Monday, June 23, 2014

Kicking Back, Sonoran Desert-Style

I have a feeling that my blogging is going to be sparse this summer, at best.  I also found that I've been spending more of my social media time on Twitter and Tumblr than I have on Blogger and Facebook, too.  Is Blogging going the way of the dinosaurs?  I don't know, for sure. I have my suspicions.

Anyway, I've got several writing projects in the works plus some summer trips planned that are vying for (and getting) my attention. Have you ever noticed that writing projects are like needy toddlers? I digress.

I'll pop in and out when there's something interesting or useful to say.

Hope it's not too hot where you live and that your summer is off to a wonderful start!

More soon (I hope)!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

PLAYED Goes on Sale Today! Got Shelfies?

Hey, guess what? Played is now available in bookstores and libraries everywhere!

If you see my baby out in the wild, be sure to snap a Shelfie and tag me on social media so that I can live vicariously through you.

I'd really love to see Played at the beach looking pretty on a blanket next to a cool drink. Because I live in the middle of the Sonoran desert and it's approaching triple-digits here, I love water pics. Just sayin'.

Hope you enjoy this companion novel to Hooked.  Sam and Riley, FTW!

xoxo

Monday, May 19, 2014

Thank you, School Library Journal!

Played got a very nice industry review from the School Library Journal, along with being listed in "What's Hot for YA" for their May issue  In particular, SLJ said:

"The plot is a perfect mix of real-life scenarios and swoon-worthy romance, while the issues of race and class that Fichera interweaves into Sam and Riley’s story add substance."

You can read it here

Thank you, SLJ!

To celebrate the countdown till May 27 (release day!), The Fantastic Flying Book Club is hosting a blog tour for Played that begins TODAY.  Click here to join the bookish fun. There will be reviews, favorite quotes, dream casts, and lots more on the tour.

If Twitter chats are more your thang, Rachel at Reading in Twilight is hosting a Twitter chat with me this week on May 20 at 7pm CST.  We will be chatting up books, taking questions, and giving away an autographed ARC along with autographed bookmarks.  Hastag: #LizChatLive 

Hope to see you around the blogophere!

Monday, May 12, 2014

YA Revolution: Book Spotlight

Happy May, book lovers!

I've got two books with incredibly compelling diverse characters to recommend.  Both came to my attention from members of The Crew.  Normally I like to recommend 3-4 each month, but a lot of LIFE stuff has been happening to me for the past few weeks and much is happening in the next couple of months (see my sidebar!) but I will do my best to make the monthly recs so that you can buy, borrow, read, review (and hopefully) recommend to your family, friends, and anyone else who loves great books.  That said, I hope you were also able to participate in the uber-successful #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign that pretty much went viral for the first few days of May.  Let's keep the momentum going!

Without further ado, here are two books that I hope you will check out, followed by an interview with fab debut YA author, Brandy Colbert.  I enjoyed both books immensely and am grateful to the Crew members who recommended them to me.  And now I recommend them to YOU:

 Since You Asked by Maurene Goo is the perfect combination of humor and seriousness as you meet and get inside the head of a Korean-American teenager who has one foot in her family's traditional Korean values and the other foot in the landmines of American teenagerhood.  Oh, and she accidentally lands her own column in her high school's newspaper. Awesome, awesome read! It's super cute and funny and sarcastic and flirty.  Such a fun read.  I don't think I've ever read a YA before with a Korean-American teenager either.  Go, Maurene!  Keep your novels coming! You should definitely check this one out. 

And then there was Pointe by Brandy Colbert. Oh. My.

This one totally blew me away because it was far more gritty and edgy than I thought it would be and I say that in a good way!  Pointe for me was like Gone Girl meets Uses for Boys.  It definitely did some genre-bending--thriller, mystery, contemporary, romance.  The main character, Theo, is an African-American teen from Chicago where she lives and breathes for ballet.  However, she's a complicated teen.  She battles with an eating disorder, boy issues, and the guilt from thinking she might be responsible for why her childhood friend got abducted by her former boyfriend several years prior.  And the childhood friend returns! I don't want to give too much away and spoil it for you.  BUT Pointe is a real page-turner and I could not put it down from the first page.  Highly recommend you pick up this one! 

I also caught up with Brandy and got a chance to ask her a few questions about her amazing debut.   Here's my mini-interview with her:


1)  What inspired you to write POINTE? 

I've kept up with longterm kidnapping cases since I saw the TV movie I Know My First Name Is Steven when I was a kid. I've always wondered about what happens when an abducted child (or teen) makes it out of that situation, but there were already so many well-done books from that perspective. So I started to think about how it would affect other people in that person's life—family, neighbors, community, old friends. I also liked the idea of the main character having a serious discipline, like ballet, and then I eventually merged the two, building the story around those elements.

2)  The main character, Theo, lives for ballet and the dancing scenes are so authentic. Do you have a background in ballet?   If not, what research did you need to do for the ballet scenes?

Thank you! I have a dance background, but I grew up taking tap and jazz lessons, and was also a member of my high school's dance team. I have taken many ballet classes as an adult, but I had to do quite a bit of research to write what I hope is an accurate portrayal of a young dancer. The American Ballet Theatre has an incredible online dictionary, which details dozens of ballet terms and also has short videos illustrating the text. I wanted the reader to understand the technical importance of ballet while also appreciating its grace and beauty. (And having logged many hours watching dance movies and reading articles about the professional ballet world were also a huge help.)

3)      What books and authors inspired you when you were a teen? What are some of your favorite books?

Growing up, I read just about anything I could get my hands on, but I especially loved and was inspired by Barthe DeClements (Nothing's Fair in Fifth Grade, Sixth Grade Can Really Kill You, How Do You Lose Those Ninth-Grade Blues?), Judy Blume (Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret; Forever) and just about everything by Beverly Cleary. Of course I was very into The Baby-sitters Club and Sweet Valley Twins series, but I also liked a lot of classics, especially The Secret Garden, Little Women, and A Little Princess.

4)      What’s next for you—when can we read your next book?  Will there be a sequel or companion novel to POINTE?

I'm currently working on another dark YA contemporary realistic book that's set in L.A., and I hope I can talk more about that soon! I don't have any plans to write a sequel to Pointe, though I never say never. I like leaving readers to interpret how they believe the characters ended up, but I also realize how open-ended the narrative was left—particularly in terms of Donovan and Theo and their friendship—so I'm a little curious myself about their future!  (As for a companion novel, several people have mentioned being interested in Ruthie's story, and while I don't currently have any plans to write that, either, I wouldn't be opposed to it if I had a great way to execute it someday.)

Thank you, Brandy! And thank you to both Brandy and Maurene for writing such terrific stories with authentic and compelling characters and sharing them with the world. 

Remember to share this post or comment below.  Above all, don't forget to support diverse books in children's literature any way you can.

Till next month!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Hats and Humble Beginnings and No Excuses

AP Photo/Morry Gash
California Chrome, ridden by jockey
Victor Espinoza, pulled away to win
the 140th Kentucky Derby.
I don't get excited about horse races except for one time each year: The Kentucky Derby.  Usually this time each year I get the urge to sip a mint julep and look at those crazy Derby hats, which look more lawn ornament than hat.

This year's Derby winner, California Chrome, was never expected to win.  The horse didn't have the normal pedigree; the owners weren't the usual high-brow types and the trainer was pushing 80.  Basically everyone involved with California Chrome got handed plenty of reasons why they shouldn't be in the horse-racing business.  But these guys did it anyway.

They didn't ask for permission. They figured out a plan, followed their hearts and their passion and DID IT ANYWAY.   Sound familiar?

I LOVE this story. 

Click here to read more about it. And if you're just into the crazy hats, click here.

Monday, April 28, 2014

PLAYED Bookmarks in da House!

To celebrate the recent and rather awesome Kirkus and School Library Journal reviews for Played, I think a bit of celebrating and book swag giveaways are in order. 

So, here's the dealio: subscribe to my newsletter mailing list using the simple widget at the bottom of my web page and I will mail you an autographed Played bookmark.  I'm opening this up to anyone too--domestic or international. 

I'm going to keep this open for a week and the best part is that everybody wins! If you've subscribed by May 5, I'll email you for your mailing address and mail you an autographed bookmark.  Easy as pie, right?! So, c'mon.  Let's keep the people at the post office super busy the next couple of weeks.

You'll find my mailing list widget here

Monday, April 21, 2014

Memoirs: Love 'em or Leave 'em?

I don't often read memoirs but this past week I've been on a memoir-reading kick, wanting to take a break from my usual escapes to read more reality-based narratives. It goes in spurts for me.  When the mood hits, I tend to grab and hold on.   

I've recently read two that struck home:  Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed and The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion.  I liked parts of them for various reasons and mostly read (versus skimmed, which I tend to do with memoirs). 

With regard to Wild, I appreciated that the author took to hiking and nature to repair herself after the untimely death of her mother.  Although a lot of the detail about the trail itself and the people she met along the way felt more caricature than real, I totally got her message and could relate to her thoughts, although not so much with many of her actions, but I understood them.  I felt empathy for this author.  With Didion's memoir, there was so much that she remarked about grief that I found myself nodding throughout most of the book.  I remember when Didion's book first released too.  I discounted it then because I never imagined that I could understand the narrative (or even be interested in it!).  This book was written for other people, not me.  My oh my how life changes and throws you a curve ball.  How wrong and naive I was and thank you Ms. Didion for sharing your very personal story.

The common denominator for both of these memoirs is that people who are grieving often behave, say, and think things that they once never imagined.  When you're grieving, it's almost like you're on the outside looking in, watching everything unfold, feeling very helpless and even frantic.  Like a dream.  A bad crazy mixed up dream.  And, wow.  I totally get that and appreciated both books for that very reason.  I also read both books wondering if the authors would answer the million dollar question: does grieving ever end?  Does that very dark and raw hole in your heart ever heal?  Not sure I got my answer but I'm unsure whether there is an answer either.  Maybe it's important that there isn't?  There, I digress.

If you've lost someone, especially unexpectedly, I highly recommend both of these memoirs.