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Thursday, August 14, 2014

Isla and the Happily Ever After
by Stephanie Perkins

Release Date: August 14, 2014
Publisher: Dutton
Age Group: Young Adult
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Pages: 339
Buy: Amazon / Barnes & Noble / IndieBound
Description: Goodreads
From the glittering streets of Manhattan to the moonlit rooftops of Paris, falling in love is easy for hopeless dreamer Isla and introspective artist Josh. But as they begin their senior year in France, Isla and Josh are quickly forced to confront the heartbreaking reality that happily-ever-afters aren’t always forever.

Their romantic journey is skillfully intertwined with those of beloved couples Anna and Étienne and Lola and Cricket, whose paths are destined to collide in a sweeping finale certain to please fans old and new.

This is not really a review of Isla and the Happily Ever After.  It’s impossible for me to properly review it, because I am way too invested in this book, its companions, and its author.  That’s just a fact, and I cannot overlook that.  What will follow is more of a review of the series, a review of what this series means to me and what I think it means in general.  In short, this is my love letter to Stephanie Perkins.

Anna and the French Kiss is the book I recommend most. It’s the book I use to lure people into reading YA, because it showcases the best parts of romantic contemporary YA, in my opinion.  For this reason, I often call Anna “the book of my head” because it is the book I turn to whenever I need mental comfort. I’ve reread it so many times, I’ve actually lost count, but I know I’m easily in the double digits.  In contrast, Lola and the Boy Next Door is the book of my heart.  When I read the last words of that book, I was giddy for hours.  When I visited the SF landmarks mentioned in their story (especially when I saw the sign for Dolores Street), my heart nearly burst out of my chest, which would’ve made for one big mess.

After much deliberation, I have decided that Isla and the Happily Ever After is the book of my soul.  Isla’s story is about a lot of things, but it’s about learning to trust yourself, to find worth in yourself, to believe that being you is more than enough.  It’s about taking risks: all kinds of risks from little teeny ones to big honkin’ life-changing ones.  It’s about… well, I should just let you decide for yourself what it’s about.

I’ve been waiting to read this for a long time, what seemed like an eternity at times, but I don’t place any blame on Stephanie for that.  I know she fought through her own darkest depths to give us this story, and knowing she came out on the other side brings me so much joy.  This next part is hard to say and a little embarrassing but I’m putting it out there—it was around page 300 that all of these thoughts hit me all at once. I thought of Stephanie and her struggle and now her success that I held in my hands.  I thought of what that meant to her and to those who love her and to her readers and the way that Venn diagram is likely a big circle. Without notice, I began to weep. It was unexpected, but I am a crier, so that’s how my feelings come out—salty and often. I’m just proud of her.

Like I said, this is less about the book and more about my love of words—specifically, the words Stephanie Perkins has given me. It’s another knock-out, my friend. I can’t thank you enough.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Blog Tour: Scan by Sarah Fine
& Walter Jury

Release Date: May 1, 2014
Publisher: Putnam Children's
Buy: Amazon / Barnes & Noble

Tate and his father don’t exactly get along. As Tate sees it, his father has unreasonably high expectations for Tate to be the best—at everything. Tate finally learns what he’s being prepared for when he steals one of his dad’s odd tech inventions and mercenaries ambush his school, killing his father and sending Tate on the run from aliens who look just like humans. 

All Tate knows—like how to make weapons out of oranges and lighter fluid—may not be enough to save him as he’s plunged into a secret interspecies conflict that’s been going on for centuries. Aided only by his girlfriend and his estranged mother, with powerful enemies closing in on all sides, Tate races to puzzle out the secret behind his father’s invention and why so many are willing to kill for it.

Walter Jury on his collaboration 
with co-author Sarah Fine  

Sarah and I work seamlessly together. After I came up with the idea and wrote a very extensive outline, our agents introduced us.  We hit it off immediately, and it was clear from her writing and her response to my idea that she would be the perfect partner. It was fun to collaborate on writing this series, specifically working through macro world building and long-range character arcs/journeys.  One of the elements that was difficult is the distance of our home locales.  Sarah lives in New England and I live in the New York City area, so we started working together long distance—but were able to effectively work out a communication style that assisted each of our needs. 

I think I am incredibly deferential to Sarah when it comes to details and minute world-building, whereas I feel like she has great respect for my overarching theme analysis and character arc breakdowns.  It's really a fantastic combination and we really were able to take the bull by the horns in every instance where it was necessary to tackle an imminent challenge.  

One of the more unforeseen challenges was post-sale to Putnam/Penguin.  Our fantastic editor, Stacey Barney, really wanted to work closely to make sure every single mythological question had an answer that was seamlessly integrated.  She wanted the story and mythology to be beyond reproach.  I think she did a great job in that regard, but the challenge was how do two co-authors who live a large physical distance from one another, work with an editor who wants to take a hands-on approach? That took some logistical planning, but it turned out beautifully and it was a very successful partnership!

About the Authors

Sarah Fine was born on the West Coast, raised in the Midwest, and is now firmly entrenched on the East Coast, where she lives with her husband and two children. She is the author of several young adult books, and when she's not writing, she’s working as a child psychologist.

Walter Jury was born in London and has a background in the film industry. He is a big enthusiast of Jamba Juice’s Protein Berry Workout smoothie, only with soy, never whey.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Landline by Rainbow Rowell

Release Date: July 8, 2014
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Age Group: Adult
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Pages: 308
Buy: Amazon / Barnes & Noble / IndieBound
Description: Goodreads
Georgie McCool knows her marriage is in trouble. That it’s been in trouble for a long time. She still loves her husband, Neal, and Neal still loves her, deeply — but that almost seems besides the point now.

Maybe that was always besides the point.

Two days before they’re supposed to visit Neal’s family in Omaha for Christmas, Georgie tells Neal that she can’t go. She’s a TV writer, and something’s come up on her show; she has to stay in Los Angeles. She knows that Neal will be upset with her — Neal is always a little upset with Georgie — but she doesn’t expect to him to pack up the kids and go home without her.

When her husband and the kids leave for the airport, Georgie wonders if she’s finally done it. If she’s ruined everything.

That night, Georgie discovers a way to communicate with Neal in the past. It’s not time travel, not exactly, but she feels like she’s been given an opportunity to fix her marriage before it starts . . .

Is that what she’s supposed to do?

Or would Georgie and Neal be better off if their marriage never happened?

In her online bio, Rainbow Rowell states that sometimes she writes about teenagers and sometimes she writes about adults.  I found 2011’s Attachments to have a crossover appeal for a teenager looking to branch out or even a YA-reading adult looking to, well, also branch out.  I’ve been quite grabby-hands about Rainbow’s next adult book, this summer’s Landline, since the moment I knew it existed.  As I dove into Georgie’s story, as I rabidly and rapidly turned pages, I found myself wondering how an honest-to-blog teenager would relate to this.  This is not because I think teenagers aren’t complex people with deep-seated emotions and complicated hearts—they clearly are—but Landline is very much a grown-up romance. 

And that is the exact reason I loved it so.

Normally, I’m all about the swoon of YA—the butterflies from the first glances, the first kisses that take your breath away,  the description of that seemingly impassable inch between two hands before they beat the odds and reach one another.  I basically live for that.  And those moments do exist in Landline in Georgie’s flashbacks to college when she first meets Neal (Neal, Neal, Neal), the man who would become her husband.  They are typical Rainbow (what a beautiful phrase!) which means they are vivid and gorgeous and real and aching.  They are so much of all of those things that I kept gazing at my husband as I read, recalling our own college courtship and seeing the guy he was then within the man he is.  Needless to say, it freaked him out a little bit.

This is the exact thing I adore so much about Landline.  It’s not about first love; it’s about last love.  It’s about the one you choose, the love that evolves and matures into something you could have never expected at age 20.  It’s also about marriage—the good and the bad and the ugly—and whether that evolved love is enough.  Enough for what?  Well, that’s for you to find out.

Honestly, I could talk about this for hours and days and the only person who would listen to that is my husband and even then he’d be looking for a magic phone to talk to Past Jessica and ask her to kindly shut her yapper many years in the future, so I’ll move on.

What else do I love?  Georgie and Seth’s TV show.  If I ever become a sitcom writer, I may try to recreate that show because I WOULD WATCH THAT SO HARD my eyeballs would fall out.  Also, Georgie’s kids.   Hi Alice.  Meow, Noomi.  And my most favorite bit?  An Easter Egg for readers of Rainbow’s previous books near the end that I will not ruin for you but OMG. OMG. OH. MY. GOD.

So, let’s sum up: I love this book in a mature and evolved way, I feel every married person should read this, and I would follow Rainbow Rowell into the dark.