Tag Archives: Fearless Fifteeners

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: Kerry O’Malley Cerra–Just A Drop of Water

20344662As a member of the Fearless Fiteeners, I was able to read an ARC of Kerry O’Malley Cerra’s middle grade novel, Just a Drop of Water (9/2/2014/Sky Pony Press). 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. These are introductions, not reviews, just to let you know what’s coming out in the next year.

Here’s the description: Ever since he was little, Jake Green has longed to be a soldier and a hero like his grandpa, who died serving his country. Right now, though, he just wants to outsmart—and outrun—the rival cross country team, the Palmetto Bugs. But then the tragedy of September 11 happens. It’s quickly discovered that one of the hijackers lived nearby, making Jake’s Florida town an FBI hot spot. Two days later, the tragedy becomes even more personal when Jake’s best friend, Sam Madina, is pummeled for being an Arab Muslim by their bully classmate, Bobby.

According to Jake’s personal code of conduct, anyone who beats up your best friend is due for a butt kicking, and so Jake goes after Bobby. But soon after, Sam’s father is detained by the FBI and Jake’s mom doubts the innocence of Sam’s family, forcing Jake to choose between his best friend and his parents. When Jake finds out that Sam’s been keeping secrets, too, he doesn’t know who his allies are anymore. But the final blow comes when his grandpa’s real past is revealed to Jake. Suddenly, everything he ever knew to be true feels like one big lie. In the end, he must decide: either walk away from Sam and the revenge that Bobby has planned, or become the hero he’s always aspired to be.

A gripping and intensely touching debut middle grade novel by Kerry O’Malley Cerra, Just a Drop of Water brings the events of September 11, which shook the world, into the lens of a young boy who is desperately trying to understand the ramifications of this life-altering event.

What I liked about it: Kerry’s novel allows young readers to experience the events of 9/11 through the eyes of Jake Green, a character their own age. As a teacher, I think this is an ideal way to introduce students to tough subjects and moments in history. The description of the attacks on 9/11 gave me chills, and the things that happen with Jake’s family and friends afterward are examples of what happened throughout the country. Kerry also “gets” middle school boy in that Jake is confident one minute and confused the next, all the while believing he is right and can fix things :.)

About the authorKerry O’Malley Cerra is a former high school history teacher who often enhanced textbooks with historical fiction to bring time periods to life. Just a Drop of Water was inspired by a deeply personal experience following the tragic events of September 11, 2001. Though she’ll always consider Philly her home, she currently lives in Florida with her husband, kids, and three poorly behaved dogs. You can find her on Goodreads and Twitter.

Fellow Fifteener: Jen Brooks–In A World Just Right

18304348As a member of the Fearless Fiteeners, I was able to read an ARC of Jen Brooks’ young adult movel, In a World Just Right (4/28/2015; Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers). 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. These are introductions, not reviews, just to let you know what’s coming out in the next year.

Here’s the description: Imagination takes on new meaning for a uniquely talented teen in this debut novel that is a breathtaking blend of contemporary, fantasy, and romance.

Sometimes Jonathan Aubrey wishes he could just disappear. And as luck—or fate—would have it, he can. Ever since coming out of a coma as a kid, he has been able to create alternate worlds. Worlds where he is a superhero, or a ladies’ man, or simply a better version of himself. That’s the world he’s been escaping to most since sophomore year, a world where he has everything he doesn’t have in real life: friends, a place of honor on the track team, passing grades, and most importantly, Kylie Simms as his girlfriend.

But when Jonathan confuses his worlds senior year and tries to kiss the real Kylie Simms, everything unravels. The real Kylie actually notices Jonathan…and begins obsessing over him. The fantasy version of Kylie struggles to love Jonathan as she was created to do, and the consequences are disastrous. As his worlds collide, Jonathan must confront the truth of his power and figure out where he actually belongs—before he loses both Kylies forever.

What I liked about it: In addition to being a blend of fantasy, contemporary, and romance, Jen’s debut novel is also a bit of a mystery–at least it was for me. As I read, I definitely got the feeling that something wasn’t quite right, that Jen was holding back on a significant plot point, but I couldn’t figure it out! Sure enough, something revealed late in the story adds a whole new layer to the narrative. I’m not a book spoiler, so I won’t go there. But it surely was one of those “Ohhhhhhh, wow!” moments. I also loved how she blended Jonathan’s fantasy worlds and real world down to the end. Again, not going to go into details. At the heart of the novel, is a broken, grieving boy who needs to heal after a tragic loss, which appealed to the contemporary YA lover in me. The mixing of genres here means there’s a little something for everyone.

About the author: Jen Brooks has a habit of being deeply moved by profound ideas, and her writing reflects her interest in exploring human goodness, relationships, and the feeling of being a part of something greater than oneself. She loves the science fiction and fantasy genres because of their dazzling possibilities for portraying characters and ideas. She credits her undergraduate experience at Dartmouth College, her MFA at Seton Hill University, and her fourteen years of English teaching with shaping her writing.  She is grateful to her family, friends, and students for inspiring her to write. You can find Jen on Twitter and Goodreads.

Fellow Fifteener: Mary McCoy–Dead to Me

18460455Note to pre-published writer friends: When you do get an agent and sell your book, be sure to join an online community for debut authors. I’m in the Fearless Fifteeners and the Class of 2k15. Not only are these groups a great source of support, but you will get to read Advanced Reader Copies! ARCs are the uncorrected proofs that are sent to reviewers, librarians, and book bloggers to promote the book. This starts at least six months before the final, corrected, hardcover is officially released. My fellow fifteeners and 2k15 classmates are starting to receive their ARCs and are sending them on ARC tours to the rest of us. We read, write notes in the book, and then send it to the next person. Very cool. I’ve decided to let you all know about the ARCs I’m reading, which is the least I can do to help my 2015 debut colleagues. These are introductions, not reviews, just to let you know what’s coming out in the next year. First up is Dead to Me by Mary McCoy (Marc 3, 2015/Disney-Hyperion).

Here’s the description: LA Confidential for the YA audience. This alluring noir YA mystery with a Golden Age Hollywood backdrop will keep you guessing until the last page.

“Don’t believe anything they say.”

Those were the last words that Annie spoke to Alice before turning her back on their family and vanishing without a trace. Alice spent four years waiting and wondering when the impossibly glamorous sister she idolized would return to her–and what their Hollywood-insider parents had done to drive her away.

When Annie does turn up, the blond, broken stranger lying in a coma has no answers for her. But Alice isn’t a kid anymore, and this time she won’t let anything stand between her and the truth, no matter how ugly. The search for those who beat Annie and left her for dead leads Alice into a treacherous world of tough-talking private eyes, psychopathic movie stars, and troubled starlets–and onto the trail of a young runaway who is the sole witness to an unspeakable crime. What this girl knows could shut down a criminal syndicate and put Annie’s attacker behind bars–if Alice can find her first. And she isn’t the only one looking.

Evoking classic film noir, debut novelist Mary McCoy brings the dangerous glamour of Hollywood’s Golden Age to life, where the most decadent parties can be the deadliest, and no drive into the sunset can erase the crimes of past.

What I liked about it: This isn’t a mystery about who the bad guy is. He’s openly bad. (Note: the *psychopathic* movie star in the description.) Mary keeps you guessing about the other characters’ actions and motives. People are not who they seem throughout the novel. Mary’s love for and knowledge of Los Angeles are also obvious, as the city and time period are brought to life in her descriptions.

About the author: Mary McCoy is a writer and librarian in Los Angeles. You can find more of Mary’s writing about Los Angeles’s notorious past at the 1947project and On Bunker Hill. She is also a contributor to Sleuths, Spies, & Alibis, and you can find her on Goodreads and Twitter.

End of Year Reality Check

The last time I blogged was October and the post was about being so busy September was a blur. Now it’s December. What the?

I recently celebrated a birthday and the year is coming to an end. I’m not one to make serious resolutions, but I’ve found myself thinking about my life and making plans to slow down so I don’t feel like life is passing me by at warp speed.

One of my realizations is that I can’t keep up the pace I’ve set for myself since the time I first had a job and goals and a personal drive that once got me labeled as a “rabid overachiever.” Are there shots for that? Anyway, I still have a job and goals and the desire to achieve them, but I have to manage everything in a way that won’t leave me feeling like I’m treading water.

Don’t get me wrong, life is good–really! I have a great job, an amazing daughter, supportive family and friends, and a debut novel on the way, which is a dream come true. Still, a personal reality check recently led me to this simple conclusion: I’m not a spring chicken. I’m not old. I know that. But, I can’t keep moving at the same pace I set for myself when I was in my early 20s.

In addition to work, family, and writing, I have become involved with two websites: Latin@s in Kid Lit and the Fearless Fifteeners. I love being a part of both groups and have spent a lot of my time building the site over at Latin@s in Kid Lit with some author-friends-colleagues. I don’t want to give those up. I don’t want to give anything up, really, but I do need to scale back so I can do things well instead of simply getting things done.

Part of my plan is to scale back here. I’ll keep a more regular schedule–I’m thinking Mondays and Thursdays–but I’ll do quicker posts like you might see on Tumblr. But I can’t join that site or Pintrest or anything else. I am the camel and those are the shiny, time-consuming straws I need to avoid. I’ll also engage in some cross-pollination with the other sites I mentioned. Since I’ll be posting on those sites, I’ll either reblog posts here or announce what’s on those sites and link to them.

I want to keep this site active (which it’s not really right  now) especially in the coming year, when all sorts of exciting things will happen like cover reveals and Advanced Reader Copies!!! AHHHH!! But I also want to keep my sanity and be a great mom and teacher and have enough energy to write more books! So, shorter blog posts on a regular basis will be part of the solution. A long soak in a hot tub and regular massages couldn’t hurt either! :.)

Does anyone else struggle with balancing it all? Any tips?

Where Did September Go?

So, September happened. And according to the calendar, confirmed by the falling colored leaves outside, it is now late October. What the? How does this happen? No matter how long I teach–13 years–the start of the school year is a dizzying, time-stealing tornado that slows down right about now, which is why I’ve come up for air to write this post.

This year, I returned to the same school district, but moved back to my old school in a new position as the 6th and 7th grade reading teacher/specialist. I also started as an adjunct professor at Tunxis Community College, which has been fun and a lot of  work. Then, three weeks into the school year, my beloved furry friend, Rusty, died after 15+ years and countless memories. Here he is, napping by my side, and holding up my manuscript during revisions.

RustyAnd here he is tolerating the shenanigans of my 6-year-old:

VLUU L310 W  / Samsung L310 WLosing him would have been tough any time of the year, but at the start of the school year was especially difficult. I had to keep going, trying to be Super Mom and Super Teacher when all I wanted to do was sit and cry. We still miss him terribly. RIP, little buddy.

On the writing front, I’ve gotten involved with some cool new sites! I am a member of the newly formed Fearless Fifteeners, a group of authors debuting in 2015. I am also a member of Latin@s in Kid Lit, a site dedicated to celebrating children’s literature by and for Latin@s. I also wrote a guest post for YA Highway, which is an awesome place for YA readers and writers.

If you read my last post, you know that I completed a major revision of my first novel and submitted it to my editor. I’m waiting for her next round of comments/notes. The final draft is due in January 2014, with a tentative release date set for early 2015.

I’ll confess that I haven’t written anything creative since turning in my revision because of the full-on crazy that was my life from September through now. Aaron, Richard, Sam, Matt “Sharkey” Hardy, and Anna–characters from my second novel–were respectfully quiet, knowing I had to focus on my new jobs and getting my daughter off to first grade when August rolled into September.

But lately, they’ve started to push their way back into my consciousness. “Knock, knock. Remember us?” they ask. Yes, I hear and see them in my head. No, I have not officially lost my mind. Other mostly-stable writers have confirmed this for me. Having your characters bang around in your head is normal–weird but true.

So, September happened and we’re almost at the end of October. The back-to-school dust has settled. This doesn’t mean life will be less hectic, but it does mean I’m managing the juggling act. Now that I’m at this point, I will find a way to toss the “revise my second novel” ball into the mix and not let anything drop. I’ll do this because one thing I’ve learned on the road to publishing book #1 is that I hope there will be a book #2 and then a book #3, and the only way for that to happen is to keep writing somehow, no matter how busy my “normal” life is.

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