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!

Editing Journal: Wave 1 #p2p16 Edits

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The tweet announcing my #p2p16 win! YAY!

The below is a collection of my most important thoughts through the first wave of edits I received for #p2p16, or Pitch to Publication 2016. This is just the first set of edits, so we’ll see what’s to come, but so far, the general view of this process is a very excited two thumbs up. Read below to take the journey with me.

Friday, November 4, 2016:

Today, my edits came in from Kaitlyn. I read her reader’s guide, had a momentary panic, paced around my desk for a second, sat down and typed out an email with some legitimate questions and thoughts. She wrote back super fast with helpful and insightful commentary. Yes, there are big changes that need to be made, but nothing that hits the core of my story and nothing that compromises me artistically, so I’m much happier already than with my previous editing experience. Plus, Kaitlyn is so encouraging and excited about my project, it’s hard to feel anything but excited, too. Also, checking out her individual opinions throughout the document, rather than the overview, made it much clearer how I could go about instituting some of the changes. I was still afraid about the word count getting higher, as it’s already at the limit of where the book could be…until I worked on the first chapter and it came in a couple hundred words shorter, after I added some voice and a bit of extra geeky flavoring. So, that word count situation is feeling much better. I even decided to alter a scene she didn’t ask me to, because I felt it clearly gave her the wrong opinion of a character, and that meant I needed to rework it. Something I was communicating went wrong. In the end, the most important lesson I learned is that, though I have plans for a series, I need to focus on what benefits this book, and then worry about Books 2-6 when I get there. Yes, I can plan, but if there’s something in Book 1 that takes away from it, I have to pull it and figure out how to fix that mess with Book 2. I can alter my canon if nobody else knows it yet. The rest is up to my creativity. I’ve often preached not getting too attached to your outline, and staying flexible, and I’ve been doing the opposite. That changes now. I need to make this book the best it can be. I can’t do that with a closed mind.

Kaitlyn has given me until November 18th to return my revised manuscript to her so she can start another pass. That’s going to take some pedal-to-the-metal speed. My son is going to miss me for the next two weeks. 😛

Saturday, November 5, 2016: 

Today involved a lot of weirdo moments. I realized quite a few things. For one, I realized that half looks like it’s spelled wrong if you look at it too long. I also determined that my left knee is shitty, and I messed up my already post-surgical mess of a bionic back (scoliosis – had a double rod spinal procedure at 15. Hooks and rods and steel, oh my!) with just a few hours of editing at home. This has taught me that I need a more ergonomic typing situation than sitting on my couch and balancing my laptop on a pillow. I probably should have already realized this. What is wrong with me? Also realized? My computer screen needs a cleaning. I just mistook a smudge for an extra period and kept trying to erase it.

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WTAF???

I also faced the very random occurrence of the edit document randomly switching to French several times while I was working! Thank you to this site for saving my life.

I worked through Chapters 2 and 3 and part of 4. Only cut about 30 words from Chapter 2, but I cut about 400 words in 3. This is good, because I have a few things to add, and had no room to add them.

Another thing I’ve noticed: Once you get a note that makes you rework a line, it makes you rethink all the unnecessary words in that entire paragraph. A lot of the cutting I’ve done have just been about me tightening things because I’ve zeroed in on a paragraph.

Well folks, my mother has arrived. She needs help with some computer stuff she needs done, as she doesn’t have one. So, off I go. I’ll write in my journal again tomorrow.

Sunday, November 6, 2016: 

Woke up with a migraine and some serious allergy bullshit this morning, so this should be fun. My head hurts, my nose is stuffy, my throat hurts, my aforementioned knee and back are killing me, and I feel like a slug. On to editing!

I got to invent a couple of brand new scenes for the purpose of altering a certain narrative thread that wasn’t working. That was fun. I managed to get through Chapters 4-6 in this one day. And cut a few hundred words. I’ve gotten through the first 100 pages. YAY!

Monday, November 7, 2016: 

I’m not working at my work desk because it’s a slow day. Nope. Not at all. For Chapter 7, I had to rewrite almost the entire chapter due to a change in the plot point. Chapter 8 is complete as well. Between the two of them, I have cut three whole pages. We’re getting somewhere! I discussed some of what I was working on with Kaitlyn and she was, again, awesome and gave me great feedback and helped me to make sure I was on the right track. I may have to hand her every book I write forever. Seriously.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016: 

Things were going relatively well until I got home and proceeded to watch election results. Then, there was no working.

Wednesday/Thursday, November 9-10, 2016:
Yeah, I tried to work, but nothing got done. Without going into politics too far, I mourned. I cried. My artistry got squashed a bit. It took a lot to recover.
Friday, November 11, 2016:
Today is a very good day. Not only is it a day of honor and respect pledged to our veterans, but it also happens to be my best friend’s birthday, and spending time with her always manages to rejuvenate me. I struggled through my day, but managed to get through a couple of chapters. Then, I got to participate in a very successful surprise party for this awesome, inspirational person (I’m not being hyperbolic. The lady is a hero. She saves lives for a living). I feel ready to attack tomorrow.

Saturday, November 12, 2016:

Woke up with a migraine again! Have I mentioned that I have three cats and they are all over eight years old and I just recently discovered I’m allergic to cats. Meaning . . . that’s not going anywhere because my cats aren’t.
I did finally pull myself together by around 1 PM and continued working through the night. Then I shocked myself by making it through five chapters! I even shot a question off to Kaitlyn, who quickly answered and told me my suggestion on a fix for an issue was on point. So I ran with it. And got pretty far.

Sunday, November 13, 2016:
And that’s it! With seven chapters to go, I managed to finish just in time to watch The Walking Dead. I’m kinda shocked. She gave me until the 18th! It just went so smoothly. Once I decided what I wanted to do to help cover the edits she requested, it was easy sailing and I felt so much better and more confident about the story. Plus, I got my enormous word count under 100,000 words! That made me happy, because it helped open up my options a little more, in case I don’t land an agent in the agent round. Either way, I’m a happy chica. Time to crash and await more edits from my editing partner.

If you’re looking to hire an editor, I highly recommend Kaitlyn. Check out her website at http://www.kjohnsonfreelance.com/ or email her at k.johnson.freelance@gmail.com.