The First Ever LILbooKtalk!!: “Overcoming Obstacles in Middle Grade Fiction” with Emily Blejwas and Brooks Benjamin

Hi guys! It’s exactly one week until Christmas, and it’s also the first full week for me out of school! I still have a few performances I have to do with my choir today and tomorrow, but then it will all be just resting and relaxation these next couple of weeks! I’m really excited about Christmas this year–I’m going to spend the days before with friends at a few get-togethers and parties and with my family the weekend of. And I am going to try and read as many books as I can before the year ends!

Today I am posting the first ever LILbooKtalk! LILbooKtalks are online discussion panels in which two authors chat about a certain topic that relates to both of their novels. I wanted to try something new because I love going to author panels and I love interview authors, but why not ask questions to multiple authors at the same time? Why not have author panels online for many to access them? This is a new “skit” I’m trying out, so I definitely hope you will enjoy our first every LILbooKtalk on “Overcoming Obstacles in Middle Grade Fiction.”


About Once You Know ThisOnce You Know This

A girl wishes for a better life for herself, her mom, and her baby brother and musters the courage to make it happen in this moving and emotionally satisfying story for readers of Kate DiCamillo and Lynda Mullaly Hunt.

Eleven-year-old Brittany knows there has to be a better world out there. Lately, though, it sure doesn’t feel like it. She and her best friend, Marisol, stick together at school, but at home Brittany’s granny is sick, her cat is missing, there’s never any money, and there’s her little brother, Tommy, to worry about. Brittany has a hard time picturing her future as anything but a plain white sky. If her life is going to ever change, she needs a plan. And once she starts believing in herself, Brittany realizes that what has always seemed out of reach might be just around the corner.

This debut novel by Emily Blejwas is perfect for readers who love emotionally satisfying books. Thoughtful and understated, it’s the hopeful story of a girl who struggles to make her future bright . . . and the makeshift family that emerges around her.

Goodreads


About My Seventh Grade Life in TightsMy Seventh Grade Life in Tights

LIVE IT.

All Dillon wants is to be a real dancer. And if he wins a summer scholarship at Dance-Splosion, he’s on his way. The problem? His dad wants him to play football. And Dillon’s freestyle crew, the Dizzee Freekz, says that dance studios are for sellouts. His friends want Dillon to kill it at the audition—so he can turn around and tell the studio just how wrong their rules and creativity-strangling ways are.

WORK IT.

At first, Dillon’s willing to go along with his crew’s plan, even convincing one of the snobbiest girls at school to work with him on his technique. But as Dillon’s dancing improves, he wonders: what if studios aren’t the enemy? And what if he actually has a shot at winning the scholarship?

BRING IT.

Dillon’s life is about to get crazy . . . on and off the dance floor.

Goodreads


 

LILbooKtalk 1

(Questions are bolded)

Kester: Today we are having our first ever LILbooKchat, an online discussion panel with authors from all sorts of genres! The first author we have is the lovely Emily Blejwas, who has recently released her MG debut novel Once You Know This a few months ago. I had the wonderful pleasure to be able to meet with you at Southern Festival of Books back in October! Could you tell us a little bit about your book and your background?Once You Know This

Emily: I grew up in Minnesota and have lived in Alabama since 2004. Once You Know This started with a scene from my work as a domestic violence victim advocate in Chicago, and a lot of the content comes from experiences working with people really struggling to get by.

Kester: Thank you, Emily! Your book sounds super amazing–can’t wait to read it! Next, we have the awesome Brooks Benjamin, whose MG debut novel My Seventh Grade Life in Tights released last year. I also had the chance to meet you at the Southeastern Young Adult Book Fest back in March, and I really enjoyed reading your novel just recently! Could you also share with us a bit about your book and yourself?

Brooks: Sure! I’ve lived in Tennessee my whole life, always tucked back into the woods somewhere. I currently teach 4th grade at the only school in my town. I formed a dance crew back in middle school and we danced exclusively to New Kids on the Block (I know…I know…). That was the inspiration for M7GLiT which is all about a seventh-grade boy who wants to try out for a summer scholarship to a dance studio, much to the dismay of his dance-crew friends.

Emily: I love how you were NKOTB exclusive! That’s commitment!

Brooks: Haha! Right, Emily! We were, if nothing else, quite loyal to those guys.

Emily: Hey, loyalty is critical!

Kester: I definitely wished I knew how to dance like that back in middle school, or even now!

Brooks: You know? I wish I knew how to dance back in middle school, too, haha.

Continue reading “The First Ever LILbooKtalk!!: “Overcoming Obstacles in Middle Grade Fiction” with Emily Blejwas and Brooks Benjamin”

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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!

Email | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Instagram | Bloglovin

 

Summer of Authors #11: Excerpt from The United Continuums: My Author Q&A with Jennifer Brody!

Hi guys! I have some exciting news! I did an interview that is going to be printed in a book! Yes, an actual book! A few months ago, Jennifer Brody (who is super amazing) asked me to do the questions for the Q&A that will be featured in the back of The United Continnuums, which is the last installment in her award-winning The Continuum Trilogy, which is also my favorite series (and TUC is the best book and one of my top 3 favorites!). The United Continuums releases tomorrow July 11th, 2017, and I urge you to get it or enter the giveaway for a signed copy below! I definitely recommend reading all three books because they are so awesome! If you need reasons why to read them, check out my three reviews below! Now, to celebrate the release of TUC, Jennifer, her publisher, and I have agreed to release this exclusive interview excerpt, along with a giveaway of her book!

And thank you so much, Jennifer, for letting me do these questions and featuring me in your book. It is certainly a dream come true and an amazing honor to do the interview for The United Continuums, which is one of my favorite books of all time. I’m so happy for you that the series is finally complete!

The 13th Continuum Review

Return of the Continuums Review

The United Continuums Review

Warning: There are some spoilers in a few of these questions below, so I will give a *SPOILER ALERT* before these questions!


About The United Continuumsthe-united-continuums-cover

In the epic conclusion to the award-winning Continuum Trilogy, Aero leads a group insurgents from the Second Continuum to overthrow his rival Supreme General Vinick and unite his space colony s military forces, while Seeker takes on a secret mission back to her home colony to reinforce Earth’s defenses and defend the First Continuum against an even greater threat. Meanwhile, Myra s nightmares have become a reality as the Dark Thing hurtles toward Earth with designs on eradicating the planet s fledgling populace. The only thing standing in the way are the three Carriers and those who would join them to fight against a second coming of the Doom.

Goodreads

Amazon | Barnes & Noble


Jennifer Brody

Author
This is going to be printed in The United Continuums! My name is in a book!!! Doing an interview for a book is a dream come true! Thanks so much, Jennifer!!!
What inspired you to write The Continuum Trilogy? the-united-continuums-cover

Originally, I came up with the idea during the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. I was sitting at home and watching the TV news coverage of the oil spreading over the top of the ocean and suffocating birds and fish. As I stared at the dark sludge, feeling horrified, I started to wonder what would happen if we couldn’t live on the surface anymore. I couldn’t shake the idea. I kept asking myself more and more what if questions. In this way, the idea for the Continuum Universe started to form in my mind. At first, I thought of having underwater colonies, but quickly realized that we would build Continuums in multiple environments to maximize our chances for long-term survival—underwater, underground, and in outer space. In this way, the idea kept growing bigger and bigger, until I knew the story needed to expand into three books.

Your books take place throughout many of the Continuums, and each one had a different history and culture to it. How did you build each Continuum so uniquely? 25739965

Exactly, the original concept involved putting different societies into extreme isolation and exploring how they evolved differently. I had the idea for the underwater Thirteenth Continuum first (due to inspiration from the BP oil spill). I’ve always been fascinated by the deep-sea environment and how we know more about the surface of Mars than our own ocean trenches. Often when I’m worldbuilding, I rely on historical allegory to guide me. In this case, I based the history of that colony on the Dark Ages. I was interested in exploring how we went from a pinnacle of civilization with the Roman Empire and fell into a dark age, losing knowledge and technology. I also wanted to show how a democratic society modeled on the United States of America could devolve into a totalitarian state ruled by an oligarchy named the Synod. That’s why I included the constitutional amendments in the beginning of the first book.

For the Second Continuum—the lone surviving space colony, or so we think—I wanted to make them a military colony ruled by discipline and order, very different from the religious, superstitious Thirteenth Continuum. So, I turned to ancient Sparta for guidance on how to build that colony’s world. I realized along the way that while they had advanced technology and remembered their history, they still suffered in a different way. Their overreliance on logic and systemic organization led them to suppress their emotions and revile romantic love.

With each colony, each new environment, came a chance for me to build a different society. The underground Seventh Continuum devolved significantly, living in complete darkness with no technology. In their desperation to survive, they even turned to cannibalism. Influences included Lord of the Flies and also Gollum from the Lord of the Rings (who is also a devolved hobbit). This aspect of the trilogy that involves the different colonies really makes it stand out.

Continue reading “Summer of Authors #11: Excerpt from The United Continuums: My Author Q&A with Jennifer Brody!”

LILbooKlovers 1 Year Blogoversary!: Q&A with Kester

Hello! Today is a special day for the blog because it is our 1 year blogoversary!!! Woo hoo!!! I can’t believe it’s already been one year that I’ve started this blog, and it has grown quite considerably! Now, to celebrate this special day, I’ve answered all your questions from last week’s post below! Hope you enjoy!


Misty from mistysbookspace

What was the first book that got you into reading??

Regarding my newfound of reading from 9th grade, I would say Wicked Appetite by Janet Evanovich made me first go “Reading can actually be super fun!” and I sped through it in a few days.

You can only read one genre for the rest of your life, what genre would you choose?

Historical fiction! I love reading books that are set in different time periods, especially World War II! I can’t get enough of Ruta Sepetys!


Tiana from The Book Raven

What time do you find yourself reading the most?

It usually depends on my schedule for the day. I usually read during breaks in school or the afternoon, or I read at night right before bed. But I don’t have a set time to read.

What are you currently reading and what do you think about it so far?

I’m currently reading That Thing We Call a Heart by Sheba Karim, which I think is pretty good so far. I love learning more about the Muslim and Pakistani culture that is inside the book, and I just love the romance!


Stephanie from TeacherofYA

Is it hard being a male blogger in a female-dominated market?

It provides its benefits and challenges. I think it is hard especially on Twitter because I’m often mistaken as a girl because I use the blog Twitter account under LILbooKlovers rather than my name, even though I use it 100% of the time. I think that it’s harder to find other males in the YA market, especially in the US, but it helps me stick out as a reviewer. You know, you need that male perspective on those romances!

Funny story: Brittany Goodwin and I talked about her secret epilogue for If You’re Gone, and I told her I didn’t like it. She said that males did not like the epilogue, including her husband, but females loved it. So you see how a male perspective is valuable for books!

What do you do when you enjoy a book that’s been labeled “problematic?”

I stand by my opinion that I personally don’t think it’s problematic. I’ve encountered this problem once now, and all I can say is that I will stick by my opinion. I will write what I feel about it in my review, regardless of whether it’s an unpopular opinion or not, but I will avoid debating about it.

What are your future blog goals?

I hope to expand the blog and get noticed by larger authors and publishers! It would be a dream to get ARCs from the Big 5 that are some of the hottest releases!

Who is your all-time favorite author that you’ve met, and that you still have yet to meet?

Shaila Patel’s my favorite author I have met. She’s super nice and sweet, and we’ve been chatting for a while leading up to SE-YA! She’s amazing, and I look forward to Soulmated‘s sequel!

I really want to meet Ruta Sepetys so much! Her books are some of my all-time favorites, and they have definitely changed my outlook on the world! She’s such an amazing historical fiction writer that I just want her to sign my books!

If you could buy a copy of any book or own any book (ARCs included), what would you pick?

A Caraval ARC. I really want one so much. I’m hoping I could trade for one soon! Or a signed Ruta Sepetys book!

Continue reading “LILbooKlovers 1 Year Blogoversary!: Q&A with Kester”

Damaged Goods Blog Tour: Interview with Jennifer Bardsley

Hi guys! If you’re here on the Damaged Goods blog tour, welcome to my tour stop! What a great way to end the tour, huh? This series is actually one of my most anticipated reads of 2016! I can’t wait to start it! And today, I have the honor to interview the lovely Jennifer Bardsley, also known as the YA Gal! (*internally screaming insider because I’m so happy I got to interview her*). Let’s get on with the tour!

damaged-goods

 

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Title: DAMAGED GOODS (Blank Slate #2)

Author: Jennifer Bardsley

Pub. Date: January 17, 2017

Publisher: Month9Books

Format: Hardcover, Paperback, eBook

Pages: 300

Find it: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | TBD

Synopsis:

Blanca has everything she ever wanted, a hot boyfriend named Seth and the loving support of her foster father, Cal. She’s finally escaped the abusive control of her birth father, Barbelo Nemo, and her tortured childhood at Tabula Rasa School.

But the scars of Blanca’s Vestal upbringing run deep, especially when the FBI start asking questions. Blanca feels abandoned by Seth who is hunting for Lilith, Blanca’s only blood relative. The Defectos, a support group of Vestal-Rejects, offer Blanca comfort instead.

While the Vestal order crumbles, Chinese rivals called the Guardians rise to power and wrest control of important Tabula Rasa contacts. Now Blanca’s life is in peril once more, and this time, Blanca struggles to recognize friend from foe.

 

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Title: GENESIS GIRL (Blank Slate #1)

Author: Jennifer Bardsley

Pub. Date: June 14, 2016

Publisher: Month9Books

Format: Hardcover, Paperback, eBook

Pages: 280

Find it: Goodreads | Amazon |  B&N | iBooks | Kobo | Books A Million | Google Play | IndieBound

Synopsis:

Eighteen-year-old Blanca has lived a sheltered life. Her entire childhood has been spent at Tabula Rasa School where she’s been protected from the Internet. 

Blanca has never been online and doesn’t even know how to text. Her lack of a virtual footprint makes her extremely valuable, and upon graduation, Blanca and those like her are sold to the highest bidders.

Blanca is purchased by Cal McNeal, who uses her to achieve personal gain. But the McNeals are soon horrified by just how obedient and non-defiant Blanca is. All those mind-numbing years locked away from society have made her mind almost impenetrable. 

By the time Blanca is ready to think for herself, she is trapped. Her only chance of escape is to go online. 

 

About Jennifer: jennifer-bardsley

Jennifer Bardsley writes the parenting column “I Brake for Moms” for the Sunday edition of The Everett Daily HeraldShe also blogs at Teaching My Baby to Read with the mission of sparking a national debate on the important roll parents play in education. Jennifer is a graduate of Stanford University and a member of SCBWI. She lives with her husband and two children in Edmonds, WA.

GENESIS GIRL will release in 2016 and is about an 18 year-old girl whose lack of a virtual footprint makes her so valuable that she is auctioned off to the highest bidder, the sequel  will come out in 2017. Jennifer is represented by Liza Fleissig of the Liza Royce Literary Agency LLC.

Follow the Jennifer on FacebookTwitterInstagram, and Goodreads.

 

a-jen-bar

Interview with Jennifer Bardsley:

Kester: In your own words, what is your Blank Slate series about?

Jennifer: The Blank Slate series is about a teenager named Blanca who grew up in a quasi-religious cult called the Vestals, where she was shielded from the Internet for eighteen years. Blanca grew up with no online profile or digital footprint. All the Vestals were blank slates, and since that is so rare, it made them valuable. In GENESIS GIRL Blanca’s digital purity gets auctioned off to the highest bidder. In DAMAGED GOODS, Blanca struggles to overcome the brainwashing of her past.

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

Jennifer: I grew up keeping a diary. It’s really hard to commit to a diary, and I flaked out a whole bunch, but did manage to write a few times a month. Now I have diaries from when I was ten to fifteen that I treasure. If I was a teenager today though, I’d probably have an anonymous blog instead.

Continue reading “Damaged Goods Blog Tour: Interview with Jennifer Bardsley”