Tag Archive | young adult

As Much As I Ever Could: Release Day + Author Interview + Excerpt

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Seventeen-year-old CJ Ainsworth doesn’t drive—not because she can’t, but because she won’t.

She’s been living with the guilt of being the sole survivor of the head-on
collision that claimed her mother’s and sister’s lives. It’s the reason she refuses to get behind the wheel. It’s the reason her father has nearly abandoned her. It’s the reason she’s sent to piddle the summer away at her estranged Memaw’s house in Edisto Beach.

All CJ wants to do is isolate herself and make it to the trial at summer’s end, where she’ll testify against the stranger who couldn’t keep his car in its own lane.
She doesn’t expect to fall for a boy, especially not Jett Ramsey, a hotshot racing champion destined for greatness on the NASCAR circuit.

CJ’s resolve crumbles when she loses a bet that puts her squarely in Jett’s
driver’s seat. While he patiently reintroduces her to driving, they confide in each other, and CJ learns she’s not the only one silently suffering through a loss.

As their connection deepens, Jett’s focus on the track is called into question. CJ can’t be the cause of another car crash, but her heart is broken either way. Can CJ learn to put her heart in drive? Or will she throw it in reverse?

Filles Vertes Publishing

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Excerpt:

A summer away at Memaw’s can’t rectify everything that fell apart in a single minute, but that won’t stop my dad from forcing it on me.

My fingers wrench tighter around the handle grip of Dad’s Ford Explorer as he hugs the center line, tires thumping over golden reflectors in waves and shooting vibrations through my seat. I glance over my shoulder to make sure the door lock is crammed to its neck into the tan vinyl interior. Not that it’d make a difference if he were to flip this thing head-over-end into the muddy goop of tidal flats along either side of the road. If a body’s going to exit a car in a hurry, it sure as hell won’t wait for an unlocked door.

These kinds of thoughts never shoved their way into my brain before the accident. Now they circulate like a washing machine stuck on the spin cycle.

I sigh and yank my phone off the dashboard. 4:15 PM. Only ten more minutes to get my summer of hell underway.

A notification blinks on the home screen. One new email from Trent Casey and all I can see of it is “CJ, things have changed so much this last year that I think…” Inbox preview cruelty at its finest. A little sneak peek of my on-again, off-again boyfriend kicking me to the curb because I’ve been too screwed up to screw him the past year. Not that I’d screwed him before, or anyone else for that matter.

I toss the phone in the cup holder and stare over at my dad in the driver’s seat, his eyes fixed and hooded as if in a trance. He hasn’t spoken in over a hundred miles, but I’ve strategically coughed from time to time to make sure there’s at least a reaction to the noise, and he’s not comatose or something. Plus, it’s easier than actually talking, and it warrants no response from him. Win-win.

Dad flips on the blinker, its dink-doonk, dink-doonk, dink-doonk signaling a right turn. Into where I have no idea, and unless Memaw has taken up living in a dilapidated open-air shack, he’s seriously misguided. He pulls into one of the ten open parking slots, demarcated by rows of conch shells instead of actual painted-on lines. How beachy of them.

Dad lets the engine idle, sliding his phone from the pocket of his polo and pecking out a text message without so much as a word or glance in my direction. I unlatch my seatbelt and open the door, easing out onto the hot, gritty sand, which creeps into my sandals and scratches at the skin.

“Where are we?” When he doesn’t respond, I step beside the open door, banging my hand on the window. “Dad, where are we?”

“Edisto Island, of course,” he mumbles, never looking up from his phone, his fingers still moving furiously over the screen.

I point to the rectangular banner draped atop the entrance with what looks like a hand-stenciled Welcome to Edisto Beach, SC! in blue paint. “No shit. I mean, what is this place?”

“Watch your mouth, CJ. I’m still your father.” He finally looks up long enough to glare across his steering wheel at the banner, squinting as if it’s written in some foreign language before looking back at me. He waves his hand around. “We’re obviously at the market.”

The entrance isn’t a single open-close door but one of those garage-style deals that pulls down from the ceiling. Oyster shell wind chimes tinkle in the breeze. I take a deep breath, the briny air expanding in my lungs and coating my skin, and somehow start imagining myself as one of those slugs we used to find on the back porch at home and pour salt over. Almost immediately, their slimy little bodies would foam up and implode, turning into a dried-up crispie we’d flick off in the grass the next day. Maybe that’ll happen to me, and I can simply shrivel up and disappear.

Dad gets out and lifts the back hatch, and I walk to meet him, giving an extra foot shake on each step to loosen the stowaway sand from my sandals.

“But why are we here?”

“This is where Memaw’s picking you up.” He hauls out my two large suitcases and sets them under the overhang. “She’s running late, but she’ll be here within the next twenty minutes.”

“And you’re just gonna leave me here?” I thumb over my shoulder.

He stares at me as if I’ve just asked for an explanation on the meaning of life, standing like a statue except for the front flip of his thinning auburn hair that tousles with the breeze. That hair, along with his chocolate brown eyes and freckles, are the only things we even share anymore. Everything else is gone. Evaporated.

“Don’t be dramatic, CJ. I have a long drive home.” He slams the hatch, walks to his still-open driver door and slides in behind the wheel. The passenger window rolls down part-way. “I’ll see you at the end of summer. Bye.” The words scarcely exit his lips before the window’s rolled up and he’s peeling out of the parking lot on two wheels as if he’s off to a five-alarm fire.

Wow. Truly heartfelt. I think he might miss me. I lock my jaw, forcing my quivering stomach back in its rightful place. Part of me loathes him for just dumping me here. The other part understands, though. He hates me for what happened and wants me gone too.

I can’t blame him for that.

AUTHOR INTERVIEW:

What inspired you to write As Much As I Ever could?

It really started out as the inspiration in a theme that stirred around in my mind after listening to two songs in particular: Drive by Incubus and Drive by The Cars. I knew I wanted it to involve a tragic car accident (this is one of my worst fears!) and dealing with survivor’s guilt and finding beauty in the aftermath of tragedy. Of course I wanted the ideal hero who could pull my emotionally-wrought heroine out of her funk and that’s where the idea came into play…a girl afraid to drive? Who is her complete opposite? A race car driver, of course! That’s how the idea rooted and sort of grew from that point.

Who is your favorite character in As Much As I Ever Could and why?

I really should say one of the main characters right, but no…it’s Memaw! I mean, her character just sort of grew from a seed of an idea that I wanted her to be “smart, sassy, and a bit bad-assy” and wow…she became a unique blend of Blanche Devereaux (Golden Girls) and Ouiser Boudreaux (Steel Magnolias). She is the catalyst through which the summer happens for CJ and Jett, and can I just say that I hope I can one day be this sort of grandma?

What is it like releasing a sophomore book?

It’s a weird mix of not-as-stressful-as-debut and way-more-stressful-than-debut. I know, I’m a paradox in pants! LOL The debut novel is all excitement and nervousness in a whirlwind because you don’t know really what to expect and you’re just doing what you can and what you’re told to do. With the sophomore book, you know what works and what doesn’t. You have a better idea of how and where to spend your time promoting and working for the release. However, you also already have a goal to beat…I mean, who wants to release a second book that doesn’t outperform the first? There’s a reason people fear the dreaded “sophomore slump” and it does hang over your head sometimes like a dark shadow. However, I do my best just to focus on the positives and the fun side of it—people will be reading my book shortly and I LOVE CJ and Jett so I’m ecstatic to share them with everyone.

What do you like best about writing contemporary?

I am “that girl” who dropped her philosophy class in college because I couldn’t bring myself to comprehend what I felt was the professor’s insanity. (Do we really know what time it is? Or did everyone’s watch stop at 10 o’clock last night?) I’m thoroughly grounded in the here and now and prefer telling stories about the current issues going on with teens and our world in a “real Earth” setting. All you fantasy lovers don’t freak out on me…I do read grounded fantasy and magical realism, just not the high fantasy. Besides, I have teenagers in my house so writing from their daily experiences is also right up my alley!

What are your top three contemporary books ever?

Ack! How can I narrow them down?

  1. Second Chance Summer – Morgan Matson
  2. The Prince of Tides – Pat Conroy
  3. The Summer I Turned Pretty – Jenny Han

Are you a plotter or a pantser?

I’m about at 50/50 blend of each. I start out with a theme, plot my biggest turning points and scenes and then fill in the rest as it comes. If the plot or characters ever feel as if they’re taking me in a different direction, I’m not opposed to following it. Sometimes they know better than me!

Who is your favorite author and why?

I’m not going to lie—I grew up a total VC Andrews junkie. Holy Southern drama and family dynamics! That’s also why I probably have always enjoyed Pat Conroy novels as well. If we’re going to kick it more contemporary, though, I’d have to say that I devour anything from Morgan Matson because she can tap into those delicious deep feels!

Did you already know a lot about race car driving before writing As Much As I Ever Could?

Growing up in the South, I can’t remember many Sundays when “the race” wasn’t on the den’s television. It was just the tradition. That being said, I was never one to really sit and watch it. I’m more of a football girl in real life. So when I started writing AMAIEC, I did have to do a bit of research on the ins and outs of racing and I watched hours of YouTube videos of NASCAR crashes to accurately write the crash scene.

What’s your favorite color?

I love so many colors, but I’d have to say blue and orange are my favorites. They both have a very different appeal, though both emotionally-set. Blues are calm, serene and oranges are happy and powerful. If I had to narrow down the exact hues, I’d say sapphire blue and Clemson orange.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

I could fill up several blog pages with this! I’ll keep it short and simple: 1. Read in your genre 2. Google for resources and learn as much as you can 3. Find some trusted critique partners and get their feedback on your work 4. Never give up. This career isn’t easy, but it’s fun. And rewarding!

 

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Did you grab your copy of As Much As I Ever Could?

 

Avocado Bliss .99 sale + more!

Hey guys! Guess what! Avocado Bliss is on sale for .99 for a limited time! I hope you guys check out this fun and emotional story full of pitfalls and bliss!

Amazon * Barnes & Noble * iBooks * Kobo

Avocado Bliss Cover

Dacre Vinson has spent the majority of his life in quite the predicament—even the surf and his books can’t erase his Type 1 diabetes. But when Dacre’s family moves to a new Mexican town, an eccentric girl obsessed with trees offers him a job on the spot, leading to what could be the perfect distraction from his problems.

Salbatora Tames has one true love, her avocado farm. Her family constantly nudges her to be more social, but Sal much prefers the dirt, the sun, and the solitude. Besides, trees listen better than people do.

For Sal and Dacre, their job won’t stay easy breezy for long, not when an avocado delivery to Palenque, Mexico pops up on their radar. Together, they embark on a road trip across the jungle, where they form a tighter bond. However, as obstacles arise, their new-found troubles may lead to more woes than bliss.

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Photo Credit

My good author friend, James J. Cudney, is also having some amazing .99 sales on these awesome books!

Father Figure * Flower Power Trip * Mistaken Identity Crisis

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Did you grab your copy of Avocado Bliss?

Review: Among the Beasts & Briars

Title: Among the Beasts & Briars

Author: Ashley Poston

Date of Publication: October 20th, 2020

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Goodreads Summary:

Cerys is safe in the kingdom of Aloriya.

Here there are no droughts, disease, or famine, and peace is everlasting. It has been this way for hundreds of years, since the first king made a bargain with the Lady who ruled the forest that borders the kingdom. But as Aloriya prospered, the woods grew dark, cursed, and forbidden. Cerys knows this all too well: when she was young, she barely escaped as the woods killed her friends and her mother. Now Cerys carries a small bit of the curse—the magic—in her blood, a reminder of the day she lost everything. The most danger she faces now, as a gardener’s daughter, is the annoying fox who stalks the royal gardens and won’t leave her alone.

As a new queen is crowned, however, things long hidden in the woods descend on the kingdom itself. Cerys is forced on the run, her only companions the small fox from the garden, a strange and powerful bear, and the magic in her veins. It’s up to her to find the legendary Lady of the Wilds and beg for a way to save her home. But the road is darker and more dangerous than she knows, and as secrets from the past are uncovered amid the teeth and roots of the forest, it’s going to take everything she has just to survive.

My Review:

Heart of Iron is one of my favorites by Poston, so I was super stoked when I saw she was writing a straight up fantasy book! Her imagination was so on point with this one that I wanted to scream my joy!

I loved Cerys AKA Daisy. You’ll know why she has the nickname when you read it! So adorable! Then there was Fox, my sly and scared yet brave little fox! I loved him so incredibly much, and I also thought the connection between him and Daisy was perfect. My one pitfall, which I have with every Poston book I read, is that I want to see more angst and sexiness between the couples along with the sweet and adorable! More kissing and touches please!

Poston had some pretty cool twists in this one, and I think this is a stand alone but I could definitely see it as a series too! The writing was flawless and the dialogue banter scenes were so entertaining! A page turner to no end! Loved it!

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What’s your favorite fantasy book or movie?

Review: Holding Smoke

Title: Holding Smoke

Author: Elle Cosimano

Date of Publication: May 3rd, 2016

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Goodreads Summary:

John “Smoke” Conlan is serving time for two murders but he wasn’t the one who murdered his English teacher, and he never intended to kill the only other witness to the crime. A dangerous juvenile rehabilitation center in Denver, Colorado, known as the Y, is Smoke’s new home and the only one he believes he deserves.

But, unlike his fellow inmates, Smoke is not in constant imprisonment. After a near death experience leaves him with the ability to shed his physical body at will, Smoke is able to travel freely outside the concrete walls of the Y, gathering information for himself and his fellow inmates while they’re asleep in their beds. Convinced his future is only as bright as the fluorescent lights in his cell, Smoke doesn’t care that the “threads” that bind his soul to his body are wearing thin-that one day he may not make it back in time. That is, until he meets Pink, a tough, resourceful girl who is sees him for who he truly is and wants to help him clear his name.

Now Smoke is on a journey to redemption he never thought possible. With Pink’s help, Smoke may be able to reveal the true killer, but the closer they get to the truth, the more deadly their search becomes. The web of lies, deceit, and corruption that put Smoke behind bars is more tangled than they could have ever imagined. With both of their lives on the line, Smoke will have to decide how much he’s willing to risk, and if he can envision a future worth fighting for.

My Review:

I’ve loved all the books I’ve read by Elle so far and this one was probably my favorite! The grayness aspect of it was so good. Characters that are neither black or white are my favorite.

And John! I was so happy to get a book told entirely from a guy’s perspective. Those seem rather rare in YA. I couldn’t help but feel for him because he’d been through so much in his life. Pink was awesome too. She was tough and sweet and reliable!

The paranormal aspect was super great. It was neat seeing John be able to leave his body and try to solve the mystery of the murder he was framed for. There was just so much coolness and emotion here and I highly recommend it!

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Where would you go if you could leave your body for the night and no one could see you?

Review: Imagine Me

Title: Imagine Me

Author: Tahereh Mafi

Date of Publication: March 31st, 2020

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Goodreads Summary:

Juliette Ferrars.

Ella Sommers.

Which is the truth and which is the lie?

Now that Ella knows who Juliette is and what she was created for, things have only become more complicated. As she struggles to understand the past that haunts her and looks to a future more uncertain than ever, the lines between right and wrong—between Ella and Juliette—blur. And with old enemies looming, her destiny may not be her own to control.

The day of reckoning for the Reestablishment is coming. But she may not get to choose what side she fights on.

My Review:

So this was the final book to my favorite series ever and I was so scared! Thankfully, it did not disappoint!

I loved being in Juliette’s head again! Kenji was funny as usual! I just wish Warner had more POV chapters this time but that’s okay because my boy was still there a lot! And I always love the scenes between Juliette and Warner! Swoon!

There was awesome action in this one along with perfect, beautiful writing! Books 2, 3, and 5 are still my faves but this was addicting too! I still have some questions, but the story ended on an excellent note! However, there could totally be more!

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Have you started this series?

Review: Nearly Found

Title: Nearly Found

Author: Elle Cosimano

Date of Publication: June 2nd, 2015

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Goodreads Summary:

AFTER HELPING TO CATCH A SERIAL KILLER last spring, Nearly Boswell isn’t looking for her internship in a crime lab to be anything more than an edge on her college applications. She’s determined to get out of Sunny View trailer park and prove to herself that she’s nothing like her con man father.

But on her first day, a girl from the trailer park turns up dead and an old ally of Nearly’s calls in a debt that could jeopardize her future. Then the corpse of a missing person is discovered, buried on a local golf course – and there’s a message for Nearly etched into its bones.

Could the corpse be her father, who went missing five years ago? Or is her father a murderer?

As a series of violent crimes with cryptic messages strike a little too close to home, her friends think she’s being paranoid. And Reece, her recklessly confident boyfriend, is preoccupied with a new girl as part of his informant work with the police.

Nearly’s going to have to risk her future in order to discover the truth about her past in time to stop a killer before he strikes again. And she might have to do it alone.

My Review:

I absolutely loved the first book and this one was just as addicting! It was good being in Nearly’s head, and it really felt familiar!

I will say for the first half of the story I was frustrated at the back and forth between Reece and Nearly because they are so perfect together! I wouldn’t have minded if he wasn’t there, just the trust issue were hard. But! They are teens so it’s understandable! When there chemistry was back, it was back!

The mystery in this one was also good too! I liked seeing Nearly trying to uncover things and find clues. Also, when the group got together to try and solve the crime, it sort of felt like The Breakfast Club, so I was like, heck yeah! Overall, another awesome read from Elle!

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What’s your favorite sequel?