Week in Review: July 31

missprintweekreviewThis week on the blog you can check out:

We made it through July, you guys!

This week I was really, really scattered and all over the place. I took some time yesterday to re-read Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta and it really helped me feel more centered. It’s my favorite book and has been since I read it in 2005. It’s nice to see that it still holds up now that I’ve read it again.

The good thing about being super scattered is that I have been motoring through books on my TBR. Including The Thousandth Floor by Katharine McGee which is sure to be a summer blockbuster once it hits shelves in August.

If you want to see how my month in reading is shaking out be sure to check out my July Reading Tracker.

How was your week?

Lotus and Thorn: A Review

Lotus and Thorn by Sara Wilson EtienneLeica and her sisters, Lotus and Tashcen, are descendants of colonists who settled on the planet Gabriel five hundred years ago. Now, in 2590, Leica and the other Citizens of Pleiades scavenge the ruins of their original colony for technology to trade to the Curadores in exchange for supplies and god’s eventual forgiveness.

Leica knows what it is to live in Gabriel’s barren deserts fearing the next occurrence of the Red Death and knowing the other Citizens revile her six-fingered hands as a Corruption–a sign that their god has still not forgiven the Citizens enough to return them to Earth. After being exiled nearly two years for possessing contraband technology, she also knows the fear and privation of being alone in the desert surrounding Pleiades.

When Leica finds a shuttle out in the Tierra Muerta it provides a link to Earth. It also leads Leica back to her sister, Lotus, and a fledgling settlement trying to separate itself from both Pleiades and the Curadores who reside in a secure dome habitat.

With the dome malfunctioning and food in Pleiades becoming scarce, Leica will have to work quickly to find the truth about increasing Red Death outbreaks and uncover the long buried secrets behind why Earth abandoned Gabriel so many years ago in Lotus and Thorn (2016) by Sara Wilson Etienne.

This convoluted science fiction novel is a loose retelling of the Grimm fairy tale “Fitcher’s Bird”–a story that also shares some common tropes with the tale of Bluebeard. Lotus and Thorn is broken into three parts, each of which is preceded by an excerpt from a version of Fitcher’s Bird that the author wrote to accompany the novel.

Elements from Korean and Mexican culture are fused into this futuristic story to create a diverse world, albeit one that often lacks strong internal logic.While these choices make for a diverse setting the method behind these cultures, of any, being the two to have lasting influence centuries in the future is decidedly unclear.

A meandering plot filled with too many twists and not enough character development make for a slow read. Lotus and Thorn will have the most appeal for committed science fiction fans and readers looking for a new fairy tale retelling in the style of Cinder or Stitching Snow.

Possible Pairings: Incarceron by Catherine Fisher, Of Beast and Beauty by Stacey Jay, Stitching Snow by R. C. Lewis, Cinder by Marissa Meyer, Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi, A Long, Long Sleep by Anna Sheehan

*A more condensed version of this review appeared in an issue of School Library Journal from which it can be seen in various places online*

Breaker: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Breaker by Kat EllisNaomi doesn’t want to board at Killdeer Academy but she can’t stay with her grandparents now that her grandmother has so much to do taking care of Naomi’s grandfather as his Alzheimer’s progresses.

Kyle hopes to be able to remake himself at Killdeer Academy with a new last name and a determination to forget all about his serial killer father. His mother’s decision that Kyle should board is a surprise. But he’s dealt with worse.

Kyle expects to have a completely blank slate at the Academy. The only problem is that he recognizes Naomi immediately. She was the daughter of his father’s last victim. Kyle wants to stay away from Naomi but he isn’t sure how to ignore when she seems to actually want to be his friend–and maybe even more. When people start dying on campus both Naomi and Kyle will have to confront their pasts to stop the murders in Breaker (2016) by Kat Ellis.

Find it on Bookshop.

The book alternates first person narration between Kyle and Naomi which makes both protagonists well-rounded. While other characters factor into the story in crucial ways, they remain decidedly secondary to Kyle and Naomi and are consequently somewhat less developed. Excerpts from ephemera related to Kyle’s father further complicate the story.

In a departure from her debut mystery fantasy, Blackfin Sky, Ellis delivers a much darker story here. Kyle is haunted by his father’s legacy as a serial killer, terrified that the stigma will cling to him forever and the thought that he could have turned out like his father. Naomi saw her mother’s murder and has spent the intervening years doing her best to not think about her mother at all to avoid the pain of that traumatic loss.

Kyle and Naomi are a completely unlikely pair but their chemistry in Breaker, not to mention their draw to each other is undeniable in this fast-paced thriller that is sure to appeal to fans of the genre. Breaker is a creepy and atmospheric story filled with choice details that bring Killdeer Academy to life in all of its eerie and dilapidated glory.

Possible Pairings: The Leaving by Tara Altebrando, All These Bodies by Kendare Blake, With Malice by Eileen Cook, The Devil You Know by Trish Doller, The Night She Disappeared by April Henry, I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga, The Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman

You can also read my interview with Kat about Breaker!

*An advance copy of this title was provided by the publisher for review consideration*

Author Interview #2: Kat Ellis on Breaker

Kat Ellis author photoI discovered Kat Ellis’ debut novel a couple of years through a series of serendipitous events. Blackfin Sky quickly became a favorite of mine and since then I’ve been looking forward to reading Kat’s next book. Happily, Breaker is finally here and coincidentally Kat is also here on the blog to talk a bit more about it.

Miss Print (MP): What was the inspiration for Breaker?

KE: It started with a documentary I was watching about serial killers on death row. The interviewer talked with the inmates, but also with their friends and family — and the relatives of the victims as well. It got me thinking about those who get caught in the crossfire when someone commits a violent crime, and how it ripples outward to affect more people than you ever read about in news articles. I thought it would be interesting to write a story about two teens growing up in the aftermath of a brutal murder — one connected to the victim, and the other to the killer; Breaker spiralled outward from that.

MP: This book alternates first person point of view between Naomi and Kyle throughout. Did you always know that you wanted the book to follow both characters? How did having two narrators influence your writing process?

KE: I always knew it would have two narrators, but Kyle’s voice came to me first. I knew he would be southern, and that the move to a private school in Killdeer, Pennsylvania, would be jarring for him even though he’s aching for a fresh start. Naomi took a little longer to figure out, but when I did, I knew she’d be resilient and feisty and funny — exactly the kind of person who would reach out to someone who seemed overwhelmed in their new school, and the chemistry and the connection between her and Kyle just grew from there.

Writing dual narratives is actually my go-to writing structure, although my debut, Blackfin Sky, had only one. For Breaker, having two perspectives let me explore both sides of the story, and really get to know both main characters.

MP: You live in North Wales. Breaker is set in Pennsylvania. Did you always know that this book would be set there? What kind of research was involved in bringing Killdeer to life?

KE: As I’m not exactly local, I had to do some pretty intensive research before I found the right spot to locate Killdeer. I needed somewhere with a real historic vibe, somewhere I could create the creepy, gothic school building, the isolated setting, the woodland crowding in on all sides. I also had to check on things like native trees and wildlife, and how the weather would change over the course of the novel (I had a sense that it would get colder and colder as the story progressed). Much Googling later, Killdeer sprang to life at the edge of Pennypack Park in Northeast Philadelphia.

MP: Working off the last question, did any real life locations inspire you while writing Breaker? Did any real locations inspire Killdeer Academy specifically?

KE: Well, since you ask…. There is actually a building near me that I used as a (very loose) basis for Killdeer Academy [see photo below]. It was a mental hospital until it closed in the 1980s, and the gothic architecture and fairly isolated setting was just perfect for Killdeer Academy. Getting to transplant bits of Wales into Pennsylvania is an author’s prerogative, right? ;-)

Picture - Q4MP: Killdeer Academy is an eerie and dilapidated boarding school filled with taxidermied animals that reside on shelves throughout the school. Animal you would least want around as a taxidermy statue?

KE: I’m actually really squeamish about real taxidermied animals! I’m a cat lover, so I’d have to say having a stuffed cat around the house would absolutely make my skin crawl.

MP: Breaker is a fast-paced thriller. There are murders, there’s suspense, there’s mystery. I was definitely reading as fast as I could to get to the finish. How did you lay out the pacing of this story? How did you decide when to reveal key details to the reader?

KE: Well, first of all, thank you! I am a linear writer, so I wrote a full dirty draft before paring it down to make the pacing as tight as possible. And my editor was amazing at pointing out where tension was lacking, or when what I thought was a subtle clue was actually just a glaringly obvious reveal. While I wanted readers to be able to figure out the who part of the mystery (I kind of think it’s cheating if an author makes it impossible to guess), I kept the why hidden until the climax so there is hopefully a ‘Whoa!’ moment, whether the reader guessed the Big Bad’s identity or not.

MP: A big part of this book is Naomi’s efforts to recreate photos from her grandfather’s damaged scrapbooks. And also walking on roofs. Can you talk about your own photography and your effort to recreate a scene from the book (seen here: https://www.instagram.com/p/BEyOBPwN6i4/)?

KE: I’m a visual person (you should see my spectacular colour-coded revision notes from high school) so having images to sit alongside a story feels natural for me. Sometimes I’ll take a photo and get writing inspiration from it, or sometimes the writing comes first, and I’ll try to find or create an image to go with it — like the rooftop scene. That photo was one I took during the book trailer shoot for Breaker (https://youtu.be/76LHXOP4mec) which was filmed by my friend Dawn Kurtagich, author of The Dead House. It was also a great excuse to send my younger brother and sister up onto a slate roof.

MP: Can you tell us anything about your next project?

KE: I can! My next book is coming out this September. It’s a sci-fi thriller called PURGE, set on a flooded Earth where the last survivors live in sealed, floating communities. Mason is 17, and already has a rap sheet too long to remember. So he isn’t exactly high on the list to be allowed into any community — which is how he ends up at Alteria, living among a cult-like group who purge negative behaviour through a mind-altering virtual reality programme. Mason knows he has to stay out of trouble, but that’s not easy when he falls for a girl who has a few bad habits of her own. When she’s caught with drugs and thrown into the programme, Mason risks everything to go in after her, not knowing if either of them will ever be the same.

Thanks so much for the great questions!

Thanks again to Kat for another fun interview.

You can see more about Kat and her books on her website.

You can also read my review of Breaker here on the blog.

Top Fives from the Fall 2016 Simon & Schuster Preview

Another preview, another recap. On July 19, Simon & Schuster hosted their Fall 2016 Educator and Librarian preview. The preview was held at the Simon & Schuster previews near Rockefeller Center and covered Fall 2016 releases from Atheneum: Caitlyn Dlouhy Books, Atheneum, Margaret K. McElderry Books, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, Beach Lane Books, Paula Wiseman Books, Little Simon, Simon Spotlight, Aladdin, Simon Pulse, and Simon & Schuster Audio.

missprinttopfivesHere are my Top Fives for a few categories presented at the preview:

Picture Books:

  1. Click, Clack, Surprise! by Doreen Cronin, illustrated by Betsy Lewin: Doreen and Betsy were the special guests at this preview and talked about this latest installment on Farmer Brown’s farm. This one follows Little Duck on his birthday as he gets into a bit of trouble while mimicking other farm residents to prepare for his big party. I’m a fan of this series, so it’s no surprise that this book is another winner.
  2. The Snurtch by Sean Ferrell, illustrated by Charles Santoso: This picture book comes from the team behind I Don’t Like Koala which is a delightfully creepy picture book about a boy and his terrifying stuffed animal. In this book, Ruthie has a problem. It’s the Snurtch. The Snurtch is not nice or quiet or polite. And he is making Ruthie’s school day VERY difficult. In this book about dealing with behavioral issues and acting out (comped to Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse), Ruthie eventually learns how to negotiate life with the Snurtch. And that she may not be the only one who has a Snurtch.
  3. I Heart You by Meg Fleming, illustrated by Sarah Jane Wright: Really great actions. Sweet, sweet story. I think this would be a great story to use in a Babies and Books program. It’s saccharine but in a charming way.
  4. Octopuses One to Ten by Ellen Jackson, illustrated by Robin Page: This is a counting concept book filled with fun facts about octopi (which I contend is the correct pluralization!).
  5. The Pros & Cons of Being a Frog by Sud deGennaro: After dressing as a cat becomes problematic for a little boy (after being chased by a dog for eleven days straight), his best friend Camille (who loves to talk in numbers) suggests he try a new animal. A frog perhaps? A beautifully illustrated story about celebrating differences.

Non-Fiction/Biography/Based on a True Story:

  1. Freedom Over Me by Ashley Bryan: While talking with his editor, Bryan revealed that he collects wills, sale receipts, and deeds from plantation and slave auctions. Bryan worries that these documents could end up in the wrong hands and fears that this point of history could be erased. After years of gathering and pondering, he began to write poetry about some of the people listed in one such contract. This book features portraits of what Bryan imagines these individuals would have looked like, poems about their lives as slaves, and poems of their dreams of the lives they could have had if they were free. This seems to be the book that Bryan was born to create as well as incredibly important and powerful.
  2. The Marvelous Thing That Came from a Spring by Gilbert Ford: This picture book explains the accidental invention of one of the popular Slinky toy. This book marks a completely new illustrative style for Ford. Each page spread includes a three-dimensional scene which Ford built and photographed to include in the book.
  3. Finding Wonders: Three Girls Who Changed Science by Jeannine Atkins: This illustrated book includes stories of three noted women scientist when they were still young girls and looks at how their childhoods and upbringings shaped the scientists they would become. The book is broken into three stories: “Mud, Moths, and Mystery” about Maria Sibylla Merian (1647-1717) who discovered the process of metamorphosis while studying the life cycle of insects; “Secrets in Stones” about Mary Annin (1799-1847) who studied fossils; and “Many Stars, One Comet” about Maria Mitchell (1818-1889) who discovered a comet while studying astronomy and observing the stars.
  4. I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark by Debby Levy, illustrated by Elizabeth Baddeley: This illustrated biography doesn’t need much introduction. What it does need is to be read widely. I’m pretty excited to check out a finished copy once it’s published!
  5. Willa: The Story of Willa Cather, an American Writer by Amy Ehrlich, illustrated by Wendell Minor: The first book in a new biography series focused on American women writers.

Middle Grade:

  1. Ghost by Jason Reynolds: This book is the first in a four book series (each book will focus on a different character–three boys and one girl). Reynolds has seen in his own life that black boys are always running and looking over their shoulder. He wanted to change that and write about black kids who are running toward something. This middle grade series features four kids on an elite track team. It’s “gulpable yet penetrating” and was compared to Sharon Draper’s Tears of a Tiger (but aged down about four years).
  2. The Lost Property Office by James R. Hannibal: In a complete departure from his military thrillers for adults, Hannibal makes his MG debut with this novel being pitched as Harry Potter meets Dr. Who. This story blends history, science, and victorian style. It also has a stunning cover.
  3. The Bad Kid by Sarah Lariviere: Debut middle grade mystery comedy. This story is set in Sunset Park, Brooklyn and joins the very small “middle grade mafia” sub-genre with the likes of The Fourth Stall and Al Capone Does My Shirts.
  4. The Littlest Bigfoot by Jennifer Weiner: In her middle grade debut, Weiner explores a boarding school in upstate New York where a little girl is feeling very alone . . . until she rescues the smallest Bigfoot from the lake and makes a new friend. First in a trilogy.
  5. League of Archers by Eva Howard: Twelve-year-old Ellie love Robin Hood and all that he stands for. She and her friends try to emulate Robin’s band of Merry Men with their League of Archers. When Ellie is accused of killing Robin Hood she will have to work fast to clear her name (and save Maid Marian) if she hopes to keep her hero’s legacy alive.

Young Adult:

  1. Don’t You Trust Me? by Patrice Kindl: This YA thriller is a new and unexpected direction for Kindl. The story starts with a girl who has no conscience (that’s right, we have a psychopath MC) and knows she isn’t quite like other people. She agrees to switch identities with a girl at the airport just to get her to stop being so annoying with all of her crying. Who does that? The main character here is being compared to Barbara Stanwyck’s character in Double Indemnity–something I never even realized I wanted in a YA protagonist until this very moment.
  2. The Last True Love Story by Brendan Kiely: The only stories that last are love stories, and this one is no exception. It’s a cool, sweet contemporary that takes road trip conventions and turns them upside down. Oh and it’s a little bit of The Odyssey too. Compared to Rainbow Rowell and Tim Tharp.
  3. The Diabolic by S. J. Kincaid: This book is getting a BIG push from the publisher. It’s being called The Terminator meets House of Cards, Red Queen meets The Hunger Games. Nemesis is sent to serve as hostage in place of a politician’s beloved daughter. But then everything starts to go wrong. This is a standalone novel and has a killer twist on page 161.
  4. Every Hidden Thing by Kenneth Oppel: I could tell you more about this book but honestly, I was sold the moment I heard it described as Indiana Jones meets Romeo & Juliet.
  5. Fate of Flames by Sarah Raughley: Four girls, known as effigies, control the elements to keep the world safe. The only problem is that when Maya become sthe new fire effigy she has no idea what she’s doing. Buffy meets Sailor Moon with a dash of The Avengers.

Week in Review: July 24

missprintweekreviewThis week on the blog you can check out:

This week went by rather slowly. But, hey! We made it through!

Last Sunday I saw the Manus X Machina exhibit with Nicole and it was a lot of fun. I also shared all of my photos on Instagram and might compile them into a blog post here.

This is my favorite dress from the show:

And this is the dress from the show that I wish I had in my own closet:

Thanks to Estelle, I also got to take part in a really fun Instagram challenge for Who Wins? I am obsessed with this book and foist it onto kids/teens in my programs at work constantly.

Who do YOU think would win in this match up?

If you want to see how my month in reading is shaking out be sure to check out my July Reading Tracker.

How was your week?

Painting Pepette: A Picture Book Review

Painting Pepette by Linda Ravin Lodding and Claire Fletcher Josette Bobette lives at #9 Rue Laffette, Paris with her family and her toy rabbit, Pepette. Josette loves Pepette dearly and takes her everywhere. One day when she and  are cuddling in the great room, she notices that every member of the Bobette family has a portrait hanging on the wall. Except that there is no portrait of Pepette!

Determined to fix this egregious omission, Josette and Pepette take to the streets of Paris to find an artist who can paint Pepette’s portrait and create a picture as special as she is in Painting Pepette (2016) by Linda Ravin Lodding, illustrated by Claire Fletcher.

Traveling through the busy streets of 1920s Paris, Josette and Pepette meet Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, Marc Chagall, and Henri Matisse. Each artist is eager to paint Pepette but Josette soon realizes that none of them quite capture everything that makes her rabbit so special (and Pepette has to agree). After a busy day and several portraits, Josette realizes that she is the best candidate to paint a portrait of Pepette and she finally finds a picture just as special as her special friend, Pepette.

Rhyming names and a repeated refrain (And Pepette had to agree) make this an excellent story time title with a lot of potential as a read-a-loud. Bold illustrations take advantage of the large page size alternating between detailed two-page spreads and closer shots of individual characters. Fletcher excellently conveys the individual styles and aesthetics of each artist that Josette encounters during her travels.

The famous artists are not mentioned by name in the story. Instead, each artists presents Josette with their portrait of Pepette which demonstrates their artistic style. An author’s note at the end of the book details exactly who Josette meets during her day too. The references to actual artists make Painting Pepette a versatile read sure to appeal to art enthusiasts both young and old.

Painting Pepette is a charming picture book filled with riotously colorful illustrations and naturally flowing text which easily moves readers through the story.

*An advance copy of this title was provided by the publisher for review consideration*

The Last Time We Were Us: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

“We’re all just trying to be the best version of us, the only way we know how.”

The Last Time We Were Us by Leah KonenLiz used to go by Lizzie and her life used to be simple. But the summer before her senior year is anything but as she sifts through the expectations of her friends and family to figure what she might really want. Thanks to her best friend MacKenzie’s concentrated efforts, she and Liz are on the verge of popularity. Liz is getting invited to the best parties. Everyone is certain that if Liz plays her cards right she’ll have Innis Taylor–the hottest and most popular guy in Bonneville–as her boyfriend.

When her childhood best friend, Jason, comes home unexpectedly from juvie the obvious thing to do is ignore him. Liz doesn’t owe Jason anything. She isn’t even sure she can give him the friendship that he’s asking for. Liz never wanted to believe that Jason was capable of attacking someone but the rest of the town is convinced that he is guilty and still dangerous.

Liz has every reason to avoid Jason and everything to lose if anyone catches them together. But the more Liz remembers about who she and Jason used to be together, the more she finds herself drawn to him and the secrets he keeps alluding to that surround his arrest. Liz will have to learn how to trust Jason again as she remembers his role in her past and decides if he deserves a place in her future in The Last Time We Were Us (2016) by Leah Konen.

Find it on Bookshop.

The Last Time We Were Us is Konen’s second novel.

This book explores a lot of the themes covered in Matthew Quick’s Every Exquisite Thing. However, the idea of finding yourself and the value to be had in teenage rebellion is handled more effectively here and without the obvious disdain Quick displays for his heroine throughout.

The Last Time We Were Us is a subtle, sexy story about figuring out who you want to be when everyone already seems to know you. Liz remains extremely aware of who she is and of her own values–even if that sometimes means deeply disappointing those closest to her. While this story has action and twists, it remains largely introspective with Liz working through some of her largest conflicts on her own as she tries to choose the kind of person she wants to be moving forward.

This book is one of those formative stories where the writing is so smart and so on point that it often feels like have your own thoughts and ideas spoken back to you. Konen’s evocative descriptions of Bonneville and a varied (though probably all white) cast help to further develop the story. The Last Time We Were Us is a thoughtful exploration of what place nostalgia and memory have in life as you grow older and how, even when you try not to, the past can irretrievably shape your future.

The Last Time We Were Us is a story with a hint of mystery, romance, and a healthy dose of feminism. Cannot recommend it highly enough.

Possible Pairings: Starry Eyes by Jenn Bennett, The Game of Love and Death by Martha A. Brockenbrough, How to Love by Katie Cotugno, Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley, The Museum of Heartbreak by Meg Leder, We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord, Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta, Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu, The Weight of Feathers by Anne-Marie McLemore, I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson, Every Exquisite Thing by Matthew Quick, Bone Gap by Laura Ruby, A Map of the Known World by Lisa Ann Sandell, The Insomniacs by Marit Weisenberg, Places No One Knows by Brenna Yovanoff

You can also check out my interview with Leah Konen about the book.

Author Interview: Leah Konen on The Last Time We Were Us

Leah Konen auhor photoIf I could pick one book that came out in 2016 that I wanted everyone to read, it might be The Last Time We Were Us by Leah Konen. I knew Konen would be an author to watch after reading her debut, The After Girls. The Last Time We Were Us is Konen’s second novel and makes good on that promise. It’s a smart, sexy story about first love, expectations, memories, and a whole lot more. Today Leah is here to talk a bit about her writing and the book.

Miss Print (MP): Can you tell me a bit about your path as a writer? How did you get to this point?

Leah Konen (LK): I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was a kid, but I only really started to take it seriously in college, where I took a YA writing class that got me started on my first novel, which I finished after moving to New York. Once I was in NYC, I met so many other writers that I started to see it not just as a wild dream but as something that could maybe happen one day—I’ve never looked back!

MP: What was the inspiration for The Last Time We Were Us?

LK: I was sitting at my mom’s house in North Carolina and remembering a lot of childhood games my friends and I used to play. The wheels started turning, and I decided I wanted to write a story about two childhood friends who were torn apart but find a way to come together again. I was also very inspired by my college days in North Carolina. While it was a wonderful place in many ways, there were certain elements of southern and frat culture, especially around gender roles, that made me uncomfortable as I got older. I wanted to explore both the wonderful and problematic elements of the South.

MP: Liz has to make a lot of hard choices in this story (friendship or popularity, Jason or Innis to name two). Did you always know what decisions Liz would ultimately make? How much of the plot did you know when you first began working on this novel?

LK: I knew a lot! It’s the only time that the whole plot has come to me in a flash. Liz wasn’t the easiest character to write, as I often found myself disagreeing with some of her choices and motivations, but watching her grow and take ownership of her life and her role in society was really awesome for me as a writer.

MP: Liz is a really interesting narrator. She knows who she is and she tries to stay true to what she believes throughout the novel. But she also is often swayed by the expectations of her friends and family. How did you balance Liz’s certainty in some areas of her life with the uncertainty she begins to feel in other areas with Jason’s return?

LK: I’m in my thirties, and I’m not perfect, and I certainly wasn’t perfect in high school. I wanted to explore a girl who had a strong moral compass but didn’t always know how to go about following it. I wanted to watch someone make mistakes and still be able to find some redemption and peace in the end. I think many of us are constantly balancing right and wrong, our own desires and those of others, so I thought it only natural that Liz would, as well.

MP: This story has a few moving parts including romance, mystery, and a really surprising twist at the end. As a writer how did you go about pacing this story and balancing the different elements of the narrative?

LK: Scrivener (the app) and Save the Cat (the screenwriting book). IMHO, two of the most important tools for any writer.

MP: I was really happy with the way feminism played into this story and how sex positive it is. Did you always know that these would themes would be a part of the story and of Liz’s character?

LK: Absolutely! While I don’t believe YA should be steeped in heavy moral lessons, I do think it should at least put some good in the world. Feminism is very important to me, and so it’s important that any book I write be heavy on the girl power, while being realistic about the unique issues girls and women face.

MP: Were any locations in The Last Time We Were Us inspired by real locations you have visited?

LK: Bonneville is an amalgamation of different places I experienced in North Carolina, as well as one very gorgeous park I came across while biking in San Francisco. Hint hint: it’s the place that Liz and Jason used to bike to as kids.

MP: When Liz begins to reminisce about her childhood friendship with Jason, she digs some old photographs out of a hidden memory box. Did you ever have a similar box of mementos? What’s one childhood photograph (or just memory) that you find yourself returning to fondly now that you are older?

LK: I definitely have that box. My favorite is my sister and I, about 3 and 7 years old, sitting in matching pint-sized rocking chairs, my sister holding a fake microphone and belting her heart out.

MP: Can you tell us anything about your next project?

LK: Yes. It’s called The Romantics, and it follows a lovesick guy, Gael, on his misadventures as he tries to find the girl for him. Also, it’s narrated by Love, herself. It comes out November 1, but you can pre-order it here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01IDGS3FQ/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1!

MP: Do you have any advice to offer aspiring authors?

LK: Yes. Just keep on writing, and keep on reading. Don’t read only in your genre of choice—instead, read everything you can get your hands on. I believe that reading voraciously is the best thing you can possibly do to improve your writing.

Thanks again to Leah for this fantastic interview.

You can see more about Leah and her books on her website.

You can also check out my review of The Last Time We Were Us.

Week in Review: July 17

missprintweekreviewThis week on the blog you can check out:

This week I read A Week of Mondays and started Twist by Karen Akins. I’ve sort of abandoned my planned reading and am just going through the borderline books that I have to decide if I want to keep forever . . . or not.

On Sunday I checked out the Manus X Machina exhibit at the Met with Nicole as well as the Psycho Barn roof installation. Pics coming soon to Instagram and Twitter!

Speaking of Instagram, I also shared a TON of pics from the Court and Cosmos exhibit at the Met if you’re into that. This is one of my favorite pieces:

I also have a few ARCs up for adoption if you’re into that.

If you want to see how my month in reading is shaking out be sure to check out my July Reading Tracker.

How was your week?