My Last Kiss Blog Tour–Writing Advice

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I’m excited to be part of Bethany Neal’s blog tour for her debut novel My Last Kiss. Today’s stop on the blog tour features Bethany’s writing advice. Hopefully this will helpful to teachers/students/aspiring authors. Thanks, Bethany! :)

My Last Kiss releases on June 10th from Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

MY_LAST_KISS_final_coverSummary (From Goodreads):

What if your last kiss was with the wrong boy? 

Cassidy Haines remembers her first kiss vividly. It was on the old covered bridge the summer before her freshman year with her boyfriend of three years, Ethan Keys. But her last kiss–the one she shared with someone at her seventeenth birthday party the night she died–is a blur. Cassidy is trapped in the living world, not only mourning the loss of her human body, but left with the grim suspicion that her untimely death wasn’t a suicide as everyone assumes. She can’t remember anything from the weeks leading up to her birthday and she’s worried that she may have betrayed her boyfriend. 

If Cassidy is to uncover the truth about that fateful night and make amends with the only boy she’ll ever love, she must face her past and all the decisions she made–good and bad–that led to her last kiss.

Bethany Neal’s suspenseful debut novel is about the power of first love and the haunting lies that threaten to tear it apart.

**Bethany Neal’s Writing Advice**

Giving writing advice is a tricky thing. Everybody has their own process and techniques that work for them. And a writer’s process evolves as he/she grows and develops his/her skills. So, giving cut and dry advice on how to write seems counterproductive to me.

There have been many times where I’ve read an article in a magazine or on a website and thought I’d found the cure-all for my writerly woes. And sometimes the advice does help, but it’s usually only a temporary fix for a specific scene or type of book I’m writing at that particular moment.

That’s great and helpful at that time, but I want advice that is helpful all the time. Don’t you?! Something I can always lean back on and utilize to get me through the rough patches of writing—and, trust me, the road to publication is as potholed as my neighborhood streets after the crushing winter we’ve had.

So here it is, the one piece of advice every writer must take and apply daily in order to succeed: Believe in your work.

It sounds so simple, but it is the single most difficult thing you’ll ever attempt. Especially when rejections start rolling in (and they do for everyone at some point in his/her career). It requires constant reminders and sticky notes on your computer monitor (and sometimes bathroom mirror) to assure yourself that your writing is not only good enough but worthy of publishing.

You might feel as if you’re tooting your own horn when you tell yourself these things, but you should be tooting that horn of yours, darn it! Writing is hard and stressful and takes immense dedication, and you are doing it. You deserve a frickin’ orchestra of horns tooting in your honor! But, alas, publishing is more times than not a strings section playing one of those mournful tunes that Russian figure skaters perform to. You need to hold your own horn high in order to get noticed.

But my advice to believe in yourself and your writing is not all streamers and self-help hoorays. There’s a specific practice you can add to your daily writing ritual that will help you gain confidence in your work.

Before you start a new project, make a list of reasons why this story needs to be told and keep it nearby as you write so you can reference it. Tape it to the wall in your office or your desk, your laptop, your forearm, wherever you need to put it to remind yourself why what you’re writing is important.

Then when you’re at the midpoint of your book or story (and probably experiencing a growing amount of fatigue and doubt), make another list. This one is made up of reasons why readers will love your story. If you have trouble making this one, pull the nearest unsuspecting family member aside and ask him/her to tell you about their favorite book, movie, or TV show. If it’s a real good one, you’ll start to pick up on the types of things that readers crave like charismatic, complex characters or a sticky plot hook or ultra cool setting that feels like a character itself. You can also analyze your own favorite if there aren’t any other humans nearby.

Note, this step can also serve as a Litmus test to see if your idea is worth powering through to the end. Not all story ideas are. Sad, but true. If you can’t think of at least three reasons why anyone other than you would enjoy reading what you’re writing—and you am to be published someday—it’s time to shelve the project and move on to the next one keeping the boys in the basement occupied.

Finally, when you’ve typed the two most glorious words in an author’s vocabulary, The End, write a third list. This list is of all the obstacles you overcame in order to complete your opus. This last list will give you the confidence to press forward into the real business of writing. Rewriting.

I make all three of these lists for everything I write. It keeps me motivated, moving forward, and sometimes even throws up a red flag that what I’m writing isn’t a good fit. That can be the most important lesson of all. Knowing what not to write is just as important as—and critical in the progression to—writing a best-seller.

Bethany_Neal_Author

**Author Info**

Bethany Neal writes YA novels with a little dark side and a lot of kissing from her Ann Arbor, Michigan home. The things she is obsessed with include, but are not limited to: nail polish, ginormous rings, pigs, dream analysis, memorizing song lyrics, pickles, dessert, predestined love, not growing up, sour gummy candies, music videos, Halloween, and fictional boys who play guitar.

MY LAST KISS is her first novel. Connect with her online at www.bethanyneal.com and follow her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @BethDazzled.

**Blog Tour Schedule**

May 26:                        The Fantastic Flying Book Club, Welcome post
Day 1- May 27:          Word Spelunking, Top 10 Kisses (t/o pop culture) numbers 6-10
Reading Teen, Top 10 Kisses (t/o pop culture) numbers 1-5
Day 2- May 28:          YA Love, Writing Advice
Day 3- May 29:          YAdult Review, Top 6 Bad Boys (who aren’t so bad)
Day 4- May 30:          Book Loving Me, Story Inspiration
Day 5- May 31:          Broke & Bookish, Top 7 Ghost Stories
Day 6- June 1:           Tales of a Ravenous Reader, Pinterest Inspiration Board
                                        YA Reads, Easter Egg Hunt
Day 7- June 2:           Michelle & Leslie’s Book Picks, Musical Inspiration
                                        Miss-PageTurner’s City of Books, Behind the Pages
Day 8- June 3:           Supernatural Snark, Character Interview, Ethan
                                        GUEST POST: First Kiss Stories, Amy Plum’s Blog
Day 9- June 4:           The Hiding Spot, Q&A
                                         Reader Girls, Ghostly “Rules”
Day 10- June 5:         Book Addicts Guide, Open Interview
                                         Anna Reads, My First Fictional Crush
Day 11- June 6:         Lady Reader’s BookStuff, Playlist Reveal
Day 12- June 7:         Books As You Know It, Q&A
                                         Book Rat, Character Interview, Cassidy
Day 13- June 8:         Proud Book Nerd, Characters Theme Songs
                                        Girls in the Stacks, Podcast
Day 14- June 9:         Literary Rambles, Interview/Review & signed book giveaway
                                        YA Sisterhood, Top 10 Fictional Crushes
Day 15- June 10:      The Best Books Ever, Origin Story
Day 16 June 11:        Fantastic Flying Book Club, Swag Giveaway & Review

**Upcoming Author Signings**

MY LAST KISS Launch Party!!!
When
Tuesday, June 10, 2014
7pm
Where 
Nicola’s Books 
2513 Jackson Ave.
Ann Arbor, MI 48103
Details
Join Bethany in publication day festivities! There will be cake, swag giveaways, and the signing of many books. 

Michigan Author Event

When
Saturday, June 14, 2014
2-4pm
Where 
Barnes & Noble 
3311 Tittabawassee Rd.
Saginaw, MI 48604
Details
Visit Bethany and fellow YAer Aimee Carter in the Teen section during this store wide event featuring Michigan authors from varying genres. 

Up North 2-Day Event: Signing/Writing Workshop 

SIGNING
When
Friday, June 20, 2014
2-4pm
Where 
McLean & Eakin Bookstore 
307 E. Lake St.
Petoskey, MI 49770

WORKSHOP
When
Saturday, June 21, 2014
Time 10am-12pm
Where 
McLean & Eakin Bookstore 
307 E. Lake St.
Petoskey, MI 49770
Details
Call McLean & Eakin for more information (231) 347-1180.

Review: The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay

The Sea of TranquilityTitle: The Sea of Tranquility

Author: Katja Millay

Publisher: Atria Books

Release Date: June 4th, 2013 (paperback)

Interest: ALA Alex Award Winner / Contemp

Source: Publisher

Summary (From Goodreads):

I live in a world without magic or miracles. A place where there are no clairvoyants or shapeshifters, no angels or superhuman boys to save you. A place where people die and music disintegrates and things suck. I am pressed so hard against the earth by the weight of reality that some days I wonder how I am still able to lift my feet to walk.

Full of rage and without a purpose, former pianist Nastya Kashnikov wants two things: to get through high school without anyone discovering her past and to make the boy who took everything from her pay.

All 17 year-old Josh Bennett wants is to build furniture and be left alone, and everyone allows it because it’s easier to pretend he doesn’t exist. When your name is synonymous with death, everyone tends to give you your space.

Everyone except Nastya, a hot mess of a girl who starts showing up and won’t go away until she’s insinuated herself into every aspect of his life. The more he gets to know her, the more of a mystery she becomes. As their relationship intensifies and the unanswered questions begin to pile up, he starts to wonder if he may ever learn the secrets she’s been hiding or if he even wants to.

The Sea of Tranquility is a slow-building, character-driven romance about a lonely boy, an emotionally fragile girl, and the miracle of second chances.

OhMyGosh. I’m sorry (well, not sorry) that I’m going to gush all over this review because this book is absolutely fantastic. The publisher approved The Sea of Tranquility for me over the summer via NetGalley and for some reason I started it but didn’t finish it. I’m so glad the librarian in my building asked me to read some of the Alex Award winners to help her decide which ones to add to the library. I was in one of my moody reader moods on Friday and decided to pick up Katja Millay’s debut again to see if it would perk me up and also to help out our librarian. It did that and more.

Since I found out I was pregnant in January, I haven’t been able to read a book in one sitting without falling asleep. The Sea of Tranquility is 448 pages long and I read the entire book in almost one sitting without falling asleep. It’s incredibly engaging and engrossing. I can hardly explain how attached I am to the characters in this book. I woke up in the morning thinking about Josh and Nastya wondering how their story would end. Some reviewers say that the story starts out slow, but I disagree. I really can’t remember why I set it down over the summer, but I know it wasn’t because it’s slow.

But speaking of slow, Josh and Nastya’s relationship grows slowly–there’s no insta-love. Instead we really get to know Josh and Nastya as they get to know each other. I loved watching them navigate their feelings for each other since they’re both very guarded and hesitant to let anyone into their lives. I don’t know if this is weird to say, but I felt myself falling in love with them as I read their story. We get to read from both of their point of views, but I still wanted to know more about Nastya just like Josh did. Katja Millay wrote such real characters that I felt their emotions with them. She gave them depth and emotion and so much heart that I teared up multiple times while reading.

I do want to mention a warning that’s placed at the end of the Goodreads summary that I chose to eliminate from my review. It warns the reader about the mature content in the story. I know that’s one of the reasons why my librarian asked me to read The Sea of Tranquility before she added it to the circulation. I really don’t think the warning is necessary. Yes, there’s profanity, but I don’t think there’s an excess of it. There’s a lot of sexual innuendo and joking, but there isn’t anything graphic included in terms of sex. There’s a scene which includes drugs, but again, it’s nothing that really shocked or alarmed me. All of it fit the characters and the situations in the novel. I always recommend reading a novel before handing it to students and this is no different. I did, however, order myself a copy for my students when I was only 40% through because I felt that confident about it.

I really hope Katja Millay writes another book soon. I’d even be happy if she chose to write a sequel. ;) I’m so impressed with her debut that I’ll automatically add her next book to my TBR list. The Sea of Tranquility is a new favorite and has been added to my limited list of books that I would happily read more than once.

The Sea of Tranquility read alikes (titles & authors): Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, Fall for Anything & Cracked Up to Be by Courtney Summers, Virtuosity by Jessica Martinez, Where the Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller

Top Ten New-To-Me Authors I Read in 2013

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and The Bookish

This post is actually difficult to write because despite my list, many of the books I read this year are written by authors I’ve read before. I consider that a good thing because it means former debut authors and new-to-me authors have continued to impress me. I’d love to know which authors are on your list! Hopefully we’ll share some similarities. Hopefully I’ll discover even more authors!

Top Debut Authors:

Hilary T. Smith–Wild Awake has engaging characters and beautiful writing. I hope she writes another book soon!

Rainbow Rowell–Eleanor & Park is Rowell’s debut YA release which rocked my world. Seriously. I LOVE that book.

Hollis Seamon–Somebody Up There Hates You surprised me in a great way. It was fun to read despite being a “cancer” book.

Robin Constantine–As soon as I finished reading The Promise of Amazing I wanted to read another one of Robin Constantine’s books. It’s too bad this hasn’t even released yet because that means I have to wait even LONGER for her next book.

Jessica Verdi–She tackles a big issue in My Life After Now without getting preachy. Plus, it’s an issue not enough found in YA. Win, win.

Aaron Hartzler–Rapture Practice is a great example of YA memoir while also being a fabulous and relevant story.

K.A. Barson–45 Pounds is a fun book that many of my readers will relate to. Plus, K.A. Barson is a Michigan author!

Top New-to-Me Authors:

Benjamin Alire Saenz–I can’t begin to explain how beautiful Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is.

Jo Knowles–So technically Jo Knowles isn’t new to me since I read Lessons From a Dead Girl a few years ago. I’m including her on this list because I read three of her other books this year and loved all of them. I feel like I truly discovered her this year.

Amy Reed–I loved reading Over You and now want to read everything Amy Reed writes.

Review: My Life After Now by Jessica Verdi

My Life After NowTitle: My Life After Now

Author: Jessica Verdi

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Release Date: April 2nd, 2013

Interest: Contemp / 2013 Debut Author

Source: Purchased

Summary (From Goodreads):

Lucy just had the worst week ever. Seriously, mega bad. And suddenly, it’s all too much—she wants out. Out of her house, out of her head, out of her life. She wants to be a whole new Lucy. So she does something the old Lucy would never dream of.

And now her life will never be the same. Now, how will she be able to have a boyfriend? What will she tell her friends? How will she face her family?

Now her life is completely different…every moment is a gift. Because now she might not have many moments left.

Somehow My Life After Now escaped my attention until a few days ago. Once I found out what it’s about, I instantly wanted to read it. My debate right now is whether to go into detail about Lucy’s “dilemma” since the summary doesn’t state it and it might upset some readers to know prior to reading. That being said, I’m going to go ahead with openly discussing it because I think knowing that piece of information will prompt more readers to pick this debut title up and read it since it’s not an issue that’s often addressed in YA (that I know of).

The main reason I decided to read Jessica Verdi’s debut right away is because it’s about Lucy contracting HIV. I’ve read plenty of YA novels about girls getting pregnant and teen boys dealing with getting girls pregnant, but I don’t think I’ve ever read a book about a teen getting an STD. I’ve never read one about a teen getting HIV. Our teens need to read stories like Lucy’s because 1.) They need to find themselves in a book if they’re also dealing with this and 2.) They need to see that they aren’t immune.

I will say, however, that My Life After Now isn’t preachy. There’s an obvious message present in Jessica Verdi’s novel, but it isn’t off-putting like it so easily could have been. It’s quite accessible and quite enjoyable. I felt Lucy’s anguish, shock, and anxiety. I was reading this during SSR and got to the part when Lucy finds out that she’s positive and wanted to stop reading to start discussing this with my students. Lucy’s emotions became my emotions. I think many of my students will love this book and really start thinking about their actions. Besides the HIV, students will like this book because of the relationships and other conflicts that are present. I’m sure my drama students will appreciate the drama/theater aspect as well.

Overall, My Life After Now is an engaging book with well-developed characters. It’s a fresh story that I can’t wait to share with my students. Jessica Verdi is an author to set your sights on.

Flash Reviews (24)

Flash Reviews

Thin SpaceTitle: Thin Space

Author: Jody Casella

Publisher: Beyond Words/Simon Pulse

Source: NetGalley

Summary (From Goodreads):

Ever since the car accident that killed his twin brother, Marshall Windsor has been consumed with guilt and crippled by secrets of that fateful night. He has only one chance to make amends, to right his wrongs and set things right. He must find a Thin Space—a mythical point where the barrier between this world and the next is thin enough for a person to step through to the other side.

But, when a new girl moves into the house next door, the same house Marsh is sure holds a thin space, she may be the key—or the unraveling of all his secrets.

As they get closer to finding a thin space—and closer to each other—Marsh must decide once and for all how far he’s willing to go to right the wrongs of the living…and the dead.

Flash Review: I read a review that compared Thin Space to Through to You by Emily Hainsworth, which I didn’t really like, so I was hesitant to read this. I ended up really liking Jody Casella’s debut novel. The comparison to Through to You is a good one since both books deal with grief and loss, but the execution and story is so much better in Thin Space. I was completely absorbed in Marsh’s story. For a large part of the book I wondered if a Thin Space was some kind of coping mechanism or if it would turn out to be an actual place. I’ll let you find out when you read it! There’s a great twist in the story and wonderful character development. I understood Marsh and his profound grief. This is an excellent book that I know my students will love. Better yet, it released in paperback so it’s easy on the wallet!

Forgive Me, Leonard PeacockTitle: Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock

Author: Matthew Quick

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Source: ARC received from the publisher

Summary (From Goodreads):

In addition to the P-38, there are four gifts, one for each of my friends. I want to say good-bye to them properly. I want to give them each something to remember me by. To let them know I really cared about them and I’m sorry I couldn’t be more than I was—that I couldn’t stick around—and that what’s going to happen today isn’t their fault.

Today is Leonard Peacock’s birthday. It is also the day he hides a gun in his backpack. Because today is the day he will kill his former best friend, and then himself, with his grandfather’s P-38 pistol.

But first he must say good-bye to the four people who matter most to him: his Humphrey Bogart-obsessed next-door neighbor, Walt; his classmate Baback, a violin virtuoso; Lauren, the Christian homeschooler he has a crush on; and Herr Silverman, who teaches the high school’s class on the Holocaust. Speaking to each in turn, Leonard slowly reveals his secrets as the hours tick by and the moment of truth approaches.

In this riveting book, acclaimed author Matthew Quick unflinchingly examines the impossible choices that must be made—and the light in us all that never goes out.

Flash Review: Matthew Quick is a rock star author. Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock is yet another example of why I love his books and writing style. No matter the subject matter, his books are engaging and difficult to put down. Quick tackles some serious issues in his newest YA novel and although I felt like it grew a little “preachy” at times, I loved this book. Leonard Peacock is a deeply troubled and emotionally wounded character who you’ll cheer for despite his intentions. One of my seniors borrowed this the first week of school and tore through it. Since then another senior has borrowed it and told the class how much he’s enjoying it. I now have a list of readers waiting to read Leonard’s story. This is a powerful book that I hope you’ll read and share with high school students.

CanaryTitle: Canary

Author: Rachele Alpine

Publisher: Medallion Press

Source: Library

Summary (From Goodreads):

Staying quiet will destroy her, but speaking up will destroy everyone.

Kate Franklin’s life changes for the better when her dad lands a job at Beacon Prep, an elite private school with one of the best basketball teams in the state. She begins to date a player on the team and quickly gets caught up in a world of idolatry and entitlement, learning that there are perks to being an athlete.

But those perks also come with a price. Another player takes his power too far and Kate is assaulted at a party. Although she knows she should speak out, her dad’s vehemently against it and so, like a canary sent into a mine to test toxicity levels and protect miners, Kate alone breathes the poisonous secrets to protect her dad and the team. The world that Kate was once welcomed into is now her worst enemy, and she must decide whether to stay silent or expose the corruption, destroying her father’s career and bringing down a town’s heroes.

Canary is told in a mix of prose and verse.

Flash Review: Rachele Alpine’s debut came to my attention when I joined the Great Lakes, Great Books Award committee and was looking for titles to read. I’m happy I read Canary and see it being enjoyed by many of my students, but it left me with mixed feelings. The summary tells us that Kate is assaulted at a party and needs to do something about it despite the consequences for her father, but that doesn’t take place until nearly the end of the book. I understand the placement of this in the story because we need to understand who Kate is before she goes to Beacon Prep and who she becomes once she makes new friends, but it fell flat. I was starting to get bored with Kate’s obsession over her brother’s actions and how she felt about her friends. Once the assault happened, I was ready for more of that part of the story but instead it was rushed. This is a fast read despite the length, but it needs a little more revision. I did, however, love Kate’s blog posts. This is where the verse is tied in and it really works. I plan on using some of her blog posts in my writing lessons.

As always, thank you for the Flash Reviews idea, GreenBeanTeenQueen!

Book Trailer Thursday (117)–The Theory of Everything by Kari Luna

The Theory of Everything by Kari Luna releases today so I decided to share the book trailer.  I haven’t read this debut yet, but based on the summary and book trailer it looks like a fun, quirky book that my students and I will enjoy.  I’d love to know your thoughts about the book and/or book trailer! :)

The Theory of EverythingSummary (From Goodreads):

One part Libba Bray’s GOING BOVINE, two parts String Theory, and three parts love story equals a whimsical novel that will change the way you think about the world.

Sophie Sophia is obsessed with music from the late eighties. She also has an eccentric physicist father who sometimes vanishes for days and sees things other people don’t see. But when he disappears for good and Sophie’s mom moves them from Brooklyn, New York, to Havencrest, Illinois, for a fresh start, things take a turn for the weird. Sophie starts seeing things, like marching band pandas, just like her dad.

Guided by Walt, her shaman panda, and her new (human) friend named Finny, Sophie is determined to find her father and figure out her visions, once and for all. So she travels back to where it began—New York City and NYU’s physics department. As she discovers more about her dad’s research on M-theory and her father himself, Sophie opens her eyes to the world’s infinite possibilities—and her heart to love.

Perfect for fans of Going Bovine, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World and The Probability of Miracles.

 

My Favorite Books of 2013 (So Far)

toptentuesday-New

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and The Bookish

For today’s Top Ten Tuesday post, we’re supposed to compose a list of our favorite books of 2013 (so far).  This was a harder list to create than I thought it would be; it would probably be easier to create at the end of the summer after I’ve been able to catch up on my reading.  Some of these titles will remain on the list at the end of the year, but I know many will be replaced by even better titles.  It will be fun to find discover those books!

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz (Goodreads) (My mini review)–This will remain a favorite at the end of the year.  I hope many of my students will read this in the future.

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell (Goodreads) (My review)–Not only will this definitely be a favorite at the end of the year, Rainbow Rowell is a new favorite author.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the UniverseEleanor & Park

I’m With Stupid by Geoff Herbach (Goodreads) (My review)–What a way to end a truly wonderful trilogy.

One for the Murphys by Lynda Mullaly Hunt (Goodreads) (Review posts on Friday)–I just finished reading this and can’t stop thinking about Carley and the Murphys.  Plus, I’m still sniffling.

I'm With Stupid new coverOne for the Murphys

Wild Awake by Hilary T. Smith (Goodreads) (My review)–I love the characters in this 2013 debut, but I think the writing is what really won me over.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett (Goodreads)–So I’m definitely cheating here because I haven’t finished this yet, but I’m loving the audio and the story way too much not to include it on this list.  It’s fabulous.

Wild AwakeThe Help

Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys (Goodreads) (My review)–I liked this more than Between Shades of Gray.

Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt (Goodreads)–This is another fantastic audiobook that I thoroughly enjoyed.  It’s middle grade, historical fiction, and full of well-developed characters.  Listening to the audio meant I missed out on seeing the different birds from Audobon’s Birds of America, however.

Out of the EasyOkay for Now

Game by Barry Lyga (Goodreads) (My review)–This was even better than I Hunt Killers and it has a crazy cliffhanger!

Dead Silence by Kimberly Derting (Goodreads) (My review)–This is one of my absolute favorite series, and even though I haven’t heard of a fifth book in the series, I’m still holding out hope that this isn’t the last book!

GameDead Silence

Book Trailer Thursday (96)–Prophecy by Ellen Oh

I’m on a fantasy kick and Ellen Oh’s debut Prophecy sounds really cool.  And this may seem trivial, but I’m excited that it’s high fantasy and only 320 pages long as opposed to the usual 400+ pages long many high fantasy novels are.  It released on January 2nd.  Have any of you read it yet?  If so, what are your thoughts?  What do you think of the trailer?

ProphecySummary (From Goodreads):

The greatest warrior in all of the Seven Kingdoms… is a girl with yellow eyes.

Kira’s the only female in the king’s army, and the prince’s bodyguard. She’s a demon slayer and an outcast, hated by nearly everyone in her home city of Hansong. And, she’s their only hope…

Murdered kings and discovered traitors point to a demon invasion, sending Kira on the run with the young prince. He may be the savior predicted in the Dragon King Prophecy, but the missing treasure of myth may be the true key. With only the guidance of the cryptic prophecy, Kira must battle demon soldiers, evil shaman, and the Demon Lord himself to find what was once lost and raise a prince into a king.

Intrigue and mystery, ancient lore and action-packed fantasy come together in this heart-stopping first book in a trilogy.

Top Ten Tuesday: 2013 Debuts

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Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and The Bookish

I can’t say that these ten 2013 debuts are the ones I want to read the most, but they are ten that stand out.  Quite simply, there are way too many debut author book releases every year to choose ten that I’m looking forward to the most.  Which debut titles are you excited about?

Wild Awake by Hilary T. Smith (Goodreads)–

Things you earnestly believe will happen while your parents are away:

1. You will remember to water the azaleas.
2. You will take detailed, accurate messages.
3. You will call your older brother, Denny, if even the slightest thing goes wrong.
4. You and your best friend/bandmate Lukas will win Battle of the Bands.
5. Amid the thrill of victory, Lukas will finally realize you are the girl of his dreams.

Things that actually happen:

1. A stranger calls who says he knew your sister.
2. He says he has her stuff.
3. What stuff? Her stuff.
4. You tell him your parents won’t be able to—
5. Sukey died five years ago; can’t he—
6. You pick up a pen.
7. You scribble down the address.
8. You get on your bike and go.
9. Things . . . get a little crazy after that.*
*also, you fall in love, but not with Lukas.

Both exhilarating and wrenching, Hilary T. Smith’s debut novel captures the messy glory of being alive, as seventeen-year-old Kiri Byrd discovers love, loss, chaos, and murder woven into a summer of music, madness, piercing heartbreak, and intoxicating joy.

Wild Awake

Transparent by Natalie Whipple (Goodreads)–

Plenty of teenagers feel invisible. Fiona McClean actually is.

An invisible girl is a priceless weapon. Fiona’s own father has been forcing her to do his dirty work for years—everything from spying on people to stealing cars to breaking into bank vaults.

After sixteen years, Fiona’s had enough. She and her mother flee to a small town, and for the first time in her life, Fiona feels like a normal life is within reach. But Fiona’s father isn’t giving up that easily.

Of course, he should know better than anyone: never underestimate an invisible girl.

Transparent

Fault Line by Christa Desir (Goodreads)–Ben could date anyone he wants, but he only has eyes for the new girl — sarcastic free-spirit, Ani. Luckily for Ben, Ani wants him too. She’s everything Ben could ever imagine. Everything he could ever want.

But that all changes after the party. The one Ben misses. The one Ani goes to alone.

Now Ani isn’t the girl she used to be, and Ben can’t sort out the truth from the lies. What really happened, and who is to blame?

Ben wants to help her, but she refuses to be helped. The more she pushes Ben away, the more he wonders if there’s anything he can do to save the girl he loves.

Fault Line

Let the Sky Fall by Shannon Messenger (Goodreads)–A broken past and a divided future can’t stop the electric connection of two teens in this “charged and romantic” (Becca Fitzpatrick), lush novel.

Seventeen-year-old Vane Weston has no idea how he survived the category five tornado that killed his parents. And he has no idea if the beautiful, dark-haired girl who’s swept through his dreams every night since the storm is real. But he hopes she is.

Seventeen-year-old Audra is a sylph, an air elemental. She walks on the wind, can translate its alluring songs, and can even coax it into a weapon with a simple string of commands. She’s also a guardian—Vane’s guardian—and has sworn an oath to protect Vane at all costs. Even if it means sacrificing her own life.

When a hasty mistake reveals their location to the enemy who murdered both of their families, Audra’s forced to help Vane remember who he is. He has a power to claim—the secret language of the West Wind, which only he can understand. But unlocking his heritage will also unlock the memory Audra needs him to forget. And their greatest danger is not the warriors coming to destroy them—but the forbidden romance that’s grown between them.

Let the Sky Fall

The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth LaBan (Goodreads)–Tim Macbeth is a 17-year-old albino and a recent transfer to the prestigious Irving School, where the motto is, “Enter here to be and find a friend.” Tim does not expect to find a friend; all he really wants to do is escape his senior year unnoticed. Despite his efforts to blend into the background, he finds himself falling for the quintessential “it” girl, Vanessa Sheller, girlfriend of Irving’s most popular boy. To Tim’s surprise, Vanessa is into him, too, and she can kiss her social status goodbye if anyone finds out. Tim and Vanessa enter into a clandestine relationship, but looming over them is the Tragedy Paper, Irving’s version of a senior year thesis, assigned by the school’s least forgiving teacher.

The story unfolds from two alternating viewpoints: Tim, the tragic, love-struck figure, and Duncan, a current senior, who uncovers the truth behind Tim and Vanessa’s story and will consequently produce the greatest Tragedy Paper in Irving’s history.

The Tragedy Paper

Prophecy by Ellen Oh (Goodreads)–The greatest warrior in all of the Seven Kingdoms… is a girl with yellow eyes.

Kira’s the only female in the king’s army, and the prince’s bodyguard. She’s a demon slayer and an outcast, hated by nearly everyone in her home city of Hansong. And, she’s their only hope…

Murdered kings and discovered traitors point to a demon invasion, sending Kira on the run with the young prince. He may be the savior predicted in the Dragon King Prophecy, but the missing treasure of myth may be the true key. With only the guidance of the cryptic prophecy, Kira must battle demon soldiers, evil shaman, and the Demon Lord himself to find what was once lost and raise a prince into a king.

Intrigue and mystery, ancient lore and action-packed fantasy come together in this heart-stopping first book in a trilogy.

Prophecy

Linked by Imogen Howson (Goodreads)–Elissa used to have it all: looks, popularity, and a bright future. But for the last three years, she’s been struggling with terrifying visions, phantom pains, and mysterious bruises that appear out of nowhere.

Finally, she’s promised a cure: minor surgery to burn out the overactive area of her brain. But on the eve of the procedure, she discovers the shocking truth behind her hallucinations: she’s been seeing the world through another girl’s eyes.

Elissa follows her visions, and finds a battered, broken girl on the run. A girl—Lin—who looks exactly like Elissa, down to the matching bruises. The twin sister she never knew existed.

Now, Elissa and Lin are on the run from a government who will stop at nothing to reclaim Lin and protect the dangerous secrets she could expose—secrets that would shake the very foundation of their world.

Riveting, thought-provoking and utterly compelling, Linked will make you question what it really means to be human.

Linked

The Symptoms of My Insanity by Mindy Raf (Goodreads)–A laugh-out-loud, bittersweet debut full of wit, wisdom, heart, and a hilarious, unforgettable heroine.

When you’re a hypochondriac, there are a million different things that could be wrong with you, but for Izzy, focusing on what could be wrong might be keeping her from dealing with what’s really wrong.

I almost raised my hand, but what would I say? “Mr. Bayer, may I please be excused? I’m not totally positive, but I think I might have cancer.” No way. Then everyone at school would know, and they would treat me differently, and I would be known as “Izzy, that poor girl who diagnosed herself with breast cancer during biology.”

But Izzy’s sense of humor can only get her so far when suddenly her best friend appears to have undergone a personality transplant, her mother’s health takes a turn for the worse, and her beautiful maybe-boyfriend is going all hot and cold. Izzy thinks she’s preparing for the worst-case scenario, but when the worst-case scenario actually hits, it’s a different story altogether—and there’s no tidy list of symptoms to help her through the insanity.

The Symptoms of My Insanity

Bruised by Sarah Skilton (Goodreads)–When Imogen, a sixteen-year-old black belt in Tae Kwon Do, freezes during a holdup at a local diner, the gunman is shot and killed by the police, and she blames herself for his death. Before the shooting, she believed that her black belt made her stronger than everyone else — more responsible, more capable. But now her sense of self has been challenged and she must rebuild her life, a process that includes redefining her relationship with her family and navigating first love with the boy who was at the diner with her during the shootout. With action, romance, and a complex heroine, Bruised introduces a vibrant new voice to the young adult world — full of dark humor and hard truths.

Bruised

The Beautiful and the Cursed by Page Morgan (Goodreads)–After a bizarre accident, Ingrid Waverly is forced to leave London with her mother and younger sister, Gabby, trading a world full of fancy dresses and society events for the unfamiliar city of Paris.

In Paris there are no grand balls or glittering parties, and, disturbingly, the house Ingrid’s twin brother, Grayson, found for them isn’t a house at all. It’s an abandoned abbey, its roof lined with stone gargoyles that could almost be mistaken for living, breathing creatures.

And Grayson has gone missing.

No one seems to know of his whereabouts but Luc, a devastatingly handsome servant at their new home.

Ingrid is sure her twin isn’t dead—she can feel it deep in her soul—but she knows he’s in grave danger. It will be up to her and Gabby to navigate the twisted path to Grayson, a path that will lead Ingrid on a discovery of dark secrets and otherworldly truths. And she’ll learn that once they are uncovered, they can never again be buried.

The Beautiful and the Cursed

Top Ten New To Me Authors of 2012

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and The Bookish

I’ve read some pretty fantastic books this year written by some pretty fantastic authors.  I love reading debut novels, so many of the authors featured on my list are debut authors.  I’d love to know which “new to you” authors of 2012 are your favorites!

1. Trish Doller–I’ve been raving about Something Like Normal since I read it this spring.  It’s a stunning debut and I absolutely CAN’T WAIT until Trish’s new book, Where the Stars Still Shine, releases next year.

2. Matthew Quick–I know his YA debut released in 2011, but I didn’t read one of his books until this year when I read Boy21.  This is another book that I rave about on a regular basis.  I love Boy21 so much I’m reading it out loud for the second time this year since I have a brand new group of students this trimester.

3. R.J. Palacio–I was late to jump on the “Everyone needs to read Wonder!” bus, but peeps, Everyone needs to read Wonder!  I’m so impressed by how Palacio wrote this book and has been able to reach so many readers across age levels.  I have sophomores reading Wonder and singing its praises.  I’ve been telling teachers I work with to buy it and read with their kids.  I will buy R.J. Palacio’s next book without a doubt.

4. Tammara Webber–Sigh…I LOVED Easy.  I hope Tammara Webber writes more New Adult novels because I had the worst book hangover after reading Easy.  I want more of her books!

5. Jessica Brody–I’m way late on this one!  I was asked to be part of the 52 Reasons to Hate My Father blog tour, so I was lucky enough to receive a copy to read.  And it was so much fun to read!  Since adding it to my class library, a few of my students have requested that I buy more of Brody’s books which I’m happy to do because I want to read all of them.

6. Jordan Sonnenblick–Again, he’s been around for a few years, but only this year have I been aware of his books.  I read Curveball: The Year I Lost My Grip, and since then I’ve been reading more and more of his books.  They’re great as audio and great as a traditional read.  His writing is engaging and his stories are heartwarming.

7. Jessica Spotswood–I bought Born Wicked on a whim and then read it straight through.  I’m usually hesitant to read historical fiction, but Jessica Spotswood wrote her debut in the best way.  Her historical fiction is romantic, magical (hence the witches), and engaging.  The language of the time isn’t overdone, but balanced and easy to read.  I can’t wait to read the sequel; I wish I didn’t have to wait until this summer!

8. Miranda Kenneally–I’ve read both Catching Jordan and Stealing Parker and love them both.  They’re incredibly popular in my classroom which made me eve more excited to find out that Kenneally is signed on to write six more books with Sourcebooks.

9. Rae CarsonThe Girl of Fire and Thorns released in 2011, but I didn’t read it until this summer.  I love Rae’s writing style and the characters she’s included in this high fantasy trilogy.  The sequel, The Crown of Embers, just released this fall and its been receiving lots of rave reviews.

10. S.J. Kincaid–I read Insignia last fall, but it didn’t release until this summer.  S.J. Kincaid is an exciting new voice in YA with the Insignia trilogy.  It’s exciting and refreshing and full of guy-appeal.

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