Monday, May 25, 2015

Up and Coming: Emmy & Oliver by Robin Benway

Emmy & Oliver by Robin Benway

Release Date: June 23, 2015

When Emmy was little she was best friends with Caroline, Drew and a boy named Oliver who lived next door. And then one day Drew's dad picked him up from school and didn't bring him home. For ten years Oliver's mom (and the police, and the FBI) looked for him. For ten years Caroline, Drew, Emmy and everyone else in their town's parents held on to their children a little tighter. But he didn't come back.

Until, one day, he did.

Everyone told Emmy that Oliver wouldn't remember her. That he would need space. That she should let him get adjusted. But, there's still something there between she and him. Is she just imagining how easy it is to talk to him? Emmy knows there's a timeline out there where Oliver was the boy next door and the boy that she'd fall for. But, what happens when the timeline gets ripped apart? Can the ending stay the same? Or did Oliver's dad ruin their destiny that morning that he drove away and didn't come home?

This was my first book by Robin Benway and I loved it so much I am going to have to immediately read her back catalog. This could have been a very over-the-top sort of concept for a romance, but instead, it feels very realistic. Emmy and her friends have had their lives changed by an event that didn't even happen to them. But even Emmy can't quite wrap her brain around what Oliver's life has suddenly become. Emmy & Oliver takes a look at both what it's like to be in the direct sights of a tragedy, buy also what it's like to be caught in the outer ripples of it.

It's also a slow building romance where a friendship just begins to burn a little stronger. I've seen Emmy & Oliver recommended for fans of Sarah Dessen and I would totally agree with this and add it's a perfect read for Jennifer E. Smith fans as well.

Katie gets obsessed: with author Robin Benway

Up and Coming: Also Known As by Robin Benway

Radio Week- "Who Loves the Sun" by the Velvet Underground






Friday, May 22, 2015

The Cipher by John C. Ford

The Cipher by John C. Ford

When your dad is the head of a multi-million dollar computer security firm, people expect certain things from you. Smiles has never been very good at meeting expectations. On the first day of his 18th year, Smiles has been kicked out of school, is recovering from a hangover and the only people singing "Happy Birthday" to him are the nurses in the oncology ward where his dad is dying.

When his oddball sixteen year old math-genius neighbor asks him for a ride to a Connecticut Casino, where Ben is supposed to be attending a cryptology conference, it seems like the perfect escape from Smiles life. But, there's something bigger going on around Smiles and he's about to find out how much a math equation can be worth to the right people and how dangerous it can be to have solved it as well.

This is a high stakes thriller where math and politics can cost people's lives. If you are a math whiz or a fan of cut-throat dramas like House of Cards and The Americans, The Cipher will keep you on the edge of your seat.

More to Read:

Up and Coming: Au Revoir Crazy European Chick

Up and Coming: Perry's Killer Playlist by Joe Schreiber

Up and Coming: Fake ID by Lamar Giles

Tokoyo Heist by Diana Renn

Read This, Watch That: Fast Cars Edition


Thursday, May 21, 2015

Playing a Part by Daria Wilke

Playing a Part by Daria Wilke

Grisha has grown up at the puppet theater where his parents both work. He's used to running around in the seats and now that he's a teenager, he's learning how to make the puppets that grace the stage. He's also grown up with the actors who think of him and his pal Sashok, his godsister, as the mascots of the theater. But there's one actor that Grisha wishes would notice that he's no longer a little kid, the very talented Sam.

Sam's about to head off on an adventure, leaving the theater and Grisha to miss him. And, on top of that, the owner of the theater wants to replace the puppetmaster who has been there for all of Grisha's time there. It seems like everything is changing including Grisha and he's not sure he likes any of it.

Then there's his grandfather who doesn't approve of Sam and certainly wouldn't approve of Grisha's growing feelings for the actor. The other teens at Grisha's school in Russia definitely wouldn't either. So, he's playing a version of himself that feels nothing for anyone, but how long can he keep that up?

This is a translation from Russian and it's always very interesting to see what life for a teen is like in another part of the world. This is a sweet realistic novel that's perfect for theater kids. Grisha and his god-sister are both really interested in learning their parents trade, even as their trying to find their own way in life.

More to Read:

Up and Coming: Simon vs. The Homo-Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Bottled Up Secret by Brian McNamara

Up and Coming: One Man Guy by Michael Barakiva

Up and Coming: Fan Art by Sarah Tregay

Up and Coming: When Love Comes to Town by Tom Lennon

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Infinite Sky by C.J. Flood

Infinite Sky by C.J. Flood

Iris' mom left home and ever since then her life has gone off the rails. Her brother's so angry about being left behind that he's abandoned his best friend for a group of teens known for getting in fights instead of drawing like he used to be interested in. Her dad's drinking more than he's working and he's developed an unhealthy obsession with the Irish travelers who have been squatting on his land.

Iris thinks the newcomers are fascinating, particularly their handsome teenage son. When they develop a friendship, it's just about the only thing that seems to be going right in Iris' life.

But, as her summer reading book, The Outsiders says, "nothing gold can stay," and Iris' summer romance is about to come to a screeching halt.

This book deals with how the world keeps on spinning, even when terrible things happen. Iris and her family do not take a lot of chances to really talk to each other about what's happening in their lives or how they feel about each other, but they soon realize that the chances to do that are anything but infinite. It's an all too realistic story for fans of Jenny Hubbard or Jandy Nelson.

More to Read:

Try Not to Breathe by Jennifer R. Hubbard

Up and Coming: What Remains by Helene Dunbar

Anywhere But Here by Tana Lloyd Kyi

Up and Coming: Those Gentle Wounds by Helene Dunbar

LIE by Caroline Bock

Monday, May 18, 2015

Wildlife by Fiona Wood

Wildlife by Fiona Wood

Sib was prepared for her wilderness semester. She had her sneakers, her backpack and stationary to write home. She wasn't, however, prepared for how differently people would treat her after a family friend asks her to model for a big budget magazine and billboard campaign.

Lou has had no such luck, but she's also struggling to deal with the unexpected. For her, a semester away from everything is a welcome change, except no matter where she goes, her sadness is coming with her. She's not so out of sorts that she doesn't notice that Sib's best gal pal isn't exactly the type of person you'd want to depend on. But, interfering in Sib's personal life isn't the top of Lou's priorities at all. Until she befriends Sib's other friend, Michael, and has to decide if two new friends are enough reason to reengage with the present.

Lou and Sib are both girls that seem like teens you might know. They're both thrown into a new situation but bring their old emotional baggage with them. There's lots of friendship and boyfriend drama, just as you'd expect during  a semester away from their parents. This is a perfect read to take with you on your next camping trip.

More to Read:

Up and Coming: Nantucket Blue by Leila Howland

Love weepies? You're not alone.

At Last! We'll Always Have Summer!

Friday, May 15, 2015

Simon Week: Becky Albertalli Talks to Us About Georgia, Theater, Simon and, of course, Blue!

We are so happy to be able to bring you an interview with Becky Albertalli, the author of Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda . We've devoted a week of posts to her and we hope you're going to be checking out her fabulous book. Welcome to the blog Ms. Albertalli!

Can you tell us a little bit about your book?

Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda is a nerdy, gay email love story set in the suburbs of Georgia. It’s about a sixteen-year-old named Simon, his anonymous email pen pal, and a boy at school who threatens to out Simon before he’s ready. Autocorrect fails, Oreo eating, and making out ensue.

Simon and Blue know that they go to the same school, but they don’t know each other’s identities beyond that. There is some freedom to have intimacy because they are anonymous. Do you think that’s part of the appeal of their penpal-ship?

I absolutely think that’s a huge part of it. The anonymity helps them feel safe as they get to know each other. They actually share more with each other than they do with their “real life” friends. It’s something they’re both aware of, and it makes it that much more complicated for them to imagine meeting in person. I think, in general, it can be so much easier to share parts of ourselves with those who don’t know us quite as well. Simon worries a lot about integrating new aspects of himself with the more familiar pieces of his identity – and he finds it’s easier to try on those new parts of himself with Blue.

There is also the theme of “coming out.” But, it’s not only coming out as gay. It’s also, coming out as being someone other than the person the people who have known you forever think you are, whether that’s as a drummer, or as someone who can have a serious relationship.  Was this something you particularly wanted to highlight?

It was! Sort of. :-D Believe it or not, this theme emerged while I was writing the book, but in retrospect, I think it’s the heart of Simon’s story. There was this tension as I was writing, because it was really important to me not to trivialize the actual LGBTQIA+ coming out experience. Simon does come out in this story, and it’s a much bigger deal than he expects it to be. That being said, straight and cisgender people experience little moments of “coming out” that echo the LGBTQIA+ experience – and I’d love for that to be a point of access for these readers.

I love all the scenes with Simon’s theater club. There are perfect moments where a scene is finally clicking or an improvised moment that gets a big laugh. These ring true enough that we want to know, were you in the drama club as a teen? If so, any favorite roles?

I was a total theater kid! I had the lead role once, during my senior year of high school. I played the main character in an incredible play by Lynda Barry, called The Good Times are Killing Me, and I consider it one of the best experiences of my life. I was also in all the musicals - like Simon, I was always in the chorus. I’ll name a few of my parts – can you guess the musicals? River City Townsperson. Lady in Waiting. Hairy Ishmaelite.

There’s a strong sense of place to this book as well. One of our reviewers who’s also from the Atlanta area told us it really felt like her hometown. Why did you choose to set Simon’s story there?

Oh, that’s so nice to hear! Simon’s story is actually set in a very thinly veiled version of my hometown (Sandy Springs, Georgia). I love writing about places I know well - it gives me a kind of anchor as I’m writing. Also, environment and context are so important when trying to understand the lives of LGBTQIA+ teenagers, and I needed to tell this story in an environment I knew well. I do think that setting the book in Sandy Springs/Shady Creek ended up being really important for this story. Atlanta is such an interesting city - the intown areas are this liberal pocket, but the suburbs tend to be very politically conservative. The dynamics of that ended up being an important backdrop for Simon’s story.

There are a many  awesome side characters in this story. Simon’s parents and his sisters, his best friends and of course, Blue. Who was the most fun to write?

I had such a blast writing all of these characters. One highlight for me was Alice – her dialogue often reads exactly like conversations I had with my family upon returning home from my first semester at Wesleyan. I also weirdly loved writing Taylor Metternich. I don’t even know how her character wormed her way into the book, but once she was in there, I was just fascinated by her. I’ve never quite decided how I feel about her!

Simon has a great ending (which, of course we can’t talk about, or spoil in anyway), but I wondered, did you plan out in your mind what happens to the rest of the characters after the end of the novel?

Thank you so much! I’m so glad the ending worked for you. I actually have all kinds of headcanon for these characters, including one long, elaborate, decades-spanning love story for Simon and Blue. I may have spent a lot of time thinking about this. J

There is a lot of awesome music in this book (Elliot Smith, Rilo Kiley, Otis Redding). Do you, or Simon, have any rules for making the perfect mixtape.

Hmmm… I think the biggest thing I’ve learned about mixtapes over the years is that it’s important to let go of the idea of one mixtape being everything. I think it’s better to have several focused mixtapes that serve different purposes and cater to different moods. For example, Simon has his “Great Depression” playlist for when he’s in the mood to wallow. I think the best mixtapes are the ones that capture a certain feeling. This is all actually true about books, too – at least for me!

Are there any other YA books that you think fans of your books should check out?
 image from here

I love this question! Anyone who enjoyed Simon should be very excited for Adam Silvera’s More Happy Than Not, which comes out from Soho Teen in the beginning of June. I would describe it as near-future speculative fiction, and it’s utter genius. It’s about a Puerto Rican boy growing up in the Bronx, who’s considering getting a memory-altering procedure so he can forget he’s gay. It’s just such a beautiful, complicated exploration of identity and relationships, and the ending will blow your mind.

I’ve also never gone wrong recommending How to Repair a Mechanical Heart by J.C. Lillis. This is a nerdy, swoony, laugh-out-loud funny book that exploded onto the indie scene a few years ago, and it is one of my obsessions.

What has been your favorite part about being a YA author so far?

Hands down, the best part is the community. I feel so embraced by other authors, writers, readers, librarians, bloggers, booksellers, publishing professionals – everyone! It’s been such a gift to be able to connect with others who love reading, love teenagers, and care so deeply about the issues I care about. Connecting with my readers has been especially amazing – it is so unbelievably special to hear that Simon’s story has been resonating with both teens and adults.

Where is your favorite place to write?

I love to write in my room on the bed! Pajamas are a crucial part of the process.

Do you have any advice for our teens who want to become writers?

I think the teen years are a great time to begin thinking about writing! One thing I’m grateful for is that I kept very honest journals when I was in high school. They’re like portals that take me straight back to my teen years. I definitely recommend getting in the habit of writing about and processing your daily experiences. It’s also so important to read a lot. Fall in love with books, and try to identify what makes those particular books so special. When a book doesn’t work for you, try to explore that, too. I also always recommend eavesdropping! It’s so helpful to listen, not only to what people are saying, but to the rhythms of their conversations. 

Thank you Soooo much for stopping by Becky! If you want to keep up with her, check out her website here.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Simon Week: You Oughta Be In Pictures

On Friday, we've asked author, Becky Albertalli to do an interview with us. We're in LOVE with her book Simon vs. The Homo-Sapiens Agenda! So, the rest of the week will be full of posts devoted to it.

Simon vs. The Homo-Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli would make THE BEST movie adaptation and we know just who should be in it:

image used under CC license
Simon Spier played by Lucas Till
Lucas Till has super powers in the movie, X-men. Days of Future Past, but we also think he’s got all the charisma, which he’d need to be our hero, Simon. He could definitely portray the boy who’s perfectly at home on stage, but also a secret grammar nerd and Oreo aficionado.

image used under CC license
from here 
Martin played by Nat Wolff
He’s in all the YA adaptations right now, and we’re grabbing him for this one too. Nat could bring a lot to Martin’s act-before-he-thinks-it-through character. Simon can’t figure out if Martin is malicious or just oblivious to how his actions (ie: BLACKMAILING SIMON) affect other people. 
Nick played by Johnny Simmons
Johnny's another veteran of YA Adaptations (The Perks of Being a Wallflower and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World) and we think he'd be perfect as Simon's extremely likable best friend. We also think he'd have no problem portraying Nick's almost Ron Weasley like cluelessness about someone crushing on him.

 image used under CC license
from flickr user:Greg Hernandez
Leah played by Ashley Fink 
 When Ashley played Lauren Zizes Glee, she was a total scene stealer. We totally shipped her with Puck and were super sad when she left the show. Like Zizes, Leah steals basically every scene she's in. On top of that, but we totally want to see Ashley fronting a punk band.
A photo posted by Jaz �� (@jaz_sinclair) on
Abby played by Jaz Sinclair
We can't wait to see Jaz in this summer's Paper Towns! We think she'd be awesome as the new girl in town that catches Nick's eye and Simon's confidence. 

A photo posted by @ellenpage on

Alice Spier played by Ellen Page
Alice is the coolest. She has to be played by someone who exudes confidence and doesn't answer to anyone. Is there anyone cooler than Ellen Page? We can't think of a better person to play Simon's older sister. She's also really good at sly humor, which is essential to this part!

 image used under CC license
from flickr user:City Year
Nora Spier played by Kiernan Shipka
If there ever was a rebel who flies under the radar, it's Kiernan. We've watched her grow up on Mad Men and now we have absolutely no doubt that she would be right at home rocking out on stage.

Okay, we couldn't help ourselves, but we are going to cast Blue, so if you haven't read this book yet, BEWARE BECAUSE SPOILERS LAY BELOW!



if you scroll down, for real, you will be spoiled


image used under the cc license
from here
Blue played by Khylin Rhambo
 We don't get a lot of time with Blue once we know who he really is... but, cute, soccer playing Bram, who is secretly pouring his heart out to Simon needs someone who can do a lot, in just a few scenes. Khylin has proved his ability to this on Teen Wolf where he's turned Mason, a minor character, into a fan favorite.