Friday, March 30, 2012

YA Book Club: Wanderlove

It's time for March's YA Book Club, hosted by Tracey Neithercott, and today we are discussing Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard. 

I've talked about this book before, back when I did a Bookanista recommendation for it. If you recall, I adored this book, and I still wanted to participate in Book Club, even though I've already shared my official review. 

Tracey asked us to think about the settings of this book, and I have to say that I'm glad I read this book AFTER visiting Costa Rica for the first time. Having personal experience with a place so similar to the places that Bria and Rowan visit in this book, well, I really felt like I could picture it all so much better. I think Kirsten Hubbard did a fantastic job of capturing these places for those of us who haven't been able to take the adventure that Bria takes, and it's by experiencing a similar place that I was really able to see the level of detail that this book brings to the table. So many of the small things I experienced during my time in Costa Rica I was able to identify in the pages of this book. And the thing is, I didn't even backpack like Bria and Rowan. I was in a cushy condo in a bigger town. And even then, with a totally different travel experience, there was so much familiar in this story. I loved that it had such a firm and detailed sense of place that it could pull me back to Costa Rica just like that. 

Costa Rica was the most amazing place I have ever been. I fell in love with that country and the people and the landscape and I never wanted to leave. And through the pages of Wanderlove I followed Bria's adventure and fell in love with places I have never even been. Kirsten Hubbard loves these places and she describes them in a way that you can't help but share in the love and feel like you have experienced them for yourself. It's only when you stop to think about it that you realize, oh, that's not my memory, it's something I read about in a book. 

La Ruta Maya isn't a trip that most of us will take, but when you close this book you really will feel like you have been there. 

Have you read Wanderlove? Did you love it as much as I did? Pop through the YA Book Club participants and see what other people had to say!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Neversink Giveaway Winner!

The winner of the signed ARC of Neversink by Barry Wolverton is...

Yay Alison! I'll be in touch with you today so I can send you your book. All I ask is that you review it somewhere after you read it. HOORAY!

Check out what the other Bookanistas are up to today...

Christine Fonseca  interviews author Eisley Jacobs
Stasia Ward Kehoe gets psyched for the release of TORN
Debra Driza swoons for SLIDE
Tracy Banghart takes a shine to UNDER THE NEVER SKY

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A Day In My Life (And Some Other Things)

Today I'm over on Sophia Chang's blog for her A Day In The Life feature. Yup, I'm telling you all about a thrilling day in the life of Jess, high school teacher and dog mom.

Go over to Sophia's blog and check it out!


I want to introduce you guys to my friend Zanne. Zanne and I have known each other FOREVER, and every time I think we may have grown apart, something unexpectedly awesome brings us back together again. She has always been a writer in some form or another, but she actually recently started writing YA! I'm so excited about this news. She has a blog and a twitter and now she is on the hunt for some trusted CPs. If any of you out there are looking for an awesome CP, get in touch with her, or leave a comment here! She's a great writer, person, and friend.


Make sure you enter my giveaway for a signed ARC of Neversink by Barry Wolverton! It's an awesome book. Trust me, you want it.

Happy hump day, friends!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Bookanistas: Neversink

Along the Arctic Circle lies a small island called Neversink, whose jagged cliffs and ice-gouged rocks are home to a colony of odd-looking seabirds called auks, including one Lockley J. PuffinWith their oceanfront views and plentiful supply of fish, the auks have few concerns—few, save for Lockley's two best friends, Egbert and Ruby, a know-it-all walrus and a sharp-tongued hummingbird.
But all of this is about to change. 

Rozbell, the newly crowned king of the Owl Parliament, is dealing with a famine on the mainland of Tytonia—and he has long had his scheming eyes on the small colony to the north. Now Neversink's independence hangs in the balance. An insurgence of owls will inevitably destroy life as the auks know it—unless Lockley can do something about it.

I'm not a big MG reader, but I am a huge fan of cute animals. So when I heard about this book about puffins and owls who wear hats and a walrus sidekick, I knew I had to check it out, even though it's not my normal thing. 

And you know what? It's not my normal thing, but it's awesome. And it's also not your typical MG book. Yes, it is from the POV of animals, but don't let that cute animated cover fool you, this book is so much deeper and darker than I expected. It reminded me a lot of Animal Farm with the way it was its own story but was also so much a commentary on society and an expose on the evils of government. We know from the beginning of the book that Lockley wants to soar, and we see him step up and become a hero to the auks slowly, even though it isn't natural for him to be in the spotlight, and we are brought immediately into the dispute between the auks and the owls. (And did I mention that the owls wear HATS?)

The highlight of this book really is the awesome humor. Egbert the walrus and Ruby the hummingbird bring so much lightness and so many laughs to this story that can get a little deep at times. I loved long-winded Egbert and quippy little Ruby, and every time they were on the page I couldn't keep a smile off of my face. 

I adored all of these characters (yes, even the evil little Rozbell), and I loved every second of reading this book. It's a great book to read with the MG-er in your life, but it's also one that I think transcends age limits because the social commentary is something anyone can relate to. I loved this book...and there are owls in hats!

I won this ARC from Barry's agent Jen Rofe on Twitter. She had a contest where people tweeted their favorite fictional animal and I got chosen for my choice of Hedwig. :-) So I'm going to pass on the ARC love! Just comment below by 3/29 with your email address and your favorite fictional animal and I'll choose a winner at random to win my signed ARC of Neversink! (I'm paying for this shipping, so, sadly, it's US only.) All I ask is that you give the book a review...and I hope you love it as much as I did, but that's not a requirement.

Check out what the other Bookanistas are up to today...

Christine Fonseca  is awed by A TEMPTATION OF ANGELS

Stasia Ward Kehoe shares some scoop on DEAR TEEN ME

Katy Upperman praises PANDEMONIUM

Tracy Banghart thinks SCARLET is spectacular

Gennifer Albin  brings you her Bologna trendwatch

Jessica Love sings for NEVERSINK – with giveaway!

Shelli Johannes-Wells interviews LACRIMOSA author Christine Fonseca

Friday, March 16, 2012


Today I am absolutely thrilled to share some great news about a fabulous friend! If you haven't seen the big news on her blog, my friend Liz Briggs has an agent!


Liz has just signed with the fabulous agent Kate Testerman! That's right...the agent of Stephanie Perkins and Maureen Johnson is now the agent of my friend Liz! HOORAY! I am so dang excited for her, I can hardly handle it!

If you guys don't know Liz, then you should hop over to her blog, read her agent story, and give her some love. She loves sci-fi and has adorable doggies, and I will say that if it wasn't for Liz, I would have never finished my own ms and gotten an agent myself. She helps me untangle my plot problems, puts up with my constant and annoying gchats, and she hangs out with me at local book events. She's awesome!

It makes me so happy when good things happen to good people, and I'm so excited to see where Liz's journey takes her. Yay Liz!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Miami Recap

So, remember back in November when I asked you guys to vote for my friend Claire in American Way's Road Warrior contest?

And remember back in January when I went to Miami with Claire for her photoshoot for the magazine?

Well, as of today, the magazine is out, and I can finally share with you the rest of the awesomeness of our Miami weekend!

That's Claire and the other finalists on the cover of American Way magazine. Claire won second place, and so much of it was thanks to you guys who voted for her when I pestered you about it each week. Thank you all so much! If you are flying American any time between now and the end of the month you will see Claire and the other finalists in your seat back pocket, so be sure to make a big deal out of it. Feel free to wave your magazine around and yell, "I KNOW HER!" There is a good chance that Claire will actually be on your flight, so you can just drop my name and, BOOM, instant new friend.

Or you will see this in-flight video on your plane, which features brief, super awkward creeper cameos from yours truly!

I'm at right around the 5 minute mark lurking by the wall of the pool. I'm also just after that standing next to Claire during the Samsung tablet part. (Can I just say that I got to play with one of those tablets and they are awesome. I want one so bad now. Yes, I like it better than my iPad.) Watching me in this video is pretty much the same as seeing me in a photo...I'm just standing there. But for you stalkers in the crowd, I thought you might be interested...just look for my bright white hair. And Claire looks adorable, as always.

Then here I am in the magazine's Editor's Note with Hot Editor Adam Pitluk!

We took this picture in the suite at the Miami Heat game. This trip didn't suck at all. (That's me in the leather jacket, just in case you are new here. And all of the other women on this trip were completely awesome!)

And here are some pictures of my beautiful friend Claire from the magazine, since we aren't all lucky enough to be hopping on a plane and going somewhere cool in the next few weeks to see it live and in person.

I was asleep behind that window you see at the bottom of this picture when this was being shot. I woke up to find a crew outside of my window using a long pole to hold that palm tree out of the way. Oh, the glamorous life of a photo shoot.

Click here if you are at all interested in reading more about Claire or the other finalists. And thank you all for voting for Claire! I'm so thrilled she won second place thanks to all of you, and I'm even more thrilled that I got to have such an awesome time with such a good friend on this Miami trip.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

It's My Livelihood

A few weeks ago, my friend Claire had a party at her house for Open That Bottle Night. It was mostly close friends, but one girl brought a friend along and that friend brought her boyfriend. The boyfriend was a complete d-bag and kept making all of these snobby comments about the wine, which made me roll my eyes so much it hurt. Finally Tameka said to him, "Dude. You're being really intense about the wine." He looked all shocked that we would say such a thing, looked at us like we were knuckle-dragging, Franzia-drinking heathens, and went on to explain, "Well, it's my livelihood." I tuned out pretty quickly after that dumb statement, so I don't remember what he said his job was, but based on his d-baggy attitude, I'm sure it was less like vineyard owner and more like bar back.

The story of this guy came up this past weekend when I went with a big group of friends out to Arizona for Spring Training. "It's my livelihood" became quite the saying between the group of us who drove together, and with a high school teacher, a YA writer, a DUI attorney, and a prosecutor of sex offenders, well, you can imagine the vast array of topics we were replying to with "Well, it's my livelihood!"

Friday night we were out with a big group at a dive bar in Scottsdale. A bunch of the guys in this group are super pumped about The Hunger Games, and we were making plans for the movie. Then one of the guys, someone I have met many times but don't know super well because he doesn't live near us, starts talking smack on HG. Well, maybe not talking smack, because he did say he enjoyed the books. But he said the series was a direct ripoff of Brave New World and that it read like it was written by a 5th grader.

I think it goes without saying that I took offense to this.

I launched into my spirited defense of YA, but this guy was relentless. He kept saying he looked and looked for a sentence in the first book that was longer than seven words and couldn't find one. He said the prose read like "I shot an arrow. Arrow hit him. He died. I'm sad." And any time I tried to say anything, anything, he looked at me with this confused expression and said, "Jess, I don't know why you are so upset about this."

Um. Uh. Well.
It's kinda my livelihood.

Oh man. I realized pretty quickly that I was being that guy. I was being the d-baggy wine guy from Claire's party over this book, and over YA in general. Ugh.

I realized as I sat there all red in the face and worked up that I wasn't going to change this guy's mind. I haven't read HG recently, and I didn't have my copy of the book with me in my back pocket at the bar. (I know, what was I thinking?) And I've never even read Brave New World. So I wasn't going to be able to prove anything to this guy. And even if I pulled out my book right then and there, he didn't want to listen to me. He just wanted to go on his little rant. I know the last thing he expected me to say was, "Actually, I'm getting so upset about this because I write YA novels myself," but even that didn't make him stop to hear what I was saying at all.

I ended up apologizing for being so defensive, and I said I didn't want to be d-baggy wine guy. (I didn't apologize for my difference of opinion, only for being so defensive and a bit of a tool about it.) We laughed about it. He didn't really ask about my writing, but that was fine. I didn't want to be talking to him anymore, so I walked away and hit up the jukebox with the people I came with. And I let it go.

Later, though, my good friend (this guy's bff) came up to me and told me I shouldn't have apologized. That the guy was being a total ass about it and he's like that all the time and I should have ignored him and stuck to my guns. I felt like sticking to my guns would have turned me into the "It's my livelihood" guy of the YA world, and I wanted to punch that guy in the face, not emulate him in conversation. But at the same time, I hate that my apology for being defensive sort of comes off like a concession, like I'm saying that Katniss really does say things like, "I shot him. Now he's dead. I am sad," and that that's the sort of brilliant prose to which I aspire.

I can't let people talk smack on YA, right? I mean, it's my livelihood.

But I also can't be a d-bag, right? Because...ew.

I guess we all have to pick our battles, and arguing with this guy I don't know all that well who I knew would be unwilling to listen and when I didn't have a book or anything to back me up while out at a bar drinking beers, well, that wasn't really a hill I was willing to die on. Just like showing up to a party where you know no one and getting all snobby with them about their perfectly acceptable wine isn't exactly a way to make friends. I wasn't going to let this guy at the bar turn me into the intense wine guy who no one likes, even though intense wine guy probably thought he was educating us and not being a complete douche.

I don't I the only one who gets into fights about YA at bars on Friday nights? I can't be the only one.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Bookanistas: Wanderlove

It all begins with a stupid question:

Are you a Global Vagabond?

No, but 18-year-old Bria Sandoval wants to be. In a quest for independence, her neglected art, and no-strings-attached hookups, she signs up for a guided tour of Central America—the wrong one. Middle-aged tourists with fanny packs are hardly the key to self-rediscovery. When Bria meets Rowan, devoted backpacker and dive instructor, and his outspokenly humanitarian sister Starling, she seizes the chance to ditch her group and join them off the beaten path.

Bria's a good girl trying to go bad. Rowan's a bad boy trying to stay good. As they travel across a panorama of Mayan villages, remote Belizean islands, and hostels plagued with jungle beasties, they discover what they've got in common: both seek to leave behind the old versions of themselves. And the secret to escaping the past, Rowan’s found, is to keep moving forward.

But Bria comes to realize she can't run forever, no matter what Rowan says. If she ever wants the courage to fall for someone worthwhile, she has to start looking back. 

This book is magical. The truth of this story just made me ache, and I could relate so much to Bria. I never did a trip like this after high school, and it's a big regret I have. I think I was too scared to even consider it, and looking at Bria's adventures, I was probably not ready for a trip like this at her age. And that's the beauty of books, isn't it? That we have the ability to take a fantastic journey through Central America without even leaving our couch. That we can re-live that heartache of first love over and over again. That we can see the problems we have with ourselves in these fictional characters and recognize ways to fix them. 

Because I could see so much of myself in Bria. And not just my 18-year old self, but my current self, too. I think there are some YA books that read very teen, but this is one that I think transcends any age limit. I can see anyone seeing a bit of themselves in Bria and the struggles she has as she is on the cusp of exploring a new chapter in her life.

Not only is this book full of gorgeous words, it's also filled with gorgeous sketches. Bria is an artist, and some of her sketches appear on the pages of the book, thanks to Kirsten Hubbard herself. 
Look at how gorgeous that it! Beautiful illustrations like this are all through the book...but not so much that it distracts from the gorgeous words. 

I absolutely adored this book. It was like taking a grand adventure without leaving your couch, and it was like taking a deep look at another version of yourself.

Check out what the other Bookanistas are up to today...
Christine Fonseca  interviews PIECES OF US author Margie Gelbwasser

Carolina Valdez Miller adores WANDERLOVE - with giveaway
Megan Miranda celebrates SLIDE – with giveaway
Jen Hayley takes a shine to STARTERS
Tracy Banghart  gives a shout-out to SHUT OUT
Jessica Love wonders at WANDERLOVE

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Road Trip Wednesday: Name That Life

It's time for another Road Trip Wednesday, a blog carnival hosted by the lovely ladies of YA Highway.
This week's question:

What Would Your Memoir Be Called?

Well, sadly, the best name ever for my memoir was actually stolen from me by Mindy Kaling...

I mean, that's even how I would imagine looking on the book cover, too. Get out of my head (and stop doing it better), Mindy Kaling!

So, with that off the table, there is always something like this...

That one is in progress. I guess I can't really write it just yet.

I was sort of stuck on a title until I remembered this someecard I saw on Tumblr the other day...

And that brought me to the perfect title for my memoir...

Yup. That about sums up my life. And that was the closest I could find to the Mindy Kaling awkward face in my three minutes of searching through my photo archives. It works, I guess.

What do you think...would you buy it? NY Times Bestseller right there, amirite?

What would the title of your memoir be?

Monday, March 5, 2012

Hunger Games Mall Tour

The other day the husband says to me, "Want to go to the Hunger Games mall tour? It's in LA on Saturday."


After years of me trying to get him to read these books, he finally decides to do it after his friend starts raving about them. (My opinion means nothing, apparently. Humph.) And even then he only committed to reading them when I started reading a chapter aloud to him before bed. By chapter six or so he was so interested that he just finished up on his own and he got so hooked. My non-reader husband finished the whole trilogy in less than two weeks.

Since then he has been all about it, out-fanning me at every turn. I am actually planning a movie night out with him and a bunch of his guy friends. I'm not going to lie, this makes this YA writer so freaking happy, I can't even tell you.

So, yeah, if the husband wants to spend a Saturday evening driving to LA to see the cast of The Hunger Games doing a Q&A, I'm not going to say no. We drove to the mall, grabbed some food, then wandered around looking for the event. It took us a little longer than we anticipated to find it, and we found a small line at the entrance, which we promptly joined. Then, when we were literally NEXT in line, security announced that no one else was getting in. WHAT. I was sure it was age discrimination, but I was surrounded by 12-year-olds, so the husband told me that I was probably wrong.

We were RIGHT behind that girl when they cut off the line. CURSES!

And don't think that the husband let this deter us. Oh no. We lurked around the entrance anyway, watching and waiting. I was trying to find a way to sneak in while he looked for some sort of backup viewing spot. We also listened in on the HG trivia that was taking place on the stage, and MAN, I was owning that. I haven't read the first book since 2009, but I am still a boss at HG trivia. (I do need to do a reread before the movie, though.) Finally, after about 20 minutes of lurking, security said we could come in. HOORAY.

This sign was awesome. It had a battery pack and the PEETA lit up. 

The crowd

Welcoming Katniss to the stage

We walked over to the side of the stage where we had a great view. We only had to wait for a few minutes before they brought the cast out, which was nice because the screaming fangirls were a little shocking to the husband and he didn't have a lot of patience for them. They showed the trailer for the movie while they were waiting and when Effie pulls Prim's name at the reaping, the entire crowd of hundreds yelled "PRIMROSE EVERDEEN!", and then when Katniss volunteers to take Prim's place, the entire crowd yelled "I VOLUNTEER!" The husband said, "If they do this shit at the movie, I am going to be PISSED." I assured him that everyone will be silent at the movie...I hope they don't let me down.

The cast came out and the crowd went INSANE.

A very attractive group of people

My thoughts:
I have been pretty blah about Liam Hemsworth as Gale. I've said since the first pictures were released that he looks like cro-magnon man...a total knuckle-dragger. Bah. But, hoo-boy, Laim Hemsworth in person is HOT. His natural hair color suits him so much better than the dark, he is a tall drink of water, just the way I like them, and he has that smexy Australian accent. I'm not Team Gale, I'm certainly not Team Liam-as-Gale, but I am firmly on Team Hot Liam. Nom nom.

In this picture he looks like he is LOOKING DIRECTLY INTO MY SOUL

Josh Hutcherson is wee. He also looks better with his natural hair color. He's adorable, though, and he made me laugh quite a few times.

Jennifer Lawrence is absolutely delightful. She's gorgeous and has the cutest personality....she was just cute and funny and totally charming.

A few things I remember them saying:

They all gave love to Suzanne Collins, and Liam mentioned that if it wasn't for her, none of them or us would be here, and I thought that was really cool.

Suzanne Collins was in the room for Josh's audition.

Jennifer is friends with Lenny Kravitz's daughter, so she has always known him as Mr. Kravitz and that's what she called him on set.

Some girl (not me) asked Liam to marry her and he said yes.

A random video I got of the Q&A. I'm impressed with my zoom.

Um...I can't think of anything else. There was a LOT of screaming. The husband was terrified. And eventually I fell back from my good spot so some kids could get closer, so I couldn't see or hear as well after that point.

The whole Q&A was only 15 minutes, which was really short. And that was all it was...just the trivia before and then the 15 minutes of the cast.

I'm such a freaking DORK

It was pretty fun to have a little Hunger Games date with the husband, who is quite possibly even more excited for this movie than I am. And just to make him feel a little more like an adult, and get away from the screaming, we ended the evening with beers on the patio at Pink Taco. But, never fear, we still talked about HG.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Bookanistas: Why We Broke Up

I'm telling you why we broke up, Ed. I'm writing it in this letter, the whole truth of why it happened.
Min Green and Ed Slaterton are breaking up, so Min is writing Ed a letter and giving him a box. Inside the box is why they broke up. Two bottle caps, a movie ticket, a folded note, a box of matches, a protractor, books, a toy truck, a pair of ugly earrings, a comb from a motel room, and every other item collected over the course of a giddy, intimate, heartbreaking relationship. Item after item is illustrated and accounted for, and then the box, like a girlfriend, will be dumped.
First of all, if you are going to read this book I highly encourage you to pick up the actual book and not the ebook or audio book. This book is absolutely gorgeous. It has thick, glossy pages and it's full of absolutely gorgeous illustrations of each of the items that Min puts in the breakup box for Ed. The act of reading this book is a total treat - the feel of those pages and the detail and texture of the art...these are not things you want to miss out on. I'm not anti ebook or audio at all, but this is a book you really need to experience in actual book format. You won't regret it.
Second of all, I don't know if this is a book for everyone. Stylistically, it's pretty different, and I can see how the writing style/Min's voice might get on your nerves if you aren't into it. I was so, so into it, though. I loved Min's stream-of-consciousness thoughts and page-long run-on sentences. I loved her constant classic film references and her honest look at herself and her feelings through the course of her relationship with Ed. This book is different, and while that might bug some people, I loved being lost in Min's head. (And, obviously, so did the Printz committee, since this was one of their Honor Book choices this year.)

This book is a long letter from ex-girlfriend to ex-boyfriend, but it's also a tender and honest look at a relationship between two very different people, and a glimpse into first love and first heartbreak. I loved the voice, I loved the humor, I loved the honesty and the reality, and I loved that gorgeous artwork. Reading this book was an experience, and it was very worthy of the Printz honor. 

Check out what the other Bookanistas are up to today...

Elana Johnson is crazy for CASSAFIRE
Christine Fonseca  falls for EVERNEATH
Katy Upperman highlights some fab new 2012 release covers
Tracy Banghart  goes wild over BORN WICKED
Stasia Ward Kehoe announces an author visit giveaway
Gennifer Albin  is givin’ some cover lovin’
Jessica Love wonders at WHY WE BROKE UP