YA Author Anna Banks on Friendship, Pranks & Responsibility

Joyride by Anna Banks Interview

Greetings, book pals! I’m so excited to have YA author Anna Banks on Rather Be Reading today to chat about her new book: JOYRIDE (Feiwel & Friends, June 2, 2015). If you are looking for a book with a great “opposites attract” friendship, complex family relationships, and something I’m surprised I don’t see more in YA — pranking! — then you are going to really enjoy this one. I hope you’ll read through my chat with Anna about the core relationship of this book, her inspiration, and pranking tips. No fear, you won’t find any spoilers here. BUT if you do read to the end, you can enter for a chance to win a sparkly finished copy of JOYRIDE to add to your summer reading list.

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YA Author Anna BanksAnna, I really enjoyed Joyride. It was the perfect companion for a bit of a traveling I did recently. My first question is probably an obvious one. What inspired you to write about a family torn apart because of deportation?

Gosh, there are so many answers to this. One, it’s been a big subject of debate especially in the news as of late, and I found that many people took a harsh view of the matter, instead of a human view. Complete jackasses, if you ask me. I wanted to show people what it’s like to be in that position, and force them to at least admit that immigrants, documented or not, are living breathing people with interests and goals and anxieties just like the rest of us.

Two, over the years, many of my jobs put me in contact with Mexican immigrants, documented and undocumented. The ones who were undocumented shared their stories with me on how they were able to get to the U.S. and what they left behinda, their hopes and dreams of bringing their family over. Their experiences were amazing and heart-wrenching, and the dangers they faced getting here and the everyday risk of getting deported really left an impression on me. The writer in me began to wonder what it would be like living as a teen and going through this. That’s how JOYRIDE started unfolding in my little brain.

Even though Carly and Arden didn’t start their friendship in a super conventional way, I loved that their relationship wasn’t on the fast lane to falling in love with each other either. What are some of your favorite books that feature guys and girls that start out as friends?

My favorite book with friends-first is Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo, with Mal and Alina. They are close to each other, and loyal, but it takes a while for the romance to kick in. Mal drove me freaking crazy at first, but it kept me turning the pages. There was a point in my reading life where I devoured books with insta-love or at least insta-attraction plot themes (I’m a complete romance junkie) but now I’d rather have that push and pull, that testing and challenging and slow realization that there are feelings deeper than friendship there. I thought it would be more realistic with Carly and Arden, since they are pretty much opposites in every way.

Joyride explores so much about obligation — obligation to your family vs. yourself and what happens when you might have to make a choice between the two. This is constantly something that pops up in life whether you’re in high school or a big kid like me. Who do you think was in the tougher spot here: Carly or Arden?

Geez, these are great questions! I think Carly has it a bit rougher than Arden. Family is an essential part of Mexican culture—doing what it takes to make sure everyone is cared for. With Carly, there was this internal struggle because she wanted to be true to that, to what was ingrained in her since childhood, and that is completely understandable and totally admirable. But I think for teens and big kids ☺ it’s important to find a balance between your happiness and your responsibilities. Carly goes from one extreme to the other before finding that balance, and that may be what we all need in order to find peace with our circumstances.

Even though Mr. Shackleford and Carly don’t know each other so well, he’s still a special adult in her life. He watches out for her without even knowing her story. Did you have someone like this in your life? A blessing in disguise?

I’ve had many. My sisters have been my saviors more times than I can count, and probably more than I even know about. My dad died when I was 14, and my mom and I were pretty poor. I know we couldn’t have made it without my sisters’ help, both financially and emotionally. Of course, Mr. Shackleford isn’t exactly based on my sisters—they’re not philosophical town drunks who have a tendency to urinate in convenience store aisles….So….

What’s the key to a successful prank?

There are so many keys. Keeping a straight face while you watch it being executed is a biggie, because if not, you’re totally caught and you’re a complete amateur. Targeting the right people is also important. If you’re scaring people, you don’t want to go after the elderly—can we say heart attack? Instead shoot for high school kids or unsuspecting middle aged Walmart shoppers. Also, go for people who won’t throat punch you. That may be the best advice..

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Note: The above giveaway is open to U.S. & Canadian readers, 13 & up. 

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Thanks to Macmillan Kids for providing an early copy of this book & the giveaway copy!

99 Days by Katie Cotugno | Review & Giveaway

99 Days99 Days by Katie Cotugno ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: 4/21/15 by HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray
Pages: 384 | Target audience: young adult
Keywords: mothers/daughters, summer before college, bullying, romance
Format read: ARC provided by Publisher via Edelweiss. (Thanks!)
Previously: a review of How to Love

Summary: Molly has 99 days standing between her and college. Can she ignore the past to survive the summer in Star Lake — a place she never wanted to see again? With constant reminders of all that went down last year, it’s impossible to say for sure especially when she finds herself back in the company of the Donnelly brothers.


There’s nothing like a novel that completely revs you up.

Trust me, in the cause of 99 Days, this is the best compliment I can give.

Molly Barlow is back in Star Lake for the first time since her “scandal” became public knowledge. Her time caught between the Donnelly brothers turned into a best-selling novel by her adopted mother, and the reason she lost so many once-important people in her life. In the wake of this devastation, she runs off to boarding school until senior year ends. Caps in the air and she is back for one more summer, planning to hide for the next 99 days… until she can start fresh at college.

Heavy stuff, right? The complexity within this story knows no bounds, especially as the novel unfolds. Molly’s relationship with her mother is shaky, her old best friend Imogen is avoiding her (and why shouldn’t she since Molly cut her off), and her old close friend, Julia, who also happens to be a Donnelly, is making her life a living hell. This is where my blood starts to boil because even though it takes two to tango, Molly has always been the one taking the brunt when it comes to her Donnelly love triangle. Does anyone key Gabe’s car? Does anyone call Gabe a slut? No, of course not. Enter the lovely double standard because it’s here to stay and made me so incredibly angry on Molly’s behalf. The girl feels guilty enough without having to be reminded of it every five minutes, but why should she be ostracized when Gabe still gets treated like Star Lake’s mayor?

My anger is a testament to Katie Cotugno’s writing. She twists what most think of as a black-and-white situation into something so gray, she’s practically discovered new shades. Love is a messy, complicated thing and I haven’t come across a portrayal of it quite as honest and heartbreaking as this one. When you feel something so intensely for two people at the same time, there aren’t words to properly explain that, especially when the end goal is (rightfully so) supposed to be one person. But how do you shut off your brain or your emotions? The reality is… sometimes you just can’t.

You know that bewildered way you feel after you wake up from a vivid dream? That’s exactly how I felt every time I jumped back into this book. I was in such a zone, and suddenly, I was jolted awake, surprised to realize a whole world was still going on around me. 99 Days was that captivating. Sure, the foundation is Molly caught between Patrick, her first love, and Gabe, this guy she clicks with so well, but it’s so much more than that – the loss of trust she feels with her mom, how much she misses being around the Donnellys when their entire family has been a part of her life for so long, how she had a best friend who stood beside her when things got rough and she took her for granted (everyone needs an Imogen in their lives), and the small realizations we make about ourselves and others as time passes.

There are times in our lives where we have to just follow our hearts – however unconventional that may be – and sometimes we just have to forgive ourselves. Molly may not understand why she is feeling the way she is feeling but at least she was honest with herself about that confusion. Most of all, I love how this book can challenge the most compassionate reader. Everyone makes mistakes; no one is perfect and it confuses me why we put the fictional characters we read about on such pedestals. For all you know, I could be Molly. The person sitting next to you could be Molly. Your best friend could be Molly. We desperately need to shift this conversation away from likability and back to whether or not a book tells an engaging story.

Two fun facts before I say adios: The first time I read 99 Days I stayed up until 4 a.m. on a Saturday night because I knew I wouldn’t be able to fall asleep until I knew how it ended. Second: 99 Days is the first (and only) book I’ve reread this year, and I found it just as sexy, intense, messy, and wonderful as I did the first time around. I haven’t felt quite as passionate about a book this year as I do about this one.

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Read an excerpt of 99 DAYS on Epic Reads | The Fantastic Flying Book Club 99 Days Blog Tour

Bonus: A chance to win a signed copy of 99 Days, signed by Katie Cotugno! Open to U.S. reads only. Good luck!

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Something True with Kieran Scott | #TrueLoveTrilogy

Happy Valentine’s Day, friends!

Whether you love or loathe this holiday, you’re here today because of one common love: reading. We’re thrilled to host Kieran Scott today (you may know her as Kate Brian), who released the final book in the wonderful, charming, funny TRUE LOVE trilogy. Cupid is punished and banished to NJ where she moonlights as True and has no clue how to be a “normal” teenager. True is focused on pairing up meant-to-be couples so she can return to Mt. Olympus (and hopefully fulfill her own love story, which got her in this mess to begin with) so in the spirit of love and fate and all that good stuff, Kieran was kind enough to share her own love story with her husband, Matt.

You are going to love it. Take it away, Kieran!

♥  ♥  ♥

Kieran Scott and the True Love Trilogy

My husband and I never would have met if my best friend’s parents hadn’t gotten divorced. I know, it sounds like bad karma, but let me explain.

My bestKieran Scott, author of True Love trilogy friend Shira went to one high school all the way through ninth grade, where she was friends with my future husband, Matt. Then, in tenth grade, her mom and her new stepdad decided to move their family, which took her out of Matt’s high school and plopped her down right in front of me in sophomore English. (The first thing I thought about her was “Holy crap, I’d kill for that hair.” It’s the exact opposite of mine.) Now, Shira is one of those people who stays friends with everyone she’s ever met, which turned out to be lucky for me and Matt, because ten years later, we met at Shira’s 25th birthday party, which was packed with her middle school friends, high school friends, Hebrew school friends, college friends, camp friends AND work friends.

Actually, all things considered, how we found each other in the crowd is beyond me. What I do remember is Matt asking me if I wanted the last mozzarella stick instead of just taking it for himself. I remember the fact that he readily admitted to watching Party of Five and Dawson’s Creek. I recall that he mentioned he was going to be exhausted at church in the morning and that he couldn’t talk to me about politics, because, well, most people didn’t agree with him and he didn’t want me to walk away just yet.

We hung out throughout the party and at four in the morning, I was lying awake in my friend Wendy’s roommate’s bed (she was away for the weekend), staring at the ceiling with this huge smile on my face. I knew something big was happening. I just never would have been able to predict how big.

After that party, Matt went away with his friends for a week and I heard nothing. If he wanted to call, he couldn’t have, because he was in Jamaica. So of course, I was obsessing. What was he doing in Jamaica? Was he hooking up? What if he met someone there? I spent that whole week stressing that I was going to miss out on this great guy just because of a previously scheduled vacation. Then, a couple weeks later, I went out to dinner with my three best girlfriends and Shira asked me what I thought of Matt. This was the moment I’d been waiting for. But I didn’t want to give away the farm, so I played it cool and said, “Why do you ask?” She said that she’d spoken to Matt and he’d said, “That Kieran is my kind of girl.”

Oh my God, it sounds so hokey now, but I almost died. We set up a big group date and the rest is history. Over the years we’ve found out that our relationship didn’t exactly begin the night of Shira’s birthday. We’d been at other random parties of hers together over the previous couple of years and whenever he walked into a room I’d ask my friends, “WHO is that again?” And they’d say, “It’s Matt! God, if you think he’s so hot, you could at least remember his name.” I also found out that he’d asked Shira about me once before, but it was when I was in a serious relationship with someone else, so she’d told him I was off the market. We’d been circling each other for years, but that birthday party was the first time we were both single, and both in the mood for mozzarella sticks.

All of this goes to show that you never know. You may have already met the guy you’re destined to be with, but the timing might just be wrong. Or you may have already met the girl who’s eventually going to introduce you to the guy you’re going to be with (don’t even get me started on how Wendy and her husband Barry ended up getting together). So, yes, it was lucky for me that Shira’s parents got divorced (they are both VERY happily remarried, by the way). Otherwise, I might never have met the person I was meant to be with.

P.S. The priest called Shira up at our wedding so everyone could meet our matchmaker. It was so awesome.Kieran Scott (YA author) wedding


Thanks so much for sharing today, Kieran!

The love is not over yet, folks. The great people at Simon Kids are providing one lucky winner with a hardcover set of TRUE LOVE trilogy.

Open to U.S. and Canadian readers. Enter below!

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The Marriage Charm by Linda Lael Miller | Review & Giveaway

The Marriage Charm by Linda Lael MillerThe Marriage Charm by Linda Lael Miller ( web | tweet )
The Brides of Bliss County; Book 2
Publication Date: January 27, 2015
Pages: 304
Target audience: Adult romance
Keywords: friendship, old love, cowboys, small towns
Format read: ARC provided by Publisher via NetGalley. (Thanks!)

Summary: Melody and Spence have a second chance if they are willing to take it.

I really like that this romance series revolves around three best friends who are looking out for each other when it comes to finding happily ever after. Some of my favorite parts of this book was when Melody was freaking out about her feelings for her first love, Spence, and sent out a call to her girls for some honesty and comfort. They were always there to provide it and make a little fun of her too. (Humor is so necessary during these rough times.)

Melody and Spence have a history. After making a fool of herself with him once long ago, she doesn’t want to risk putting herself through that a second time. But have the years between them made it possible for a second go round to be an actual possibility? That’s what these two people are trying to figure out. Sure their chemistry is oh so good but can they learn to trust each other again?

I’ve noticed a lot of romance novels can drag out these kinds of stories so I was impressed with how tightly written this one was… even with a bit of a mystery side plot thrown in. After a tough few weeks, it was so nice to lose myself in this love story between a great couple and between a lovely group of pals. (Other bonuses: three cats and it is really funny when the main character talks to herself.)

Another Miller winner and another love letter to quirky small town living! (I really want to visit a ranch.)

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Big thanks to the lovely people at Little Bird Publicity who are offering up a copy of THE MARRIAGE CHARM to one lucky U.S. reader! Good luck!

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book review and cover for All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven | Review + Giveaway

book review and cover for All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven [twitter | website]
Publication Date: January 6, 2015
Publisher: Knopf
Pages: 384
Target Audience: Mature Young Adult
Keywords: depression, opposites attract, senior year, death of a sibling
Format Read: ARC from Publisher (A BIG thank you!)

Summary: After meeting on the top of the school’s bell tower, both contemplating the horror of jumping off, Finch bursts into every aspect of Violet’s life and they’re paired up (at his insistence) for a class project that requires them to spend even more time together.

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Have you ever read a book that was SO GOOD you had to stop reading it so you wouldn’t finish it? I admit that this hasn’t happened many times to me. Usually I get heart palpitations and I dread finishing, but I never completely stop reading. Well, that’s what happened with All the Bright Places. I got to 92% and turned off my kindle, turned out the light, and snuggled in bed. Of course my mind wouldn’t quit racing and I couldn’t stop thinking about Finch and Violet. But at least I had that 8% to finish the next day.

The Meeting Place: On top of the school’s bell tower, both Violet and Finch are contemplating what it would be like to jump. Him: because he fluctuates between being “awake” and “sleeping” and because he’s fascinated with facts about how people have died. Her: because she feels she’s responsible for her sister’s death and can’t grasp why she was allowed to live.

The Story: Finch and Violet are two extremely unlikely characters who after meeting atop the bell tower, are paired together for a class in which they have to discover elements of Indiana over the course of the semester as their major project. This project and Violet’s company — the way she fascinates him and he wants to know more of her story — keeps Finch awake and helps him not to slip into the depths of his depression. He wants to keep Violet safe and alive and make her see she’s going to be okay. He’s known as a freak; she’s part of the popular crowd. He cares what no one thinks and tends to masquerade as different personas whenever he so chooses. Violet envies his ease and intelligence, but she’s also wary of him.

The Charm: Wit. Humor. Laughing out loud at the easy banter between Violet and Finch. Beautiful, gripping writing that really connected me to both characters (especially considering it’s old in alternating POVs). Finch and Violet were ALIVE and unique. The scenery and locations they visited were so “normal” and unspectacular until they arrived and breathed life into them. Meeting Violet and Finch is like taking a deep breath of the most intoxicating scent you’ve ever smelled — it fills you up and makes your lungs burn because you never want to exhale and lose the deliciousness.

The Clincher: There’s this feeling that something’s going to happen as you can feel that they’re both trying to climb out of the long, lonely slumbers they were in before meeting. My emotions were on such a roller coaster as I learned more and more about their stories and who they were. There’s such joy in two polar opposite characters meeting (however tragically that might have been) and seeing their relationship progress to such a beautiful place.

I’ve already marked All the Bright Places as a favorite for 2015. I finished the last pages and immediately pre-ordered a finished copy to be mailed to Estelle. I never, ever spend a lot of time re-reading books, but this book is so strong and remarkable I’ll need to. (I highlighted a bazillion passages and think each time I read it, a million more will stand out.) I guarantee Jennifer Niven will be racking up multiple awards for her incredible work. (She deserves every one of them.)

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HAPPY NEW YEAR GIVEAWAY!

I loved All the Bright Places so incredibly much that I want to start 2015 off by sharing a copy of it with someone!
Enter below. (13+ older, US residents only.)
Spread the word.
READ THIS BOOK!

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Independently Wealthy by Lorraine Z. Rosenthal | Review & Giveaway

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Independently Wealthy by Lorraine Zago RosenthalIndependently Wealthy by Lorraine Z. Rosenthal ( web | tweet )
→ Book 1: New Money from Fall 2013
Publication Date: 12/2/2014
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Pages: 336
Target audience: New adult/adult
Keywords: family secrets/mystery, romance, New York City
Format read: ARC provided by Publisher. (Thanks!)

Summary: Savannah is still finding her way in New York City: balancing a job, her boyfriend, and settling into life with her extended family. She hasn’t yet given up on what really took her biological father from her, and is determined to figure out the true story… with our without the help of her half-siblings.

I had a really good time reading New Money last fall, but this time around, I bonded with Savannah in a way I hadn’t before. She’s more settled in the city, working hard at her job (even though, let’s face it: with her allowance, she doesn’t need to), balancing a boyfriend and getting to know her newly acquired family better.

The drama from the first book has mostly disappeared and I say mostly because while the craziness in New Money seemed to creep up on her out of nowhere, this girl goes after it herself in this book — chasing down the answers of what really killed her media tycoon father. While we spend a majority of our time cabbing around Manhattan (the book opens with the Christmas season — so fitting and Rosenthal captures it so perfectly), Savannah also spends time in DC, worming herself into many uncomfortable situations to find out more and eventually returning to NYC with more than she bargained for.

This is the thing: even though Savannah handles her wealth and new lifestyle with such grace, she’s not above acting impulsively either. And maybe not always in the way you would think. Rosenthal has made a good habit of writing about strong, complicated women from the little sister in Queens (Other Words for Love) to this southern belle granted a fairy tale life with a few inconsistencies. The struggle to be independent, successful, and express love to the people in your life is what makes Savannah such an authentic character. We may not be wearing Gucci or living in an apartment that overlooks Central Park, but we worry about our hearts. We want to be good and do good by the people we care about.

Independently Wealthy mixes some ballsy detective work and delicious distractions with finding your place in relationships, your family, and a bustling city. As I inched to the last pages of the book, I already missed Savannah and wondered what she would be up to next. You know I want you to check out this series from the beginning, but I won’t tell if you cheat and skip to this one.

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The lovely folks at St. Martin’s Press are offering 1 lucky winner a finished copy of Independently Wealthy. Open to U.S. readers only. Enter below & good luck!

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