This Month’s LILbooKtalk: “Healing through Stories: Two Novels of Uniting Families” with Corabel Shofner and Leslie Hauser

Hi guys! I am super excited for this month’s LILbooKtalk! I had the amazing opportunity to read both of these excellent debuts, and they share so many similar themes and conflicts that I had to invite both of the authors in our February panel. Today, we have Corabel Shofner, author of Almost Paradise, and Leslie Hauser, author of Chasing Eveline, on the blog today to talk about “Healing through Stories: Two Novels of Uniting Families.” It was definitely a fun chat to moderate, and I hope you enjoy it!


About Almost ParadiseAlmost Paradise

Twelve-year-old Ruby Clyde Henderson’s life turns upside down the day her mother’s boyfriend holds up a convenience store, and her mother is wrongly imprisoned for assisting with the crime. Ruby and her pet pig, Bunny, find their way to her estranged Aunt Eleanor’s home. Aunt Eleanor is a nun who lives on a peach orchard called Paradise, and had turned away from their family long ago. With a little patience, she and Ruby begin to get along―but Eleanor has secrets of her own, secrets that might mean more hard times for Ruby.

Ruby believes that she’s the only one who can find a way to help heal her loved ones, save her mother, and bring her family back together again. But being in a family means that everyone has to work together to support each other, and being home doesn’t always mean going back to where you came from.

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About Chasing EvelineChasing Eveline

Sixteen-year-old Ivy Higgins is the only student at Carmel Heights High School who listens to cassettes. And her binder is the only one decorated with album artwork by 80s band Chasing Eveline. Despite being broken-up since 1989, this rock band out of Ireland means everything to Ivy. They’re a reminder of her mom, who abandoned Ivy and her dad two years ago. Now the music of her mom’s favorite band is the only connection she has left.

Even though Ivy wavers between anger and a yearning to reconnect, she’s one-hundred percent certain she’s not ready to lose her mom forever. But the only surefire way to locate her would be at a Chasing Eveline concert. So with help from her lone friend Matt—an equally abandoned soul and indie music enthusiast—Ivy hatches a plan to reunite the band.

The road to Ireland won’t be easy, though. And not just because there is no road. Along the way they’ll have to win over their Lady Gaga-loving peers, tangle with some frisky meerkats, and oh yeah, somehow find and persuade the four members to play a reunion gig. It’s a near-impossible task, but Ivy has to try. If she can’t let go of the past, she’ll never be able to find joy in the present.

Goodreads


LILbooKtalk 3

Questions are in bold

Kester: The first author we have today is the wonderful Corabel Shofner, who I had the pleasure of meeting at the Southern Festival of Books last October. Her Middle Grade debut novel Almost Paradise released last summer, and I enjoyed it so much that I finished it in a day! Could you describe to us a bit about your book and yourself?Almost Paradise

Corabel: ALMOST PARADISE is a Middle Grade contemporary novel with lots of whimsy, humor and heartbreak. In some ways it is a reverse coming of age story, since Ruby Clyde had taken on the adult role in her family and needs to reclaim her childhood. I am a wife and mother who lives in Nashville, TN. I had a very colorful life before I settled in the suburbs and I love it out here. ALMOST PARADISE is my debut novel although I have written law, short stories, essays and such.

Kester: Thank you, Corabel! It’s so great to be having a local Tennessee author here on the blog! We also have the amazing Leslie Hauser, who I was able to interview on my blog last summer. I loved her Young Adult contemporary debut Chasing Eveline, which I also devoured in a single day! Would you also like to share with us a bit about your novel and your background?

Leslie: Hi! Thanks for having me here. CHASING EVELINE is about 16-year-old Ivy HIggins and her desire to reunite her mom’s favorite 80s band. She thinks it may be the only way to find her mom who left Ivy and her dad several years prior, but also the music is a way to keep her mom present in her life. It also has some humor and heartbreak–sounds like a good companion to ALMOST PARADISE! I am a middle school English and history teacher in California and CHASING EVELINE is my debut novel.

Kester: Chasing Eveline and Almost Paradise are definitely great companions! (And you provided the perfect segue for my next question, Leslie!) That’s why as I read both of your novels, I noticed that each of your main characters share the common goal of healing their broken families. How do you want readers to be impacted by Ivy’s attempts at finding her long-lost mother or Ruby Clyde’s actions to help her mother avoid being imprisoned? How do your characters learn what it means to love those around you?

Chasing EvelineLeslie: Losing someone is difficult. I realized after my aunt passed away that every year, the memories became dimmer. It’s to the point now where I can’t even see parts of these memories (like the picture in Back to the Future! If you’re familiar with that movie.) Ivy’s quest to reunite Chasing Eveline is her way of dealing with loss and trying to keep her mom present. I wanted to write a story that shows that there are productive outlets for grief. I would hope readers would see that as a takeaway.

Corabel: Hi Leslie, I haven’t written anything with music as an element but I love the way Ivy seeks her mother through her mother’s favorite 80’s band. Reminds me a bit of Guardians of the Galaxy where he’s stomping through puddles listening to his mother’s old music, on an old player. Ruby Clyde is a self possessed little thing. She willingly steps up to care for her fragile mother but when the Catfish (mother’s rascal boyfriend) launches off on a cross country trip and gets them both arrested, Ruby Clyde is consumed with a longing for home and a growing realization that she might not be able to single handedly save her mother from prison. I want my readers to feel brave. Bravery is contagious.

Leslie: Sounds like Ivy and Ruby both have to step up in their families. Ivy feels compelled to take care of her dad in her mother’s absence. Bravery is definitely important when dealing with these struggles.

Corabel: Everybody loves the precocious child, the ‘little mother’ or the one who takes care of everything because a parent is damaged. People should realized that these children pay a price by losing their childhood. My sister did that in our family and it did not end well. I’ve since seen other children try to play this role and it breaks my heart. But their old personalities in the miniature bodies is often hilarious.
Continue reading “This Month’s LILbooKtalk: “Healing through Stories: Two Novels of Uniting Families” with Corabel Shofner and Leslie Hauser”

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Exclusive Interview with MG Book Village Co-Creator Jarrett Lerner, Author of EngiNerds

Hi guys! I am super excited to share today’s interview because the author I’m inviting today is super awesome and has inspired me to become more involved in the MG community (which is also very amazing). Jarrett Lerner is the author of EngiNerds, a book that is next on my to-buy list once I get out of my current buying ban, and he is also the co-founder of MG Book Village, a site dedicated to promoting and helping out the MG community. Please go check out his debut novel and the Village! We’d love to see new faces in the MG community!


About the AuthorEnginerds

The battle between boys and bots is on in this funny, fast-paced novel.

Ken is an EngiNerd: one of a super-smart group of friends—all nerds—who have been close since kindergarten.

They may be brainiacs, but they’re just like everyone else: they fight with one another, watch too much TV, eat Chinese food, and hate walking their dogs. Well, maybe not just like everyone because Ken’s best friend Dan has been building robots. He then secretly sent one to each of the EngiNerds, never letting them know he’s the mastermind.

At first Ken is awed and delighted: what kid hasn’t dreamed of having a robot all their own? Someone who can be their friend, clean their room, walk the dog, answer homework questions…how amazing is that?

But be careful what you wish for: Dan’s robot, Greeeg, may look innocent, but his ravenous consumption of food—comestibles—turns him into a butt-blasting bot. And once the other robots ‘come alive’ it’s up to the motley crew of EngiNerds to not only save the day, but save the planet!

Goodreads


Jarrett Lerner Interview

1. Your MG debut novel EngiNerds, which released last year in September, follows Ken and his group of best friends—the EngiNerds—as they fight against farting robots with insatiable appetites. Why do you believe it is important to instill into young readers a love for STEM using literature? How could adults such as teachers and parents help foster a love for math, engineering, and the sciences into their kids?

For a book to be worth writing and reading, I don’t think it has to have a mission beyond the basic, beautiful one of telling a good, gripping story. However, with kids’ books especially, there’s an opportunity to take advantage of a story’s specifics to teach young readers about various things outside of and beyond the book – STEM included.

More important than any one area of focus, though, is the lesson that books can be sources of ideas, inspiration, wisdom, and guidance. To teach a kid (or to provide the opportunities and careful input so that they learn themselves) that they can use a book to get new ideas, to find a new hobby, to gain vicarious experience, to meet people they otherwise wouldn’t, to guide them through a tricky or trying situation, to help them reflect on and reevaluate their behavior and beliefs and relationships – that is of paramount importance.

2. If you could build your dream robot, how would you design it? What would you program it to do?

My dream robot would take care of the two daily tasks that I dislike the most: shaving and cleaning the cat’s little box.

3. Why do you love writing? When did you first have a love for writing, and how was it formed?

I fell in love with stories before I fell in love with writing. Really, I’ve always loved them – listening to them and then reading them and then, eventually, telling them, too. Stories are, I believe, the closest things us humans have to actual magic. They can be exciting, entertaining, and enchanting. They can let you see through the eyes of someone whose life you otherwise might not get to know a single thing about. They allow you to experience things – distant lands, made-up lands, moments both painful and triumphant – by simply moving your eyes across a page and using your imagination.

I started making up stories of my own when I was fairly young, first making comic strips and then longer comic books. I also had this big thick notebook that I called my “world notebook,” and in it I’d draw different made-up planets and then list all the crazy creatures and weird plants you could find on it. It was a sort of atlas of my imagination.

Throughout middle school and high school, I always enjoyed my writing assignments, and outside of classes I often took on writing projects by myself or with friends. I wrote some plays and scripts, in large part because my brother, who’s seven years older than me, was obsessed with movies and doing the same. Despite all this, though, it wasn’t until college that I ever realized I could maybe one day become an author. All those years, I’d carried around this assumption that authors were a special sort of person, and that to become one took something that I didn’t, and never would, have. Which is ridiculous, of course. But it took the convincing of friends and professors – and my meeting some authors myself – to believe that.

This is why so much of the work I do outside of my actual writing involves connecting with kids and shining a light on the awesome things they’re creating. I want to demystify the idea of the author/creator. We’re just normal people who love stories and playing around with words – or, in the case of illustrators, who love playing around with colors and lines. Everyone, on some level, is an author, even if the only stories they tell are the ones about themself that, from one day to the next, constitute and further shape their identity. And everyone can, if they put in the work and remain persistent, become an author professionally.

Continue reading “Exclusive Interview with MG Book Village Co-Creator Jarrett Lerner, Author of EngiNerds”

E-ARC Review: Chasing Eveline by Leslie Hauser

Hi guys! Last Summer, I had the wonderful opportunity to interview YA debut author Leslie Hauser on her contemporary novel Chasing Eveline, and I am super excited to share with you my review of her debut here! I read it last month when I went Christmas shopping out of town with my family, and I somehow managed to finish it in an entire day! It was just that good! I hope you enjoy this review!


About Chasing Eveline26631470

Sixteen-year-old Ivy Higgins is the only student at Carmel Heights High School who listens to cassettes. And her binder is the only one decorated with album artwork by 80s band Chasing Eveline. Despite being broken-up since 1989, this rock band out of Ireland means everything to Ivy. They’re a reminder of her mom, who abandoned Ivy and her dad two years ago. Now the music of her mom’s favorite band is the only connection she has left.

Even though Ivy wavers between anger and a yearning to reconnect, she’s one-hundred percent certain she’s not ready to lose her mom forever. But the only surefire way to locate her would be at a Chasing Eveline concert. So with help from her lone friend Matt—an equally abandoned soul and indie music enthusiast—Ivy hatches a plan to reunite the band.

The road to Ireland won’t be easy, though. And not just because there is no road. Along the way they’ll have to win over their Lady Gaga-loving peers, tangle with some frisky meerkats, and oh yeah, somehow find and persuade the four members to play a reunion gig. It’s a near-impossible task, but Ivy has to try. If she can’t let go of the past, she’ll never be able to find joy in the present.

Goodreads


4 Stars

Disclaimer: Thanks so much to the author for providing me an electronic ARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review. This will not affect my review in any way.

Chasing Eveline is a heartwarming Young Adult contemporary novel that will inspire you to chase your wildest dreams despite the obstacles that stand in your way. I could not put down this book so much that I finished it in an entire day, which only a few novels can accomplish for me. I loved everything from the characters and the music to the humor and the romance. It’s a very quick and easy-to-read novel, and it will capture your attention from page one! Hauser’s debut novel did not disappoint, refreshing both my love for literature and my love for music.

As a musician who’s life is constantly fueled by my passion for music, I became ecstatic at how the novel revolved around Ivy’s love and connection to Chasing Eveline. I could really relate with her as she attempts to spread the love of her favorite band with her peers, only to face rejection. I definitely know how that feels, especially since I’m one of the only male singers and violinists at my high school and since my taste in music is European oldies (Eurovision from 1998 and before–I know, very specific). Hauser captured Ivy’s connection to music so vividly that I could feel the notes and lyrics swirl around me and enrapture me in its emotion.

Chasing Eveline also tackles family and friend problems in such a raw yet graceful way that I felt my heartstrings being tugged at. There’s so much love in the air that you can’t help but go “Awww…” There is a bit of romance in this novel, and fortunately, it was very clean and the book didn’t solely revolve around it. I really felt the deep and heartfelt emotions that Ivy felt towards her missing mom and her semi-distant dad. I also really loved both Matt and Sean–they were such supportive and caring friends!

This novel put me on the edge of my seat even though it was both light and funny and dark and depressing at different points. There was even a few bits of humor that made my entire day, especially the scene about garage sales. A few months ago, I had to work a yard sale for one of my clubs, and I literally had the same exact experience as Ivy–I tended to overprice everything (I didn’t know you’re supposed to make everything super cheap!) and I had to work with the bargainers. This section may not seem very influential in the plot, but the author tackled having a garage sale very accurately to where I just loved it.

I was not disappointed by Chasing Eveline at all! I am so glad that I had the chance to read this delightful contemporary novel full of love, family, and friendships! This is the perfect novel for music lovers (like me). Chasing Eveline will take you on a roller coaster ride full of emotions, from happiness and humor to sadness and sorrow, as it moves you to chase your dreams and never give up. I am super excited to see what Leslie Hauser has in store next! She’s a debut author you do NOT want to miss!


About the AuthorLHauser author picture_smaller size (1)

I am a YA writer and middle school teacher. I have a B.A. in English from UCLA and a Master’s degree in Educational Administration. I was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, and currently reside in Los Angeles, California, with my dog Mr. Darcy.

When I’m not living in fictional worlds inside my head, I run all sorts of distances, torture my body at CrossFit, and DVR entirely too many television shows. I dream of one day returning to the Midwest to live on a farm. Or perhaps owning a cookie delivery service.

My debut novel CHASING EVELINE releases in 2017 from Pen Name Publishing.

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Order Chasing Eveline today here:

Barnes & Noble | Amazon | Kobo | Pen Name Publishing


Happy Reading!

+ J.M.J.

~ Kester

Have you read Chasing Eveline? Do you like YA contemporary?

Comment below, or find me in one of my social media pages, and let’s chat!

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This Month’s LILbooKtalk!: “The Importance of Historical Fiction for Young Readers” with Linda Williams Jackson and Gwen C. Katz

Hi guys! Today starts off the first full week of school for me, so I’m going to be a bit less active on social media since this semester is going to be hectic. Already, I have my DECA District Career Development Conference next Tuesday, so wish me luck in my competition! Today, I am also sharing with y’all my second ever LILbooKtalk (this will be a monthly post, so look out for February’s soon!), and I am so excited to have Linda Williams Jackson and Gwen C. Katz here to talk about “The Importance of Historical Fiction for Young Readers.” Historical fiction is my favorite genre, so I am super stoked to let you all read this discussion. Enjoy!


About Midnight without a MoonMidnight without a Moon

It’s Mississippi in the summer of 1955, and Rose Lee Carter can’t wait to move north. For now, she’s living with her sharecropper grandparents on a white man’s cotton plantation. Then, one town over, an African American boy, Emmett Till, is killed for allegedly whistling at a white woman. When Till’s murderers are unjustly acquitted, Rose realizes that the South needs a change and that she should be part of the movement. Linda Jackson’s moving debut seamlessly blends a fictional portrait of an African American family and factual events from a famous trial that provoked change in race relations in the United States.

Goodreads


About A Sky Full of StarsA Sky Full of Stars

After the murder of Emmett Till, thirteen-year-old Rose is struggling with her decision to stay in Mississippi. Torn between the opinions of Shorty, a boy who wants to meet violence with violence, and Hallelujah, her best friend who believes in the power of peaceful protests, Rose is scared of the mounting racial tension and is starting to lose hope. But when Rose helps Aunt Ruthie start her own business, she begins to see how she can make a difference in her community. Life might be easier in the North, but Mississippi is home and that’s worth fighting for. Mid-Century Mississippi comes alive in this sequel to Midnight Without a Moon

Goodreads


About Among the Red Stars30122938

World War Two has shattered Valka’s homeland of Russia, and Valka is determined to help the effort. She knows her skills as a pilot rival the best of the men, so when an all-female aviation group forms, Valka is the first to sign up.

Flying has always meant freedom and exhilaration for Valka, but dropping bombs on German soldiers from a fragile canvas biplane is no joyride. The war is taking its toll on everyone, including the boy Valka grew up with, who is fighting for his life on the front lines.

As the war intensifies and those around her fall, Valka must decide how much she is willing to risk to defend the skies she once called home.

Inspired by the true story of the airwomen the Nazis called Night Witches, Gwen C. Katz weaves a tale of strength and sacrifice, learning to fight for yourself, and the perils of a world at war.

Goodreads


LILbooKtalk 2

(Questions are in bold; HF = Historical Fiction)

Kester: The first author we have today is Linda Williams Jackson, who wrote the stunning Rose Lee Carter series, which comprises of Midnight without a Moon and A Sky Full of Stars. A Sky Full of Stars just released last week on January 2nd! Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and your novels?Midnight without a Moon

Linda: Hi Kester. Thanks for doing this chat. I was born and raised in the Mississippi Delta, which is where my novels take place. It is also where the Emmett Till murder occurred. That murder and the swift trial and acquittal of the accused are the historical part of my “historical” novel.

Kester: Thank you so much, Linda! I really loved both of your novels, and I am super excited to have you here today! Alongside Linda, we have the wonderful Gwen C. Katz, who I had the pleasure of interviewing back in October about her debut novel Among the Red Stars. Would you also like to share with us a bit about your book and your background?

Gwen: Hey Kester. Thanks for having me. I’m Gwen Katz and I wrote about the Night Witches, an all-female bomber regiment who served on the front in Russia during World War II. It’s one of those really cool yet inexplicably neglected historical topics and I just wanted more people to know about it.

Kester: That sounds awesome! I’m really looking forward to reading Among the Red Stars! This month’s LILbooKtalk theme is “The Importance of Historical Fiction for Young Readers.” Why do you both believe that it is critical for children and teens to be exposed to history through literature? How do your novels achieve the purpose of enlightening readers on the struggles of the past while conveying themes that could inspire generations?

Linda: I think it’s a more intriguing way to learn about history rather than in a textbook. As far as young readers are concerned, I think they would probably prefer reading a novel over reading a biography or a nonfiction book. HF also lends itself to tell stories that might get overlooked, such as the story Gwen has unfolded in Among the Red Stars. There is only so much space in those history books, so it’s up to us to tell the stories that get left out. And we can do this in an engaging way via HF.

Kester: Right. I definitely agree with you! Sometimes it’s hard to connect with history when I’m reading it from a textbook rather than a fiction novel.

Gwen: I think it’s important to expose young people to historical fiction because it allows them to make a personal connection to history. Historical events like wars and battles are often taught as a dry list of dates and locations and it’s easy for it all to feel very distant. Fiction helps us remember that every one of those war casualties was a real person with their own life, their own family, and their own dreams.

Linda: I love that answer, Gwen.

Gwen: And I definitely agree with Linda that a novel feels a lot more accessible to young people (and, for that matter, readers of all ages). Why shouldn’t learning about history be entertaining as well as informative?

Continue reading “This Month’s LILbooKtalk!: “The Importance of Historical Fiction for Young Readers” with Linda Williams Jackson and Gwen C. Katz”

Last Post of the Year: Top 10 Books I’ve Read in 2017!

Hi guys! This will be the LAST post of 2017! Can you believe it already? 2017 has been a great year for me personally and the blog–I’ve had so many amazing opportunities over the past few months, met a ton of amazing people (both bookish and non-bookish), and achieved many milestones. To our readers, thank you so much for all the love and support you have given us over the year; we wouldn’t be here without you! To celebrate the year’s end, here is a Top 10 List of my favorite books from 2017 (plus a few honorable mentions) and why they made the list! I hope you enjoy!


Top 10 Books

10. Be Light Like a Bird by Monika Schröder

Be Light Like a Bird

We’re starting off this list with one of the most emotional books from this year. I read Be Light Like a Bird in an entire day back in March right after the Southeastern Young Adult Book Fest, and I loved it so much because I found myself connecting so much with Wren, the main character. Wren’s childlike voice was so simple, yet beautiful, and her innocence yet loneliness stunned me. I fell in love with the book from page one.

Goodreads

9. 14 Hollow Road by Jenn Bishop

14 Hollow Road

Another amazing Middle Grade novel I had the lovely opportunity to review this year! 14 Hollow Road is probably the best MG fiction book I’ve read not just this year, but for all-time. Here’s why: it was so powerful and so emotional that it had me tearing up at times. It certainly surpassed all my expectations and blew me away (*tornado pun not intended*). This is a novel that will change your perception, regardless of whether you are a child or an adult.

Goodreads

8. As You Wish by Chelsea Sedoti

As You Wish

I love novels that make you think–that’s why so many thought-provoking books are on this top 10 list. As You Wish turns the common cliché of “Be careful what you wish for” into a gripping, elegant, character-driven novel that sheds a new light onto what we want versus what we really need. Out of both of Sedoti’s novels, I would have to say that this one trumps The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett (which is very beautiful and heart-breaking), and Sedoti is now one of my favorite authors ever.

Continue reading “Last Post of the Year: Top 10 Books I’ve Read in 2017!”

Exclusive Interview with Sandhya Menon, NY Times Bestselling YA Author of When Dimple Met Rishi!

Hi guys! This weekend is a very special weekend for me: Tomorrow I have my All State auditions and on Sunday I will be the Concertmaster for my community’s 50th Handel’s Messiah concert! (So your prayers would be greatly appreciated!)

Today, I am having a New York Times bestselling author who I met all the way back in May at her signing in Nashville, and a few weeks ago I posted a review of her debut YA novel When Dimple Met Rishi (which you can find here). I am SOOO excited to have Sandhya Menon with us on the blog today, and I hope you enjoy our exclusive interview!


About When Dimple Met RishiWhen Dimple Met Rishi

Dimple Shah has it all figured out. With graduation behind her, she’s more than ready for a break from her family, from Mamma’s inexplicable obsession with her finding the “Ideal Indian Husband.” Ugh. Dimple knows they must respect her principles on some level, though. If they truly believed she needed a husband right now, they wouldn’t have paid for her to attend a summer program for aspiring web developers…right?

Rishi Patel is a hopeless romantic. So when his parents tell him that his future wife will be attending the same summer program as him—wherein he’ll have to woo her—he’s totally on board. Because as silly as it sounds to most people in his life, Rishi wants to be arranged, believes in the power of tradition, stability, and being a part of something much bigger than himself.

The Shahs and Patels didn’t mean to start turning the wheels on this “suggested arrangement” so early in their children’s lives, but when they noticed them both gravitate toward the same summer program, they figured, Why not?

Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works hard to prove itself in the most unexpected ways.

Goodreads


Sandhya

1. I am a huge fan of your YA contemporary romance debut novel When Dimple Met Rishi, which follows Dimple Shah and Rishi Patel, two completely opposite teenagers who have been set into an arranged marriage by their parents and meet for the first time at the same summer program. Would you consider yourself to be more like Dimple or Rishi? What parallels do you see between you and the protagonists?

I am definitely a combination of both! I’m fiercely feminist like Dimple, but I’m a soft romantic artist like Rishi. I love so many traditions of my Indian heritage while also realizing we have a long way to go with feminism!

2. How would you describe your love for Bollywood film? If you and I were to go have a Bollywood movie marathon, what would we watch and snack on? (You can let your inner fangirl take over. 😉)

Ahhh, the Bollywood question! I love so many Bollywood movies. I’d probably treat you to Queen first, then Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi, and then the classic from the 90s—Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge.

3. You moved with your family from India to the United States when you were a teen, so did your experiences as you transitioned from one culture to another influence both you as a writer and the formation of When Dimple Met Rishi? How was it like trying to acclimate from the Indian way of life you grew up in as a child to the American lifestyle you first encountered?Sandhya Menon

Absolutely. I feel like When Dimple Met Rishi was a kernel inside me, waiting to be set free. Acclimating to the US as a fifteen-year-old Indian girl was terrifying! I felt like I was always two steps behind, and that people were constantly viewing me with either suspicion or comical bafflement. On the other hand, it helped me grow up so fast and I learned to find that solid core inside myself. I learned who I was earlier than people generally do, I think, and I’m so grateful for that.

4. Dimple and Rishi (along with many of the other characters in this novel) defy various Indian stereotypes. Why do you believe it is important to accurately portray racially diverse characters and their struggles, even among people of their own ethnicities?

I think the idea of a monolith of any culture is a farce. There’s no one Indian experience, just like I’m sure there’s no one Black/disabled/Latinx experience. We’re all products of the individual moments that make up our life, and that’s what I wanted to show. I feel portraying real people, fully fleshed out and living their lives, makes marginalized characters so much more relatable to people outside of that marginalization, something I feel we desperately need in this political climate in the US and around the world. And a big bonus is that it helps people who’ve never seen themselves as main characters in a novel before experience that, which can be incredibly powerful.

5. My favorite scene in the entire book (and I was laughing so hard from reading it) was when Rishi approached Dimple for the first time and said, “Hello, future wife. I can’t wait to get started on the rest of our lives,” and immediately afterwards Dimple threw her iced coffee at him and ran away. What was your favorite scene in the entire book, and which scene was the hardest to write?

Haha, thank you! I loved that scene, too—it’s definitely one of my top five! I’d say my #1 favorite scene is the non-date that—spoiler alert—turns into a date. 😊

The scene that was hardest to write was the one toward the end when Dimple begins to question everything and ultimately makes some decisions that make her and Rishi very sad. I don’t want to give too much away, but it was heart-wrenching to write that part.

6. Do you share Dimple’s love of iced coffee, and if so, where is the best place in the entire world to grab a cup to drink?When Dimple Met Rishi

Yes! I love my Starbucks caramel fraps. I also really loved Peet’s on the West coast!

7. Why do you love writing? When did you first have a love for writing, and how was it formed?

I love writing because I love people’s stories. I’ve always been fascinated by how we think, feel, and love. I began writing as soon as I learned to string sentences together for school

8. What are your favorite books, genres, and authors? Which ones have impacted you and your writing style the most?

I tend to read pretty widely, so I have quite a few! I absolutely love romance, especially romance with comedic elements, and I’m a huge Sophie Kinsella fan girl. I also really enjoy horror, and have loved novels by Shirley Jackson and Stephen King. Other writers I love and have influenced me in some way: Kate Chopin, Arundhati Roy, Khalil Gibran, Jenny Han, and Stephanie Perkins, to name a few.

9. What do you do when you’re not writing? Is writing a part-time or full-time job?

Writing is now a full-time job, for which I am so grateful! When I’m not writing, I love spending time with my family and my dog, going on hikes, gazing at the mountains, playing board games or video games (point-and-click adventures are my fave), and reading.

10. As 2017 is slowly winding down, how would you describe your debut year as an author? Could you describe your feelings when When Dimple Met Rishi received a widespread positive reception and made it onto the New York Times bestseller list?

It’s been so mind-blowingly incredible! Sometimes I still can’t believe that this rom-com about an arranged marriage between two Indian-American teens got so much reader love. I’m so humbled and grateful for all the readers who’ve reached out to me (like you, Kester)!

11. Your next two novels From Twinkle, With Love and When Ashish Met Sweetie (the companion novel to When Dimple Met Rishi) are slated to release in the summers of 2018 and 2019, respectively. Could you give us any hints or secrets on what we could expect in each of them?

From Twinkle, With LoveYes! I’m so excited because From Twinkle, With Love is written entirely in diary entry/email/blog format. It was my first time writing an epistolary novel, and I’m eager to see what readers think. Get ready for girl friendships and girl power, questions about creating art and finding your voice, and angst about what to do when you fall in love with the wrong person.

And in Ashish’s story, we’ll get to see our fave cocky jock Ashish fall in love with a girl, Sweetie, who’s completely different from him. We’ll see him being vulnerable, there’ll be some big conversations about what it means to be fat (and how that’s not a bad word), and a lot of heartwarming friendships.

12. Before you go, would you like to share any words of wisdom to aspiring authors?

Never give up…but also give up!

Let me explain: If you feel like you should stop writing because the words aren’t coming out right or it’s really hard to get published or the world doesn’t really want to hear your story—don’t give up.

But if you’ve been working on the same book for years, you feel like you’ve outgrown the story, or just really aren’t feeling it anymore—don’t be afraid to start something new. Listen to your creative instincts, and keep on keeping on!

Thanks so much, Sandhya, for doing this interview! I’m so glad to finally have you on the blog!


About the AuthorSandhya Menon

My name is Sandhya Menon, and I’m a New York Times and national indie bestselling author. I write books for teens (and those who still feel like teens inside!). I currently live in Colorado, where I’m on a mission to (gently) coerce my husband, son, and daughter to watch all 3,221 Bollywood movies I claim as my favorite. Also, I love my pets a little too much, as you can probably tell.

My YA contemporary novel WHEN DIMPLE MET RISHI is out now. Buy here or add it on Goodreads if you like!

Website | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest


Happy Reading!

+ J.M.J.

~ Kester

Have you read When Dimple Met Rishi? Do you like YA contemporary novels?

Comment below, or find me in one of my social media pages, and let’s chat!

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Double Mini-Reviews of Two New Contemporary Favorites!: The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett & When Dimple Met Rishi

Hi guys! Happy Friday!! YA Contemporary is one of my favorite genres, and I love it so much because it is very easy to relate with the characters’ modern struggles. Today I am reviewing two novels–The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett by Chelsea Sedoti and When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon–which I read earlier this summer and loved really much! I hope you these reviews and love the books as much as I did!


About The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett25546710

Hawthorn wasn’t trying to insert herself into a missing person’s investigation. Or maybe she was. But that’s only because Lizzie Lovett’s disappearance is the one fascinating mystery their sleepy town has ever had. Bad things don’t happen to popular girls like Lizzie Lovett, and Hawthorn is convinced she’ll turn up at any moment-which means the time for speculation is now.

So Hawthorn comes up with her own theory for Lizzie’s disappearance.  A theory way too absurd to take seriously…at first. The more Hawthorn talks, the more she believes. And what better way to collect evidence than to immerse herself in Lizzie’s life? Like getting a job at the diner where Lizzie worked and hanging out with Lizzie’s boyfriend. After all, it’s not as if he killed her-or did he?

Told with a unique voice that is both hilarious and heart-wrenching, Hawthorn’s quest for proof may uncover the greatest truth is within herself.

Goodreads


A 5 Star

I seriously love this book. It definitely is going to be one of my favorite reads of 2017 because it was so beautiful! I just could not put it down. I can see why so many people raved about this when it released at the beginning of the year! It’s just that amazing! Sedoti has an amazing gift for crafting a main character’s voice and making it unique, flawed, and realistic. I loved the storyline and I could relate so much to Hawthorne’s inner emotions and feelings. Chelsea Sedoti is definitely an author I am going to keep track of, especially with As You Wish coming out in January of next year.

This book is a new favorite because of one word: Hawthorn. Hawthorn is pretty much the whole reason why I love this book. She is one of the most relatable characters for me ever. I was frequently on the verge of tears because I knew her feelings of not belonging, of not being understood, of having a different viewpoint of the world. Although I didn’t go through the trials like she did, she was so easy to connect to. Her voice was so unique and so deep and so emotional that I want to be her friend. We both connect so well, and that’s why she’s one of my favorite narrators!

As it progressed, especially more towards the 2/3 mark of the book, it lost its original spark. I got just a bit bored and a bit confused at what was going on, but I still loved the story. It’s just like a pristine white cloth: There’s that one small stain that you could never remove. Regardless, it is still one you will always use! This book will still hold a dear place in my heart because of Hawthorn’s unique personality and voice. The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett is such a memorable novel that will still with you for a while.


About When Dimple Met Rishi28458598

A New York Times bestseller

Dimple Shah has it all figured out. With graduation behind her, she’s more than ready for a break from her family, from Mamma’s inexplicable obsession with her finding the “Ideal Indian Husband.” Ugh. Dimple knows they must respect her principles on some level, though. If they truly believed she needed a husband right now, they wouldn’t have paid for her to attend a summer program for aspiring web developers…right?

Rishi Patel is a hopeless romantic. So when his parents tell him that his future wife will be attending the same summer program as him—wherein he’ll have to woo her—he’s totally on board. Because as silly as it sounds to most people in his life, Rishi wants to be arranged, believes in the power of tradition, stability, and being a part of something much bigger than himself.

The Shahs and Patels didn’t mean to start turning the wheels on this “suggested arrangement” so early in their children’s lives, but when they noticed them both gravitate toward the same summer program, they figured, Why not?

Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works hard to prove itself in the most unexpected ways.

Goodreads


Oh my goodness, this was such an amazingly cute read! It literally broke the record for the most times I laughed in a book. I wasn’t even 25% done and I laughed really hard 5 times! This is definitely one of the best romances I have ever read, possibly even the best! I really couldn’t put it down because it was just really good. I had the pleasure of meeting Sandhya in person at her signing in Nashville, and I am so glad I got to meet her because she blew me away with this book. This needs to be a movie! I see so many scenes play out as actual movie scenes! I would definitely watch it 10 times!

This book is a new favorite because of the romance! Menon cleverly combined humor, stereotype-defying characters, and slow-burn romance to create one of the most unforgettable development of one of the cutest OTPs in YA fiction. What got me was the scene where Dimple threw her iced coffee at Rishi (who was joking) when he just suddenly came up to her and said, “Hey future wife, I can’t wait to love you forever.” (Not exact words, but you get the point.) I laughed so hard. Seriously, it’s just that amazing. Sandhya Menon is an author that I’m going to be keeping track of now (which means that I need an ARC of From Twinkle, With Love soon!)

Now, I did lose a little interest as the book headed into the middle and the end. Once it got into parts where other romances came into play (I cannot spoil who likes who) it got a bit confusing for me. But you all know that feeling. It’s like watching a movie that super amazing and of course you’ll lose a bit of that spark as you go on. Still regardless, When Dimple Met Rishi is a book that I will recommend to anyone! It will make you laugh, cry, and go “aww”- the perfect combination for the perfect rom-com!


Happy Reading!

+ J.M.J.

~ Kester

Do you have any thoughts or questions?

Comment below, or find me in one of my social media pages, and let’s chat!

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E-ARC Review: The Temptation of Adam by Dave Connis

Hi guys! Today is the first post of November (it’s November already?) and to start off the month, I am reviewing The Temptation of Adam by Dave Connis. A month ago, I found out that Dave is going to be at the SE-YA Book Fest next year, and when I found out that he is a local author from Chattanooga and his book was up for download on Edelweiss, I had to read his debut. The Temptation of Adam is releasing in less than three weeks on the 21st, so read my review if you want to know why you should read it!


About the Book34138283

Adam Hawthorne is fine.

Yeah, his mother left, his older sister went with her, and his dad would rather read Nicholas Sparks novels than talk to him. And yeah, he spends his nights watching self-curated porn video playlists.

But Adam is fine.

When a family friend discovers Adam’s porn addiction, he’s forced to join an addiction support group: the self-proclaimed Knights of Vice. He goes because he has to, but the honesty of the Knights starts to slip past his defenses. Combine that with his sister’s out-of-the-blue return and the attention of a girl he meets in an AA meeting, and all the work Adam has put into being fine begins to unravel.

Now Adam has to face the causes and effects of his addiction, before he loses his new friends, his prodigal sister, and his almost semi-sort-of girlfriend.

The Temptation of Adam is releasing from Sky Pony Press on November 21st!

Goodreads


4 Stars

Disclaimer: I received a free electronic ARC of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss. This will not affect my review in any way.

The Temptation of Adam certainly lives up to its hype. It’s such a raw and emotional book that I felt like I was Adam’s sole confidante, the only one who knows his thoughts and challenges and the only one who can comfort and console him. Not only is this book going to change the way how you view those grappling with addictions, but it will also inspire YOU to never give up in your trials. The message behind the novel is so powerful that it gives those struggling in the darkness a glimmer of light. This novel is one of those books that has the power to change lives.

The trials that Adam went through to overcome his addiction and complete his mission for Mr. Cratcher felt very real and authentic. I could not only sense Adam’s raw emotion but I also connected with him so easily on many levels. He is one those characters that you could relate and sympathize with his struggles, regardless of the challenges you’re currently facing.  I fell in love with Adam so much that I rooted for him on his path to conquering his cravings for porn and winced whenever he relapsed. I just wanted to reach out to him many times and tell him that everything is going to be alright. His journey from pornography to purity is inspiring! As Adam changed throughout the novel, I felt myself abounding in more hope than I did before. Stories about overcoming vices are very uncommon and hard to pull off, yet the author managed to accomplish this amazing feat.

Connis also creates a lovable cast of characters that you just want to root for, too! The Knights of Vice truly defies the “addict stereotype,” in which addicts are portrayed negatively as having no lives and no desire to rehabilitate. The author challenges this by realistically depicting each character–Adam, Dez, Trey, Eliot–as an actual human being with fears, hopes, dreams, and desires to overcome their temptations. Connis shows you that anyone around you could be struggling with a vice, even in your own house, yet you must show that person love, compassion, and support in each step of the way. The Knights of Vice is one of those groups of fictional friends that I wish existed in real life so I could meet them! I definitely fell in love with them all plus Addy, Mr. Cratcher, and Adam’s Dad (who’s a publisher/literary agent/editor, whichever one it is!!!) from page one.

Now, I had really high expectations with this book (because of all the raving reviews), yet sadly I was not as emotionally invested into the book as I hoped to. The plot for me felt a little “loose” and not too cohesive at times, and the humor didn’t appeal to me as much. It may not have clicked with me 100%, but this is a book I will definitely recommend to fans of YA contemporary novels. This is a book that has the potential to change readers’ lives, and I don’t say that with many books frequently. I am definitely going to be looking forward to Dave Connis at the SE-YA Book Fest next year!


Happy Reading!

+ J.M.J.

~ Kester

Are you excited about The Temptation of Adam? What are your thoughts on the book?

Comment below, or find me in one of my social media pages, and let’s chat!

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Summer of Authors #9: Guest Post + GIVEAWAY with Amber R. Duell

Hi guys! Currently I’m out of town on a trip to Niagara Falls, so I’ll be on the other side of the border! I’m super excited about this trip to Canada- it’s my first time! And Summer’s almost halfway done? Can you believe it? I mean, sure I’m writing this post in early June (D-Day, to be exact), but by the time this is posted, Summer would have felt too short. In the meantime, we’re going to continue our special Summer of Authors event with Amber R. Duell!


About Fragile ChaosFragile Chaos

A GOD OF WAR SEEKING RESTORATION.

AN UNWILLING SACRIFICIAL BRIDE.

BETRAYAL THAT COULD DESTROY THEM BOTH.

“[E]very fiber of my being is woven from the rage of mortals.”

Theodric, the young God of War, has a talent for inciting conflict and bloodshed. After being stripped of his powers by his older brother, King of Gods, he sets out to instigate a mortal war to prove himself worthy of being restored to power.

“I loved Kisk once; it was my home… But that was before. This is now.”

Sixteen-year-old Cassia, like many in the modern era, believes gods and goddesses to be just a myth. Enemy to her country and an orphan of the war, she has no time for fairy tales. That’s until religious zealots from Theo’s sect offer her up as a sacrifice.

Can Cassia and Theo end the mortal war and return balance to the earth and heavens? Or, will their game of fate lead down a path of destruction, betrayal, and romance neither of them saw coming?


Amber

Infusing Myth with Reality

Hey! First, a huge thank you for LILbooKlovers for hosting me! I’m excited to be here and to talk about combining myth with reality.

In Fragile Chaos, I got the chance to work with both sides of myths—the truth and the exaggeration—which was incredibly fun!

Before I decided to create my own pantheon of gods, I read other mythologies and thought they were so crazy there was no way they could be real. I knew Cassia would be thinking the same thing. No one in her world believes in the gods and goddesses anymore, but the fantastic tales were still widespread and taught in school.

Continue reading “Summer of Authors #9: Guest Post + GIVEAWAY with Amber R. Duell”

Summer of Authors #3: Guest Post + GIVEAWAY with Meg Eden – Translating Play: Turning Games into Novels

Hi guys! Tomorrow is the release for a very special book called Post-High School Reality Quest, and to celebrate it, I’m hosting the author Meg Eden with a special guest post she wrote and a giveaway for an ARC and some exclusive swag (they’re great- you’ll love them)! I hope that your summer is going off to a great start, and what better way to celebrate than with another giveaway and guest post?


About Post-High School Reality QuestPHSRQarccover

Buffy is playing a game. However, the game is her life, and there are no instructions or cheat codes on how to win.

After graduating high school, a voice called “the text parser” emerges in Buffy’s head, narrating her life as a classic text adventure game. Buffy figures this is just a manifestation of her shy, awkward, nerdy nature—until the voice doesn’t go away, and instead begins to dominate her thoughts, telling her how to life her life. Though Buffy tries to beat the game, crash it, and even restart it, it becomes clear that this game is not something she can simply “shut off” or beat without the text parser’s help.

While the text parser tries to give Buffy advice on how “to win the game,” Buffy decides to pursue her own game-plan: start over, make new friends, and win her long-time crush Tristan’s heart. But even when Buffy gets the guy of her dreams, the game doesn’t stop. In fact, it gets worse than she could’ve ever imagined: her crumbling group of friends fall apart, her roommate turns against her, and Buffy finds herself trying to survive in a game built off her greatest nightmares.


 Meg

Translating Play: Turning Games into Novels

The more video games I watch or play, the more I think about what I can learn about the art of telling good stories through games. Good games, like good books, show and don’t tell. They give you objects to interact with that show you what happened (or what will happen), and make you feel what the character feels through solid mechanics. They let you as the player (reader) experience a story instead of hearing a summary of a series of events. They let you inhabit a character and walk away with memories that feel like they’re own.

When I first wrote my novel Post-High School Reality Quest, it was a story about gamers, changing friendships, and identity inside and outside (mainly role-playing) games. There were interesting characters and some funny moments, but nothing really happened. It was like a body without bones. When my friend suggested the idea of writing a novel in the form of a text adventure, I initially laughed it off. But when I got strep and was bedridden with nothing to do, I put the text adventure bones onto my novel and came up with an older draft of what is now Post-High School Reality Quest.

Continue reading “Summer of Authors #3: Guest Post + GIVEAWAY with Meg Eden – Translating Play: Turning Games into Novels”