Book Recommendation: THE TAKEDOWN by Corrie Wang

I received a free Advanced Reader Copy of The Takedown in exchange for an honest review.

Kyla Cheng doesn’t expect you to like her. For the record, she doesn’t need you to. On track to be valedictorian, she’s president of her community club, a debate team champ, plus the yummy Mackenzie Rodriguez has firmly attached himself to her hip. She and her three high-powered best friends don’t just own their senior year at their exclusive Park Slope, Brooklyn high school, they practically define the hated species Popular. Kyla’s even managed to make it through high school completely unscathed.

Until someone takes issue with this arrangement.

A week before college applications are due, a video of Kyla “doing it” with her crush-worthy English teacher is uploaded to her school’s website. It instantly goes viral, but here’s the thing: it’s not Kyla in the video. With time running out, Kyla delves into a world of hackers, haters and creepy stalkers in an attempt to do the impossible-take something off the internet-all while dealing with the fallout from her own karmic footprint. Set in near-future Brooklyn, where privacy is a bygone luxury and every perfect profile masks damning secrets, The Takedown is a stylish, propulsive, and provocative whodunit, asking who would you rely on if your tech turned against you?
Excerpt taken from Netgalley.com

As someone who spends too much time blogging and on social media, I was drawn to issues raised in this book: lack of privacy in a connected world and what could go wrong as tech advances make it difficult to tell reality from forgery. The story’s main character, Kyla, is the kind of girl you want to hate, the popular girl that struts down the corridor at the start of school arm in arm with her besties ignoring all around her. But when a forged sex video turns everyone against her, you can’t help but sympathize, and want her to catch her hater.

The feminist story raises several  important issues. Why does no one, even her best friends, believe Kyla when she says the video is a fake? Why is the hottest guy in school not called a slut for his serial romances and that thing he can do with his thumb while the Kyla is universally shunned after the video is posted? What are the consequences of not reading those long, tedious disclosure clauses when we sign up on social media sites? Would we be able to take down a video that showed us in an unflattering light from a social media website?

Continue reading “Book Recommendation: THE TAKEDOWN by Corrie Wang”

Book Recommendation: THE DISAPPEARANCES by Emily Bain Murphy

the disappearance

I received an Advanced Reader Copy of The Disappearances in exchange for an honest review.

What if the ordinary things in life suddenly…disappeared?

When Aila’s mother dies and her father is drafted to fight in World War II, she and her younger brother are sent to live with her mother’s best friend from childhood. Aila has met Mrs. Clifton and her son only twice and arrives at her mother’s rural home town, Sterling, grieving and hoping to hoping to discover what her mother was like when she was young. Instead she finds whispers and mysteries.

Sterling is cursed. Every seven years something disappears. The scents of food and flowers, the ability to see reflections in a mirror or a pane of glass, even dreams. They’ve been gone for years and aren’t returned by crossing the town line. For the inhabitants of Sterling, everyday life comes with a sense of loss over the things that have disappeared  and the fear of the next one to go. The only inhabitant of Sterling to ever have escaped the Disappearances was Aila’s mother, which is why most people in town suspect that she caused them.

Continue reading “Book Recommendation: THE DISAPPEARANCES by Emily Bain Murphy”

Recommended: Stephanie Garber’s CARAVAL

caraval

Caraval is the story of Scarlett, a girl who is desperate to escape her violent and controlling father and to take her younger sister, Donatella, with her. Scarlet hopes marriage to a man she’s never met, a marriage arranged by her father, will save them. Donatella doesn’t believe it will, so she persuades a handsome sailor to transport them off their island home and to Caraval, a legendary once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show.

But even before Scarlett reaches the gates to Caraval, Donatella disappears. Legend, the mysterious showman who runs Caraval, has made finding Donatella the puzzle every player will try to solve. Whoever finds her fist wins the prize, the granting of a wish. Scarlett must follow the clues in Legend’s game to find her sister, but winning won’t be easy. In Caraval, no one is what they seem.

Continue reading “Recommended: Stephanie Garber’s CARAVAL”

A Book to Pull in Reluctant Readers: Neal Shusterman’s SCYTHE

scytheNormally, I don’t write reviews for books by established authors. Scythe was published in November 22nd, 2016 and already has 1,994 reviews on Goodreads, so my 1,995th is not going to have a big impact on Shusterman’s sales. But as a mom with one bookworm and one reluctant reader, I am always on the lookout for books that will pull in a tween/teen boy. This is one. My son picked it out and after he’d finished it, he literally pulled the book I was reading out of my hands, put this one in it, and said, “Read this first.”

Scythe is set in a Utopian world where death, disease and war have been conquered. “Splatting” or jumping from great heights to feel the thrill of an adrenaline rush, only to be revived afterwards, has become a thing. Because where there is no fear of death, life also has less joy and purpose.

Continue reading “A Book to Pull in Reluctant Readers: Neal Shusterman’s SCYTHE”

Book Review: THE HUNDRED LIES OF LIZZIE LOVETT by Chelsea Cedoti

Lizzie Lovett’s disappearance is all anyone at Griffin Mills High School can talk about. Hawthorne Creely can’t believe all the attention Lizzie’s getting. She was a cheerleader and homecoming queen. Nothing bad ever happens to people like Lizzie. Plus,  she graduated and moved away three years ago. Don’t people have something better to obsess over? Hawthorne imagines Lizzie somewhere safe, laughing as hundreds of people show up for her vigil.the hundred lies of lizzie lovett

But as everyone else moves on from the gossip and the search parties, Hawthorn becomes more intent on finding the truth. She stumbles into Lizzie’s old job as a waitress in a diner, then starts hanging out with her boyfriend and searching for clues to the disappearance.

While book’s title and the search parties focus on Lizzie Lovett, this story is really about Hawthorne, a girl who’s disappointed by high school’s failure to live up to its billing as “the best years of your life” and unsure of her future. Hawthorne is the perfect combo of girl who doesn’t fit in and snarky commentator on high school life. She pulls the reader into the story with her keen insights on the shortcomings of the people around her as well as her obliviousness to her own shortcomings. She’s someone anyone in high school or who’s been to high school can relate too. The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett is a fun and absorbing read. Hawthorne will drag you with her on her search for the truth about Lizzie, and along the way, find the truth within herself.

The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett will be published January 3, 2017. You can find it here:

Goodreads
Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Indiebound

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Photo by Pam Vaughan

REBECCA J. ALLEN writes middle grade and young adult stories that blend mystery and adventure. Her best story ideas come from her two crazy kids. She’s on Twitter and is also a contributor at The Winged Pen.

Birthday Shopping for My ‘Tween Bookworm

I love buying books as gifts. What else can provide so much joy for so little money? Okay, the best things in life are free, as they say. But for things that have a price tag, books are really high on the entertainment value/dollar meter. I’m reminded of this every Christmas and every August when my soon-to-be-twelve-year-old bookworm makes a wish list.

Her wish list was not only books, but it was dominated by them. It included:i read past my bedtime

  • A pre-order of Heartless by Marissa Meyer
  • An “I read past my bedtime” T-shirt (Thanks to Abby Cooper for rockin’ that shirt on Pitch Wars live!)
  • The Divergent Series in DVD (the books have already been read several times over)
  • The Sequels to Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson
  • LOTS OF BOOKS (all caps by the bookworm)

The first four of these are easy. The “LOTS OF BOOKS” request is a bit more challenging. My daughter reads so much it’s tough to keep track of what she’s read and to find something new. Luckily I have suggestions from buds at The Winged Pen, books by presenters at the New England SCBWI conference, and Twitter suggestions cataloged on my Goodreads TBR. I set out to spend $50 on books. How many books do you think that got my little bookworm?

The BFF Bucket List by Dee Romito – $6bff bucket listi'm with cupid

I’m with Cupid by Anna Stanizewski – $8

Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee – $8

The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place by Julie Berry – $7

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir – $8under painted sky

Firefight by Brandon Sanderson – $7the scandalous sisterhood

Six book, untold hours of fun and adventure, all for $48. It’s a bargain! If only everyone I give gifts to loved books as much as my daughter!

So here’s a shout-out to these authors, as well as the authors whose books already sit on her shelf, for the joy they bring to children! (And to me, ‘cause another thing about buying books for my bookworm is that I get to read them too!)

What books are on your kids’ book list? I need to recharge my TBR now. Help me out with some suggestions in the comments!

Photo by Pam Vaughan
Photo by Pam Vaughan

REBECCA J. ALLEN writes middle grade and young adult stories that blend mystery and adventure. Her best story ideas come from her two crazy kids. She’s on Twitter and is also a contributor at The Winged Pen.

Jen Malone Book Review Twofer – THE SLEEPOVER and MAP TO THE STARS

I picked up a copy of Jen Malone’s At Your Service at the 2015 New England SCBWI Conference after attending her great talk on middle grade voice. (Find the book review here.) I enjoyed the story and my 11-year-old daughter became a fan. She now knows to ask for Jen Malone books when I’m heading to the conference, so this year she got The Sleepover and Map to the Stars. Here’s what we thought:

Jen Malone’s The Sleepover is billed as The Hangover for the middle grade audience. It the-sleepover-9781481452618doesn’t disappoint! Twelve-year-old Meghan has never made it through the night at a sleepover, but she’s determined to make it through this one. Her two besties, Anna-Marie and Paige, promise it will be EPIC!

It turns out to be a little too epic. The girls wake up to a disaster of a basement and no recollection of what happened the night before. One of Meghan’s eyebrows is missing…and so is Anna-Maria! The girls need to straighten out the hijinks of the night before, all the while collecting clues about what happened to their missing friend, and they have only a couple hours until the parents show up for pick-up.

The Sleepover is great fun! Jen Malone nails the voice of her tween characters as well as their insecurities. The messes that the girls have gotten themselves into and their plans to fix them will make you squirm. The book ends with an invitation to another sleepover. Does this mean there will be a sequel? We hope so!

Find The Sleepover on:
Goodreads
Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Indiebound

PrintI couldn’t help but dive right into Map to the Stars . Annie, the main character, gets dragged to L.A.the summer before her senior year of high school following her Mom’s career as a make-up artist/hairstylist. But she can’t spend the summer worrying about new friends and a new school because she’s drafted into assisting her mom on a round-the-world publicity tour for teen-heart throb, Graham Cabot, the boy plastered in posters all over her best friend’s walls and ceiling.

Annie is anything but a star-struck fangirl, but she finds it hard to keep her heartbeat from speeding up when forced into close proximity to Graham  – particularly after he rescues her from an attack by crazed fans at Harrods. Graham’s attention lingers on her, but a relationship between the them is complicated by paparazzi and a publicist set-against Graham having a girlfriend.

Jen Malone pulls you into the hearts and lives of Annie, a very likable and relatable character, and even Graham, who initially comes off as arrogant and annoying. She brings the reader along for a ride through heady emotions of a complicated first love. Map to the Stars is a page-turner, a great summer read.

Mom note: Map to the Stars is a young adult book, but is great for tweens who read up as it’s a step up from the world of middle school but doesn’t get more heavy than a couple kisses.

Find Map to the Stars on:
Goodreads
Amazon
Barnes & Noble

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Photo by Pam Vaughan.

REBECCA J. ALLEN writes middle grade and young adult stories that blend mystery and adventure. Her best story ideas come from her two crazy kids. She’s on Twitter and is also a contributor at The Winged Pen.

Author Chat with Carrie Firestone, author of The LOOSE ENDS LIST

I loved the ARC of Carrie Firestone’s debut YA novel, The Loose Ends List! The book will be released on June 7th by Little, Brown. Carrie is insanely busy – both with getting ready for the launch and with edits for her second novel, but she graciously let us steal a few minutes of her time to tell us about preparing for her debut novel’s pub date.

carrie firestone

FoWP: The ARC for The Loose Ends List came out in September, 9 months before your launch. What happens during the time between the ARC’s release and the pub date? What has your publisher been doing to get the word out about the book? What have you been doing?

Carrie: First of all, thank you so much for inviting me to be part of your fantastic blog! It seems like books take forever to hit the shelves. And in some ways that’s true. My editor acquired the LEL in June of 2014 and it will be released in June of 2016. The ARC (Advance Reader Copy) has been circulating around to booksellers, bloggers and other reviewers. Little, Brown has an amazing team dedicated to marketing and publicity. They have been getting the book into the hands of people who will create buzz. They also have a pre-pub online plan through their website NOVL. I am just beginning to work on my website, and create Facebook and Twitter author pages to be more available online.

FoWP: As a debut author, this is your first time preparing for a book launch. Was there anything that surprised you about the process?

Carrie: I am part of a YA/MG debut community called the Sweet 16’s. I was surprised by how warm, encouraging, and supportive this group of authors has been. There’s no competitive nasty stuff. Everyone has been collegial and welcoming. It’s great to be able to talk to people who truly “get it.”

loose ends llist

FoWP: You sold The Loose Ends List as the first book in a two-book deal, so you’re writing another story while preparing for the book launch. That must be hectic! Tell us about balancing your time between the two projects.

Carrie: I’m still trying to figure out how to balance everything. You should see my laundry piles! When I’m working on a draft for book two, everything else is on hold. It’s a very intense process. Then I turn the draft into my editor and I have several weeks to work on the marketing/social media/social part of preparing for book one’s launch. Balancing those things is easier than balancing all the other family/life responsibilities.

FoWP: What advice do you have for writers still in the query and submission trenches?

Carrie: I queried agents with two other books and got LOTS of rejections before I landed my wonderful agent, Sara. I advise writers to study query-writing websites, and ask other writers for feedback on the letter and the manuscript. Then listen to the feedback. Be willing to make sweeping changes. When I look back at the first two books, I realize they just weren’t good ENOUGH. And the query letters were terrible. If you’re getting a lot of rejections, you may want to put your current WIP away and start writing a new book. It sounds harsh, but this business is very Darwinian. I used to say to my mom, “I’m not submitting it. It’s not good enough.” She thought I was being hard on myself. But I wasn’t. I knew it wasn’t MY best work. Don’t jump the gun and get excited and start submitting until it’s your VERY best work. That takes time, and practice, and probably a drawer full of rejections. We’ve all been there!

About the author:

Carrie Firestone is a former New York City high school teacher who now lives and writes in Connecticut.

About The Loose Ends List:

A refreshing, funny, and moving debut novel about first loves, last wishes, and letting go.

Seventeen-year-old Maddie O’Neill Levine lives a charmed life, and is primed to spend the perfect pre-college summer with her best friends and young-at-heart socialite grandmother (also Maddie’s closest confidante), tying up high school loose ends. Maddie’s plans change the instant Gram announces that she is terminally ill and has booked the family on a secret “death with dignity” cruise ship so that she can leave the world in her own unconventional way – and give the O’Neill clan an unforgettable summer of dreams-come-true in the process.
Soon, Maddie is on the trip of a lifetime with her over-the-top family. As they travel the globe, Maddie bonds with other passengers and falls for Enzo, who is processing his own grief. But despite the laughter, headiness of first love, and excitement of glamorous destinations, Maddie knows she is on the brink of losing Gram. She struggles to find the strength to say good-bye in a whirlwind summer shaped by love, loss, and the power of forgiveness.

Pre-order The Loose Ends List:

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

Indiebound

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About R.J. Allen

I write middle grade stories that blend mystery and adventure. My best story ideas come from my two crazy kids. Connect with me at writerebeccawrite.wordpress.com/ or on Twitter at @RebeccaJ_Allen.