Love Songs & Other Lies by Jessica Pennington – Author Interview

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About the Book

Title: Love Songs & Other Lies

Author: Jessica Pennington

Publisher: Tor Teen

Release Date: April 24th, 2018

Genre: YA Contemporary Romance

Synopsis: It’s summer romance and second chances, the songs that stay in your head, and the boy you’ll never forget.

Two years after rock-song-worthy heartbreak, Virginia Miller is looking forward to a fun, carefree summer. Her friends just landed a spot on a battling bands reality show, and Vee is joining them for her dream internship on tour. Three months with future rockstars seems like an epic summer plan. Until she learns she’ll also be sharing the bus with Cam. Her first love, and her first heartbreak. Now Vee has more than just cameras to dodge, and Cam’s determination to win her forgiveness is causing TMZ-worthy problems for both of them. With cameras rolling, she’ll have to decide if her favorite breakup anthem deserves a new ending. And if she’s brave enough to expose her own secrets to keep Cam’s under wraps.

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About the Author

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Jessica Pennington is no stranger to the combination of love and drama. She’s a wedding planner, after all. A writer since the age of ten—when she sought publication for her poem about a tree—Jessica likes the challenge of finding the humor in a sad situation or highlighting the awkwardness in a romantic one. She lives in a Michigan beach town suspiciously similar to the one in her books, where she’s currently finishing her second novel, WHEN SUMMER ENDS, out April 2019.

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Interview with Jessica Pennington

1. How did you get started as a writer?

I wrote poetry in elementary school and always dabbled with it, even through high school, but I really didn’t attempt fiction until about five years ago. I’ve always loved to write, I just never felt like I had a story to tell. Until I did!

2. What is your favorite under-appreciated novel?

I feel like romance in general can be sort of underappreciated, and that’s mainly what I like to read. I think books that are fun and let you escape have a lot of value, especially for teens, and I’d really love to see it stop being a genre targeted just to girls, when the stories are really relevant to anyone discovering love for the first time. Boys fall in love too. I maybe didn’t answer this question, but I’m sticking with it!

3. What is your favorite childhood book?

I don’t tend to have favorites of anything—or if I do, it’s just my most recent favorite—but for childhood books a few of my favorites were anything by Roald Dahl and Shel Siverstein, Island of the Blue Dolphin, Graeme Base books, and I was obsessed with non-fiction books about animals as a kid!

4. Do you have a special room or place that you prefer to write?

I can write just about anywhere if I have headphones, but I do have a writing space in my house. It’s new—I recently claimed my dining room as my office/study—so it’s lacking the ambiance I would normally like, but it has a giant picture window and the best natural light in my whole house. My dad just built me a huge barn door so I can close it off from the kitchen, and I’m excited to fill it with plants this summer. It has so much potential! But I also really love writing at one of my local libraries—there’s something awesome about being surrounded by books while writing one.

5. Tell us about your typical process for starting a new book.

I only attempted one book before Love Songs & Other Lies, so in a lot of ways I feel very unqualified to talk about processes, but for the most part I just start with a kernel of an idea. With Love Songs, it started with the breakup scene. And as much as I love to plot, and sort of obsess over having things worked out before I start writing, I almost always abandon my plotting or seriously change things along the way, as I get to know my characters. It’s all a bit haphazard, I suppose, but I like the organic way my stories tend to come together. Things build off of little details, and the story usually ends up better than I could have planned! I also have to kick things off with a writing playlist that sets the mood, because I can’t write without music on.

6. How do you select the names of your characters?

Sometimes I base them on something meaningful—like in Love Songs & Other Lies, Virginia is named (by her parents) after the song ‘Meet Virginia’ by Train. But in real life, Train is one of my favorite bands, and one of the first concerts I saw on my own while in high school. But very often I just look up what names were popular when the character would have been born, and go from there!

7. What is the most difficult part of being a writer?

Since I’ve become an author, I think the most difficult part is writing on deadline. It’s much different from writing something at your own pace, and there’s a lot of pressure attached to producing something creative on a fixed timeline. It’s definitely been an adjustment to get into that headspace!

8. Are you working on any new novels at this time? If so, can you share a little about them?

Speaking of deadlines! I wrote my second novel, When Summer Ends, this winter, and I just finished up copy-edits. It’s about Olivia, a cautious girl who decides to live summer by chance – dice rolls, coin flips and all – after her longtime boyfriend dumps her right before break; and Aiden, the former star pitcher who gets swept up in her plan while trying to find a new passion, after learning he’s losing his vision. It’s dual POV, which I love to write (and to read) and for anyone who thought Cam was swoony in Love Songs, just wait until you meet Aiden.

9. What is your favorite/most valued work that you have written?

I plead the fifth! Love Songs & Other Lies and When Summer Ends feel like my babies, and it’s too hard to pick. But it would definitely be one of those two, because the novel I wrote before Love Songs was pretty horrid. It was a paranormal romance, and the first story I ever attempted, and just very out of my wheelhouse. Love Songs and When Summer Ends both have big pieces of me in them, so each is my favorite in its own way, but I think my debut will always feel really special to me.

10. Can you give us a sneak peek about your upcoming novel?

It’s set in the same town as Love Songs & Other Lies, but while Love Songs only took place partly in Riverton, When Summer Ends spends all of its time in the Michigan beach town. And it’s a bit of a love letter to how amazing Michigan is in the summer—canoe trips, dune hikes, nights under the stars—it was really fun to get to delve further into my love of beach towns! I seriously can’t wait to share more about this one—it will be out April 2019 (but you can add it to Goodreads now!)

Excerpts from the Book

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Where I Live by Brenda Rufener

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Originally published in School Library Journal, November 2017.

Grade 9 & Up – Secretly living in Hinderwood High, teenager Linden is homeless and working two jobs to afford living essentials. After her mother was killed, she ended up in Oregon at her grandmother’s nursing home, before she died too. Linden, white and homeless, and her best friends, Korean American Seung, and gay, fun-loving Ham make up the Triangle. Linden’s goal is to graduate and go to college with the Triangle, her only family and support. While reporting for the school blog and trying to keep her homelessness a secret, Linden uncovers perfect, mean-girl Bea’s secret – an abusive boyfriend. Not wanting to draw attention to herself, Linden worries for Bea, but does not expose her secret. When Seung becomes more than a best friend, Linden inadvertently lets her guard down, starting a new chapter in her life. When the truth is revealed, reactions of her friends and community prove that family is where your heart is, regardless of blood relation. Rufener’s cast of diverse characters and genuine dialogue helps balance the unlikely premise that a teenager could be living in a high school undetected. Readers will empathize with Linden, because her matter-of-fact attitude and bravery, never wallowing in self-pity. VERDICT: Recommended for strictly additional purchase for older teens due to mature language. Fans of Jennifer Niven and Nicola Yoon will enjoy this debut realistic fiction novel which brings to light heavy topics of homelessness and abuse.

One of Us is Lying by Karen McManus

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This is such a cool book. It’s like a modern-day Breakfast Club with a twist – a murder investigation! Five students from Bayview High go into to detention and only four students make it out. There’s Bronwyn, the brainiac who only has time to be successful, Addy, the beauty queen who prefers to be treated as a princess, Nate, the criminal who sells pills and tries to fly under the radar, and Cooper, the star baseball player who is being scouted by the pros, but isn’t quite telling the truth about his stellar performance on the field. After a strange fender-bender outside the school draws their teacher out of the room for a moment, Simon ends up dead. Simon, the social outcast who runs a gossip blog, and as such, he is known but not necessarily liked by many. The other four students, who are as different as can be, are targets in Simon’s blog post set to be released the day after his death, exposing their deepest, darkest secrets and making them all murder suspects. What looked like an accidental death due to a severe peanut allergy at first turns out to be a murder with serious planning and consequences.

As the investigation unfolds, the story pacing gets quicker and quicker, each chapter switching point-of-view between Bronwyn, Addy, Nate, and Cooper. Readers will try to figure out which of the four students is lying and who really knows what happened to Simon. This is an addictive, can’t-put-down-until-it’s-over kind of thriller which will appeal to both adults and teens. I highly recommend it. Can you figure out which one is lying?

Broken Beautiful Hearts by Kami Garcia

Holy Romance Novel, B9781250079206_b9a41atman! This one is going to the top of my YA romance favorites list! This is the first of Kami Garcia’s novels that I have read, but I am now kicking myself for not reading her other ones already! You probably hear this a lot, but I literally couldn’t put this book down. I started it at 7:30 PM after the kids went to bed and finished the last page at 11:45 PM. It was THAT GOOD! It reminded me a little bit of the Abbi Glines Field Party series because of the small town where football is life. (That is also a really good series, by the way.) Garcia’s characters are beautifully crafted, but also very real – readers will be able to identify them to people in their own lives.

Here’s the rundown: Things are going well for high school senior Peyton Rios, a star soccer player who just received admittance and a starting soccer position at her college of choice, UNC. About a year prior to the story, Peyon’s father was killed in Iraq. She has had a tough road, but she is not alone. She has a best friend named Tess and a boyfriend of 7 months, Tess’s older brother, Reed. Reed is an MMA fighter who has been there for Peyton, but lately he seems a little distant and moody.

During a typical weekend house party, Peyton discovers a secret about Reed the she doesn’t want to believe, but knows she has to distance herself from his lies. When she confronts him, he gets violent and pushes her down the stairs, shattering her knee and her heart at the same time. After extensive surgery, Peyton worries she will lose her spot on the team at UNC, and wonders if she will ever be able to play soccer again? An even bigger problem is that Reed claims she fell and no one (other than her own mother) believes her, not even her best friend Tess. Soon she begins getting threats and Reed will no stop calling her, trying to see her as if nothing bad has happened.

Needing a change of scenery so that she can focus on rehab for the next few months, Peyton moves to a small town in Tennessee to live with her Uncle Hawk and the Twins, Christian and Cameron. Hawk was the only survivor of the military attack which killed her father, but having to dredge up painful memories even seems better than her current situation of constant fear and threats. She learns quickly that football is life in her Uncle’s family, her new school, and the whole town. Still reeling from the heartbreak of her last relationship, Peyton makes it clear to everyone that she is not interested in dating. Her muscle-head, tender-hearted, football star cousins, the Twins, watch her every move, determined to keep her safe, even from their own teammates. At first endearing and sweet, Peyton appreciates them, but really she just wants to be left alone and treated like everyone else. Until she (literally) runs into Owen Law, a mysterious, sexy guy who she instantly feels attracted to for some reason. Even so, she refuses to be swayed by his charm.

When she shows up for her first therapy session, however, she is forced into even closer contact with Owen. He is interning with the therapist and Peyton is his new patient. Side note: If I were her, I would be milking that knee injury for a very long time. The longer it hurts, the more therapy you need, right? But, I digress…

To complicate matters, it turns out that Owen is an MMA fighter, and he is GOOD. Though she knows of the risks of getting involved with another fighter, Peyton can’t help thinking that Owen is different. He’s nothing like Reed, and she is finding it hard to think about anything but Owen. But then she finds out Owen is hiding something. Something too big to ignore. And even though Peyton claims they are just friends, the something could shatter her heart all over again. Both Peyton and Owen must ask themselves how far they are willing to go for themselves and for each other. Is love worth really fighting for?

The story moves along rather quickly with just the right amount of romance, mystery, and humor. And fighting, lots of fighting. And not always in the ring. Hallways, parking lots, abandoned buildings, you name it. These small town Tennessee boys are quick to throw punches and protect their own. I loved this book and the characters. I can’t wait for her next book!

 

The Long Road Home by Tawni Waters

61cFNUSy75L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Review first appeared in School Library Journal, August 2017.

Gr 9 & Up – Harley, born Juliet to an actress and still reeling from the recent loss of her mother in a fire, embarks on a road trip to bring her mother’s ashes home to New York. Since the fire, Harley, who feels at fault for leaving a candle burn, has been living with her mother’s best friend, Mercy, in Los Angeles. Her father hasn’t been involved in her life for a very long time. Harley plans to take the trip on her mother’s beloved motorcycle. Harley tries to cope with PTSD, guilt, loss, and depression with drinking, but then her period is late and worry and fear are added to her already overflowing emotional plate. Mercy agrees to let Harley go because Dean, her one friend, crush, and unaware father of her baby is going along. Waters’ contemporary YA story plot is much like Harley’s bike trip – a long, and at times painful road ahead with good and bad stops along the way. Written in first person as a letter, the recipient will not be revealed until the final pages. Recommended for high school and up due to explicit language, drug and alcohol references, and not-so-subtle sexual content. During the detours along the way, including a major scare near the end, Harley learns that once she accepts her circumstances in life, home may have been with her all along. VERDICT: For general purchase, this realistic fictional tale of unplanned teenage pregnancy and the meaning of home will have readers rooting for the down-on-her-luck protagonist and her geeky, irresistible suitor.

Us In Progress by Lulu Delacre

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I’m very fortunate to have received a complimentary copy (from the author) of Us In Progress by Lulu Delacre in exchange for a book review for Multicultural Children’s Book Day. You can read all about MCBD below.

Us in Progress is a middle grade fictional collection of short stories about young Latinos living in the United States. Not only are the stories beautifully written, but Delacre’s illustrations of each Latino teen shown in black and white are breathtaking. The illustrations really help the stories to come to life. Delacre seamlessly blends Spanish words and phrases into each short story text, creating a rich multicultural reading experience. The back of the book includes a glossary with translation for all the Spanish words and phrases.

To add to the unique nature of Delacre’s story collection, each story has an accompanying refran, which are “Spanish sayings widely used throughout Latin America and often sprinkled in conversation. It takes less time to use a refran to make a point than to find the right words to explain a complex situation (ix-x, Delacre).” A listing of each refran and their meanings is included at the end of the book. Delacre encourages readers to think about each story and how the corresponding refran fits the relationships depicted in the story. There is a fine mix of male and female characters in this book, which appeal to both male and female readers. My personal favorite story is “Selfie,” in which a young Latino girl, Marla, gathers the courage to obtain a bicycle and start biking in order to better her lifestyle and appearance. Along the way, she develops a higher self-esteem, new friends, and respect from her family and friends. It is a beautiful story of perseverance and determination.

Though intended for readers ages 8-12, Us In Progress is an inspiring, moving short story collection that will spark discussion for young adults and adults of all ages. I would highly recommend it for all public and school libraries to add to their collection.

 

Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2017 (1/27/18) is in its 5th year and was founded by Valarie Budayr from Jump Into A Book and Mia Wenjen from PragmaticMom. Our mission is to raise awareness of the ongoing need to include kids’ books that celebrate diversity in home and school bookshelves while also working diligently to get more of these types of books into the hands of young readers, parents and educators.

MCBD 2018 is honored to have some amazing Sponsors on board. View our 2018 MCBD Medallion Sponsors here: http://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/2106-sponsors/mcbd2018-medallion-level-sponsors/
View our 2018 MCBD Author Sponsors here: http://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/2106-sponsors/2018-author-sponsors/

We’d like to also give a shout-out to MCBD’s impressive CoHost Team who not only hosts the book review link-up on celebration day, but who also works tirelessly to spread the word of this event. View our CoHosts: http://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/about/co-hosts/

TWITTER PARTY Sponsored by Scholastic Book Clubs: MCBD’s super-popular (and crazy-fun) annual Twitter Party will be held 1/27/18 at 9:00pm.

Join the conversation and win one of 12-5 book bundles and one Grand Prize Book Bundle (12 books) that will be given away at the party! http://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/twitter-party-great-conversations-fun-prizes-chance-readyourworld-1-27-18/

Free Multicultural Books for Teachers: http://bit.ly/1kGZrta

Free Empathy Classroom Kit for Homeschoolers, Organizations, Librarians and Educators: http://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/teacher-classroom-empathy-kit/

Hashtag: Don’t forget to connect with us on social media and be sure and look for/use our official hashtag #ReadYourWorld.

Blood and Ink by Stephen Davies

9781580897907_34ab1First appeared in School Library Journal, July 2017.

Though both raised in the Fulani tribe, teens Ali and Kadi are like oil and water when their paths cross in the midst of political turmoil in their home of Timbuktu, Mali. Religiously strict Ali belongs to the Defenders of Faith, a branch of Al Queda. His current assignment is to take control of Timbuktu, destroying any opposition in the way. Equally strict, brave, and feisty is Kadi, a lover of music and literature and the daughter of a librarian. As a Guardian, Kadi must keep ancient manuscripts safe at all costs. While trying to flee Timbuktu with the manuscripts, Kadi ends up in mortal danger. Ali must choose where his true loyalty lies. The ending is abrupt, but hopeful, and it begs for a sequel. Modern-day Timbuktu is brought to life in this timely, fast-paced story of teens falling in love despite being at war with each other. Historically rich background and Islamic culture combine, providing two perspectives on the war in Mali. The drama unfolds in alternating points of view between well-developed characters with multicultural subject matter that is unique, but relevant to current events.  Davies’ writing is authentic, because he spent over a decade with the Fulani tribe. Both a glossary and a fact & fiction section are included to enhance reader’s understanding and provide factual background of Islamic practices. VERDICT: Readers will enjoy the well-drawn characters and fast-paced action of this diverse YA thriller with a hint of romance.