My Kind of Book Review: Foolish Hearts

I recently completed working on my second completed novel, Never Say Never. As I prepared to pitch, I asked my buddy/little sister/co-editor/beta reader person, Megan Manzano, for a book recommendation. I needed a comparison title to include in my pitches. She didn’t have anything right away, but with #Pitmad rapidly approaching, happened upon a book that had her rushing to me in excitement. The book in question felt like Never Say Never. It wasn’t exactly like it, but it had the same mood, the same vibe. That book was Foolish Hearts by Emma Mills.

Naturally, I rushed to read it. By chapter 3, I was in love. I rarely blog book reviews, but I’m planning to start doing more this year. My format will look like what you see below. Now, onward to the vital statistics.

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Book Summary: When Claudia accidentally eavesdrops on the epic breakup of Paige and Iris, the it-couple at her school, she finds herself in hot water with prickly, difficult Iris. Thrown together against their will in the class production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, along with the goofiest, cutest boy Claudia has ever known, Iris and Claudia are in for an eye-opening senior year.

Smart, funny, and thoroughly, wonderfully flawed, Claudia navigates a world of intense friendships and tentative romance in Emma Mills’s Foolish Hearts, a young adult novel about expanding your horizons, allowing yourself to be vulnerable, and accepting―and loving―people for who they really are.

What I enjoyed: The vibe of this book is fun and light, while still tackling real, human problems. Nobody is perfect here, everybody is a little odd, the dialogue is fun and snappy. I loved the relationship bits, and I have major love for the guy who snags Claudia’s interest, likable and over-the-top, Gideon Prewitt. With a cast of characters that truly felt like people cycling in and out of a real high schooler’s life, and an interesting plot about preparing for a play (the drama geek in me happy danced a bit), this story is all at once touching and relatable. Claudia is a fun heroine, a little deadpan, a little flawed, but a good person a heart. Tackling topics like avoiding change and fearing the unknown future, two topics that I’ve had a personal lifelong struggle with, Foolish Hearts follows Claudia into new friendships, new experiences, and new emotions. I clutched this book to my chest when I completed it.

What I’d avoid: I definitely wanted to feel more connected to Zoe. While the story is supposed to be about Claudia growing away from her and accepting that she must become her own person, feeling detached from Claudia’s best friend made it somewhat difficult to feel Claudia’s fear. It doesn’t truly harm the story, but there are places where I wish Zoe got a little more screen time, so I could truly feel the disconnect forming instead of simply be told it was happening.

Would I recommend it: For fans of YA Contemporary Romance, this book will make your heart flutter. But it’s not all about romance. It’s about friendship. The cast is diverse and realistic. Definite recommend.

What can I learn from it: I need to read this again and examine the ways she managed to introduce the reader to a large group of high school characters and keep them in the surroundings without diving too deeply into their character development, and also never really losing track of any of them. I attempted this in Never Say Never, and I’m truly hoping I managed this even half as well. Possibly? Either way, ALWAYS BE LEARNING.

In the end, Foolish Hearts was a fun, light and enjoyable read. I’d definitely recommend it, and it’s getting a place in my Pitmad pitches thanks to its very similar tone. Foolish Hearts + Greek Mythology = Never Say Never. That sounds fun, doesn’t it?

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Cover Reveal: Hearts are Like Balloons by Candace Robinson

 

Today I’m hosting a cover reveal for Hearts are Like Balloons, a new YA novel by Candace Robinson. This cover reveal was organized by Lola’s Blog Tours. The cover is designed by Jenny Zemanek from Seedlings Online.

Hearts are Like Balloons

By Candace Robinson

Genre: Contemporary

Age category: Upper Young Adult

Release Date: June 30, 2017

Hearts Are Like Balloons

Blurb:

May Falkner’s past two years have been a rough road. When her father suddenly passes away, May needs to find a job to help out her mom and regain some control over her life. Working at the bookstore helps her heal, laugh, and hope again. It also leads her to cross paths with Nico Evitts, who begins as just a co-worker, but becomes so much more

When it all becomes perfect, because there is no perfect, life steps in to prove once again that it all can crash down harder than before. This is a story about finding yourself, love, and the things in life that are still here.

Hearts are like balloons. Sometimes they inflate… Sometimes they deflate…

You can find Hearts are Like Balloons on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34807723-hearts-are-like-balloons

Pre-order your copy of Hearts are Like Balloons for only $0.99 on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Hearts-Like-Balloons-Candace-Robinson-ebook/dp/B0722ZHDMP/

Candace Robinson

About the Author:
Candace Robinson is just your average hemiplegic migraine sufferer. Her days are spent writing, book reviewing and traveling through books. She live just outside of Houston, Texas, where it feels like the hottest place on Earth with the crazy weather. No, seriously, one day it’s 30 degrees and the next it’s 70 degrees! She resides with her husband and daughter.

You can find and contact Candace here:
Website
Facebook
Twitter
Goodreads
Amazon
Instagram

Giveaway
There is a cover reveal wide giveaway for the cover reveal of Hearts are Like Balloons. One winner will win a $5 amazon gift card.

For a chance to win, enter the rafflecopter below:
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Booktubing: Stranger Than Fanfiction by Chris Colfer

Some of you may know that I have a YouTube channel that I run with my family, called Geektastic. Well, sometimes I do book related things, and occasionally, I’ll cross-post them here, because I think my target audience may find them interesting.

So, below, please enjoy my booktubing premiere, and if you enjoy, please like it and subscribe to our channel. We’d love to have you!

Camp NanoWriMo 2017!

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For anybody who doesn’t know, I’ve spent the last month doing Camp NanoWriMo. Now, most people know about NaNoWriMo. It takes place in the month of November and writers, or people who want to try something new sign, up to write 50,000 words of one novel in a month.

Camp Nano is a bit different. The writers who join up can set their own word count, hours worked, or even pages edited. It doesn’t have to be spent working on one thing either. And it takes place in April and July.

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I decided to work on my new YA Fantasy novel, Never Say Never. For a look at what the project is about, you can check out its project page on the Camp NaNo site.  Things came up, and I ended up devoting about 35,000 words of my word count to the new novel, about 10,000 to a new first chapter for The Order of the Key, and about 5,000 to a new project called Not Just A Headache–a letter to my teenage self about how to cope with migraines that I wrote for an anthology I’m hoping to be accepted into.

I’m gonna go ahead and toot my own horn here. This month of writing came with a sinus infection that wouldn’t go away for two weeks, a surprise trip to the emergency room (I’m okay, I promise), and both medical and emotional ups and downs for other people I hold dear. To say I’m tired would be putting it lightly.

But I’m not going to stop working, because I’m crazy. And also, a life without writing for me, is no life, so I’ll persist. 😉 For the next couple of months, I will continue working on this book, continue querying the one before, and clean up my outline for the new book, which my writing this month made irrelevant in some places. In the meantime, I’ll find space for some blog posts and social media, because I always do.

Then…I’ll be back to Camp Nano in July.

Thanks, as always, for sticking with me on this incredible journey.

~Justine

 

 

 

Kick Ass Girls of YA ~ Jacklyn Madison


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I was invited by my friend, Libby Heily, and her publisher, Fire and Ice YA Books, to participate in their Kick Ass Girls of YA Blog Hop. For this Blog Hop, I was encouraged to discuss a YA character close to my heart, either already existing, or one I’ve created. Having already discussed my love for Buffy the Vampire Slayer in previous blog posts, I figured it was a good time to introduce my own character, Jacklyn Madison, the main character of the manuscript I’m querying to agents as we speak, The Order of the Key.

Why is Jacklyn a kick ass girl? Well, for one, she kicks ass. Literally. After accidentally unlocking her long dormant Aegis, Jacklyn discovers she is a Body Key with supernatural strength, speed, senses, and healing. The leaders of the Order of the Key capitalize on her abilities by teaching her how to fight the inter-dimensional monsters they are sworn to defeat. Jacklyn quickly takes to her new superhero lifestyle and becomes a valuable member of her new group. Not only that, but she makes the group her own, working to make it a better place for everyone involved.

Self-esteem? Jacklyn’s got it, despite having been a geek with a bully problem. She’s an athlete, and her mother works nonstop, so she’s largely responsible for her younger brother and sister. Who has time to worry about what the kids at school think? She’s got things to do. And it’s not a problem anyway, because Jacklyn isn’t just tough, she’s fast-witted and sharp-tongued and she doesn’t intend to suffer any of your crap.

OK Media Pitch 1With all of this, what really makes her strong is her compassion. Jacklyn is torn by the fact that she must kill to protect humanity from inter-dimensionals. Not only that, but she quickly realizes she might have to kill members of the Order to protect the people she loves. Her younger brother and sister are her world, and she would do anything to help them grow into productive members of society, let alone to protect them.

Jacklyn Madison is kick ass, but not perfect. She’s got a temper. She’s prideful. She struggles to trust. And she can sometimes hide behind a good quip.

That’s why I love her. She possesses what I look for in all of my kick ass heroines–strength, but also humanity.

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If you’d like to know more about me, Jacklyn Madison and The Order of the Key, follow my blog or sign up for my mailing list, here.

To visit all the other blogs in the blog hop today, click here for a complete list. And for the chance to win some great books from Fire and Ice YA, click here to enter their Rafflecopter.

Bibliobattling

According to Bibliobattle’s official website, “Bibliobattle is a social book review game which was developed in the Graduate School of Informatics at Kyoto University in Japan.” The first and second American Bibliobattles took place at Kinokuniya NYC and I happened to be part of both of them. Because I would like for you to someday be a part of them as well, I’d like to describe my experience to you and see if I can maybe get you to sign up for a future Bibliobattle.

Me and Megan, putting up our dukes
No, it’s not engaging in fisticuffs, but little sis (Megan Manzano) and I thought it would be a great pic.

How it Works:

The organizer assigns a topic in advance to determine what kind of books will be used to battle. This can take place up to a month before the actual battle. When a date is assigned, the organizer asks what book each battler will use. Those books will actually be available on the table for reference or purchase during the battle.

On the day of the battle, the contestants pick a number and that selects the order. Then each battler goes up one by one. They get five minutes to discuss why they love their chosen book, and three more minutes of Q&A time with the audience. Once all battlers go up, a vote is taken in the audience. Which book do you want to read the most?

The winner gets a prize, but everyone gets a little something for participating. I usually walk out with a handful of books that I’ve now grown interested in after watching the other battlers at work.

Technique:

How you Bibliobattle is up to you, but this is what I’ve learned after two Bibliobattles (admittedly, not that many, but everything is a learning experience). The first time I participated, the theme was YA novels, and I chose a whopper. If anyone has ever read the Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness, they can tell you the sheer breadth of material it covers: war/peace, misogyny, racism, fear of “the other”, the power of being unique, religion and how it can be corrupted, what makes a man a man. It’s an amazing novel, but it is a very deep read.

So, when I sat down to prepare my Bibliobattle speech, I wrote a book report. I loved my chosen book because of all of the deep topics it delved into, and the way it presented them. I wrote a five page paper on these things, how the voice, the structure, and the formatting of the book informed the way these issues were brought across and why they hit so hard.

I had a lot of good points, but when I sat down to actually battle, I ended up jumping through my original pitch and being cut off in the final lines of my report by the ringing bell. Oops. (If you check out the link to the first battle at the bottom of the page, you can watch me run out of steam. It’s a tad embarrassing. Luckily, I like to make fun of myself).

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Me during my first Bibliobattle

When I was asked to do a second Bibliobattle, this time for the Supernatural genre, I signed up without having a clue about which book I would choose. I loved Supernatural books, and I could probably talk about them for DAYS, no problem. So I agreed to tackle it again, this time from a different angle.

Using Kelley Armstrong’s Omens, the first book of my absolute favorite book series, made my new approach easier. I love Ness’ series for many cerebral reasons, and they are just as worthwhile as the reasons I love Armstrong’s series. But while there is middle ground regarding both books, the main reasons I love Armstrong’s is all heart.

I fell in love with the characters. I loved the mythology. The mystery of it all intrigued me. Yes, the story covers interesting history and contains important character studies that subvert the tropes of strong female characters and leading men. Yes, the mystery was twisty and surprising. There were intellectual reasons to love it, but there was also plenty of heart reasons to love it.

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Me at Bibliobattle 2 with moderator CJ Malarsky

So, I sat down and wrote out all of the reasons I enjoyed the book. I read it a few times so it stuck in my head. And when the day of the battle came, I spoke from memory and from heart. Though I didn’t win that time either, I did finish it without running out of steam, and I felt better about the way I’d spoken, because I’d been able to speak to the people reading, rather than read to them. I think I found my technique!

Videos/Images:

Want to see the Bibliobattles I discussed? Well, here’s the first: 

And here’s the second one, in which YA writer Zoraida Cordova participated:

To stay in the know regarding upcoming Bibliobattles in the US, follow Kinokuniya on Twitter and Facebook. See you at the next battle!

#p2p16 Editing Journal – Wave 2 

Please enjoy the continuation of my editing journal for #p2p16. To learn more about it and see how wave 1 did, check out my previous post here.

Sunday, November 20, 2016:

Today, I received my second wave of edits from Kaitlyn! I am very excited to dive into them. The main bulk of them are line edits, because apparently, she thinks I did a great job listening to notes in her previous edits and making the corresponding scenes and changes to scenes to make it work. However, there were a couple of things that needed to be discussed and punched up in certain places. A main issue was diversity, and the reason is embarrassing. 

In my mind, I envisioned a very diverse group of people for my Keys and Guardians. This was a group that should look like a cross section of this great planet we live on. There are Anglo, Irish, Hispanic, Black and Asian characters (there is a big cast), a gay character, and in book 2, which I have already started writing, there is also a bisexual character and a disabled character. So, I am not actually short on diversity. It’s been there in my sketch of the characters the entire time. 

The problem is, I chickened out. I became frightened of writing descriptions, because I worried they would offend someone. I wasn’t sure I knew how to do justice to characters of color coming from the position of a woman who is pretty much every kind of white there is. So, obviously, I had done something very wrong, because now, my reader had no idea there was any diversity. She thought I had written a stark white cast.

A big issue, upon researching this, was that my characters can’t have a culture of their own. They are born and raised together as Keys and Guardians, so they are pretty much all homogeneous when it comes to culture, although there were enough of them before The Great War that they aren’t exactly homogeneous when it comes to appearance. So, I struggled to give descriptions that weren’t heavy handed or worded in a way that would offend people, because descriptive words can be unwieldy things and people do not like to be described as food flavors for very good reasons. I wasn’t sure if there were other rules that needed to be followed just like that.

Diversity is important to me. Having representative characters means something. I mean, my skin color was thoroughly represented as a child, but I still went and bought the Barbie with the brown hair and any doll with glasses, because that was the closest look to my own. I still loved Belle because she loved to read and looked the most like me. Why shouldn’t other people have that representation, and why shouldn’t a teenager discover someone who looks like them when they read my book? 

Still, as a Social Justice Warrior (I love when people say that as an insult, when it really makes you sound like a badass superhero), I wanted to make sure I did that correctly. In my research, I found the most amazing and helpful page, Writing With Color to help me avoid any pitfalls and allow my readers to feel represented without inadvertently insulting them with something I probably should have known already, but I will be the first to admit that I have some ignorance and privilege and welcome whenever I have the opportunity to learn more.

And so, I strike out on my 2nd wave of edits, looking to describe all of my characters in stronger ways as well as clean up some other smaller issues along the way. 

Kaitlyn has also informed me that she will be touching base with me about my query and my synopsis by the end of this week, and all of the edits will be due back to her by December 2, 2016. Thusly, here begins another two week whirlwind of edits. 

Monday, November 21, 2016:

Today I worked through Chapter 1 and 2 line edits on breaks at work. I also started the process of reintegrating my descriptions back into the piece as well as solving a couple of other issues through clarification. 

For Chapter 3, I worked to clarify the timing of events that happened before the start of the story. It was difficult to fit in without it being an info dump, but I tried, and found a place without being too ham fisted. 

I’ve worked all the way  through to part of Chapter 6, but I’m not feeling too well. I’m going to turn in for the night and wake up early. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2016: 

I woke up at 4AM this morning (after going to sleep at 8:30 last night) and got to work. I made it through the rest of Chapter 6 and the beginning of 7 before it was time to take my little nugget to school. Not bad. 

Was very proud today to find a note saying something bothered Kaitlyn about my character that I put there on purpose. It may not be noticeable on the first read, but it was on the second, and that’s good, because it’s a lead in to where Book 2 is going. 

I changed a chalkboard to a whiteboard in an attempt to make the classroom setting in the story a little more modern, and I only changed it in one place. Every other instance still said chalkboard. ARGH!

That moment you realize you’ve been formatting ellipses wrong for all time…whoops.

I’m turning in early again tonight, but on Chapter 13. This round is moving along much quicker!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016:

I woke up early today to get some editing in, yay! Today is an odd day, with a shortened work schedule, and the opportunity to go see my boy in his Judo class, plus I need to bake something for Thanksgiving tonight, so I’m not sure how much I’ll get done, but I’m going to do my best to make a dent! 

Today, reading Kaitlyn’s notes, I realized I had telegraphed something for Book 2, but in the wrong direction, so I’m working through my edits to make sure I redirect that in the right way, so people aren’t confused and don’t expect something different. That’s not to say that something unexpected can’t happen, but for this, I need the progression to make sense, and if the reader expects what Kaitlyn did, they may be disappointed. So, a few line corrections to make, for clarification.

Thursday, November 24, 2016: 

A lovely day at my father-in-law’s house, with lots of Turkey and sides and desserts and no editing. Ah, well.

Friday, November 25, 2016: 

Nasty migraine all day, but still managed to shuffle my way through two chapters. I’m almost done though.

Saturday, November 26, 2016:

Though my morning was spent at the mall, I made a huge dent in the manuscript. I also received an edited synopsis and query letter from Kaitlyn. 

I have learned I ellipsis too much. I must ellipsis less, even if my characters are speaking in a halting manner. It doesn’t seem to read well. 

Reviewed Kaitlyn’s edit to my query letter. Wow, her blurb describing the book was so much better and more compelling than mine. I just hadn’t thought some of the stuff she mentioned was important, but now that I’m looking at it, I guess it would help along the lines of marketing. She’s sort of a genius. Okay, she’s not SORT OF a genius, she IS a genius. 

Sunday, November 27, 2016:

I’ve completed my edits! I can’t believe we finished with more than enough time. I don’t describe people much past the first introduction to them, focusing instead on facial expressions and mannerisms than physical appearance, so the corrections I hoped to make to make the diversity of my cast more apparent weren’t huge, but they are there. I’ve never been big on describing characters so much, as that’s one of the major things I enjoy leaving up to reader’s imaginations. However, I remain open to criticism if it is at all necessary, and hopefully that makes me a good enough ally. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2016: 

I have officially handed in my finalized materials for the agent round! Keep your fingers crossed for me! I’ll post about how it goes.