Penguin Teen On Tour

 

Where: Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC
When: Monday, March 13
Who: Renee Ahdieh, Natalie C. Anderson, Alwyn Hamilton, Lesley Livingston

Thanks so much to Penguin Teen for allowing me to feature the fabulous ladies on the Spring 2017 Penguin Teen tour, or #Slaydies as they like to be referred to!

This event was definitely a highlight for me on a rainy and dreary North Carolina Monday.  It’s been about two years since I last visited Quail Ridge Books, and the last time I was there it was a much smaller place, and their new (to me) location is absolutely gorgeous with it’s red walls and spacious floor plan.  Also, I totally loved walking around prior to the arrival of the #Slaydies and discovering the goodies they have on their shelves. I totally found an original vinyl of LET IT BLEED by the Rolling Stones!  Seriously, if you are going to visit Raleigh, you need to make the North Hills Shopping Center and Quail Ridge Books one of your first stops.

Apparently this was the first official panel at Quail Ridge, according to Nancy, who was hosting!  So that made this even more special.  The floor was packed with the members of the Quail Ridge Teen Board, the lovely and large family of Natalie C. Anderson (who is a fellow NC Lady!), some fellow long distance drivers (*waves to Zoey!*), and some local readers.

Nancy started the event off with forty-five minutes of panel discussion with Alwyn, Renee, Natalie, and Lesley.  I think my favorite question of these was definitely how the main characters from their novels would get along and how they’d pull off a heist Ocean’s Eleven style.  Amani and Shazi, per Alwyn and Renee, respectively, would rush in guns blazing, as it were without a proper plan, whereas Tina would be judging them for not creating a proper plan, and Fallon would just be wanting to figure out when the fighting would take place.  I’d seriously watch this movie…maybe a crossover would be a fabulous idea?! *wishes*

After this the crowd was able to ask some questions and they were excellent!  First we had the “what kind of plate would you be” question, which, I think everyone would want to be a giant plate for ALL of the food, although I have to agree with Alwyn and say that I’d want to have one of those plates that are shaped like a book.  (They are REAL!)

I think everyone agreed on which character of theirs would survive the Hunger Games, most definitely the Celtic Gladiatrix, Fallon.

My personal favorite question was my own (I mean, Duh), which was: Since all four novels feature such fierce female characters, what would each be doing in light of the women’s movement today? See Video for all four answers!

The next question was what kind of advice they would give to aspiring authors and what they learned from the process.
Things we learned here:

-Alwyn wrote 6 full novels before even querying Rebel of the Sands
-Renee has almost 200 rejections to her name
-Natalie was given an office that looked like Hogwarts (so fancy)
-Lesley insisted to “not let the bastards get you down.”
-Three of the Four #Slaydies were published off of cold querying, so don’t give up!

After this we were able to get all of our books signed by the Slaydies and chances to chat with them all individually. If you haven’t picked up a copy of any of these ladies’ books, go grab copies now!

Thank you so much to Alwyn, Renee, Natalie, and Lesley for such a fabulous evening and to Penguin Teen for having me cover the event! Keep an eye out for my interview with Lesley Livingston about The Valiant and my 5 Bard review of the book as well!

Author Interview & Book Launch: Renée Ahdieh

meandrenee

Jess and Renée

Thanks to Penguin Teen, I was given the opportunity to interview the author of one of the most anticipated novels of this Summer.  Renée Ahdieh has become a pretty well known in the young adult community thanks to fellow authors giving her debut novel, The Wrath and the Dawn some serious promotion.  Not only were all of the promotions by Lauren DeStefano, Carrie Ryan, and many others completely spot on, but you can also check out my 5 Bard review of Ahdieh’s novel here.

Plus, Ahdieh is local to the Charlotte, North Carolina area, which is where most of us reviewers for Midsummer live!  So myself (Jess), Christine, and Maedchen hopped in the car and drove down to the Barnes & Noble for Ahdieh’s book launch and had a nice sit down in the Starbucks.  Side note: can you look at her? She’s gorgeous. Beautiful and talented to boot, can we all be her?

Note: This interview was transcribed by hand.

A Midsummer Night’s Read (MR): I am really excited about your book, which I have unfortunately not had a chance to read yet. So I’m going to start off with some generic questions and then I’m going to poke you for details.

Renée Ahdieh (RA): Okay!

MR: The first question: is it super nerve-racking to have your debut novel out in the world in such a big genre? And everyone is so excited about it! Twitter blew up today.

RA: I am a little bit nervous, but I think I’m mostly overwhelmed by all of the support that I’m getting from the YA Community, from bloggers, and everyone has just been so wonderful. So I’m just in that place of being overwhelmed and I don’t want to cry.

MR: Is it kind of like putting your baby out there?

RA: You know, I’m very lucky that I’ve been able to talk to others who’ve already had books come out. Some debut authors and some more established authors so they kind of prepped me and they were like, “You need to be okay prior to and letting it no longer be just yours.” So I’ve been kind of ready for that.  Right now I just hope everyone loves it as much as I’ve loved writing it.

MR: Well, I was on Twitter today and there was just so much love for your book all day, and I was just like, “This is awesome! And I get to go talk to her later!” So my other question is why 1001 nights? And while I was writing that question, it reminded me that it is sometimes called Arabian Nights and has anyone sang that Aladdin song to you?

RA: Oh yeah. A lot. In all fairness I’ve sung it so it’s okay! I mean I think there are a couple of blogs that I even wrote where I did the Whole New World like Aladdin with Jasmine on the magic carpet flying up into the sky. I love that movie. So I can go off on a Disney tangent, so I’m sorry what was your question?

MR: Why 1001 Nights? It’s okay, I kind of went off on a tangent there too. Because I thought to myself, “If no one has sang it to her, I’m going to sing it to her.”

RA: You can sing it!  Go ahead and I’ll join in!

Jess, Renée, Maedchen, Christine

Jess, Renée, Maedchen, Christine

MR: But yeah, why 1001 Nights?

RA: You know it’s kind of two-fold, the reasons behind it. The first one is that I’m a child of mixed nationalities and when I was growing up I didn’t have or see a lot of books for kids from diverse backgrounds. It was really important to me that if I was writing a book I wanted to do it from a different perspective because I’m fascinated by that.  Secondly, my husband is Persian, and the narrative of Scheherazade is actually the frame story surrounding 1001 night and it is a Persian story.  So I decided when I was going through deciding what it was I wanted to write that it would be kind of cool and that I could make it a YA narrative. So that was kind of my rationalization.

MR: Well, no one else has done it and I think that’s great. I’m so excited about it.  Is there anything specific that you want readers to take away from The Wrath and the Dawn? Like a theme?

RA: I don’t know about a theme so much.  I wanted the story to be about, and one of my friends Lauren DeStefano said that this book is about bad decisions, and I love that because it is.

MR: I read her review about it and she said something about how Dr. Phil would quit.

RA: I love her review, I laughed so hard when I saw it. I thought it was fantastic. And that is really what the book is about, it is about choice and consequence. And I think that it is definitely what I want people to take away and I hope that everyone is transported to another world.

MR: That’s really cool. I’ve also heard that it is a pretty epic romance. So did you take anything from your relationship with your husband and make it more epic to influence Khalid and Shazi?

RA: I think that… I love my husband very much, and I think it is difficult to say that you take anything from your own life, because I feel that I wanted people to fall in love with the characters and falling in love as Shazi and Khalid fell in love. Romance is really important to me because I’m a huge fan of romance, and I wanted it to be a huge deal in the book. I wanted it to not be kind of “insta-lovey,” but have it be a slow burn and I hope I achieved that.

MR: Can you tell me one of your favorite romances you’ve read recently?

RA: Oh my gosh, I’m a big fan of Marie Rutowski’s The Winners Curse and The Winner’s Crime.  I also love Sabaa Tahir’s An Ember in the Ashes. I also really like to read historical romances. I mean I think there are a lot of really good romances, I’m a fan of Stephanie Perkins, Libba Bray, so I just love YA Romance and I think it’s wonderful.

MR: Me too.  There’s such a wealth of books out there in YA romance.  And I’ve not read one that is completely boring or terrible, because they are all different and it’s great, which is another reason I’m excited to read yours.

RA: Aww.

MR: So what can readers expect from book 2, without giving away too many spoilers?

RA: Lots of sword fighting and lots of swooning and possibly a tear or two.

reneereading

Author Q & A

MR: Is it going to be influenced by another classic work? Or is it still going to be on the theme of 1001 Nights?

RA: It’s very similar to The Wrath and the Dawn.  It is tentatively titled The Rose and the Dagger, and I’m working on edits for that right now.

MR: I’ve heard they (edits) can be a pain.

RA: I keep telling myself that it is going to be worth it and that it’s going to be a better book.

MR: I just always see on Twitter that authors are always editing.

RA: Especially for book 2! And I didn’t believe that until I started writing it, and I was like, “Oh, this is tough!”

MR: Well, I’ve been following, ever since BEA last year, the We Need Diverse books initiative and I’ve read some of the articles you’ve posted on your website.  Do you have any events or panels about these soon?

RA: There are definitely some panels coming up. I think I’m supposed to be on one soon, but I don’t have my schedule in front of me! I know at BEA Book Con there is a big signing happening that will have a lot of the We Need Diverse books authors.  I think it’s on Friday?

It was at this point in the interview where we started discussing travel and how much Renée has traveled around the world.  We invited her to join us for dinner, and she invited us to her after party (which we couldn’t attend, so sad about that!)

 

Not only is Ahdieh’s novel worth my 5 Bard review, but having her here in Charlotte means that we might run into her again!

Renée Signing

Renée Signing

Thank you so much to Penguin Teen and Renée Ahdieh for allowing us to interview you.

You can catch Renée at Book Expo America this week in New York City, and if you are a Charlotte Local then you can see her at ImaginOn with fellow YA authors Brendan Reichs and Carrie Ryan on June 16, 2015.

 

Summer of Sarah Dessen: Review of Saint Anything

saintanythingPeyton, Sydney’s charismatic older brother, has always been the star of the family, receiving the lion’s share of their parents’ attention and—lately—concern. When Peyton’s increasingly reckless behavior culminates in an accident, a drunk driving conviction, and a jail sentence, Sydney is cast adrift, searching for her place in the family and the world. When everyone else is so worried about Peyton, is she the only one concerned about the victim of the accident?

Enter the Chathams, a warm, chaotic family who run a pizza parlor, play bluegrass on weekends, and pitch in to care for their mother, who has multiple sclerosis. Here Sydney experiences unquestioning acceptance. And here she meets Mac, gentle, watchful, and protective, who makes Sydney feel seen, really seen, for the first time.

Check out the book trailer!

There’s a certain amount of magic in every Sarah Dessen novel that is hard to quantify. They are not full of “actual” magic as her books are contemporary in nature, but her story telling abilities are almost ethereal.

Not unlike her previous novels, Dessen really explores the teenage female psyche with skill and still manages to create a character with a unique voice. Sydney’s outlook on life and her circumstances set her apart from Dessen’s other narrators, but still manages to place her firmly within the canon.

The narrative will draw you in from the first scene, which opens in the courthouse for Peyton’s sentencing, and immediately you feel Sydney’s longing for a place in her family that revolves around the oldest son with behavior problems.  I love how the tension began to escalate quickly after the introduction of a specific character, and Dessen does a great job of establishing the antagonistic relationship between the two subtly.

While Sydney is a bit of a pushover at the beginning of the story, it is important to note that she still has her agency when she decides that she wants to make a big change in her life and transfer out of the school she grew up in and away from her only friends to make a new start.  I do enjoy the “journey” trope in young adult literature and this was the beginning of Sydney’s journey to “being seen” by people who made her feel important and loved.

I think the overall arching theme in this novel is something that Dessen summed up to me in the interview I had with her prior to her book event in Chapel Hill with the song Brave by Sara Bareillies.  Sydney was brave enough to change her life in a big way and ultimately a better way.  She was brave enough to face the guilt that came along with Peyton’s actions.  She was brave enough to prove herself to her family.  And of course, she was brave enough to love.

As a fan of Dessen’s work I can tell you that this book will leave you wanting more.  Who else wants to live in Lakeview?

5 Bards to Sarah Dessen’s wonderful 12th novel, and here is to 12 more.

 

fivebards

Book Review: The Edge of Never by J.A. Redmerski

16081272Twenty-year-old Camryn Bennett thought she knew exactly where her life was going.  But after a wild night at the hottest club in downtown Raleigh, North Carolina, she shocks everyone–including herself–whe she decides to leave the only life she’s ever known and set out on her own.  Grabbing her purse and her cell phone, Camryn boards a Greyhound bus ready to find herself.  Instead, she finds Andrew Parrish. 

Sexy and exciting, Andrew lives life like there is no tomorrow.  He persuades Camryn to do things she never though she would and shows her how to give in to her deepest, most forbidden desires. Soon he becomes the center of her daring new life, pulling love and lust and emotion out of her in ways she never imaged possible.  But there is more to Andrew than Camryn realizes.  Will his secret push them inseparably together–or destroy them forever?

 

In The Edge of Never, the main character is from Raleigh, NC (I went to NC State) and her favorite band is The Civil Wars (love them).  Naturally, I’m going to be a fan.

Camryn Bennett and Andrew Parrish, both in their twenties and needing an escape from reality,  board a bus leaving North Carolina.  Whether it be problems with family, friends, or lovers, they both need to escape the drama in their lives.  Did they expect that they would end up sitting beside the love of their life?  Probably not.  Did it happen?  Yes.  It’s fun watching the relationship grow as the two slowly get to know each other and slowly start to form a deep connection.  I love the way they pick on each other, challenge one another, and learn to totally let their guard down.  These two are on the road, going wherever it takes them.   Road trips are always fun and with The Edge of Never the reader gets to be in the front seat for this journey.

Imagine yourself sitting back, reading this sweet love story when BAM!!!  There’s an intense sex scene that just comes out of nowhere.  And it is awesome.  No, this is not some Fifty Shades of Grey wannabe.  The Edge of Never holds its own.  The story is well done and the romantic scenes are  just a pleasant little surprise thrown in the middle.  The sex makes the  characters feel real and you  get to experience their intense love.  The scenes are a bit hot and heavy so I do recommend this novel be for a mature,  young adult.

The only thing that annoys me about this book is how extremely good looking both Camryn and Andrew sound.  She’s a beautiful, hot bodied blonde and Andrew is a muscle man with dreamy green eyes and the perfect smile.  They are perfect human specimen and they have the perfect love story.  Gag me.  But I love them.

To put it simply, this book made me love…love.  There’s nothing more special than the love between two people and this book lets you in on that bond with Camryn and Andrew.

Also…

Throughout the book the reader feels like Andrew might be hiding something. IS HE?… WHAT IS IT?!…  I will never tell.

fourbards

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