Exclusive Interview with Lauren Gibaldi, YA Contemporary Author of Autofocus

Hi guys! Today, Lauren Gibaldi is here to talk about Autofocus, a book that I won in a giveaway and really enjoyed. I met Lauren back at the SE-YA Book Festival in March, and she was super nice and sweet! I’m so glad to have her on the blog, and I hope you enjoy this interview!


About the BookAutofocus

From the author of The Night We Said Yes comes a fun and heartfelt YA contemporary tale. When Maude decides to search for information about her birth mother, she finds out more than she expected. Perfect for fans of Stephanie Perkins and Susane Colasanti.

Family. It’s always been a loaded word for Maude, whose birth mother died after giving her up for adoption. With her best friend, Treena, in college in the same town where her birth mother grew up, Maude decides to visit and explore her past. But when Maude arrives, she quickly discovers that Treena doesn’t seem to have time for her—or for helping with her search. Enter Bennett, a cute guy who lives in Treena’s dorm. He understands Maude’s need to find her mother. And as Bennett helps Maude, she starts to realize that her mother’s past doesn’t have to define her own future.

Goodreads

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Lauren Gibaldi Interview.png

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

I love writing because it transports me. It’s the same reason I love reading, too. It’s an experience, even when it’s hard. I started writing young, in a diary, with zero pressure. And I think that’s what made it great for me- those early years when I was just given a dairy and able to write whatever I wanted without fear of it being bad.

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

Along with being an author, I’m a librarian, so it’s pretty impossible for me to choose favorites! I read a lot of YA, obviously, and a lot of picture books due to having young children. I listen to adult fiction audio books because I like being inspired on my way to work. And I mostly read graphic novels whenever I’m writing. (I don’t like reading novels when writing.) I think three books influenced my writing the most – Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares, and The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. I read them all in college, and they helped me understand what I wanted to write.

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

I’m a full-time librarian!

Autofocus4. I really enjoyed your sophomore YA romance novel Autofocus, which follows high school senior Maude, who was adopted as a child, as she explores deeper into her mother’s past and discovers the true meaning of family. How do you explore adoption throughout your novel? For readers were or are adopted, how do you want them to be impacted as they read Autofocus?

Thank you! The main idea behind Autofocus is wondering if who we are is determined by birth (nature), or if we can change as we grow (nurture). Maude has no clue who her mother was, so she’s not sure if this person she’s becoming as she finishes up high school is inspired by her birth mother, or by her mom/dad/friends. (She differentiates mother vs. mom.) I think, even though it’s an experience very specific to adopted teens, the feeling is pretty common for any teen–figuring out who you are, apart from influences. As for readers, I’m just happy they’re seeing themselves in a book. To see that their experience, though unique, can also be universal.

Continue reading “Exclusive Interview with Lauren Gibaldi, YA Contemporary Author of Autofocus”

ARC Review: Hidden Pieces by Paula Stokes — A Puzzling and Haunting Thriller Full of Mystery, Danger, and Death

Hi guys! I normally do not post reviews this early before release date, but because I am very short on reviews, I’ve decided to post my review of Hidden Pieces by Paula Stokes already. I’ve read Stokes’s This is How It Happened and really enjoyed and loved it, so I was really excited to be able to read an advance copy of her latest YA thriller novel! I hope you enjoy!


About the BookHidden Pieces

Embry Woods has secrets. Small ones about her past. Bigger ones about her relationship with town hero Luke and her feelings for someone new. But the biggest secret she carries with her is about what happened that night at the Sea Cliff Inn. The fire. The homeless guy. Everyone thinks Embry is a hero, too, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Embry thinks she’ll have to take the secret to her grave, until she receives an anonymous note—someone else knows the truth. Next comes a series of threatening messages, asking Embry to make impossible choices, forcing her to put her loved ones at risk. Someone is playing a high stakes game where no one in Embry’s life is safe. And their last move…is murder.

Hidden Pieces will release from HarperTeen on August 28th! Pre-order it here!

Goodreads

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4 Stars

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

For me to enjoy a suspense and mystery thriller, I have to experience two feelings: I must not be able to put it down and I must be shocked at the plot twists and revelations. Hidden Pieces accomplished both of them! I started this book on a road trip (a 4 to 5 hour drive) and ended up finishing it that same day—it was THAT good. From the first page, I became hooked by its fast-paced, action-driven storyline. I felt a whole range of emotions as the story progressed from a simple threat to a menacing mix of death and betrayal. You cannot trust anybody in this story. Paula Stokes does not disappoint in her latest YA thriller novel as Hidden Pieces will have readers puzzled and chilled while facing a potential murderer.

Hidden Pieces poses an interesting Catch-22 situation, a complicated moral dilemma, that will make readers think of what they would do in Embry’s shoes. After she causes a fire that destroys an abandoned hotel, Embry is torn between keeping her role in it a secret and telling the truth (and thus being liable for paying thousands of dollars in damages plus possibly facing criminal charges), but this dilemma becomes twisted as an unknown stalker threatens her loved ones when she refuses to reveal what actually happened that night. It definitely made me ponder about whether I would be able to have the courage to say the truth, and that is the mark of a well-written book. For a novel to make readers question not only the story but themselves shows how impactful and powerful it is.

Paula Stokes is a master at creating twisted plotlines full of surprising revelations, subtle hints, complex characters, and treacherous dangers. I became so emotionally invested into the story that I just wanted to gasp and scream so loud at times. She doesn’t hold back any punches when she throws at you shocker. Readers will be filled with dread, fear, and curiosity as their hearts pound and their fingers fly through the pages. I surely did not expect at lot at first, but as the story progressed I was able to guess a few motives and eventually the identity of Unknown (though I was thrown off at the end). Although Stokes placed a few subtle clues, I guessed who Unknown was based off my knowledge of mystery novels. But it would take a seasoned reader to fit together all the hidden pieces (I had to make that joke) before Embry and Holden do.

Hidden Pieces is a well-written, masterfully-crafted suspense thriller that is ridden with mystery, secrets, and backstabbing. It is certainly very memorable and very unputdownable, and it is one that will stick with you for a while. Paula Stokes jerked my heart in This Is How It Happened and now impressed and thrilled me with Hidden Pieces, so I’ll definitely be looking forward to reading more of her books in the future! Hidden Pieces will not only keep you up at night but haunt you after you close the last page.

Please note that there could have been changes between this unfinished version and the finalized, publicized one.


Happy Reading!

+ J.M.J.

~ Kester

Are you excited for Hidden Pieces? Do you like YA thrillers?

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

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Exclusive Interview with Heather Kaczynski, YA Sci-Fi Author of Dare Mighty Things!

Hi guys! Today is the last full week of school for me, which is awesome! It’s also mid-terms week for me in two subjects, AP US History and AP English Language, so I’ll be focusing a lot on studying for them. What’s great for me is that I’m doing with most of my concerts, so my entire schedule is slowly easing up to where I can take a good breather on a weekday. You know what that means? More time to read (which I haven’t gotten enough of these past two weeks) and more time to blog! Today I have for you a special interview


About the BookDare Mighty Things

THE RULES ARE SIMPLE: You must be gifted. You must be younger than twenty-five. You must be willing to accept the dangers that you will face if you win.

Seventeen-year-old Cassandra Gupta’s entire life has been leading up to this—the opportunity to travel to space. But to secure a spot on this classified mission, she must first compete against the best and brightest people on the planet. People who are as determined as she to win a place on a journey to the farthest reaches of the universe.

Cassie is ready for the toll that the competition will take; the rigorous mental and physical tests designed to push her to the brink of her endurance. But nothing could have prepared her for the bonds she would form with the very people she hopes to beat. Or that with each passing day it would be more and more difficult to ignore the feeling that the true objective of the mission is being kept from her.

As the days until the launch tick down and the stakes rise higher than ever before, only one thing is clear to Cassie: she’ll never back down . . . even if it costs her everything.

Goodreads


Heather Kaczynski Interview

1. Your debut YA sci-fi novel Dare Mighty Things (which I loved so much) released earlier in October from HarperTeen, and it follows Cassandra Gupta as she contends against the smartest and strongest young adults in the one of the most rigorous competitions to become the youngest astronaut on one of NASA’s classified missions. If you had the credentials and met the requirements to compete in this contest, would you join? What do you think would be your chances of winning, and who would become your allies and enemies?

I honestly don’t think I would! I like it here on Earth, where everything is safe and green and is mostly designed to keep us alive.

When I was younger? Maybe – I was a lot more competitive then. But I’ve been plagued by anxiety most of my life, and fear has kept me from doing a lot. That’s why it was so fun to explore Cassie’s story in fiction – living vicariously through someone who fearlessly goes after what they want was really cathartic for me.

But if I was drafted into a competition like this, I’d be most like Emilio – supporting my friends and just enjoying the ride. I’d stay far away from Hanna, though.

2. Are you a plotter or a pantser? Did you ever surprise yourself as you drafted and revised your book?

I have more of a stepping-stone method – certain plot points I know I want to hit, maybe even the ending, but I don’t usually know how I’m getting there. For DMT, almost every character other than Cassie jumped out of my brain and onto the page fully formed. I didn’t plan any of Cassie’s friends before they came into being.

They were probably the most surprising part of my book – how Emilio and Mitsuko were both just THERE, alive and talking to me. I never knew what was going to come out of their mouths until they spoke. A lot of their dialogue remained unchanged from draft 1.

Dare Mighty Things3. How has living in Huntsville, Alabama—”The Rocket City” and home to the U.S. Space and Rocket Center (which is such a fun place to go, by the way)—influenced you as a reader and a writer? Has residing in Huntsville impacted Dare Mighty Things in any way?

I wouldn’t have written this book if I hadn’t grown up in Huntsville. It’s where my interest in space began. I’ve literally driven by a lifesize model of the rocket that took us to the moon twice a day for years. It made me think: here’s a testament to what humankind can do. And yet, this rocket – the whole space race and moon landing – is in our past. It ended years before I was born. It’s a relic of history.

It seemed so odd that we had gone so far and then stopped. That our greatest achievement had happened so long ago. Sci-fi is supposed to happen in the future, not the past. Everyone assumed back then that we’d be on Mars by now. What are we doing now? Are we regressing? Where might we be in the future?

I pondered this in the back of my mind for years. And then DMT was born.

Continue reading “Exclusive Interview with Heather Kaczynski, YA Sci-Fi Author of Dare Mighty Things!”

ARC Review: That Thing We Call a Heart by Sheba Karim

Hiya guys! I am super glad I got to win an ARC copy of That Thing We Call a Heart by Sheba Karim from Mindy McGinnis’s amazing website Writer, Writer Pants on Fire. I actually have met Sheba twice, and she was super nice! I got to first see her at the SE-YA Book Fest and later have her sign my beautiful ARC at Sandhya Menon’s signing for When Dimple Met Rishi (it is such an amazing book by the way) since she conversed with Sandhya over her debut. She is such a great and talented writer, and here’s my review of her newest YA novel That Thing We Call a Heart..


About the Book25752164

Shabnam Qureshi is a funny, imaginative Pakistani-American teen attending a tony private school in suburban New Jersey. When her feisty best friend, Farah, starts wearing the headscarf without even consulting her, it begins to unravel their friendship. After hooking up with the most racist boy in school and telling a huge lie about a tragedy that happened to her family during the Partition of India in 1947, Shabnam is ready for high school to end. She faces a summer of boredom and regret, but she has a plan: Get through the summer. Get to college. Don’t look back. Begin anew.

Everything changes when she meets Jamie, who scores her a job at his aunt’s pie shack, and meets her there every afternoon. Shabnam begins to see Jamie and herself like the rose and the nightingale of classic Urdu poetry, which, according to her father, is the ultimate language of desire. Jamie finds Shabnam fascinating—her curls, her culture, her awkwardness. Shabnam finds herself falling in love, but Farah finds Jamie worrying.

With Farah’s help, Shabnam uncovers the truth about Jamie, about herself, and what really happened during Partition. As she rebuilds her friendship with Farah and grows closer to her parents, Shabnam learns powerful lessons about the importance of love, in all of its forms.

Featuring complex, Muslim-American characters who defy conventional stereotypes and set against a backdrop of Radiohead’s music and the evocative metaphors of Urdu poetry, THAT THING WE CALL A HEART is a honest, moving story of a young woman’s explorations of first love, sexuality, desire, self-worth, her relationship with her parents, the value of friendship, and what it means to be true.

Goodreads


A 4 Star

Disclaimer: I won a free ARC of this book in a giveaway.

Overall Thoughts: I am super glad that I was able to win Sheba Karim’s That Thing We Call a Heart from a giveaway Mindy McGinnis held on her website Writer, Writer Pants on Fire. I loved this book a lot. It definitely was one that I couldn’t put down. I finished this while waiting for my dad at Sam’s Club! It was not only cute, but it was also enlightening. This is a tale that will stay with you for a while because the lessons in this book are priceless. This was an amazing romance and coming-of-age story!

Continue reading “ARC Review: That Thing We Call a Heart by Sheba Karim”

Summer of Authors #14: Exclusive Interview with Sheba Karim, Author of That Thing We Call a Heart!

Hi guys! Today I’m leaving my summer engineering camp, and I’m so nostalgic right now! These past few days have been super fun (I hope, I’m writing this two weeks ahead.) To celebrate the end of camp (and the end of summer approaching so soon!), today I’m welcoming Sheba Karim, author of That Thing We Call a Heart (which I really loved), on our blog today! I met Sheba- who is a local author in Nashville- twice, the first at the SE-YA Book Fest and the second at Sandhya Menon’s signing and launch event for When Dimple Met Rishi! I was so glad to win an ARC of TTWCaH and I’m so glad to have the chance to interview Sheba! Enjoy!


About That Thing We Call a Heart25752164

Shabnam Qureshi is a funny, imaginative Pakistani-American teen attending a tony private school in suburban New Jersey. When her feisty best friend, Farah, starts wearing the headscarf without even consulting her, it begins to unravel their friendship. After hooking up with the most racist boy in school and telling a huge lie about a tragedy that happened to her family during the Partition of India in 1947, Shabnam is ready for high school to end. She faces a summer of boredom and regret, but she has a plan: Get through the summer. Get to college. Don’t look back. Begin anew.

Everything changes when she meets Jamie, who scores her a job at his aunt’s pie shack, and meets her there every afternoon. Shabnam begins to see Jamie and herself like the rose and the nightingale of classic Urdu poetry, which, according to her father, is the ultimate language of desire. Jamie finds Shabnam fascinating—her curls, her culture, her awkwardness. Shabnam finds herself falling in love, but Farah finds Jamie worrying.

With Farah’s help, Shabnam uncovers the truth about Jamie, about herself, and what really happened during Partition. As she rebuilds her friendship with Farah and grows closer to her parents, Shabnam learns powerful lessons about the importance of love, in all of its forms.

Featuring complex, Muslim-American characters who defy conventional stereotypes and set against a backdrop of Radiohead’s music and the evocative metaphors of Urdu poetry, THAT THING WE CALL A HEART is a honest, moving story of a young woman’s explorations of first love, sexuality, desire, self-worth, her relationship with her parents, the value of friendship, and what it means to be true.

Goodreads

Amazon | Barnes & Noble


Sheba Karim

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

When I was young, my love for reading prompted me to try to create my own worlds and stories, and I began writing.  I loved writing, and still do, because it’s such a powerful and expressive use of the imagination.

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

Growing up, I loved British lit, Austen, the Brontes, E.M. Forster.  I also loved a lot of seminal YA literature like The Chocolate Wars and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.  In college and beyond, I started reading a lot of South Asian and diaspora fiction, Salman Rushdie, Jhumpa Lahiri, Rohinton Mistry. I read YA and lit fiction pretty broadly now, though I don’t have as much time to read as I’d like.  I’m always inspired by literature that skillfully incorporates humor.

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

I write full time.  When I’m not writing, I’m playing with my daughter, cooking, reading or catching up with a show on Netflix.

Continue reading “Summer of Authors #14: Exclusive Interview with Sheba Karim, Author of That Thing We Call a Heart!”