Thursday, December 31, 2015

Most-Anticipated Releases of 2016

With the New Year just around the corner I wanted to celebrate the New Year in the only acceptable way, celebrating all of the new releases we get to look forward to in 2016. Last year I did a similar post detailing my 15 top anticipated- releases and I read 7 out of the 15 which I find pretty successful. You can click here for my last year's post, but now onto this year.

Throne of Glass #5 (Untitled) | Sarah J. Maas

So there's nothing about this book that's been released; no cover, no synopsis, etc. but we do know that this information will probably be released very soon and it's release date is most likely in 2016, which is very exciting. 

Heartless | Marissa Meyer

Ever since the finale of the Lunar Chronicles, I've been in a book mourning period so you can understand my excitement when I found out that Marissa Meyer is writing yet another book along the same lines. I can only hope it's as good as the Lunar Chronicles. 

Long before she was the terror of Wonderland — the infamous Queen of Hearts — she was just a girl who wanted to fall in love.

Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland, and a favorite of the yet-unmarried King of Hearts, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, all she wants is to open a shop with her best friend and supply the Kingdom of Hearts with delectable pastries and confections. But according to her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for the young woman who could be the next Queen.

At a royal ball where Cath is expected to receive the king's marriage proposal, she meets Jest, the handsome and mysterious court joker. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the King and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into an intense, secret courtship.

Cath is determined to define her own destiny and fall in love on her terms. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.

The Last Star (The Fifth Wave #3) | Rick Yancey

Originally this was slated for release in 2015, but I guess it's been pushed to 2016. Regardless I'm excited  for its release, hopefully by the time it comes out I don't forget the plot. 

We’re here, then we’re gone, and that was true before they came. That’s always been true. The Others didn’t invent death; they just perfected it. Gave death a face to put back in our face, because they knew that was the only way to crush us. It won’t end on any continent or ocean, no mountain or plain, jungle or desert. It will end where it began, where it had been from the beginning, on the battlefield of the last beating human heart.

Master storyteller Rick Yancey invokes triumph, loss, and unrelenting action as the fate of the planet is decided in the conclusion to this epic series.

Lady Midnight (The Dark Artifices #1) | Cassandra Clare

Yet another repeat from the 2015 list, but the excitement doesn't subside. 

Los Angeles. It’s been five years since the events of the Mortal Instruments when Nephilim stood poised on the brink of oblivion and Shadowhunter Emma Carstairs lost her parents. After the blood and violence she witnessed as a child, Emma has dedicated her life to to discovering exactly what it was that killed her parents and getting her revenge.

Raised in the Los Angeles Institute with the Blackthorn family, Emma is paired as a parabatai with her best friend, Julian Blackthorn. A series of murders in the city catch her attention — they seem to have the same characteristics as the deaths of her parents. Could the murderer be the same person? And her attention isn’t the only one caught: someone has been murdering Downworlders as well. The Fair Folk make a deal with the Institute: if the Blackthorns and Emma will investigate the killings, they’ll return Mark Blackthorn to his home. The catch: they have only two weeks to find the killers. Otherwise it’s open war between faeries and Nephilim.

The Shadowhunters of the Institute must race against time to catch the killers, even as they begin to suspect the involvement of those closest to them. At the same time, Emma is falling in love with the one person in the world she’s absolutely forbidden by Shadowhunter Law to love. Set against the glittering backdrop of present-day Los Angeles, Emma must learn to trust her head and her heart as she investigates a demonic plot that stretches from the warlock-run nightclubs of the Sunset Strip to the enchanted sea that pounds the beaches of Santa Monica.

The Hidden Oracle (The Trials of Apollo #1) | Rick Riordan 

I haven't been excited for any other Riordan series except the Percy Jackson series, but I love Apollo so I'm really hoping this book doesn't disappoint. 

How do you punish an immortal?

By making him human.

After angering his father Zeus, the god Apollo is cast down from Olympus. Weak and disorientated, he lands in New York City as a regular teenage boy. Now, without his godly powers, the four-thousand-year-old deity must learn to survive in the modern world until he can somehow find a way to regain Zeus's favour.

But Apollo has many enemies - gods, monsters and mortals who would love to see the former Olympian permanently destroyed. Apollo needs help, and he can think of only one place to go . . . an enclave of modern demigods known as Camp Half-Blood.

Lady Renegades (Rebel Belle #3) | Rachel Hawkins 

Rebel Belle was fantastic, and Miss Mayhem was a close second, I'm just hoping that the finale of the trilogy doesn't disappoint. 

Just as Harper Price starts coming to terms with her role as David Stark's battle-ready Paladin, protector, and girlfriend—her world goes crazy all over again.  

Overwhelmed by his Oracle powers, David flees Pine Grove and starts turning teenaged girls into Paladins—and these young ladies seem to think that Harper is the enemy David needs protecting from.  Ordinarily, Harper would be able to fight off any Paladin who comes her way, but her powers have been dwindling since David left town, which means her life is on the line yet again. 

Now, it’s a desperate race for Harper to find and rescue David before she backslides from superhero to your garden-variety type-A belle. 
New York Times bestselling author Rachel Hawkins brings the fun once again in the finale of this pitch-perfect romantic paranormal comedy series.

I've been out of the book atmosphere lately so there are probably a ton of releases I'm forgetting, let me know in the comments below! 

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Turn It Off | S. Elle Cameron


“Life is funny. One minute you’re trying to find something to live for, and the next, it comes walking through your door in the middle of the night.”

Turn It Off follows the life of Peyton Giordano (from A Tragic Heart) as he struggles to find strength to live following the tragic loss of his mother all while falling victim to the lures of drug addiction, mental illness, reckless romances, and countless other internal and external demons. Tormented by his mother’s death, and both the absence of his father and the physical abuse he experienced by his step-father, Peyton embarks on a journey to find balance in his life.

After starting a new life under his aunt and uncle’s care, Peyton finds himself yielding to the evils inside of him more than ever before. Terrified of exposing his true feelings, he learns new ways to turn off his pain. Peyton quickly comes to realize that just because it doesn’t hurt for a moment, doesn’t mean the pain is really gone.

The more he tries to shut everything out, the more he indulges in his dirty habits thrusting his life into a vicious cycle of chaos. As life always has a way of revealing, however, there are but so many times we can go around before we decide to jump off the ride.

Turn It Off acts as a prequel to A Tragic Heart and is the third installment to the RED Tragedies series.

Since it is the third book in the series, there may be minor spoilers ahead (though I did try to keep the contents of the book pretty vague). If you want to find my reviews to the other two books, you can find them below. 

+5 Cover Design

Out of all the covers this is by far my favorite. It's the one that looks the most cohesive in terms of the actual image and in terms of the story. If I saw this sitting on the shelves of a bookstore, I would definitely pick it up. 

+5 Writing Style

Cameron's writing style has remained consistent throughout all of the books and I really love it. There's a certain talent she has in being able to express emotion in a way that's relatable even though the reader may not be able to completely empathize with the circumstances.

I found it really interesting how it was written from a first person, past tense perspective constantly foreshadowing the ending. And overall it gave a bigger insight to Peyton as a character, which I loved. The only way to follow this up would be to write from Mason's perspective, specifically his thoughts during the latter half of his marriage with Taylor. I would love to know what he was thinking during that rough patch.

+4 Plot Development

Unlike a thriller or a mystery where the trajectory of the plot is generally set out, we didn't really know what would happen. It was more learning more backstory and background of a character we already know and love and in that respect I think the book did a fantastic job.

+4 Character Relations

I thought the character relations were pretty interesting. While I couldn't understand many of the romantic aspects of it, such as the problems between Adalyn and Peyton that seemed to randomly come up, I especially liked the brotherly relationship between Mason and Peyton. I think the most relatable moment was when Mason, after bailing Peyton out time after time, finally put his foot down and let Peyton fail, which led to him finally getting better. I think that moment was a crucial turning point and strengthened their relationship, I just wish we got to see more interaction between them after Taylor came into the picture.

+3 Character Development

Peyton definitely developed throughout the book, but it just took him a while to get himself of his own grave. As a reader it was definitely frustrating seeing him slide back into his dangerous habits, especially when he's had so many close calls with overdosing. It was especially frustrating when his close friends, even Mason would invite him out to parties with the disclaimer "I'll make sure you don't drink", because even the environment is tempting enough. I just think that Peyton would have recovered faster had he been in different environment completely cut off from the party scene, which is why I think rehab helped him so much. Though the character development was fairly well done, as a reader it was frustrating watching him fall into the same habits repeatedly.

+3 Likability of Protagonist

On the same note, because Peyton kept throwing himself back into this dangerous and self-destructive behavior, it was hard to like him as a character. All I wanted to do was shake some sense into him, but alas I couldn't and had to watch as he became more and more of an addict. His lack of independence made me like him less.

+5 Necessity of Minor Characters

The minor characters had a huge influence on Peyton's actions, both positive and negative. Adalyn, Mason and Taylor ad a large role in his recovery but, like I mentioned early, everyone else (even including them sometimes) had a large role in his addiction. Their influence majorly shaped the story and they were crucial to the plot.

+5 Setting Description 

The setting was well set, I didn't have any trouble visualizing the characters or the scene.

+5 Interesting Storyline

Because I had read and loved all the other books, I was already invested in the characters and as a result, the plot of this story and the background we get on Peyton was something I really loved.

+4  Predictability

Because this was a retelling of parts of A Tragic Heart, we knew how the story would end. What we didn't know was how we would get from the initial point to the final point. While there's definitely a pattern throughout the characters, each one responds differently to the obstacles thrown in their way and I love how we get a slightly different reaction each time.

+50 Finished

Final Total: 93/100 ; A

Throughout the book we focused more on the time period after Karson and before Taylor and I wish we had gotten more of the two endpoints as well. While Peyton patched things up with his real father, I wish we had gotten some amount of closure with Karson, maybe a final confrontation. Other than that I thought this book, like the rest, was fantastic. If you haven't picked up this series I highly recommend them, and if you have let me know what you thought in the comments below!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Tuesday Talks | Booksites besides Goodreads

Hey guys welcome to another Tuesday Talks post. Tuesday Talks is a Goodreads group started by Janie and Janelle where we discuss book-related topics every week. Today we're going to talk about book sites other than Goodreads.

Honestly, it's so hard to keep up with Goodreads and every group on there, I can't imagine having to continually keep up with other websites. Nonetheless I do use social media like Facebook, Twitter, Bloglovin' to promote my blog post, but other than that I really don't use any book related sites like Goodreads.

Do you guys use any other book-related websites? If so, are they better or worse than Goodreads? Let me know in the comments below! 

Sunday, December 27, 2015

The Girl on the Train | Paula Hawkins


A debut psychological thriller that will forever change the way you look at other people’s lives.

Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. “Jess and Jason,” she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.

And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel offers what she knows to the police, and becomes inextricably entwined in what happens next, as well as in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?

Compulsively readable, The Girl on the Train is an emotionally immersive, Hitchcockian thriller and an electrifying debut.

Because this is a mystery, and both the cover and the synopsis are purposely vague I want to talk a bit in depth of the actual contents of the book. As a result, this review will definitely have spoilers ahead so if you haven't picked up the book, I suggest reading it before continuing.

+5 Cover Design

I actually am a fan of the cover. The blurryness matches the tone of the book and I think it does well to complement the storyline without giving away any crucial information. Both the cover and the synopsis work in order to keep an air of mystery around the book, which is what initially enticed me to read it.

+4 Writing Style

I don't have too much to say about the writing style. I would say it was about average, easy to get lost in the book but not spectacular in any sense. 

+4 Plot Development

While I didn't love the characters (something I will touch on further) I did enjoy how the plot unfolded. The entirety of the plot was clouded which made it interesting since you never knew where you would end up. Did Rachel have a personality disorder or was she just crazy? Did Megan's therapist kill her or was it her unintentionally abusive husband? Before we got to the conclusion, we went through so much with the characters and explored all the possibilities before finally reaching the conclusion.  

+3 Character Relations

Every character was connected in some way which was interesting but also mildly unnecessary. Many of the relations between character seemed almost forced and unrealistic. For example, when Rachel first started getting into Megan's investigation, she continually emailed Scott and lied to get her way into his life which seemed unnatural.

Another issue seemed to be the unnatural number of affairs between all the characters. Maybe this is just me, but I don't think it's natural to have slept with several women while you're married. I found it especially ironic for Anna, since she was the 'other woman' when Tom and Rachel were married. Anna truly believed her relationship with Tom was perfect, not even knowing the same situation was happening with her.

Generally I wasn't a huge fan of how interconnected the characters were, especially since it was mostly just a circle of sex. I wish there had been more variety in the types of relationships between characters.

+3 Character Development

I felt like there wasn't much development in terms of characters. Out of all the characters we only saw minute development in Rachel, our protagonist. As an alcoholic much of the book focused on her trying to get her life together and between the beginning and the end of the book she finally was able to get most of her life together though there were frequent setbacks.

Rachel was finally able to grow some confidence and independence which was really important for her, but a lot had to happen for her to make even the smallest amount of progress.

+2 Likability of Protagonist

I really didn't like Rachel as a character, but I really didn't like any of the other characters either. In the beginning Rachel was whiny, annoying and overall weak as a character and my irritation with her only grew as she continued to drink knowing her alcoholic condition. I found it incredibly surprising that Rachel ended up being the most sane character out of the entire cast, Relatively, she was my favorite character but I disliked all of them so that statement doesn't say much.

+3 Necessity of Minor Characters

There were several characters that were mentioned several times but were never given a determined role or a proper conclusion. One example of this is the red-haired man Rachel ran into on the night of the murder. I figure his purpose was to help fill in the gaps of that night, but he really didn't make much of a difference in the plot for the amount of attention that seemed to be given to him. I wish more attention was given to these minor characters and more of these non sexual relationships were more fleshed out.

+5 Setting Description

There wasn't anything too special about the setting. It was easy to visualize it but it wasn't spectacular.

+5 Interesting Storyline

I love mysteries so I thought the storyline was fantastic. The thrill and feeling of reading a murder mystery is something that can't be replicated from any other genre.

+3  Predictability

I like to think I'm fairly good at predicting the outcome of mysteries since it usually ends up being the person least likely to have committed the crime. Unfortunately in this book, the actual killer was fairly predictable. Throughout most of the book I had eliminated Scott and Megan's therapist simply because they were suspected in the book. But I began to suspect Anna since she had motive and her perspective was given in the book. 

Both Tom and Scott were abusive individuals and it wasn't too much of a stretch that Tom had killed Megan, so it wasn't a gasp-inducing conclusion which was mildly disappointing. 

+50 Finished

Final Total: 87/100 ; B+

I felt like there was much more hype around this book than it deserved, but that's the beauty of hype, it usually lets you down. It definitely a good mystery but I recommend not going into it with too many expectations like I did. If you read it, let me know what you thought in the comments below! 

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Queen of Shadows | Sarah J. Mass


The queen has returned.

Everyone Celaena Sardothien loves has been taken from her. But she’s at last returned to the empire—for vengeance, to rescue her once-glorious kingdom, and to confront the shadows of her past…

She has embraced her identity as Aelin Galathynius, Queen of Terrasen. But before she can reclaim her throne, she must fight.

She will fight for her cousin, a warrior prepared to die for her. She will fight for her friend, a young man trapped in an unspeakable prison. And she will fight for her people, enslaved to a brutal king and awaiting their lost queen’s triumphant return.

The fourth volume in the New York Times bestselling series continues Celaena’s epic journey and builds to a passionate, agonizing crescendo that might just shatter her world.

I want to preface this review by saying that I just finished this book and I'm absolutely reeling. There will be major spoilers ahead so if you haven't read this book definitely go pick it up because you will not be disappointed. If you haven't read the series yet, I honestly don't know why. All of my reviews for the first three books are below if you want to check any of those out. But there's no way I can talk about this book without spoiling anything. 

+5 Cover Design

The Throne of Glass covers are incredible. Every single design is amazing and I love all of them. 

+5 Writing Style

Sarah J. Maas is a goddess when it comes to writing. Every part of the story somehow weaves itself together and it's insane how cohesive every part of this novel is and how well the complexities of the characters and plots came together. I cannot wait for the rest of this series because every book gets better and better. 

+5 Plot Development

The plot was absolutely insane. Usually if a group of characters are planning some type of raid/ attack and the plan is intricately laid out for us, things rarely go the way we want them to. Almost always something goes wrong. However, Sarah J. Maas keeps the reader in the dark, so we don't actually know the specifics, making everything all the more surprising, which was fantastic to read. 

+5 Character Relations

Let's talk about the initial love triangle, Chaol, Dorian and Aelin. We've been swinging between Chaol and Dorian throughout the first three books, but let's be completely honest: both are kind of out the window. I've always been a Dorian fan. Live, love Dorian. Chaol was just mediocre to me, and, if I'm being totally honest, when he "died" in Queen of Shadows I just shrugged and moved on. He's no longer crucial to the storyline and his death wouldn't be the worst thing that happened. Either way, there's no way him and Aelin are getting together at this point. Dorian and Aelin are probably not going to end up together either but it's a minor possibility.

Let's talk about Rowan. At first Rowan and Aelin was just a really great best friend situation, the parabatai who are completely open with each other. But of course, that type of intimacy doesn't last without romantic feelings getting involved. I absolutely love their chemistry together. They're both arrogant and completely independent but still care for each other and I think that type of relationship works really well.

I also really love Lysandra and Aelin's relationship. Aelin hasn't had too many female friends over the span of this series and the one she's had was killed. But I loved seeing her and Lysandra go from being enemies to best friends, especially when Aelin paid off Lysandra's debt.

In the last book there was a flashback to her childhood when all the characters were eating dinner together as children, and I loved how Maas juxtaposed a current version of that scenario after Aelin and Dorian have taken the throne. 

+5 Character Development

I will admit, the name change from Celaena Sardothien to Aelin Ashryver Galathynius really messed me up throughout most of the book. I understand the point is to show how she's essentially changed personas, but it was really hard to picture the same person in my mind. Nonetheless, there were several times within the book where Aelin had to pretend to be Celaena and that's where we begin to see the stark contrast between Aelin and Celaena. I love her character development and I can't wait to see her officially take her position as queen. 

+5 Likability of Protagonist

Aelin is such a complex character. From the outside she seems like a heartless bitch who can mercilessly kill people. But her random acts of kindness really showcase the real Aelin, the queen to her people. The pairing of her independence and her vulnerability makes for such an interesting complex and I love reading about her and I completely love her as a character. If I could be any book character it's a toss up between her and Annabeth Chase from the Percy Jackson series. 

+5 Necessity of Minor Characters

Sarah J. Maas doesn't waste characters and everyone has had a specific role in the storyline. Even those that died in previous books still come back to haunt present characters and continue to guide their actions, making them necessary for the plot even though they're no longer present.

+5 Setting Description

The setting was presented beautiful. It was so easy to mentally visualize the location of all the characters and it made it so much easier just to get lost in the book and story.

+5 Interesting Storyline

Of course the storyline is interesting. From book one I've been on the edge of my seats watching as the dictatorship of the king comes tumbling down and if the storyline hadn't been interesting there would have been no way I could have made it through hundreds of pages of the plot.

+5  Predictability

Like I mentioned before, Sarah J. Maas has this way of writing that gives the reader the bare minimum amount of information. Everything comes as a surprise and that adds to the joy of reading.

+50 Finished

Final Total: 100/100 ; A+

There's really not much more I can say about this book or this series. It is absolutely phenomenal. If you haven't read it, go read it! And if you have let's discuss down below why you loved it or hated it! 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Me & Mr. Jones | Lindsay Marie Miller


Finley O'Connell is a shy, reserved college student, who has no intention of ever trusting another man. At nineteen, Finley spends her Friday nights alone, studying clinical psychology to ease her mind of the abusive childhood she has yet to overcome. Her new professor, the young, charismatic Cabel Jones, begins to take an interest in Finley, whose first instinct is to run. But when an ordinary experiment turns to bloodshed, Finley must rely on Cabel, as the two hide away in a rustic, secluded cabin in the wilderness. Plagued by deception and dear, Finley soon finds herself in the arms of the one man on campus who can never truly be hers. 

+2 Cover Design

If I'm being quite honest, I don't love the cover. The book is marketed as a thriller romance, and while it does reflect the thriller side of the novel, the man on the cover looks scary rather than the lead hero of the novel.

+3 Writing Style

The writing wasn't terrible but it wasn't spectacular. I couldn't feel myself being sucked in by the words. 

+2 Plot Development

Throughout the entirety of the book I could not see where the plot was going. This book was split up into two separate parts, the first part thriller and the second part romance and I think both components of the book should have been intertwined better. Even then, I didn't feel myself sucked into the plot of the thriller, which I consider as the main aspect of the book. There wasn't enough foundation set for the setting and characters for me as the reader to care about the plot and what happened to the characters.

Even while Cabel and Finley were on the run, the reader wasn't given enough information to follow along with the plot. We were kept in the dark almost as much as Finley was which was incredibly frustrating.

Overall the plot moved too fast, to the point where it was unrealistic, which made the book difficult to get through. 

+1 Character Relations

Relationships between characters are very difficult to write, couples especially. It's very easy to cross from realistic into the realm of obnoxious and unbelievable. As much as I tried to ship Cabel and Finley together and get behind their relationship, I just couldn't. The way they met was cute but from there it was just downhill. Within a hundred pages into the book they had already proclaimed  their love for each other after they'd known each other for a few days, and that's when I couldn't stand them.

+1 Character Development

Even the book seemed to stretch out over a fairly wide time frame, a couple of years at least, I didn't see any change in character for both Finley and Cabel. It's possible I didn't see the character development since I wasn't as invested in the characters, but from beginning to end I saw little to no change in their personalities or how they acted.

+1 Likability of Protagonist

In conjunction to the point above, I couldn't find myself relating to Finley. Since she was a college freshman, much like myself, I felt like I should have been able to relate to her. But before we even get a glimpse into her college life or her, we're thrown into the thriller aspect of the book. Even as the story continued, we seemed to only know her in terms of Cabel. She was dependent, almost too dependent on Cabel, to the point where I couldn't stand her as a character.

A lot of the synopsis focuses on her backstory coming from an abusive childhood but I didn't see that reflected in the story as much. As someone who comes from such a dark background I found it surprising that she trusted Cabel so easily, especially after he repeatedly put her in danger and lied to her.

+2 Necessity of Minor Characters

There was a surprisingly small cast of characters within this novel and for the majority of the book it felt like Kinley and Cabel were the only characters. Not that it's necessarily a bad thing, but I do think there could have been more characters to shift the attention. Perhaps more characters on Finley's side, like a best friend or a potential friend, etc.

+4 Setting Description

Another important aspect of a book is attention to detail, but just the right amount of detail. While I didn't have any major problems with this aspect of the story, the setting wasn't phenomenal. It was hard to visualize the setting but that could have been due to the other factors I've mentioned.

+3 Interesting Storyline

The storyline itself seemed fairly interesting, however I think the execution was below my expectations.

+4  Predictability

Since I couldn't really figure out where the plot was going, it was hard to predict what was going to happen next, so there was a predictability aspect of the book that I liked. 

+45 Finished

It was a fairly difficult to get through this book for me and as a result I had to skim the last 50ish pages of the book. Maybe it was the reading slump I fell into after finishing Winter or maybe I couldn't invest myself into the characters and plot as easily as I normally can. Either way I wanted to be completely honest with my review.

Final Total: 68/100 ; D+

Overall, I admit I did not like this book as much as I wanted to. My main issues were with the plot and the characters which were hard to follow and unrelatable. I don't want to discourage anyone from reading this book, so if it sounds like something you'd like give it a read, though I personally wasn't a fan. 

On a slightly different note, I got the opportunity to interview the wonderful Lindsay Marie Miller where we talk about her books Emerald Green and Me & Mr. Jones, which you can find here.  

Words With an Author | Yvonne Ventresca

Welcome to another Words with an Author! Today I have the opportunity of talking to Yvonne Ventresca, author of Pandemic. I had the pleasure of meeting Yvonne at the book festival I held about a year ago and she's such a wonderful person. I hope you guys enjoy the interview! 

1. How did you get into writing? When did you first start writing? 

I was always an avid reader, and wanting to work with words seemed like a natural extension of that. I still have notebooks filled with hundreds of poems I wrote in middle school. Sadly, I threw away the opening chapters of my first attempt at a novel called The Flood.

I studied creative writing (along with computer science) in college but it wasn’t until several years after I graduated that I decided to focus on writing seriously. One of my early freelance assignments was to write career profiles for teens. This led to my first nonfiction book, Publishing (Careers for the 21st Century), followed by a biography of the singer Avril Lavigne (by the same publisher). Getting fiction published took me much longer, and Pandemic, my young adult debut, was actually my fourth attempt at writing a novel.

2. Where did you come up with the ideas for your books? Who/ what is your inspiration?

I’ve always been fascinated with disaster and survival stories. For example, I loved Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer. The idea of a global, deadly disease has always seemed frightening to me. When swine flu occurred in 2009, it wasn’t particularly lethal, but it did make me wonder about pandemics. I wanted to create a story where the main character is in a difficult place at the onset, even before the disease strikes, so that she must find a way to heal and become stronger during the crisis.

3. Are any of your characters based on people you actually know, if so which ones?

Reggie, the ShopWell cashier, was based on an actual employee at my local grocery store. I have since given him a copy of the novel and he often keeps Pandemic bookmarks in his front shirt pocket when he works.

4. If you had to pick only five books from your bookshelf you could keep, what would they be? 

Stephen King’s On Writing (part memoir, part instruction manual), Collected Lyrics by Edna St. Vincent Millay (my favorite poet), The Artist’s Way by Julie Cameron (creative inspiration),  First Things First by Stepen R. Covey (productivity nonfiction), The Headless Cupid by Zilpha Keatley Snyder (a childhood favorite).

5. How long did the writing process take for each of your books? What does your writing process look like?

Pandemic took about two years to write. My process is slow and messy and basically involves multiple revisions, focusing on different story flaws each time. I have a recent guest post about plotting at KidLit Summer School here which includes this photo of my early revision notes. (I’ve whited out some spoilers.

6. Who are some of your favorite authors?

Laurie Halse Anderon, Nova Ren Suma, Judy Blundell. Also, all of my friends from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, particularly from NJ. 

7. What actors/ actresses could you see playing the characters of your book?

Dakota Fanning (as a brunette) could play Lilianna Snyder, the main character.
Alex Bechet could play Jay Martinez, Lil’s neighbor and the new boy in town. Bechet was featured in Demi Lovato’s “Give Your Heart a Break” video (
Christian Bale could play Mr. B, the formerly-beloved English teacher who fools everyone with his charm.

8. How did you come up with the title and cover of each of your books? Did they morph as you wrote the book, or were they constant?

“Pandemic” seemed to get the idea across in one word. I experimented with other titles, but nothing else seemed to work as well.

The cover was designed by Sky Pony Press’s Brian Peterson. The fictional bird flu, nicknamed The Blue Flu, inspired the bird image and the main color. The shade of blue—the teal color—is actually a nod to a US organization, the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (, which uses a teal ribbon to represent sexual violence awareness and prevention. This relates to a trauma which occurred in Lil’s recent past that she is still trying to recover from. Since the blue-shaded cover creates an almost serene mood, the large, disjointed title was used to produce an unsettled feeling which mirrors the suspense of the story.

9. Are you planning to write any other books?

I’m currently working on a YA psychological thriller about a girl who fears she is either being haunted or going insane. I like the idea of creating scary circumstances in our ordinary world.

10. Have you had to do any outside research for a book you’ve written?

Yes! For several months, I had a teetering pile of books on my nightstand about various infectious diseases. I read about historical illnesses (like the Spanish Influenza of 1918) and researched contemporary pandemics. A local health department officer helped educate me about the realities of managing an outbreak and I also studied some interesting emergency response plan documents for NJ, where the story is set.

11. Where is your ideal writing location?

 My ideal location is anywhere there is a scenic view. My reality is anywhere in the house I can keep an eye on my two dogs. (Below: Luna and Rocky helping me write this summer.)

12. What would your advice be to someone who's aspiring to be a writer?

For the very beginner, making time to write has to become a priority. (See one of my favorite quotes, below). Once you’ve written something, finding a good critique group is important. They can motivate you, advise you, and help make your writing stronger. Critiquing other people’s work in return helps hone your own skills. 

I have more tips here:

13. Finally, just to wrap things up, what's your favorite color and why?

I love the blue of Pandemic’s cover, but right now my favorite is red. It’s such a passionate, vibrant color.

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