Fellow Fifteener: Aisha Saeed–Written in the Stars

21793649As a member of the Fearless Fiteeners, I was able to read an ARC of Aisha Saeed’s young adult novel, Written in the Stars (3/24/2015; Nancy Paulsen Books). ARCs (Advanced Reader Copies) are the uncorrected proofs that are sent to reviewers, librarians, and book bloggers to promote the book. My fellow fifteeners and 2k15 classmates are sending their ARCs on tour, which allows us a sneak peek at these upcoming new releases. I’ve decided to let you all know about the ARCs I’m reading to help support my 2015 debut colleagues.

Here’s the description: Naila’s conservative immigrant parents have always said the same thing: She may choose what to study, how to wear her hair, and what to be when she grows up—but they will choose her husband. Following their cultural tradition, they will plan an arranged marriage for her. And until then, dating—even friendship with a boy—is forbidden. When Naila breaks their rule by falling in love with Saif, her parents are livid. Convinced she has forgotten who she truly is, they travel to Pakistan to visit relatives and explore their roots. But Naila’s vacation turns into a nightmare when she learns that plans have changed—her parents have found her a husband and they want her to marry him, now! Despite her greatest efforts, Naila is aghast to find herself cut off from everything and everyone she once knew. Her only hope of escape is Saif . . . if he can find her before it’s too late.

What I liked about it: Books can act as mirrors, reflecting one’s self, or as windows, allowing us to look into another culture or world. Despite all my years as a student and teacher, my knowledge about certain parts of the world remains limited. Aisha Saeed’s novel gave me a window into Pakistani culture and the issue of arranged marriages in particular. Saeed, who is happily married through arrangement, shows us another possibility through Naila, a teen who has both Pakistani and American values. She respects her family and her culture, but she wants to make her own decisions when it comes to her future husband. Any reader with immigrant parents or grandparents could easily relate to being pulled between two cultures, trying to make room for both. But, when Naila’s family takes her to Pakistan, she slowly realizes this is will not be a temporary vacation. Naila’s new reality is brutal, heartbreaking, and representative of what some girls experience, as Saeed notes at the end of the novel. Naila’s story ends on a hopeful note. We can only hope for a similar outcome for real girls in the same situation.

About the author: Aisha Saeed is an author, mama, lawyer, teacher, and maker and drinker of chai. She is also the Vice President of Strategy for We Need Diverse Books™. Aisha has been blogging for over a decade and her writing has also appeared in places such as The Orlando Sentinel, BlogHer, Muslim Girl Magazine, and Red Tricycle.She is also a contributing author to the New York Times acclaimed anthology Love InshallahHer debut YA novel WRITTEN IN THE STARS will be released in 2015 by Penguin/Nancy Paulsen Books. She is represented by Taylor Martindale at Full Circle Literary Agency. You can connect with Aisha at her website, or follow along on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, orTumblr. You can also reach her by e-mail at aishacs@gmail.com

The 777 Meme: 7 Lines From Page 7 of My Work in Progress

I’ve been tagged by Jennifer Brooks for the 777 Meme!

The rules:
Go to the 7th line of the 7th page of your work in progress.
Post the first full 7 lines.
Then tag 7 friends.

My work in progress, titled AESOP’S CURSE, is with my agent. If she thinks it’s ready, we will submit it to my editor at Bloomsbury USA Children’s Books. They have the right to review my next project first. Here is a basic description:

High school freshman Alexandre Hart discovers he is the reincarnation of Aesop, the fable teller, and he must reverse Aesop’s curse–his final words to a Delphi village–to better his karma and prevent a repeat of the deadly curse. While dealing with his karmic mission, Alex must also face a senior bully, his long-time crush, his feelings for his best friend, Daniella Falcón, and his reluctance to take risks.

A beautiful picture of Delphi

Alex has been having recurring nightmares in which a stocky, mean-looking dude has been chasing him. One night, Alex decides to stop running in his dreams and meet the man who, he thinks, might kill him in his sleep. Here are the lines when they are finally face-to-face, ready to have a conversation that will reveal Alex’s past life, his karmic mission, and that the “dream stalker” is really Kyros, his spiritual adviser.

I am not usually a rule-breaker, but I added more lines so that you get a better sense of the scene. Here it is:

 

“Are you ready to talk?” he asked in a raspy baritone.

“Sure,” I said, trying to act unruffled, hoping he didn’t notice my shaking legs. A part of me still thought I should be running for my life.

“Let’s sit,” he said. Chairs and Main Street appeared out of nowhere. We sat facing each other in the middle of the empty road. Even at this hour, I expected to hear something, like music escaping from an open window or leaves rustling from a summer breeze. Instead, the sound of my heartbeat pounded in my ears, and the streetlights overhead provided the only illumination.

For a few moments, neither of us spoke. I had rehearsed what to say a thousand times in my head, but in the moment, I went with the obvious.

“So, you’ve been chasing me.”

“Yes.”

“Why?”

“I need to tell you something. I usually try to get through to you more subtly, but you can be a little clueless, so I decided to use a more direct approach this time.”

He was usually more subtle? Has he tried to talk to me before? And why did he call me clueless? I’m not clueless, am I?

He grinned.

Okay, that wouldn’t be fair if he could read my mind or hear my thoughts or whatever.

“So, what do you want to tell me?” I asked.

He stared at me, but stayed quiet for a moment, which only made me more nervous.

“You know, Alex, I’ve thought long and hard about how to tell you this. I’ve decided not to sugar-coat anything. I’m simply going to spit it out.”

The more he stalled, the more anxious I became. Closing my eyes, I moved my head straight back and then from side to side, trying to release the tension building in my neck. After, I watched him and waited.

“I am your life coach,” he said.

“What?”

“I am your life coach.”

“My life coach?”

“Yes. I’m kind of like your guardian angel, but different. You have a guardian angel, too. I’m not her. I’m your life coach, your spirit guide, your personal adviser.”

“My life coach?”

“Yes,” he said more forcefully. “And, this is what I mean by clueless.”

 

That’s all for now! I was supposed to tag 7 new people, but most of my author friends were on writing deadlines. I am, however, tagging Venessa Schwarz, who is a contestant in the first ever Pitch Fiesta being run by Latin@s in Kid Lit.

When Reason Breaks: The Official Book Trailer

The production of this book trailer was a family affair, which made it super fun. My sister, Saryna, let me use her home as our meeting place and production studio. She helped me to search for copyright-free photos and videos to match the novel. My niece, Alyna, is the first voice you’ll hear. She needed exactly two takes–what a pro! I can’t say the same for the rest of us. Attempts to narrate the rest of the video often ended with us laughing hysterically. We had so many takes that my daughter and younger nephew memorized it just from hearing us saying it over and over. And then there’s my genius nephew, Dean Jones, who probably should have been named Steve because he’s like the latest version of Steve Jobs & Steven Spielberg; plus, he’s a great DJ! He put the whole thing together on some fancy computer software. So, THANK YOU!!!! to my awesome family for helping me through this process. Here is the latest result: the official book trailer for my debut novel. For the best viewing, click on the settings icon and change it to 1080 HD. Enjoy and please share it with the readers in your life! Thanks!

 

Fellow Fifteener: Moriah McStay–Everything That Makes You

21795576As a member of the Fearless Fiteeners, I was able to read an ARC of Moriah McStay’s young adult novel, Everything That Makes You  (3/17/2015; Katherine Tegen Books). ARCs (Advanced Reader Copies) are the uncorrected proofs that are sent to reviewers, librarians, and book bloggers to promote the book. My fellow fifteeners and 2k15 classmates are sending their ARCs on tour, which allows us a sneak peek at these upcoming new releases. I’ve decided to let you all know about the ARCs I’m reading to help support my 2015 debut colleagues.

Here’s the description: One girl. Two stories. Meet Fiona Doyle. The thick ridges of scar tissue on her face are from an accident twelve years ago. Fiona has notebooks full of songs she’s written about her frustrations, her dreams, and about her massive crush on beautiful uber-jock Trent McKinnon. If she can’t even find the courage to look Trent straight in his beautiful blue eyes, she sure isn’t brave enough to play or sing any of her songs in public. But something’s changing in Fiona. She can’t be defined by her scars anymore.

And what if there hadn’t been an accident? Meet Fi Doyle. Fi is the top-rated female high school lacrosse player in the state, heading straight to Northwestern on a full ride. She’s got more important things to deal with than her best friend Trent McKinnon, who’s been different ever since the kiss. When her luck goes south, even lacrosse can’t define her anymore. When you’ve always been the best at something, one dumb move can screw everything up. Can Fi fight back?

Hasn’t everyone wondered what if? In this daring debut novel, Moriah McStay gives us the rare opportunity to see what might have happened if things were different. Maybe luck determines our paths. But maybe it’s who we are that determines our luck.

What I liked about it: I was entirely impressed by Moriah McStay and the crazy skills she must have to write this full dual narrative. The two stories of Fiona/Fi hinge on a question we have probably all asked more than once in our lives: “What if _____?” McStay explores this idea by creating two lives of the same person. In one, Fiona’s face is scarred from a childhood accident, and she wants desperately not to be defined by or pitied because of her scars. In the other life, Fi’s face is flawless and she seems to have everything going for her, but….I won’t spoil anything because I’m not that kind of reader. But here are a couple of things I loved about McStay’s novel. I love how certain people crossed paths with Fiona/Fi in both lives, suggesting there are certain things that are meant to happen, yet the element of free will isn’t ignored and most definitely alters the details. Also, I love the point that no matter what, every life has joys and tragedies. A flawless face doesn’t mean a perfect life. No matter which road Fiona/Fi is on, she (and we all) will face certain challenges.

About the author: Moriah McStay grew up in Memphis, TN, where she acquired a come-and-go drawl and a lifelong love of cowboy boots and fried pickles. She attended Northwestern University and the University of Chicago. Two graduate degrees and seven jobs later, she finally figured out what she wants to be when she grows up.

Fellow Fifteener: Gail Nall–Breaking the Ice

20662374As a member of the Fearless Fiteeners, I was able to read an ARC of Gail Nall’s middle grade novel, Breaking the Ice  (1/13/2015; Simon & Schuster/Aladdin). ARCs (Advanced Reader Copies) are the uncorrected proofs that are sent to reviewers, librarians, and book bloggers to promote the book. My fellow fifteeners and 2k15 classmates are sending their ARCs on tour, which allows us a sneak peek at these upcoming new releases. I’ve decided to let you all know about the ARCs I’m reading to help support my 2015 debut colleagues.

Here’s the description: Kaitlin has always dreamed of being a champion figure skater, and she’s given up a lot to pursue her passion. But after having a totally uncharacteristic and decidedly NOT figure-skating-approved tantrum after getting her scores at a major competition she’s dropped by her coach and prestigious skating club.

When no other club in town will have her, she’s forced to join the ridiculed and rundown Fallton Club, jokingly referred to as the Fall Down Club. At first Kaitlin thinks this is a complete disaster, but after meeting some of the other skaters, including a boy (who happens to have the most perfect hair she’s ever seen) Kaitlin thinks it might actually not be so bad.

But when she’s tasked with learning a whole new program right before Regionals and figures out that almost all the other skaters target Fallton, she thinks joining the Fall Down Club may just be the second biggest mistake she’s ever made.

In this figure skating themed debut, Kaitlin learns that when you fall down, you have to pick yourself up – even if it’s in front of judges and a crowd.

What I liked about it: Remember these famous faces of athletic disappointment?

Gymnast  Skater

Well, these moments are nothing compared to Kaitlin’s tantrum after a skating competition that ends with medals on the floor and her expulsion from her training center. Kaitlin doesn’t quit, though, and as she trains at the Falton Club, what’s clear is she also doesn’t want to be defined forever by a single moment. What’s interesting, and often true, is that the trait that gets her intro trouble–her temper, passion, willingness to speak her mind–is the same trait that helps her later in the story on and off the rink. You don’t have to be a skater or even an athlete to enjoy this book because it also weaves in funny, heartwarming threads about friendship, family, and first crushes. Nall totally gets middle school girl; Kaitlin makes mistakes but picks herself up time and again as she tries to find her voice while navigating expectations from those around her. As a middle school teacher, I’m always on the lookout for new titles to add to my classroom library. This is definitely one that my students will enjoy.

About the authorGail Nall lives in Louisville, Kentucky with her family and more cats than necessary. She grew up skating, and as a teenager working at the local rink, she rented skates and made nachos (but not at the same time). She spends her early mornings writing contemporary middle grade fiction, her days working at a homeless shelter, and her evenings reading and trying to stay up past eight o’clock. Her obsessions include hiking and camping, travel, history, and food.

Fellow Fifteener: Stacey Lee–Under a Painted Sky

18488397As a member of the Fearless Fiteeners, I was able to read an ARC of Stacey Lee’s young adult novel, Under a Painted Sky  (3/17/2015; Putnam Juvenile). ARCs (Advanced Reader Copies) are the uncorrected proofs that are sent to reviewers, librarians, and book bloggers to promote the book. My fellow fifteeners and 2k15 classmates are sending their ARCs on tour, which allows us a sneak peek at these upcoming new releases. I’ve decided to let you all know about the ARCs I’m reading to help support my 2015 debut colleagues.

Here’s the description: Missouri, 1849: Samantha dreams of moving back to New York to be a professional musician—not an easy thing if you’re a girl, and harder still if you’re Chinese. But a tragic accident dashes any hopes of fulfilling her dream, and instead, leaves her fearing for her life. With the help of a runaway slave named Annamae, Samantha flees town for the unknown frontier. But life on the Oregon Trail is unsafe for two girls, so they disguise themselves as Sammy and Andy, two boys headed for the California gold rush. Sammy and Andy forge a powerful bond as they each search for a link to their past, and struggle to avoid any unwanted attention. But when they cross paths with a band of cowboys, the light-hearted troupe turn out to be unexpected allies. With the law closing in on them and new setbacks coming each day, the girls quickly learn that there are not many places to hide on the open trail.

What I liked about it: I don’t usually read historical fiction, partly because I had to teach really boring ones to coincide with my school’s US History curriculum during my first few years of teaching. The experience turned me off to the genre for a long time, yet I loved Under a Painted Sky so much that I stayed awake until 3 a.m. to finish it! Stacey Lee’s debut novel is anything but boring. Within the first few chapters, people die and  Samantha and Annamae run away and become wanted fugitives. Dressed as boys, Sammy and Andy meet up with Cay, West, and Peety, three cowboys who help them on the danger-filled trek to California. The characters living out this adventure are layered and relatable. I loved Samantha and Annamae’s friendship from the start, and the cowboys add fun, romance, and more trouble to the story. The diversity in the novel is also worth mentioning. Samantha is Chinese, Annamae is an escaped slave, Peety is Mexican, and they meet Scottish and French people, among others, on their journey. Because of the different backgrounds, Lee seamlessly weaves in the social norms of the time, Christian beliefs, the Chinese zodiac, French, and Spanish. Under a Painted Sky can be read for fun or used in a school’s history or language arts curriculum. Do yourself a favor and add it to your To Be Read list!

About the authorStacey Lee is a fourth generation Chinese-American whose people came to California during the heydays of the cowboys. She believes she still has a bit of cowboy dust in her soul. A native of southern California, she graduated from UCLA then got her law degree at UC Davis King Hall. After practicing law in the Silicon Valley for several years, she finally took up the pen because she wanted the perks of being able to nap during the day, and it was easier than moving to Spain. She plays classical piano, raises children, and writes YA fiction.

Enjoy an Excerpt from WHEN REASON BREAKS

A few When Reason Breaks Advance Reader Copies (ARC) are in readers’ hands, and more will be printed and distributed for promotional reasons within the next month or two. The first page of the ARC has an excerpt from the novel, and since the ARCs are out there, I figured it was fine to share this piece with all of you. If you need a brief description of the novel before you read the excerpt, click here and then come back.

Here’s a little extra info to put this into perspective: Emily and Elizabeth are not friends, but they share a mutual friend. They are at a Halloween party but are talking alone in a room in the house. Emily was there, reading a book and avoiding the crowd, and Elizabeth stumbled in looking for the bathroom. Here is a part of their conversation.

 

With wide eyes, Emily asked, “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine.” Elizabeth smiled and sucked hard on her straw.

“You’re lying,” Emily said with a grin.

“Maybe, but this isn’t about me. It’s about you. Tell them. Get it over with, Delgado.”

Emily shook her head and hugged the book to her chest. “Tell them what?”

Elizabeth stared at Emily. They were quiet, listening to voices in the hallway and the music pounding below them, so loud the floorboards vibrated.

Elizabeth sprang forward from her sitting position and crawled the few feet that separated her from Emily. She kneeled and sat back on her heels.

“Look at me,” she whispered. Emily pushed her back into the wall and locked gazes with Elizabeth.

Elizabeth scanned Emily’s face and then framed the girl’s eyes with her fingers.

“Ah, there it is,” said Elizabeth.

“What?”

“Hold still.” Elizabeth pressed down her index finger, closed her eyes, and said, “Click.”

“What are you doing?” asked Emily.

“I’m taking a mental picture of you.” Elizabeth leaned in closer. Emily inhaled sharply.

“I see you, Emily Delgado,” she whispered. “Your problem isn’t really about your friends or Kevin or your dad. You try to hide it, but I know.” Elizabeth patted Emily’s leg. “Trust me, I know.”

 

What do you think? Want to read more? Well…..you still have a little longer to wait, but for now, you can add it to your Goodreads list or you can pre-order it if you want to get it delivered to your house the day of its release (2/10/2015). I’ll be sharing other excerpts over the next few months, so stay tuned!

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Available for pre-order:

Indiebound Barnes and Noble | Amazon Powell’s Book Depository | Books-A-Million

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