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ABOUT THE MEMORY BOOK:
They tell me that my memory will never be the same, that I’ll start forgetting things. At first just a little, and then a lot. So I’m writing to remember.
Sammie was always a girl with a plan: graduate at the top of her class and get out of her small town as soon as humanly possible. Nothing will stand in her way–not even a rare genetic disorder the doctors say will slowly start to steal her memories and then her health. What she needs is a new plan.
So the Memory Book is born: Sammie’s notes to her future self, a document of moments great and small. It’s where she’ll record every perfect detail of her first date with longtime crush, Stuart–a brilliant young writer who is home for the summer. And where she’ll admit how much she’s missed her childhood best friend, Cooper, and even take some of the blame for the fight that ended their friendship.
Through a mix of heartfelt journal entries, mementos, and guest posts from friends and family, readers will fall in love with Sammie, a brave and remarkable girl who learns to live and love life fully, even though it’s not the life she planned.
ABOUT LARA AVERY:
Lara Avery takes her role as a young writer very seriously; she enjoys wandering the world notebook in hand, making her living off of odd jobs. One of those jobs happens to be publishing the novel Anything But Ordinaryjust two years after getting a degree in Film Studies from Macalester College.
When Lara left home armed with nothing but a basketball scholarship, she told everyone she was going to law school. Then, when she started interning at The Onion and publishing pieces of fiction in national anthologies, she realized her secret plans to be a writer all along.
Though Lara sat down to write Anything But Ordinary everywhere from a 110 degree apartment in Kolkata to a hostel in Berlin, she always felt at home in Bryce’s story. Writing currently from St. Paul, MN, she hopes her debut novel will be the first of many.
LINKS: Website | Twitter | Facebook
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
OH MY HEART! It’s aching right now! How do I possibly describe this book? How does one sum up a future unfulfilled, dreams extinguished, love found better late than never, a body ravished, memories stolen, the devastation of a disease?
I need to hug Cooper.
This is a beautiful, heart wrenching, special book, and I loved
Even the ones
my heart into m i l l i o n s
View all my reviews
GIVEAWAY: 3 FINISHED COPIES (US ONLY)
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Bo Dickinson is a girl with a wild reputation, a deadbeat dad, and a mama who’s not exactly sober most of the time. Everyone in town knows the Dickinsons are a bad lot, but Bo doesn’t care what anyone thinks.
Agnes Atwood has never gone on a date, never even stayed out past ten, and never broken any of her parents’ overbearing rules. Rules that are meant to protect their legally blind daughter — protect her from what, Agnes isn’t quite sure.
Despite everything, Bo and Agnes become best friends. And it’s the sort of friendship that runs truer and deeper than anything else.
So when Bo shows up in the middle of the night, with police sirens wailing in the distance, desperate to get out of town, Agnes doesn’t hesitate to take off with her. But running away and not getting caught will require stealing a car, tracking down Bo’s dad, staying ahead of the authorities, and — worst of all — confronting some ugly secrets.
One thing my readers might not know about me is that I grew up quite poor in a small, southern town. I’ve lived in tiny houses and in trailers – a few different trailers. And growing up, the books I read never reflected that sort of setting. Or, if they did, the books were all about being poor and how much that sucks. Only, I rarely thought much about being poor. Because where I lived, everyone was poor. So my life didn’t revolve around it. It was there, always weighing on the decisions my family made, but me and my friends didn’t think about it a ton. We had crushes and school projects and all sorts of things in our lives, all sorts of stories, that weren’t about poverty.
So in writing RUN, I wanted to write about a town like mine. A town where everyone is either poor or, at best, lower middle class. But I also wanted to show characters living in that town who have lives beyond poverty. Characters who think about poverty on occasion but whose stories don’t revolve around it. I wanted to write about characters that teenage me could recognize.
While the town in RUN, Mursey, isn’t necessarily based on the town where I grew up, it does share some similarities, being small and in Kentucky. The culture is similar, too. And I tried hard to show that sort of world honestly – both the good and the bad. Because no matter how long I live in NYC, in my heart, I am always going to be a poor kid who lived in a trailer in Kentucky.
Kody Keplinger was born and raised in small town western Kentucky, where she began her writing career after penning the New York Times and USA Today bestseller, The DUFF, at age seventeen.The DUFF, now a major motion picture, was chosen as an YALSA Top Ten Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Readers and a Romantic Times Top Pick. Kody has since written other books for both young adult and middle grade readers. When she isn’t writing, Kody is posting about fashion and body positivity on her Instagram, chatting about her favorite TV shows on Twitter, or making videos for her YouTube account. Kody is also the co-founder of Disability in KidLit and a teacher at the Gotham Writers Workshops in NYC.
Kody is active on social media, so feel free to reach out to her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or YouTube.
3 Finished Copies of RUN (US Only)
Prize pack #2
Prize 1: ARMADA by Ernest Cline Paperback Prize Pack featuring Armada paperback, signed ARMADA poster, signed READY PLAYER ONE poster (and possibly a paperback of Ready Player One).
Addie has always known what she was running toward. In cross-country, in life, in love. Until she and her boyfriend—her sensitive, good-guy boyfriend—are careless one night and she ends up pregnant. Addie makes the difficult choice to have an abortion. And after that—even though she knows it was the right decision for her—nothing is the same anymore. She doesn’t want anyone besides her parents and her boyfriend to know what happened; she doesn’t want to run cross-country; she can’t bring herself to be excited about anything. Until she reconnects with Juliana, a former teammate who’s going through her own dark places.
Christine Heppermann writes fiction, poetry, and criticism. Her books include Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My Pretty (2014), City Chickens (2012), and Backyard Witch (with Ron Koertge, 2015). She currently reviews young adult books for the Chicago Tribune.
Christine grew up in Omaha, Nebraska, where she attended an all-girls Catholic high school. As an undergraduate she studied philosophy and literature at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas. She has a masters degree in children’s literature from Simmons College in Boston, Massachusetts, and an MFA in writing for children and young adults from Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Christine lives in New York’s Hudson Valley with her two daughters, two cats, and one husband.
Addie’s boyfriend Nick plays bass in a band. Milo, the lead singer, writes all of the band’s songs and tends to get a little too creative with his lyrics. In short, he sucks. I had a lot of fun making up ridiculous titles for Milo’s songs, but I stole one title from real life! “God Eats at Denny’s” is a song my bass-player husband Eric wrote for The Militia, his high-school “band” (the loose term for him and his friends messing around in somebody’s garage). A sample lyric: “God eats at Denny’s. He really likes their food. He doesn’t always leave a tip because the service is seldom good.” Classic, right? The difference between Eric and his friends and Milo is that they knew they weren’t creating Great Art. They just wanted to make themselves laugh. Other Militia “hits” include “Goats on the Moon,” “Hulk Smash Puny Humans,” and “Pepe Romero and the Steamy Hot Love Bath.” I could have chosen any one of those for the book, but, in the end, “God Eats at Denny’s” won; it’s always been my favorite.
(Here’s a verrrrrrrrrrry old photo of Eric playing in a different-but-related band in college. You could caption it, “Nick and Milo? No, Eric and Snake!”)
In the wake of a devastating plague, two communities emerge as bastions of survival. One is called the City, and its people scrabble for scraps in the wasteland. The other, New Charity, enjoys the bounty of its hydroelectric dam and refuses City denizens so much as a drop of precious water. When City-dweller Cressyda inherits her father’s ranch within New Charity, she becomes intent on opening the dam to all—no matter the cost.
But when Syd reunites with her old best friend, Casandra, a born seer and religious acolyte, she realizes that her plans could destroy the fragile lives they’ve built in order to survive. What’s more, the strange magic securing the dam’s operations could prove deadly if disturbed. Yet when Syd discovers evidence that her father might have been murdered, she is more determined than ever to exact revenge on New Charity’s corrupt.
Pitted against Cas, as well as her own family, Syd must decide how to secure the survival of both settlements without tipping them over the brink to utter annihilation. In this intense and emotional reimagining of the Trojan War epic, two women clash when loyalty, identity, community, and family are all put to the ultimate test.
Growing up, our house sat in the hills of eastern Montana, about 15-20 minutes east of “town.” As such, a little girl like me made her own adventures – on foot, on a bicycle, or – most commonly – on horseback. I had big dreams about riding beyond the horizon, loping over the brown velvety hills to see whatever was on the other side – presumably more velvety hills, or a mountain, or a river, or some wild, green, oasis in our northern desert.
My favorite spot was a clubhouse of sorts in the ravine behind the barn. A cluster of mature juniper bushes had grown into one another, forming a two-room shelter. Shaped not unlike a figure eight, the Bramble House, as I named it, is the basis for a setting in New Charity Blues. Troy’s shelter in the ravine, where he takes Cas after the chaotic Goodwill Dinner, is an extension of the dreams I once had for decorating and adorning my secret hideout. I had hoped for furniture and candles, but what remained was a broom like branch I used for clearing the soft needles from the ground so as to keep them from getting inside my peanut butter sandwiches.
At night, I visited my other favorite spot. I would take my Walkman and hike out to a sandstone outcropping that overlooked the lights of the town in the distance. I wanted to be home with my horses but I also wanted to know what was in those lights.
By the time I left for college, the lights had won the battle. I fell in love with Los Angeles – the way the city grew together, the low hum of energy 24-hours-a-day. I loved how orange the light was, the tiny lizards in the bushes, the smell of the eucalyptus trees.
These memories – these strong bonds to the places I came of age – both as a child and as a young woman – begged me to remember them as I wrote about Syd, a woman torn between love for the City and love for the rugged hills of New Charity. Sharing my secret bramble house was the best way I could think to invite readers into the life of those of us who grew up dreaming horses into unicorns, sandstone into thrones, and trees into castles.
Camille Griep lives just north of Seattle with her partner, Adam, and their dog Dutch(ess). Born in Billings, Montana, she moved to Southern California to attend Claremont McKenna College, graduating with a dual degree in Biology and Literature.
She wrote her way through corporate careers in marketing, commercial real estate, and financial analysis before taking an extended sabbatical to devote more time to her craft.
She has since sold short fiction and creative nonfiction to dozens of online and print magazines. She is the editor of Easy Street and is a senior editor at The Lascaux Review. She is a 2012 graduate of Viable Paradise, a residential workshop for speculative fiction novelists.
Her first novel, Letters to Zell, was released in July 2015 47North. Look for New Charity Blues in April of 2016.
Sheriff’s Department! Raise your hands above your head and don’t move.
She’s a runaway bride who left her two-timing fiance at the altar. He’s a county sheriff determined to keep the peace in his country and leave city girls alone after his own fiance left him for the bright lights of the city. Neither of them planned on running straight into each other…over a burning wedding dress.
Ellie and Lucas planned on never trusting their hearts to love again. When danger follows her from the city, the sheriff must do his duty to protect her. However, it isn’t long before he discovers the real danger may be to his heart. Ellie just might teach him that even a city girl can be a country girl at heart.
His Country Bride by Debra Holt
Bring on the tough, but sensitive sheriff and the school teacher in a beautiful setting! Small town, inherited old house, and a fire to burn that bridal gown! HIS COUNTRY BRIDE is a sweet, sweep-you-off-your-feet, quick read adult romance that will definitely please anyone who loves a HEA.
Thanks you so much to the publisher for providing a review copy!
LINKS: Goodreads | Amazon
Born and raised in the Lone Star state of Texas, Debra grew up among horses, cowboys, wide open spaces, and real Texas Rangers. Pride in her state and ancestry knows no bounds and it is these heroes and heroines she loves to write about the most. She also draws upon a variety of life experiences including working with abused children, caring for baby animals at a major zoo, and planning high-end weddings (ah, romance!).
Debra’s real pride and joys, however, are her son, an aspiring film actor, and a daughter with aspirations to join the Federal Bureau of Investigation. (more story ideas!) When she isn’t busy writing about tall Texans and feisty heroines, she can be found cheering on her Texas Tech Red Raiders, or heading off on another cruise adventure. She read her first romance…Janet Dailey’s Fiesta San Antonio, over thirty years ago and became hooked on the genre. Writing contemporary western romances, is both her passion and dream come true, and she hopes her books will bring smiles…and sighs… to all who believe in happily-ever-after’s.
Debra invites you to visit her website at www.debraholtbooks.com. She loves to hear from other aspiring authors or readers via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
4/4: The Irish Banana Review
4/5: Emily Reads Everything
4/6: In Wonderland
4/7: Life According to a Bibliophile
4/8: Emilie’s Book World
4/11: Kimberly Faye Reads
4/12: Polished Page Turners
4/13: Books Are Love
4/14: Silk & Serif
4/15: Who R U Blog
His Country Bride was my first contemporary romance and it was fun to write. It also has so many elements in it of my hometown area, my love of all things country, and the dog in the book has special meaning for me, too. The idea for HCB came about as I was driving along a beautiful road next to a river in the Texas hill country. On one side was the river and the other was a ditch filled with spring wildflowers…notably my favorite Bluebonnets, some pink primroses, and Indian Paintbrush. Then there was an old barb-wired fence separating the ditch from a beautiful pasture where peach trees were just filling out.
My brain began to go into its own mysterious mode (for want of better description) and in my mind I did a what-if game…what if a hero…say a county sheriff… was driving along this road and on that old barbed-wire fence post was something that caught his eye? And that something was a bridal veil? That would certainly catch his attention. So he stops, gathers up the veil, his gaze seeking the errant bride and he spies some smoke across the pasture. Naturally, he must investigate. That was the original beginning to His Country Bride…as simple as that. Of course, as editors do, changes are made and the beginning changed a bit but I still got that veil in there in another scene!
People always ask, “where do your story ideas come from?” Well, they come in a blink of an eye…no warning, at any time and any place. It could start with a bit of conversation overheard in a café, or catching a quick glimpse of a billboard next to a highway, or in the steady gaze of a real Texas Ranger. (I write many books with Texas lawmen as the heroes) I often have no warning before they strike. That is why my initial notes or chapters have been scribbled in longhand on things such as paper napkins, café menus, or pieces of cardboard… whatever I could reach the fastest to get the words recorded that pour from my brain like turning on a water tap. Friends who are with me at these times, have gotten used to this. One telling the waitress who was afraid I was having some sort of fit at the table… “don’t worry…she’s just a genius at work.” LOL I am no genius…just a writer of romance. I hope you enjoy reading about the runaway bride and the country sheriff who captures her heart.
About ESSENTIAL MAPS FOR THE LOST:
When Madison makes a startling discovery, the body of a dead woman floating in the middle of a lake, the summer after her senior year becomes more complicated than she ever expected.
Madison (Mads to everyone who knows her) is staying with her aunt and uncle in Seattle after graduating from high school. Being away from her needy, unstable mother who’s been pressuring her to take over the family business is such a relief. Now all Mads has to worry about is taking classes, swimming laps, and fighting off the sadness that threatens to overtake her.
That is, until the traumatic moment Mads collides with a body in the middle of the lake. After swimming the body back to shore, Mads becomes obsessed with uncovering the identity of the woman and what drove her to leap off of the Aurora Bridge. Determined to discover more, Mads parks outside the woman’s home and sees the woman’s son: the sweet and tormented Billy Youngwolf Floyd.
Through a series of not-so-happenstance meetings, Mads and Billy realize that desperate mothers and rescue missions are not the only thing that bonds them. Billy carries a map in his pocket; the one of the museum from The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler; and it’s his dream to visit the museum one day. And though book-loving Mads is expected to return home to her already-decided future, her dream is to run away to a life of her choosing.
As the unlikely pair fall hard for each other and as the summer draws to a close, Billy and Mads must decide whose story to follow: their family’s or their own.
I once lived part-time in one of the houseboats on Lake Union. These are not the kinds of boats you drive – think “Sleepless in Seattle,” a home on top of water. On the houseboat docks it’s all magic – seaplanes and twinkling city lights, sprinkled with an assortment of wacky neighbors and charming tugs, barges, sailboats and kayaks cruising past. Often, the sailors will wave as they glide by, and you will wave back as you stand at the dock. But the houseboats can be a bit eerie and atmospheric, too – things are a little off kilter there. Yes, they’re charming and shingled and dripping with gorgeous flowers. Ducks paddle past, and sailboats swoop out to the lake, and it’s glorious. Still, the houses and boats rock and clang. The old piers sway and creak. On a rainy day, it’s almost spooky. On any day, it’s all slightly unhinged.
In other words, it’s a perfect place to set a book, or in my case, many books. The first book I ever set there was an unpublished novel I wrote many years ago. The son from that novel became Sebastian in The Nature of Jade, who lives with his baby boy in his aunt’s houseboat. Clara and Christian in Stay also visit Lake Union one night, and my first novel for adults, He’s Gone, is set entirely on the same dock as Nature of Jade. Sebastian’s aunts and some of the old neighbors from Jade make an appearance in that one, as Dani Keller tries to find out where her husband has vanished. (And, as a bonus “novel secret” – all of my books have interconnecting characters and locations. If you read them closely, you’ll even find out what happens to certain characters, major and minor, in their future.)
Essential Maps for the Lost begins when Mads is swimming in Lake Union and bumps into the body of a woman who jumped off the nearby Aurora Bridge. In her desire to find out why this woman took her own life and understand her own depression, Mads becomes involved with the woman’s son, Billy Youngwolf Floyd, who now lives with his grandma in one of the houseboats near the bridge. When I lived on the lake, a friend who owned a houseboat near the same bridge told me how a similar event happened to him – he had seen a body in the water, but while driving a boat. I swam a lot in the lake when I lived there, and I never forgot his story. I’m hoping my latest novel, Essential Maps for the Lost, will be a story you’ll remember, too.
Essential Maps for the Lost by Deb Caletti
Thank you so much to the publisher for the ARC.
An eye-opening look into depression, suicide, family dynamics, serendipity, and how two lost souls find each other and fall in love. A journey that will leave readers cheering for the characters and hoping that they’ll find a happy future together.
Depression is a serious topic and Deb Caletti holds a spotlight to it by intertwining the lives of two teens in an emotional, honest, heartbreaking and healing journey. Madison has a needy, self-absorbed, demanding mother who centers her life around her daughter, expecting her to be her best friend. She’s also mapped out Madison’s life by making her a partner in her real estate business.
Billy is a teen living with his cranky, verbally abusive grandma. His mom suffered from depression and when she killed herself by jumping off a bridge, Billy grieves deeply and is a lost soul.
Both Madison and Billy have a strong desire to save others—Billy works at an animal shelter and Madison babysits a little girl with messed up parents. They definitely understand each other.
Things I loved:
1. Madison’s aunt and uncle—they really care about her. And she needs them. I love how they stand up for her
2. Billy’s gentle ways and how he cares for and rescues animals
3. Madison’s love for the child she babysits for
4. How Madison and Billy find strength to follow their own paths
5. Integrating The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler into the story
6. Sweet romance. I definitely felt the chemistry between these characters and looked forward to watching it develop and sizzle
7. A hopeful ending
Definitely recommended for YA realistic contemporary fans!
ABOUT DEB CALETTI:
Deb Caletti is an award winning author and National Book Award finalist. Her many books for young adults include “The Nature of Jade,” “Stay,” “The Last Forever,” and “Honey, Baby Sweetheart,” winner of the Washington State Book award, the PNBA Best Book Award, and a finalist for the PEN USA Award. Her first book for adults, “He’s Gone,” was released from Random House in 2012, and was followed with “The Secrets She Keeps” in 2015. Coming this April: “Essential Maps for the Lost,” her eleventh book for young adults. She lives with her family in Seattle.
3 Finished Copies of ESSENTIAL MAPS FOR THE LOST (US Only)
For those fortunate enough to be attending this wonderful event, I have no doubt, it’ll be one of the most memorable evenings of your life. For the rest of us, we’ll live vicariously through you! Please share your experience on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook! I want to see pictures.
To get into the spirit of RT, here’s a short, but awesome interview with Wendy Higgins!
I’ve written seven and three-quarters books. The book of my heart is my very first story, Sweet Evil.
Kaidan Rowe from the Sweet series–English drummer, son of the demon of Lust–yeah, he’ll always have the biggest place in my heart since he spent so much time in my head over a five year timespan.
I’m currently working on my first NA series. Book one, titled Unknown, is coming out this summer, August 2016. It’s an apocalyptic sci-fi romance and I’m loving it!!
This will be my first RT, though I’ve wanted to come for years! Being surrounded by other romance readers and writers means I’m going to be in my element. Book people have such positive, exciting energy. I cannot wait!
This is too hard! I’m currently reading an adult high fantasy romance called the Tairen Soul series by C.L. Wilson, and they have immediately jumped to my favorites shelf. So good!! On the YA side, I love the Poison Princess series by Kresley Cole, and the Lux series by Jennifer L. Armentrout.
General Adult Fiction
Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Mary Jo Putney
-aka Sydney Croft
Jennifer L. Armentrout
-aka J. Lynn
Rachel Van Dyken
ABOUT THE DOOR BY THE STAIRCASE:
A Junior Library Guild Selection
“Well-drawn characters, an original setting, and a satisfying resolution are the ingredients that make this carefully crafted middle-grade adventure a highly rewarding read.”
—Kirkus, Starred Review
“A sparkling tale full of adventure, magic, and folklore…Imagine Little Orphan Annie crossed with Russian folklore, plunked down in the spiritualist community of Lily Dale, NY, with a dash of Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away on top.”
—School Library Journal, Starred Review
“This book is a splendid mix of traditional Russian folkloric details, magical adventure, and hints of historical fiction.”
—The Bulletin of the Center of Children’s Books, Starred Review
“An engaging, almost cinematic story.”
—The Wall Street Journal, “Children’s Books: Inspiring Awe”
Twelve-year-old Mary Hayes can’t stand her orphanage for another night. But when an attempted escape through the stove pipe doesn’t go quite as well as she’d hoped, Mary fears she’ll be stuck in the Buffalo Asylum for Young Ladies forever.
The very next day, a mysterious woman named Madame Z appears at the orphanage requesting to adopt Mary, and the matron’s all too happy to get the girl off her hands. Soon, Mary is fed a hearty meal, dressed in a clean, new nightgown and shown to a soft bed with blankets piled high. She can hardly believe she isn’t dreaming!
But when Mary begins to explore the strange nearby town with the help of her new friend, Jacob, she learns a terrifying secret about Madame Z’s true identity. If Mary’s not careful, her new home might just turn into a nightmare.
I‘m Katherine Marsh. I write books about kids. Some are alive. Some are dead. Some lived hundreds of years ago. All of them find themselves in unusual situations and places. Some of them are unusual themselves.
If you’ve ever wondered about witches, ghosts, the lives of court dwarfs, the power of magic, the invincibility of death, and how (and how not) to care for a fire-breathing horse, then you’ll probably enjoy my books. Warning: They may make you laugh. They will almost certainly make you cry.
My debut novel, The Night Tourist, won the Edgar® Award for Best Juvenile Mystery. It was published in translation in ten countries and there’s even a sequel, The Twilight Prisoner.
My third book, Jepp, Who Defied the Stars was a New York Times Book Review Notable Children’s Books of 2012 and a Wall Street Journal Best Children’s Book of 2012, among other accolades.
The Door by the Staircase is available now from Disney Hyperion. It’s a fairy tale adventure story for middle grade readers inspired by Russian folklore. Other influences include my love of cooking and magic acts, my cat Egg, and my family’s onetime ownership of a small flock of chickens.
One of my favorite childhood photographs is this one: Me, aged 4, sitting behind a big bowl of my grandmother’s homemade borscht.
My grandmother was born in Russia. She came to this country in 1928, opened a bar and restaurant, and still loved to cook when my parents and I moved in with her in the late 1970s. The comfort food in my house growing up was her food. And although she could win any American bake-off with her apple or lemon meringue pies, the food I remember most was her Russian cooking—pierogi and blini, stuffed cabbage, and of course, borscht, the chicken soup of the Slavic soul.
There was something magical about her cooking—the old recipes that she knew by heart and would never write down; the hours of invisible prep-work—that became even more magical to me as an adult. As hard as I tried, I could never recreate her dishes. I didn’t have any recipes but even if I did, I felt she’d always added something more than I could give: time, patience, love.
The magic of cooking is something I worked into THE DOOR BY THE STAIRCASE. The book, after all, is about eating—initially in the worst possible way. Twelve-year old orphan Mary Hayes is finally adopted only to discover that her new guardian is the child-eating Russian witch Baba Yaga. But Mary confounds the witch by daring to stick around and demanding she teach her magic. Will Baba Yaga eat Mary or love her? What follows is a tale that is really about the ingredients of family, particularly mothers and daughters. But it also a secret catalogue of those special dishes my grandmother cooked for me.
3/7: Who R U Blog – Novel Secrets
3/8: Books for Thought – Excerpt
3/9: Quite the Novel Idea – Guest Post
3/10: Mundie Kids – Excerpt
3/11: The Cover Contessa – Q&A
3/14: Once Upon A Twilight – Excerpt
3/15: The Story Sanctuary – Top 10
3/16: I Turn the Pages – Q&A
3/17: I Am Shelfless – Excerpt
3/18: Books Are Love – Playlist
Jeff Zentner, photo credit: J Hernandez
In this emotional story, the son of a Pentecostal preacher faces his personal demons as he and his two outcast friends try to make it through their senior year of high school in rural Forrestville, Tennessee, without letting the small-town culture destroy their creative spirits and sense of self. Drawing from his own roots growing up in the south, Zentner’s debut is haunting, heartbreaking, and hopeful, and is in the vein of beloved novels The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Looking for Alaska, and Eleanor & Park.
The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner
Fascinating, painful family dynamics. The power of friendship and love. Self-discovery, courage, and daring to bet on oneself.
Damn. Damn. Damn. Wow! WOW! WOW! Sob. Sob. Sob. Someone give me a hug! Sigh. YES! Swoon! Ahhhh! I love this book!
Okay, so I never imagined that one of my new favorite books would be about Gill, an eighteen-year-old boy whose father had been a snake-handling preacher and Lydia, a quirky girl who had a popular fashion blog and their best friend Travis, who’s obsessed with a fantasy series. But these characters were so unique, so interesting, so revealing and real that I couldn’t help but be swept into their story and fall in love with each of them. They found strength and courage from one another. They found ways to break out of their small town life and family history.
I love this quote: “I’m tired of many things,” Mr. Burson said, fighting for composure… “I’m tired of watching children perish. I’m tired of watching the world grind up gentle people. I’m tired of outliving those I shouldn’t be outliving. I’ve made books my life because they let me escape this world of cruelty and savagery. I needed to say that out loud to somebody other than my cats. Please take care of yourselves, my young friends.”
Things I loved:
1. Travis and how comfortable he is in his own skin.
2. Lydia and her kick-ass attitude, her relationship with her parents, and how to pushes Dill and Travis to be more, yet also loves them for who they are.
3. Dill and how he has such a HUGE HEART!
4. Lydia’s parents, especially her dad.
5. Lydia’s fashion sense.
6. Walmart reference.
7. Music references.
8. I’m terrified of snakes but this didn’t freak me out.
9. Dill’s struggles and the strength he finds to follow his own path.
10. The romance.
11. The hopeful ending!
Bravo and congrats, Jeff! THE SERPENT KING is definitely on my 2016 favorites list.
One of Paste Magazine’s “10 Most Anticipated YA Books of 2016”
“Zentner’s prose wraps you up like a warm, Southern hug and packs the punches of a sweaty country brawl…The Serpent King is a debut you won’t be able to resist or forget. The Southern Boy in me savored every syllable and the reader in me fell in love with every page.”
—John Corey Whaley, author of Where Things Come Back, winner of the Michael L. Printz Award and William C. Morris Award
“The Serpent King gripped me in its coils and kept me turning pages late into the night. A triumph of love and dignity.”
—Stephanie Perkins, New York Times bestselling author
“[T]his sepia-toned portrait of small-town life serves as a moving testament to love, loyalty, faith, and reaching through the darkness to find light and hope. Zentner explores difficult themes head on—including the desire to escape the sins of the father and the fragility of happiness—while tempering them with the saving grace of enduring friendship.”— Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
“Thorough characterization and artful prose allow readers to intimately experience the highs and lows of these three friends . . . Recommended for fans of John Green and Rainbow Rowell.”— School Library Journal
“Characters, incidents, dialogue, the poverty of the rural South, enduring friendship, a desperate clinging to strange faiths, fear of the unknown, and an awareness of the courage it takes to survive, let alone thrive, are among this fine novel’s strengths. Zentner writes with understanding and grace—a new voice to savor.”— Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review
“A musician himself, Zentner transitions to prose easily in his debut, pulling in complex issues that range from struggles with faith to abuse to grief. Refreshingly, this novel isn’t driven by romance—though it rears its head—but by the importance of pursuing individual passions and forging one’s own path. A promising new voice in YA.”— Booklist
“A moving debut novel of friendship and forgiveness that will stick with you long after you’ve finished it, I’m calling it now… The Serpent King is already one of my favorite books of 2016.”— Eric Smith for BookRiot
“Characters, incidents, dialogue, the poverty of the rural South, enduring friendship, a desperate clinging to strange faiths, fear of the unknown, and an awareness of the courage it takes to survive, let alone thrive, are among this fine novel’s strengths. Zentner writes with understanding and grace—a new voice to savor.”— Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review
I asked Jeff to share some behind-the-scenes details about his novel. Information you wouldn’t know just from reading the novel! His answers add some great insight into the workings of this book. Enjoy!!!!
Sock Sunday! Jeff knows how to wear ’em!
Here are some random facts about me. I collect vintage cast-iron skillets. I have one from 1917 that I still use. As I was thinking about where to go creatively after music, there was actually a period where I was thinking about getting hard core into cooking. I’m pretty decent at it. I was thinking of taking classes and everything. But ultimately, I love to create art for a mass audience and it’s hard to do that as a cook unless you open a restaurant, which, nope.
I speak Portuguese fluently from living in the Amazon region of Brazil, where I owned a pet sloth for several months before I released him back into the wild. I’ve eaten piranha, crocodile, and boa constrictor. I’ve lain on the roof of a boat going up the Amazon at night and let me tell you, you can see some stars. I spent two years there with no TV, no radio, no movies, no music, and only sporadic electricity and running water. I came back to the U.S. and knew almost nothing about what had gone on (impeachment of Bill Clinton, Columbine, war in Bosnia). To this day, mid-1997 to mid-1999 are lost years for me. I know a lot about what went on in the jungle. That’s it.
Oh, and the country star Vince Gill used to own my house before he was famous.
And now some random facts about how The Serpent King came to be. In the mid-2000s, I played with a band called Creech Holler. We played electrified versions of old Appalachian songs and murder ballads. Our bass player was from a part of Eastern Tennessee where snakehandlers were active. He said that we sounded like the music from the snakehandling churches. So we began to use snakehandler imagery in our songs and band’s persona. Our first album was called “With Signs Following,” referring to Mark 16:18, where it says that signs will follow the faithful, including that they’ll be able to pick up snakes and drink deadly things without being harmed. I started really studying these snakehandling sects. One of my main sources was a book called Salvation on Sand Mountain. I highly recommend this book to anyone, by the way.
When I went to write The Serpent King, I wrote it as I write all of my novels, which is to take everything I was interested in and cram it into one novel. I was interested in faith, so I created a character who struggled with faith. I was interested in writing about rural Tennessee, so I gave that character a faith unique to rural Tennessee and not written about much in YA. To further make sure I got the details of snakehandling right for the book, I talked with my buddy Jarrod (his wife Stephanie Perkins wrote Anna and the French Kiss) who had attended services at a snakehandling church. He helped me get little details right, like the sort of boxes they keep the snakes in.
At the time I was getting ready to write The Serpent King, I was also interested in teens who use the Internet to be part of the national conversation. That was the inspiration for Lydia and her fashion blog. I started reading a bunch of fashion blogs (primarily Tavi Gevinson’s Rookie). And I started following a bunch of teen fashion bloggers on Twitter so that I could be a fly on the wall to their conversations. That’s how I developed Lydia’s voice.
To research Forrestville, I made several visits to Sparta, Tennessee, the model for Forrestville. Why invent a town instead of just using Sparta? Because Sparta is in the perfect location—an hour and a half from every major city—but it’s a really nice little town. I wanted my setting to suck more. But just like in Sparta, there’s a little bookstore in Forrestville called Riverbank Books. The last time I was in the real Riverbank Books, a kid came in and started talking about the Game of Thrones books with the store owner, just like Travis talks about the Bloodfall books with the owner of the fictional Riverbank Books. I was freaking out.
Before I ever started writing The Serpent King, Dill, Travis, and Lydia took up residence in my brain and started having conversations. Only a fraction of their interactions ended up in the book. There was going to be a fourth member of their crew, but he would never tell me his name or anything about himself, so he never made the book. Maybe he ended up in my second book? By the time I finally started writing, they’d been talking to me for months. Because of this, the first draft of The Serpent King took about twenty-five days. That’s how all of my books go. Months of thinking followed by a furious one or two months of drafting.
While I was writing The Serpent King, during the times when I wasn’t writing on the bus, I’d keep several books at my
Jeff writing on a bus.
elbow, which I’d dip into for inspiration. These are books I could open to any page and find something I loved. They included: Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz, Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell, The Road by Cormac McCarthy, Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley, and Just Kids by Patti Smith.
One final random fact about The Serpent King. There are passing mentions to one of Lydia’s friends named Heidi. That’s Heidi Heilig, author of The Girl from Everywhere. My editor emailed me one night and gave me about a half hour to write Lydia some other past friendships, since she was concerned that there were no allusions to her having had any friends other than Dill and Travis. I tweeted that the first woman who liked my tweet would get her name in my book. Heidi won.
Jeff Zentner lives in Nashville, Tennessee. He came to writing through music, starting his creative life as a guitarist and eventually becoming a songwriter. He’s released five albums and appeared on recordings with Iggy Pop, Nick Cave, Warren Ellis, Thurston Moore, Debbie Harry, Mark Lanegan, and Lydia Lunch, among others.
Now he writes novels for young adults. He became interested in writing for young adults after volunteering at the Tennessee Teen Rock Camp and Southern Girls Rock Camp. As a kid, his parents would take him to the library and drop him off, where he would read until closing time. He worked at various bookstores through high school and college.
He speaks fluent Portuguese, having lived in the Amazon region of Brazil for two years.