this title. (Verdict: Good/Very Good)

Read on to explore more about the (including an excerpt), the author, and how you can enter a Rafflocopter draw for a chance to win copy of Dream On, Amber, courtesy of Sourcebooks!

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Cursed and Curated Blog Tour: Q&A with BR Myers

Asp_NEWProof2-3-203x300I have been participating in the Cursed and Curated Blog Tour for Asp of Ascension author BR Myers. If you missed part one, you can check out my review of Myers’ YA mystery!

Welcome now to part two, my Q&A on writing processes, literary influences and more, with BR Myers!

What is your typical writing process (or processes)?

Usually it begins with one scene I can’t stop thinking about. I build the story around that moment; it might be the ending, the middle, or the inciting incident, but it’s the starting point of the process for me. Then I do a quick outline and make myself sit in the chair and knock out the story in small increments. I make sure I write a certain word count each time. I don’t think I’d ever get anything on paper if I didn’t set goals.

What do you find to be the most difficult aspects of writing?

Writing the first word. It’s like trying to start a gas powered lawn mower—it takes a few painful and frustrating attempts to get started, but once the engine kicks in all you have to do is move forward.

How have your influences or literary inspirations impacted your writing?

My definition of success has had the greatest impact. I’ve been writing for eight years and in the beginning the most exciting aspect was sharing my stories. Once I decided to become published I opened a can of worms and spent the next six years getting rejected. I almost turned my back on writing and then I remembered why I had started in the first place—to share my stories. Around that time I heard Margaret Atwood on CBC radio discussing a new online site called Wattpad. It enabled anyone with a cell phone, anywhere in the world, access to all the stories posted on the site…for free.

I posted a few short stories and a YA novel I was working on. The response was immediate and positive. The success on Wattpad helped me establish a solid readership following and was instrumental in my first book deal—only four months after I joined.

When writing the character of Terry, did you have any go-to inspirations in terms of cultivating a strong, independent heroine? If so, who or what were they?

She’s a regular teenager. I don’t think it’s such a stretch to write about an independent and strong girl—they’re everywhere! I wanted Terry to be likeable, of course, but she needed to be relatable in the sense that she was dealing with some heavy issues of loss and her decisions were affected by that. I wanted to show she was independent, but vulnerable too. I think most teenagers feel torn between those two identities as it’s a time in your life when you begin to understand that you have to go out in the world and start taking on responsibilities, but there’s a part of you that doesn’t want to grow up—doesn’t want anything to change.

What is the one book you would, without hesitation, recommend to a young reader? To an older reader?

Only one? Yikes! It depends on who the person is and what they like to read. Horror, history, science fiction, contemporary… Okay, I’ll give you my pick for the universal recommendation for any age: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. It’s my favourite of the series.

Who are some authors in the children’s and YA genres that you grew up reading and admiring?

I absolutely devoured anything by Lois Duncan, Stephen King and Ray Bradbury.

Who are some authors that you are currently enjoying (in children’s and/or YA)?

I have recently discovered Banana Yoshimoto. She’s a YA writer from Japan and her style reminds me very much of Haruki Murakami. She uses simple yet poetic prose that makes the everyday aspects of life intriguing. I especially love when writer can make the process of making a cup of coffee seem interesting, Alice Munro does that better than anyone.

Thank you for hosting my on your blog, Michelle. I appreciate the support. Your insightful questions really made me dig deep.

And to you as well! It has been a pleasure taking part in this blog tour!

Thanks to BR Myers and to Fierce Ink Press!

Cursed and Curated: Asp of Ascension Blog Tour!

I am thrilled to be participated in the Fierce Ink Press blog tour for Canadian author BR Myers’ young adult mystery Asp of Ascension. Please join me here on Fab Book Reviews on July 18th for a review and on July 24th for a special guest post from BR Myers.

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Be sure to check out the other stops on the Cursed and Curated blog tour!

July 13: Calgary Kid Critic (review)

July 14: A Portia Adams Adventure (review)

July 15: Writing on Writing (guest post)

July 16: Membrane (Q&A)

July 17: Adventures in YA Romance (guest post)

July 18: Fab Book Reviews (review)

July 19: A Portia Adams Adventure (Q&A)

July 20: Calgary Kid Critic (Q&A)

July 24: Fab Book Reviews (Q&A)