Books To Watch For In 2015: The Bargaining

It’s not exactly a secret but I love a good ghost story.  The Bargaining by Carly Anne West (out Feb. 17) has been compared to The Conjuring and so now, naturally, I am desperate to read it.

The Shining meets The Conjuring in this chilling and suspenseful new novel from the author of The Murmurings.

The fact that neither of her parents wants to deal with her is nothing new to Penny. She’s used to being discussed like a problem, a problem her mother has finally passed on to her father. What she hasn’t gotten used to is her stepmother…especially when she finds out what she’ll have to spend the summer with April in the remote woods of Washington to restore a broken-down old house.

Set deep in a dense forest, the old Carver House is filled with abandoned antique furniture, rich architectural details, and its own chilling past. The only respite Penny can find away from April’s renovations is in Miller, the young guy who runs the local general store. He’s her only chance at a normal, and enjoyable, summer.

But Miller has his own connection to the Carver house, and it’s one that goes beyond the mysterious tapping Penny hears at her window, the handprints she finds smudging the glass panes, and the visions of children who beckon Penny to follow them into the dark woods. Miller’s past just might threaten to become the terror of Penny’s future…”

How awesome does that sound? It sounds like it has the potential to be completely terrifying and I am so on board for that.

Books To Watch For In 2015: An Interview With Sarah Darer Littman

1)  Which character do you identify with most?
Of my books, probably Justine in my first book, CONFESSIONS OF A CLOSET CATHOLIC. Spiritually searching, obsessed with chocolate, and frizzy haired. I’m seriously frizzy haired, but I get mine straightened. : )
2)  Your two most recent books deal with the dark side of the internet.  Have you done research into this? If so, what kind?

For WANT TO GO PRIVATE? I worked with the FBI in New Haven and my local police department – and read a lot of books and studies about Internet predators. I didn’t sleep very well while researching and writing that book, and I honestly don’t know how the law enforcement officials who investigate these cases do it day after day. Just doing the research gave me nightmares and anxiety.

BACKLASH was slightly less traumatic. I still did a lot of reading, and interviewed people in many different walks of life (police, emergency room MD, EMS chief) pertinent to the book, but it didn’t trigger the same anxiety responses as WTGP did for me.

3)  Do you think anything can be done about cyberbullying?  (And how glad are you that this wasn’t an issue when you were in school? Because I am absolutely delighted.)
I talk about this with my peers  – and my mom! – often. I made so many stupid mistakes as a teenager that I often wonder how I survived to adulthood. The thought of making those mistakes in today’s online world is utterly terrifying. It’s one of the things I wanted to explore in BACKLASH – both from the bullied person’s perspective and from the bully’s. The consequences for everyone are just SO. MUCH. BIGGER.
Like any tool, the Internet has its pros and cons. I love that it has made the world a smaller place, allowed us to keep in touch with people far away, to get feeds from on the ground in live situations as opposed to just through the lens of the media. But I have first hand experience, both as an author and particularly as a political columnist how cruel people can be – it’s like they forget that there is a living, breathing human being with emotions and a family at the other end of what they are typing on the keyboard.
As far as what can be done, as a parent I felt my job was to have conversations with my kids, and to ensure that if they behaved in a way that wasn’t consistent with how I brought them up to behave, there were consequences. I made the rules of the house clear in advance, and then made sure that they were applied consistently. And if they rules had to be applied, we talked about why.
As with so much in parenting, I think it’s all about the conversations. Books can be a great way to start those conversations. So can watching movies together or reading an article or listening to a radio program in the car.
4)  What are you reading now?
I just finished reading a wonderful book for Greenwich Reads Together (our annual town read) called OUTCASTS UNITED: An American Town, A Refugee Team, and One Woman’s Quest to Make a Difference, by Warren St. John   Really inspiring!
Having just read two non-fiction books (the other Greenwich Reads book was THE BOYS IN THE BOAT by Daniel James Brown) I’m looking for a good fiction read right now.
5)  What are your five favorite books? (You can do authors, if that’s easier)
AAAAAH! So hard!
The Book Thief, and then go to authors: Laurie Halse Anderson, Judy Blume, George Orwell, JK Rowling
6)  What book would you make mandatory?
I wouldn’t make a book mandatory, but I’d love to make George Orwell’s essay “Politics and the English Language” mandatory reading prior to leaving high school, both for the purpose of clear writing and civics.
7)  What books are you looking forward to in 2015?
Any time there’s a new book by AS King, who I admire as a writer and a person, is a cause for celebration. Her 2015 book is called I CRAWL THROUGH IT
Also looking forward to the 3rd book in Rick Yancey’s Fifth Wave series.

Books To Watch For In 2015: Backlash

It’s not exactly a secret, but I love topical novels, the kind that seem incredibly relevant and “ripped from the headlines,” as they say.  Sarah Darer Littman wrote a great example of that with Want to Go Private? and her next novel, Backlash (out March 31) sounds like it will meet and even exceed that.

“In critically acclaimed author Sarah Darer Littman’s gripping new novel what happens online doesn’t always stay online . . .

Lara just got told off on Facebook.
She thought that Christian liked her, that he was finally going to ask her to his school’s homecoming dance. It’s been a long time since Lara’s felt this bad, this depressed. She’s worked really hard since starting high school to be happy and make new friends.
Bree used to be BBFs with overweight, depressed Lara in middle school, but constantly listening to Lara’s problems got to be too much. Bree’s secretly glad that Christian’s pointed out Lara’s flaws to the world. Lara’s not nearly as great as everyone thinks.
After weeks of talking online, Lara thought she knew Christian, so what’s with this sudden change? And where does he get off saying horrible things on her wall? Even worse – are they true?
But no one realized just how far Christian’s harsh comments would push Lara. Not even Bree.
As online life collides with real life, the truth starts to come together and the backlash is even more devastating than than anyone could have imagined.”

Books To Watch For In 2015: An Interview With Amy Fellner Dominy

1)  What could you go to the Olympics for (even if it’s not a traditionally recognized event)? For example, I could medal in sleeping, reading, marathon movie and TV viewing and consumption of crab wontons.

I could compete in the Olympic event: “Most time soaking in a bubble bath with red wine and a good book”. But, I would WIN the gold medal in the event: “Number of books dropped and ruined in bubble baths.”

2)  Is there anything you love so much that you would continue doing it even if you could literally die?

This is such a great question. Lately I’ve been paying attention to how many times we say things in passing like: “I’d die without coffee. I’d die without my phone. I’d die without air conditioning.” (We say that in Phoenix a lot!)

But if we knew we would actually die?

Part of me wants to say that I’d die if I couldn’t write because it sounds so passionate and dedicated. But the truth is that the thing I’m most passionate about is living. So the simple answer to your question is no. (But you still might hear me say I’d die for a good apple fritter.)

3)  Part of the proceeds will go toward preventing sudden cardiac arrest.  Talk about that :)

I learned about Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM) when I brought my kids to be heart-tested at a screening event. That’s where I met Sharon Bates who lost her son, Anthony, to HCM. Sharon started a foundation to provide free screenings so other student athletes can be tested and lives can be saved. Her story inspired me—and inspired my book. So when the book sold, I wanted to help support her in any way I could. A donation seemed like a no-brainer. I’m also hoping to make Sharon’s foundation part of my launch event and help her do what she does in any way I can.

4)  What are you reading now?

I just finished listening to Orphan Train by Christine Klein. Though the main character is a teen, I think it’s classified as an adult book. Whatever—it’s excellent!

5)  What are your five favorite books? You can do authors, if that’s easier.

Five favorite books—that’s just an evil question. Here are four books, one author and why:

JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH by Roald Dahl. This is the book that first inspired me to write.

Judy Blume. I felt like I learned about life and myself in her books.

WATERSHIP DOWN by Richard Adams. I tear up every single time I read it and they’re freaking rabbits!

LORD OF THE RINGS by JRR Tolkien. I read the trilogy every year growing up. I even read all the appendices! Most of the time I think books are too long. This series, well over 1,000 pages, wasn’t nearly long enough.

SPEAK by Laurie Halse Anderson. I was just blown away. I don’t think I could stand to read it again, but wow.

6)  If you could make one book mandatory, what would it be?

If I could make one book mandatory, I’d say every child should have to keep a personal journal. For me, writing about my life was a type of therapy. Journals make you think, make you consider, make you face the things you’re dealing with. Plus, they get kids writing which I’m afraid is turning into a lost art. Every time I do a school visit, I encourage kids to start a journal. I always tell them: be the hero of your own story!

7)  What books are you looking forward to in 2015?

You mean my book isn’t the only one coming out? J

Honestly, I don’t read many series so I’m rarely waiting for a “next” book. The one exception to that is GAME OF THRONES. I’ll be waiting for that one the day it releases!! Otherwise, I usually take my cues from savvy bloggers like you, and read the books that strike a chord. Contemporary books are my favorite but any kind of story with strong characters will pull me in.

Books To Watch For In 2015: A Matter of Heart

There are no words for my excitement for A Matter of Heart by Amy Fellner Dominy (out May 12).

“Readers will happily sink into this emotionally grounded, contemporary young adult novel about the sudden end of one girl’s Olympic swimming dreams and the struggles she endures before realizing there are many things that define who we are.

Sixteen-year-old Abby Lipman is on track to win the state swim championships and qualify for the Olympic trials when a fainting incident at a swim meet leads to the diagnosis of a deadly heart condition. Now Abby is forced to discover who she is without the one thing that’s defined her entire life.”

I love the idea of having to redefine yourself.  I know that for me, I define myself so much more as a blogger and publicist (neither of which are my “day job,” and I don’t know what I would do if I couldn’t do them anymore) than anything else.

I am also really excited for a new Amy Dominy book, because I haven’t had one since Audition and Subtraction, which was FOREVER ago.  (Amazon says 2012, but it feels much longer.)

Books To Watch For In 2015: An Interview With Jasmine Warga

1)  What character do you most identify with?
I probably identify the most with Aysel. She was my narrative companion for the story so I really feel as though I got to know her. I also could very much relate to angst about her identity as I went through a similar struggle when I was growing up. That said, there are definitely pieces of me in all my characters. Both good and bad traits!
2)  Reviews say that this is obviously a heavy topic but one filled with hope.  How were you able to navigate that line?
I think I just tried to be honest. It’s a funny thing, almost a paradox really, that when writing fiction (ostensibly lying!) I always find the most important thing to be that you tell the truth. So that’s what I sought out to do. Depression is a tricky disease because it usually doesn’t present itself in a way that is readily identifiable–i.e., you don’t lose your hair, you don’t lose mobility, you don’t break out with a skin rash, you don’t lose a leg. And I think the lack of physical identifiers makes it harder for people to understand, and sometimes for people to emphasize–or worse, why mental illness is sometimes stigmatized. So I set out to write a book that hopefully treats depression as a disease that is REAL and SERIOUS while also trying to give hope that depression, while often a lifelong disease, doesn’t have to be a terminal one. It was really important to me though that the notes of hope don’t ring false and so I would love for readers to find the book to be messy and difficult, but packaged with a glint of meaningful hope.
3)  What was the inspiration for this novel?
So many things. I always find it difficult to answer this question because inspiration came from all places while writing the novel–a song on the radio, a poem I stumbled upon, a conversation with a friend. But the initial emotional kernel that sort of propelled the book came in January 2013 when I lost one of my closest friends. Grief manifests itself in many different ways, and for me working on something creative was a way to grapple with my own grief.
4)  What are you reading?
I’m currently reading AMERICANAH by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and The Alex Crow by Andrew Smith.
5)  If you could make one book mandatory, what would it be?
Wow. I don’t know. Maybe The Autobiography of Red? No one writes like Anne Carson and I think it’s such an inventive novel, it’s like nothing else out there. Plus, it made me cry ugly tears.
6)  What are your top 5 favorite books?  You can do authors, if it’s easier.
Ack! Such a difficult question. I’ll do books and list them in no particular order.
The Sky Is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson; The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz; The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood; Weetzie Bat by Francesca Lia Block; and The History of Love by Nicole Krauss.
7)  What 2015 releases are you excited for?
So many! Each and every 2015 debut. In particular, my #Beckminavidera best friends–David Arnold’s MOSQUITOLAND (March 2015), Becky Albertalli’s SIMON VS. THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA (April 2015), and Adam Silvera’s MORE HAPPY THAN NOT (June 2015). Also, Kim Liggett’s deliciously creepy BLOOD AND SALT (Fall 2015). And finally, everyone will be talking about Sabaa Tahir’s EMBER IN THE ASHES (April 2015) and Kelly Loy Gilbert’s CONVICTION (June 2015) and Nova Ren Suma’s (not a debut, but I’m dying to read this book!) THE WALLS AROUND US (March 2015). Lastly, I’m always excited for a new Lauren Oliver book so I can’t wait to get my hands on VANISHING GIRLS. I know I said lastly, and I should really stop (can you tell I have a book problem?!), but also the new Daniel Handler–can’t wait to read that one!

Books To Watch For In 2015: My Heart & Other Black Holes

You guys, I can’t even discuss this book like a rational person.  My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga sounds like exactly my type of book.  It’s out on Feb. 10.

“A stunning novel about the transformative power of love, perfect for fans of Jay Asher and Laurie Halse Anderson.

Sixteen-year-old physics nerd Aysel is obsessed with plotting her own death. With a mother who can barely look at her without wincing, classmates who whisper behind her back, and a father whose violent crime rocked her small town, Aysel is ready to turn her potential energy into nothingness.

There’s only one problem: she’s not sure she has the courage to do it alone. But once she discovers a website with a section called Suicide Partners, Aysel’s convinced she’s found her solution—Roman, a teenage boy who’s haunted by a family tragedy, is looking for a partner. Even though Aysel and Roman have nothing in common, they slowly start to fill in each other’s broken lives. But as their suicide pact becomes more concrete, Aysel begins to question whether she really wants to go through with it. Ultimately, she must choose between wanting to die or trying to convince Roman to live so they can discover the potential of their energy together.”

It sounds like it will literally be perfect!  I cannot wait to dive into this.

Books To Watch For In 2015: An Interview With Daisy Whitney

1)  Which character are you most like?

McKenna in Trophy Husband! And Riley in Stars in Their Eyes. I talk to my dog, like Riley, and love clothes and shopping and Qbert like McKenna.

2)  Which fictional or famous person would you leave a love letter for?

Cassel Sharpe from Holly Black’s Curse Workers – he’s my favorite narrator ever!

3)  What was the inspiration for this story?

I’ll admit it – I love forbidden romance. 21 Kisses is a forbidden romance between an 18 year-old and an older guy, and I have always wanted to write that kind of story.

4)  What are you reading now?

Bella Andre, CD Reiss and my copy edits for Nights With Him

5)  What are your top five books? (You can do authors if that’s easier)

Harry Potter. Gone with The Wind. A River Runs Through It. Time Traveler’s Wife. Anything by Stephanie Perkins.

6)  If you could make one book mandatory, what would it be?

Miss Manners.

7)  What books are you looking forward to in 2015?

All the Rage by Courtney Summers!


Boyhood is one of the 10 (really 11) best movies of 2014, according to the AFI.

If you haven’t seen it (or heard of it), Richard Linklater filmed it over the course of 12 years.  It follows a family through remarriage and divorce and the effect that that (and life in general) has on the two kids.  Because it was filmed over so long a period of time, the kids are played by the same people throughout.  It’s especially lucky that the kids end up being decent actors (which is kind of a risk when you cast people at six or seven).

I really enjoyed this movie.  It’s sad in parts, but it’s also incredibly well-made and poignant.

Books To Watch For In 2015: 21 Kisses

I can’t even explain how excited I am for a new Daisy Whitney book and 21 Kisses sounds amazing!  I have loved all of her books but I’m glad this is a return to contemporary YA, because that’s my favorite of hers.

About a Manhattan teenager who leaves love letters around the city in an effort to make amends for the ways that love has disappointed her, all while trying to choose between the two very different boys in her life.

Sounds so great, right?  Goodreads just says “out in 2015″ so here’s hoping it’s toward the beginning of the year.  Or maybe it’ll be at BEA.  That would be great, too.