Monday, August 28, 2017

Interview with Akemi Dawn Bowman, author of STARFISH and INT giveaway of signed STARFISH

Dear all:
I'm so thrilled to get the opportunity to promote this amazing, amazing book, STARFISH that reduced me to a blubbering mess. In the best way of course :-) And to introduce the wonderful author, Akemi who brought it into this world.


Goodreads Book Blurb: Kiko Himura has always had a hard time saying exactly what she’s thinking. With a mother who makes her feel unremarkable and a half-Japanese heritage she doesn’t quite understand, Kiko prefers to keep her head down, certain that once she makes it into her dream art school, Prism, her real life will begin.

But then Kiko doesn’t get into Prism, at the same time her abusive uncle moves back in with her family. So when she receives an invitation from her childhood friend to leave her small town and tour art schools on the west coast, Kiko jumps at the opportunity in spite of the anxieties and fears that attempt to hold her back. And now that she is finally free to be her own person outside the constricting walls of her home life, Kiko learns life-changing truths about herself, her past, and how to be brave.

From debut author Akemi Dawn Bowman comes a luminous, heartbreaking story of identity, family, and the beauty that emerges when we embrace our true selves.

My rating: 5 couches

My Review: STARFISH by Akemi Dawn Bowman was sent to me by the publisher, and this fact does not influence my review.

This book stars Kiko, who has a very difficult relationship with her mother, disturbing past with her uncle, and is aspiring to be an artist. When she doesn't get into the art school of her choice, her dreams of escape are crumbling. But after remeeting a childhood friend and an important trip to California, Kiko learns what it means to break free and come into her own without leaning on anyone else.

I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I definitely didn’t expect to identify so personally with Kiko. Kiko and I are definitely not the same person, she is way more artistic than I will ever be and I have been blessed to not be paralyzed by social anxiety, and I am way beyond lucky to not have experienced the dreadful and horrific sexual abuse she suffered at her uncle’s hands. But that said, I feel at the heart of things Kiko and I are kindred spirits. I won't get into it, but let's just say this book triggered emotions that I haven't tapped into in a long time from my past.

Regardless of the personal connection, this book was beautifully written. The characters are deftly drawn, the plot moves at a perfect pace, and I was riveted to each page hoping and praying that Kiko would make it out in the end. Jamie was an amazing character and is my new book boyfriend. Kiko's mother was a very realistic psychological picture of a narcissistic woman, and her relationship with Kiko broke my heart. Hiroshi was unexpected and I loved how he and his family took the place of Kiko's home family and opened up Kiko's heart to learn what an accepting family that loves unconditionally is like. 

Overall, this book beyond exceeded my expectations at every turn, and I am delighted to have had the immense privilege of reading it. I will be picking up Akemi's next book for sure.

Blurb about our author: Akemi Dawn Bowman is the author of Starfish. She’s a proud Ravenclaw and Star Wars enthusiast, who served in the US Navy for five years and has a BA in social sciences from UNLV. Originally from Las Vegas, she currently lives in England with her husband, two children, and their Pekingese mix. Starfish will be published later this year (9/26/17, Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster), with a second YA contemporary to follow in Fall 2018. She is represented by Penny Moore of Empire Literary.

Interview with Akemi
1) I love your story about your journey to publication, and it's something I hope to do one day myself. I love that you started with fan fiction. Can you elaborate on some of your early ideas-- i.e. The Lion King fanfic?? What was that about??
Oh gosh, where to start? It was really, really bad. I was seven when The Lion King came out, and I was obsessed. I really wanted a sequel (which hadn’t even been discussed at the time), so I started writing it myself. I honestly can’t remember very much about it, except that Simba and Nala had twin cubs—both girls—and there was a lot of animal friends and hanging out around the water hole. It was not a sophisticated piece of fan fiction, by any means. But it did kick off a love for creating the stories I couldn’t find on the shelves!

2) I find it fascinating that you started with fantasy ideas involving witches and magic to this intense contemporary YA STARFISH. Can you tell me a little bit about that transition and if you had ever wanted to write a contemp YA, or if it just happened? 
It’s going to sound bizarre when I say this, because STARFISH and my upcoming 2018 release SUMMER BIRD BLUE are both contemporaries, but I never intended to write anything other than fantasy and sci-fi. The amount of contemporary I’d read prior to writing STARFISH was minimal. Not because it’s a bad genre, because it’s a wonderful genre, but because I’ve always been drawn to magical powers and fantastical worlds. But while I was on sub with the sci-fi that got me an agent, I decided to write something new to keep my mind busy. And I guess part of me wanted to write something that was miles different from what was on sub (a self-preservation move, maybe?). I always knew that if I were to ever write a contemporary, STARFISH was the story I’d want to write. So that’s what I did!

3) Tell us a little about your obsession with Pokémon.
I remember the first time I saw the Pokémon anime—it was in Japanese with English subtitles, and it was before the show or game had arrived in the US. I was home-schooled at the time too, and didn’t have any friends. When the game came out, the cartridges were color-coordinated (red or blue, depending on the version), and I had the blue version. I was only eleven, and—okay this part is kind of embarrassing—sometimes I used to hang out near the school bus stop because I was secretly hoping I’d find someone my age to hang out with. And one day this kid got off the bus and he was playing the red version. I thought he was the coolest person in the entire world, and it also turned out he lived right behind my family’s house. We ended up being really good friends for a few years. So I guess Pokémon is how I find my people!

4) Your characters felt so real to me. I know you are a Ravenclaw, but if your characters could be sorted into houses (particularly, Kiko, Jamie, Hiroshi, and Kiko's mom), which houses would they go to and why? I have my guesses!!! 
Oh, thank you! Okay, this one is easy. Kiko would be in Ravenclaw because she tends to overanalyze a lot, Jamie would be in Gryffindor because it’s in his nature to want to be a hero, Hiroshi would be in Hufflepuff because he’s a gentle soul, and Kiko’s mom would be in Slytherin because she has a combination of ego and manipulation that I just can’t picture being sorted anywhere else. I’ve previously said that Kiko’s mom would be sorted into Slytherin, but would lie to people and say she was in Gryffindor. I was promptly scolded for the Slytherin shade, so I want to clarify here and say that I don’t think all Slytherins are bad! It’s just that all bad people end up in Slytherin. (Or something like that? I should probably stop talking before I get myself into more trouble with my Slytherin friends, haha!)

5) What was the easiest and toughest part about writing STARFISH? 
I think the easiest and toughest part was the same thing—it was how natural it felt to write this story. On one hand, the words and emotions came very easily. But on the other hand, writing STARFISH was so triggering at times. I had to take a lot of deep breaths, and go through many, many bags of chocolate!

6) Tell us a little about your experiences with your two crit partners and how they've played a pivotal role in your work. 
Oh I love, love, love my critique partners. Shout out to Anisaa and Taylor! They read the very first draft of STARFISH and didn’t hate it, and I’m so grateful. It was the boost I needed to stick with the story, and to feel like I had something worth revising.

7) Art plays an important role in STARFISH. Can you tell us a little why you chose this medium and if you dabble in art (i.e. drawing or painting or something similar) yourself?
 I love art, but I’m SO bad at it. I’ve loved drawing before I realized I loved to write! And when I was in high school, all I wanted to do was take art classes. I did two years of ceramics and a year of painting, but I’m laughably bad. I chose art for Kiko because it gave me a chance to paint with words, in a sense, but also because I knew how important it was for Kiko to have a way to communicate. Art felt like the right voice for her—she needs her drawings and paintings to say the things she can’t.

8) I want to know a little more about your other book on sub, I AM THETA. Can you tell us a little about it? 
Sadly, I AM THETA is no longer on submission. It was pulled from sub when STARFISH sold, so I’m happy things turned out the way they did. But it was a YA sci-fi about a girl who hunts down Glitches (people with superpowers), all the while trying to hide her telepathic brother from the people she works for. It will always have a special place in my heart!

9) What are your all time favorite books, ones that have inspired you? 
HIS DARK MATERIALS was a big one for sure, as was the Harry Potter series. But I also loved ISLAND OF THE BLUE DOLPHINS when I was a kid. It inspired me to write a very terrible short story about a girl who lived with wolves, which I often think of as the first “book” I finished writing. Of all the books I’ve read, ISLAND OF THE BLUE DOLPHINS was the one that inspired me to be a writer.

10) Are you writing any other books right now? And if so, can you give us a very vague sense of it?
 I am! SUMMER BIRD BLUE is currently going through edits with my wonderful editor, Jen. It’s about a teen songwriter who loses her sister in a tragic accident, and is sent to Hawaii to live with her aunt while her mother deals with her own grief. It’s about family and loss and learning how to say goodbye to someone who is already gone. I can’t wait to share more, because this book is so very special to me!

And now, the moment you've been waiting for-- the amazing giveaway! Enter away, it's a generous INT giveaway!!!

Monday, August 21, 2017

Details and Instructions for #OneDarkThrone Twitter Party with the amazing @KendareBlake

Hey gang! I'm so thrilled to get the chance to promote the amazing Kendare Blake as well as her amazing quartet of books, Three Dark Crowns! So at long last, here are the details of the party! I have to show off the promo pics that I made because I'm super proud of them. :-)

Just a couple of reminders for the party: 
WHERE: Twitter, use #OneDarkThrone to join
WHEN: Tuesday, August 29th, 8:30pm-9:30pm CST for ONE HOUR.
WHO: The Twitter bookish population!
GUEST AUTHOR: Kendare Blake (@kendareblake), author of the Three Dark Crowns QUARTET!

Tips for the party: 
1. You should have a twitter account.
2. You should be following me @CAhnBooks and @KendareBlake to be 1) eligible for prizes, 2) ensure that I see your tweets and that I can contact you with prize information. We will confirm this so make sure you do this!!!
3. After each comment, you should end it with #OneDarkThrone or else I won't see it. The EASIEST way to follow a twitter party is to hook up your account to a chat program. I use All you have to do is put #OneDarkThrone at the top of the page where it says "Enter hashtags." Then you should be good to go! The other nice thing about this is that you don't have to type the hashtag after each comment, the program automatically does it for you. And you don't have to search for the hashtag, it automatically just follows the convo.
4. For some of the prizes, I'll be selecting winners RANDOMLY throughout the party, so the more you participate and the LONGER you participate, the more likely you are to win a prize.
5. Retweets will NOT count towards a prize. But these are nice to do for your fellow tweeters if you like what they are saying.
6. PRIZES: You can only win one book prize, but possibly you could win a book + swag. There will be 2 categories you can win prizes in: random or the contest prize. However, you can only win prizes that ship to you (US versus INT). Kendare is generously giving away some UK editions of Three Dark Crowns and some anthologies (1 book INT, the rest US only). She is also giving away a few signed bookplates (INT).
7. PRIZE form: There will be a Google document I will direct you to if you have won a prize. You will select which prize you have won, and this will be checked so be honest!! Just follow the instructions so that you will get your prize. Kendare nor I are responsible for prizes lost in the mail (we will just feel very very bad if it happens!).
8. Contest: There will be one INT contest in the last part of the party. You will need to include #contest along with #OneDarkThrone so that I see it.
9. To those poor souls who don't have a twitter account. It's totally EASY. Get a twitter account! I finally got one for my blog, and it took literally seconds to set up. I'm so sorry, but if you don't have a  twitter account, you won't be eligible for the prizes.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Interview with A. B. Rutledge, author of Miles Away From You, and US giveaway of ARC of her book

Dear All:
Yet another win from HMH Teen! I took to twitter and said that I wasn't cool enough to read this book. It's still true. A. B. told me she didn't feel cool enough for the book either and she wrote it!

Goodreads Book Description: It's been three years since Miles fell for Vivian, a talented and dazzling transgender girl. Eighteen months since a suicide attempt left Vivian on life support. Now Miles isn't sure who he is without her, but knows it’s time to figure out how to say goodbye.

He books a solo trip to Iceland but then has a hard time leaving the refuge of his hotel room. After a little push from Óskar, a local who is equal parts endearing and aloof, Miles decides to honor Vivian's life by photographing her treasured Doc Martens standing empty against the surreal landscapes. With each step he takes, Miles finds his heart healing—even as he must accept that Vivian, still in a coma, will never recover.

Told through a series of instant messages to Vivian, this quirky and completely fresh novel explores love, loss, and the drastic distances we sometimes have to travel in order to move on.

My Rating: 5 couches

My review:  The contemps this year have been hella good. I don't typically dole out this many five stars in a row. And this one is no exception.
So I want to preface this by saying this is not my kind of book.
You may misunderstand what I mean. I don't typically prefer/read male type protagonists and not typically into road trips/traveling abroad to find oneself. And I don't usually like books written as letters to someone. So this book was chock full of stuff that I don't usually like or read, and yet... and yet...
Miles is so typically boy but not. He is fluid on the sexuality scale, and so real and believable but I've never read someone like him before. I loved how he talked about his relationship with Vivian, the beautiful transgender girl. I loved his relationship to his moms, and I loved Oskar. Oh Oskar. I have a crush on him now myself.
Beautiful, poignant, and strangely addictive-- the voice of Miles was unique and moving. I don't really know what else to say. One of my favorite parts was that while he mentioned the hardships of being the way he was, and Vivian's difficult life from being trans, it was so clear that there is something universal in his experiences of loss and feeling different that anyone-- cis or trans, can relate to. And I think that's what this world needs a little more of-- "us"/"we" and less of "other."
I am honored to have read this book.

Blurb about the author:
A.B. Rutledge is an optician from Southeast Missouri. She likes '90s alternative music, dresses with pockets, and leaving Halloween decorations up all year long. When she's not up at 3 a.m. scribbling out stories, you can find her in her art studio covered in paper scraps, paint, and cats. Miles Away From You is her first novel.

Interview Questions.
1. Hard one: If you could describe your book in a single tweet, what would it be?
PERKS meets LOST IN TRANSLATION in Iceland with an all-queer cast. 

2. I love how the title/idea of this book goes hand in hand with the MC's first name. Did you come up with the name/character before the title, or vice versa?
I named the character first (borrowed it from a male model I came across on Pinterest). I had no idea what to call the book until a friend suggested that the title incorporate his name. Lightbulb moment! I don’t know why I hadn’t thought of it before. For a bit there, I almost called it Miles in her Shoes because Vivian’s Doc Martens play a big role in the plot, but in the end Miles Away from You does a better job of capturing the feeling of loneliness that permeates the story.

3. I love how this book took place mostly in Iceland. What made you decide to place the book location here, and if you went there, please describe your experience there.
I went to Iceland for my birthday in 2014 (I've included a photo of me freezing my butt off on a glacier as my author photo for this interview) and when I came back everyone kept asking me how it was, but I would just stare off into space and sigh. It’s so impossible to describe! This book is definitely my love letter to that gorgeous country. I hope it makes everyone pack their bags and buy a ticket to Keflavik. Do you think the Icelandic tourism committee will compensate me for my services?

4. The characters in this book are just terrific, including the wonderful Vivian, Miles, and Oskar who I think I have a huge crush on now. Which houses of Hogwarts would these characters get sorted into and why? And what is your house and why?
This is my favorite question! Miles is a Hufflepuff because he’s timid and peaceful and once wrote a love letter to a sandwich. Vivian is a Gryffindor because she’s kick-ass and brave and amazing. And Oskar…at first glance Oskar seems like a Slytherin, right? But he’s Scandinavian—nothing cracks me up more than knowing Oskar would’ve gone to Durmstrang. Because he’s SO Durmstrang.
As for me, my goth sensibilities and undying love for a certain Potions teacher have me all set for dungeon life #slytherinpride

5. What book do you wish you had as a teen and why?
Oh, that’s tough! I was always an “artsy” kid, but as a teenager I never thought anything I created was good enough, so I put it aside. I didn’t paint or write much at all until well into my twenties. Teenage me could have really benefited from a copy of Lynda Barry’s Picture This, which taught grown-up me how to create magical things like a kid again, without that pesky inner critic getting in the way.

6. Can you remark on awareness for gender identity, transgender issues, and how we might work on having these individuals feel more accepted in our society?
There’s a point early in the book where Miles rattles off the suicide rate for transgender youth: forty percent. That’s the real statistic, unfortunately and it’s something we should all actively be working to change. The onus is on everyone to get names and pronouns correct, to reach out to friends and strangers who seem to be hurting, and to speak up when we hear things like “that’s a boy’s toy.” A little bit of kindness can go a long way.

7. What is your process writing? Are you a plotter or are you more of a "pantser"? Why or why not?
I used to be a pantser, but now I find it helpful to write outlines first and try to stick to them (though often the story takes on a life of its own). I can work either way, but usually plotting leads me to a cleaner first draft.

8. Can you tell us a little about what you are working on now? 
A couple years ago I found out that the BerenstEin Bears were actually the BerenstAin Bears and I’ve been intrigued by the Mandela Effect ever since. So, right now I’m working on a story about a Mandela-obsessed teenage podcaster in a small town where everyone knows him as a crackpot conspiracy theorist—and what happens when he tries to finally come forward about a sexual assault in his past. So, to twitter pitch YA again, it’s SPEAK meets S-TOWN, or “the boy who cried Mandela Effect."

So excited about this book and you should be too! And now, enter to win this book or a gorgeous painting by the author!