Jun 29, 2016

Top 10 with Kat Howard

Welcome Kat Howard, author of ROSES & ROT - a deliciously creepy book (I mean, that cover, yo!) I can't wait to read! 

10 fictional characters you would invite to a dinner party

  1. Viola from Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. She’s smart, eloquent, and competent. Plus, one of my cats is named for her.
  2. Minerva McGonagall from the Harry Potter series. She’s probably my favorite teacher in literature, plus she’s a total badass.
3-5. Hermione Granger, Morgan le Fey, and Prunella Gentleman (from Harry Potter, the Arthurian stories, and Zen Cho’s Sorcerer to the Crown.) All three magical ladies – what can I say, I really like magic – all smart, and all people I think it would be great fun to have a drink with.

6. Ludmila, the owner of the Cinderella Bakery from Evelyn Skye’s The Crown’s Game. And I’m hoping that she’ll volunteer to bring dessert.

7. Lila Bard from V.E. Schwab’s Shades of Magic series. Because there is no way the dinner party will be boring if she’s there. It might be bloody, but it won’t be boring.

8. Elizabeth Bennet from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Another of my favorite women in fiction, I think she’d be a great conversationalist.

9. Grace Charles from Persona and Icon by Genevieve Valentine. She has extreme diplomatic skills, and it’s just possible that we might need them before the dinner party is over.

10. Maddy from Sarah McCarry’s About a Girl. Because I feel like there is a lot of her story that I don’t know, and I’m hoping maybe in this crowd she’ll spill it.

Imogen and her sister Marin have escaped their cruel mother to attend a prestigious artists’ retreat, but soon learn that living in a fairy tale requires sacrifices, be it art or love.

What would you sacrifice in the name of success? How much does an artist need to give up to create great art?

Imogen has grown up reading fairy tales about mothers who die and make way for cruel stepmothers. As a child, she used to lie in bed wishing that her life would become one of these tragic fairy tales because she couldn’t imagine how a stepmother could be worse than her mother now. As adults, Imogen and her sister Marin are accepted to an elite post-grad arts program—Imogen as a writer and Marin as a dancer. Soon enough, though, they realize that there’s more to the school than meets the eye. Imogen might be living in the fairy tale she’s dreamed about as a child, but it’s one that will pit her against Marin if she decides to escape her past to find her heart’s desire.

Kat Howard lives in New Hampshire. Her short fiction has been nominated for the World Fantasy Award, anthologized in year's best and best of collections, and performed on NPR. Roses and Rot is her debut novel. You can find her on twitter at @KatWithSword. 

Also, Shane Leonard took her photo, and she's super grateful.

LINKS: Website | Twitter

Jun 27, 2016

Blog Tour: Unplugged by Donna Freitas

Welcome Donna Freitas, author of the new book, UNPLUGGED!!! We're so excited to kick off the second weekend of the tour!

1. What was the best part of writing UNPLUGGED – the beginning or the end?

Well, I’d say the beginning, because I loved starting that book. The ideas about technology and virtual reality are exciting to me, and I loved setting up my protagonist in the middle of all of these what-if’s and this virtual setting, knowing that she was going to unplug and discover what it’s like to be in the real world and her body, really for the first time.

2. Where do you write (what’s your setting/environment)?

I have a chaise longe! It’s amazing. It’s super poufy and comfy. I like to write with my feet up and my laptop sitting on a pillow in my lap. It’s next to this big bank of windows so I can look outside. And I also have a little table next to it stacked with all of the books I’ve been reading lately, and where I can put my coffee mug. I always have coffee when I’m writing. And maybe a few cookies. Or cake. I love sweets with my coffee!

3. When did you know you wanted to be an author?

Not for a long, long time. It never occurred to me I could write books, even though I spend so much of my life reading, reading, reading and it’s one of my favorite things to do. (Especially if I am floating in a pool.) Then one day I thought of a character I really wanted to write—she popped into my head—but I never thought I would actually write her story. Then I did, sort of playing around. But I never thought I’d finish it never mind send it somewhere like it might get published. But my agent loved it and suddenly Frances Foster at FSG was buying it, and it became my debut in 2008: The Possibilities of Sainthood.

A lot of people know when they’re, like, nine years old that they want to be an author. I guess I didn’t know until I was in my thirties. J

4. What is your favorite way to connect with readers?

I love it when readers email me! Emails are letters, and I love getting letters.

I also love to do things like this—get to be on someone’s blog (thank you!) and answer people’s questions. It’s always so fun to see what people want to know.

But my favorite way to connect with readers will always be in person. I get to do that a lot with my nonfiction, because I do so many speaking events on college campuses. There is nothing like an in-person conversation! Which, I guess means that I like to connect with readers, unplugged. J

5. What author would you totally fangirl over?

Let’s see. I already did fangirl over Brandy Colbert. She’s the author of this amazing debut novel called Pointe that I loved so much. It’s gorgeous writing and it’s a thriller, about a ballerina no less! I got to interview her for PW and I totally gushed the second we got on the phone. I believe her next novel comes out some time in 2017 and I can’t wait.

Also: I absolutely love Andrea Portes’s books Anatomy of a Misfit and The Fall of Butterflies. She is one of the funniest writers in YA in my opinion. But I love how she makes me both laugh and cry. One minute I’m giggling hysterically and the next I’m weeping with her.

Another book I was obsessed with this spring (it comes out in June) is The Leaving by Tara Altebrando. I want to tell her how amazing it is! I hope it becomes a bestseller. She deserves it.

6. If you aren’t writing, what are you doing?

That’s easy. Eating! I love food. I love cooking. Well, eating and drinking wine, too, most likely. Over the years I used to try and make myself be this museum person when I travel, but really, if I’m going to be honest, I am a food tourist. My favorite thing is to find amazing restaurants in cities I love and see places via the food.

Also, I do love TV. A lot. There are so many good shows! And books. I love books. J

7. Any summer vacation plans? What books will you be taking with you?

Yes. I’ll be in Porto, Portugal and then in Spain—Barcelona mainly. Then I’m starting a new research project (for my life as a professor) that involves interviewing some of the refugees who are walking/taking rafts to Europe. I will likely start in Sicily and end up in some of the Greek isles for that.

As far as books go? I’m dying to read the third book in Mary Pearson’s fantasy trilogy: The Beauty of Darkness. I have loved that fantasy series so much. I haven’t loved fantasy that much since Megan Whalen Turner’s The Thief series, and all of Kristin Cashore’s books.

The first book in a provocative new series from acclaimed author Donna Freitas—Feed for a new generation.

Humanity is split into the App World and the Real World—an extravagant virtual world for the wealthy and a dying physical world for the poor. Years ago, Skylar Cruz’s family sent her to the App World for a chance at a better life.

Now Skye is a nobody, a virtual sixteen-year-old girl without any glamorous effects or expensive downloads to make her stand out in the App World. Yet none of that matters to Skye. All she wants is a chance to unplug and see her mother and sister again.

But when the borders between worlds suddenly close, Skye loses that chance. Desperate to reach her family, Skye risks everything to get back to the physical world. Once she arrives, however, she discovers a much larger, darker reality than the one she remembers.

In the tradition of M. T. Anderson’s Feed and Scott Westerfeld’sUglies, Unplugged kicks off a thrilling and timely sci-fi series for teens from an award-winning writer.

Donna Freitas is the author of both fiction and nonfiction, and she lectures at universities across the United States on her work about college students, most recently at Colby, Pepperdine, Harvard, and Yale. Over the years, she has written for national newspapers and magazines, including The Wall Street JournalThe New York TimesThe Boston Globe, and The Washington Post, and she’s currently a non-resident research associate at the Center for Religion and Society at Notre Dame. Donna has been a professor at Boston University in the Department of Religion and also at Hofstra University in their Honors College.

Donna is also the author of six novels for children and young adults, including The Survival Kit (FSG, 2011), named an ALA Best Books for Young Adults and the winner of the Bookstar Award in Switzerland, and This Gorgeous Game (FSG, 2010), also named an ALA Best Books for Young Adults, a winner of the CCBC Choice Award, and a Chicago Public Library Best of the Best winner. Her novel, The Possibilities of Sainthood (FSG, 2008), received five starred reviews and many accolades, including: an Indie Next Kids' List Great Read, Society of School Librarians International Book Award Honor Book, VOYA Top Shelf Fiction for Middle School Readers, and the Texas Lone Star Reading List. Donna has also published two middle grade companion novels with Scholastic, Gold Medal Summer (about a gymnast) and Gold Medal Winter (about an ice skater), which just won a CCBC Choice Award. In June, Unplugged the first novel in her sci-fi trilogy about two competing worlds, one real, one virtual, will be out in June from HarperTeen. She lives in Brooklyn.

LINKS: Website | Twitter | Facebook

Tour Schedule:
Tour Schedule:

Week 2:

3 Finished Copies of UNPLUGGED (US Only)
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Jun 24, 2016

Boldly Bookish Tour

It's end of the BOLDLY BOOKISH 2 Blog Tour, but you still can win! Thanks for following the tour! Tara Altebrando is here to talk about the top 10 things she can't live without.

10 things you can’t live without

MY SODA STREAM MACHINE:  I know it’s ridiculous, but we call water “flat water” in our house. I’m a seltzer addict through and through.

ALMAY TRUFFLE KISS LIP GLOSS: I admit I sometimes find myself applying lip gloss at really dumb times, when no one is going to notice or care. Like when I AM HOME ALONE. But I care! 

I’ve had flings with many a lip gloss in my day, but ALMAY Truffle Kiss has proven itself to be my one true love. Right now I have one in the kitchen junk drawer, one in my purse, another in my jacket pocket, one in my travel toiletry bag, and a backup unopened one for when I run out in any of the other locations.

BOOTS: I like spring and summer okay, but I definitely mourn the end of boot season every year and rejoice when fall comes and I can get back to stomping around in chunky-heeled black leather boots.

SPOTIFY: I’m all over the place with music in general but especially when I’m writing. I want to be able to jump from INXS to the Sing Street soundtrack to old Sloan or Replacements and then back to, no, not Taylor Swift because she’s not on Spotify but you get the idea. Spotify has made hopping around like that so very easy. I’m old enough that I still have a stack of LPs right over there on that shelf, and leather books full of CDS in that drawer down there, but they’re mostly collecting dust.

OLD PHOTOS: From where I’m typing right now I can see a photo of my late mother holding me when I was a baby, a photo of my parents on their wedding day, a picture of my husband and I the day we got engaged, and a photo of my 8 year old when she was maybe a year old. I have albums upon albums of pictures from my childhood and also bundles of older photos of my ancestors. I think I have a bad memory in a lot of ways and I like having photographic evidence as reminders of events and people and LIFE.

QUEENS CUISINE: I’ve become spoiled as an adult because I live in Astoria, where you can eat amazing food from pretty much every nation in the world. Greek. Indian. Egyptian. French. Japanese. Middle-Eastern. Spanish. It’s all right here within a few blocks. I keep swearing that I’m going to learn how to make my own stuffed grape leaves but what’s the point when I can walk two blocks for them?

MY SUMMER HOUSE: Queens is awesome for many, many reasons (vibrant, diverse community; close to Manhattan; amazing food, as described above) but it is also crowded and, during the summer, very hot and stifling. A few years ago my husband and I took a leap and bought an old house in the Hudson Valley. It has a stream in the backyard that I can stare at and listen to for hours. We have a hammock! A fire pit! Rocking chairs! These are things you don’t really get in New York City. I’ve found that spending time there—staring at stars, bird watching, whatever—had grounded us as a family and as people.

CRIME DRAMAS: I watch maybe one hour of TV a night and it is almost always some kind of procedural crime drama. There are exceptions, seasonally, like for Game of Thrones and Walking Dead, but I come from a long line of Law and Order fans (The original is still the best!) and it’s the type of show I’m most drawn to. Currently on the DVD: Elementary, Blacklist, NCSI: LA, and, er, Hawaii Five-O. I’m not sure what it says about me that these kinds of shows help me unwind, but there you have it.

MY FAVORITE RING: I have a ring I wear on my right ring finger—a wide silver band—that I feel naked without. I take it off to shower and sleep and to do dishes—it fits nicely on this long thin piece of our paper towel holder by the sink—but otherwise it’s on my finger. I bought it in a little shop called My Sister’s Jewelry Box in Lavallette, NJ, the summer before my dad and his sister’s ended up selling my grandparents’ much beloved house there, so it had become MEANINGFUL in a way it wasn’t when I bought it. I thought I lost it once and I was a mess. I tore up the house until I found it.

MY FAVORITE HOODIE: I can be cold all year round. I pretty much live in a hoodie. This one happens to be a Mortal Instruments one I got at BEA a few years ago. It’s the perfect weight and softness.

Six were taken. Eleven years later, five come back--with no idea of where they've been.

Eleven years ago, six kindergarteners went missing without a trace. After all that time, the people left behind moved on, or tried to.

Until today. Today five of those kids return. They're sixteen, and they are . . . fine. Scarlett comes home and finds a mom she barely recognizes, and doesn't really recognize the person she's supposed to be, either. But she thinks she remembers Lucas. Lucas remembers Scarlett, too, except they're entirely unable to recall where they've been or what happened to them. Neither of them remember the sixth victim, Max. He doesn't come back. Everyone wants answers. Most of all Max's sister Avery, who needs to find her brother--dead or alive--and isn't buying this whole memory-loss story.


Tara Altebrando is the author of numerous books for young adult and middle-grade readers. Her upcoming book, THE LEAVING (Bloomsbury), is a YA thriller that received a starred PW review and is a Junior Library Guild selection. Her other YA novels include ROOMIES, coauthored with Sara Zarr; Dreamland Social Club (A Kirkus Reviews Best Books for Teens), The Best Night of (Your) Pathetic Life, What Happens Here, and The Pursuit of Happiness.

Tara is a Harvard graduate who lives in Queens, NY, with her husband and children.

Tour Schedule:
Week 1 ~ BREAK ME LIKE A PROMISE by Tiffany Schmidt

Week 2 ~ THE LONG GAME by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Week 3 ~ THE LEAVING by Tara Altebrando

1 set of the BOLDLY BOOKISH 2 Tour books (US Only)

Books include: Hold Me Like a Breath & Break Me Like A Promise by Tiffany Schmidt, The Fixer & The Long Game by Jennifer Lynn Barnes & The Leaving by Tara Altebrando

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Jun 23, 2016

Blog Tour: The Marked Girl by Lindsey Klingele

ETA: Apparently my carefully scheduled post was eaten. Sigh.

10 emotions you have when writing a book

1)      Curiosity. Ideas in general can come from everywhere – from conversation, from songs, from articles, from other books you’ve read, or from a combination of all these things. I like to think about what I see in the world that excites me, or what I wish I could tell people about, or what I wish existed. For instance, I recently wished that Taylor Swift’s Bad Blood music video was an epic television series with six seasons and a movie. So I wonder what that would look like, and then I get --

2)      Excited.  I always know The Idea from all of the other regular ideas because I won’t be able to stop thinking of it. It’ll keep me up at night. It’ll make me have to do the dishes twice because I was too busy thinking about The Idea to wash the dishes properly the first time and now all my bowls are still covered in leftover mac & cheese crust. From this emotion, it’s easy to slide right into--

3)      Dedicated. Or also, industrious. The first 50 pages of any new project generally go by the fastest for me because I’m still driven enough to get the idea down before it flies from my head. But I can’t get attached to this stage, because then I’m onto—

4)      Stuck. It happens. There’s no stopping it from happening. At some point, I run out of steam and the words don’t come as easily as they did at first. Maybe I second-guess a character or a plot point or even the whole Idea altogether. At this point, I can either move on to something else, or I can get—

5)      Determined. Because no project worth doing is easy, and if I’m still passionate about something, this is when I have to buckle down and finish the draft, no matter how many cups of coffee it takes. This usually pays off, because when I do finish a draft, I’m—

6)      Elated. This is the best. I wrote a book! Even if it’s not a good book, it at least exists in some form. This is when it’s time to celebrate, usually with chocolate! And just in time for revisions, or—

7)      Despair. Now I have to take that first draft and make it good. That is hard. Getting notes helps a lot. But sometimes notes can be tricky. Especially notes that point out a major problem in the draft that I didn’t see there and now I can’t un-see it and now I have to fix it. This is when it’s time to lay my head down against my desk and think about how I’m a terrible, no-good writer and anyone who says otherwise is a liar. This emotion is also accompanied with chocolate. But it is followed by—

8)      Gathering perspective (i.e. pretending I don’t care). Sometimes the only way to keep myself going after the despair stage is by reminding myself that while stories and writing are important, they are not the most important thing all the time. Family, friends, food, community, the fate of the world, and also television are also important. In the grand scheme of things, getting a sentence wrong isn’t the end of the world. I am zen. I can do my best, work hard, and tell myself that’s all that really matters…right?? Anyway, it usually pays off. The book gets done. And then there’s –

9)      Pride. Woo-hoo, I wrote and revised a book! It’s really done! Woo-hoo again!!! And now the book is being published? Time for—

10)   Excitement (redux)/worry/nervousness/joy/fear/etc. etc. I wrote a book and it’s out in the world and people might hate it! But also they might love it? Probably there will be both! That inspires a LOT of emotions, but it’s okay because at this point, I’ve earned them. And also more chocolate.

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away (Los Angeles)…

When Cedric, crowned prince of Caelum, and his fellow royal friends (including his betrothed, Kat) find themselves stranded in modern-day L.A. via a magical portal and an evil traitor named Malquin, all they want to do is get home to Caelum—soon. Then they meet Liv, a filmmaker foster girl who just wants to get out of the system and on with her life. As she and Cedric bond, they’ll discover that she’s more connected to his world than they ever could’ve imagined…and that finding home is no easy task…


Lindsey Klingele grew up in Western Michigan, where she read every book she could get her hands on. She eventually moved to Los Angeles (the real land of make believe) and worked as a writers' assistant for TV shows such as THE LYING GAME and TWISTED. She still loves living in LA, especially since it's home to great television shows, truly excellent cheeseburgers, and her pitbull, Bighead.

Tour Schedule:
Week 1:

Week 2:

3 Finished Copies of THE MARKED GIRL (US Only)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Jun 21, 2016

Spotlight: The Four Night Run by William Lashner

Welcome William Lashner to the Irish Banana Review! We're so excited to have you here to talk about your new book, THE FOUR NIGHT RUN!

1: Outside of crime-related fiction, what’s your favorite genre to read?
I read everything, history, biography, old moldy stuff, and a lot of science fiction, which was what I mainly read when I was a boy.  I’ve been really enjoying the work of Paolo Bacigalupi, especially his short stories.  A couple books that I’ve recently admired are BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME by Ta-Nehisi Coates and LIFE AND FATE by Vasily Grossman, which is simply one of the best novels I’ve ever read.

2: Did you always want to write?
Yes, from early on.  But I also always wanted to play baseball in the big leagues or lead guitar in a punk rock band and neither of those was going to happen.  The question was whether I could make living writing novels, and that’s been a rather shocking surprise.

3: How much of your experience as a prosecutor do you incorporate into your writing?

The same impulse that made me want to prosecute infuses all my writing.  Fiction has been described as a justice dealing machine, which I accept, and the great goal of the prosecutor is not to win but to do justice.  In everything I write, there is the pursuit of justice juxtaposed against everything that frustrates that same pursuit, which usually comes down to sex, money, and power.  As individuals, we all want justice, but we all want sex, money, and power more.  Right there is the conflict that exists in all my novels.

4: Do you have a particular method when you write (a time, a place, a pre-writing routine)?
Generally I just sit in my office and work and don’t show anything to anybody until the book is finished, but I did something different for THE FOUR-NIGHT RUN.  I wrote it in sections and sent the sections out to a few trusted friends as I finished them.  The only thing I asked my readers was not to give me any feedback or advice – I didn’t want comments, I just wanted to know what the process would feel like with someone looking over my shoulder as I worked.  What I discovered was that I was much more conscious about pacing, about keeping the scenes taut and the story moving, and especially about heightening the suspense.  With every word I wanted to delight my friends.  The little experiment, I think, made me a better writer and the book, I hope, is the proof.

5: How do you come up with new ideas for what to write?
I get tons of ideas – once you start looking for them they come in waves.  The question is always whether the idea is worth a year of thinking about and another year of writing.  I have a notebook of just new ideas that I’m working on, trying to map out a structure and build the right protagonist and antagonist for the story, which is harder to come up with than the idea itself.  I have one great idea that I’ve been working on for years, but I just can’t figure out the right bad guy and so it just sits there, moldering.  Too bad, because it could be really special if I could just nail that part of it.

6. Your protagonist's name is J.D. Scrbacek. Is his name significant to you?
The name is a take on one of my favorite old TV characters, Banacek, who in my estimation is right up there in the pantheon with Mannix.  That sounds like a law firm, doesn’t it?  Mannix and Banacek.  I fiddled with the name a bit and came up with Scrbacek, which I think looks really good on the page.  That seems to matter to me.  And the initials, well, this is very much a legal thriller, with a whole section about law school, and so J.D., which is the degree that lawyers get, seemed quite natural. 

7: Scrbacek is a really complex character. Did you find him difficult to develop?
Often, there is something surprising that comes out in the writing that gets me to the heart of a character.  For Scrbacek it was his smirk.  As soon as I gave it to him in the first chapter I wanted to wipe that smirk off his face and I spent the rest of the book doing just that.  But I also had a more personal connection to the character.  There was an old rabble rousing criminal lawyer I met in Chicago who was very much a model for Deloatch, the law professor, and I found his view of the law and the world quite seductive, even though he had done some shady things.  I almost succumbed to the old man’s charms, Scrbacek did, and when he did he started smirking.   

The Four-Night Run description:
"J.D. Scrbacek has just won the biggest trial of his career, but even as he crows to the press, his entire life blows sky-high. Was the bomb meant for him, or for his mobster client? In this seaside casino town where the tables run hot and the tensions run high, the odds say the attorney is a marked man.
Alone and on the run, Scrbacek flees into the city’s forgotten underbelly, a ruined corridor called Crapstown, where he is forced to confront the ghosts of his past, his present, and his future. Somewhere in the sordid stream of his own existence lie the answers he needs. But in order to emerge from the depths of Crapstown, Scrbacek must argue for his life before a jury of the forgotten and the damned. Is he lawyer enough to save his own skin?
From the bestselling author of The Barkeep comes a raucous tale of reckoning, racketeering, and revenge."

Lashner's bio:
William Lashner is the New York Times Bestselling creator of Victor Carl, who has been called by Booklist one of the mystery novel's "most compelling, most morally ambiguous characters." The Victor Carl novels, which have been translated into more than a dozen foreign languages and have been sold all across the globe, include BAGMEN, KILLER'S KISS, FALLS THE SHADOW, FATAL FLAW, and HOSTILE WITNESS. He is also the author of BLOOD AND BONE, THE ACCOUNTING, and, most recently, THE BARKEEP, which was a Digital Book World Number One Bestselling Ebook.

Lashner was a criminal prosecutor with the Department of Justice in Washington D.C. before quitting the law to write fulltime. A graduate of the New York University School of Law, as well as the Iowa Writers' Workshop, he lives with his wife and three children outside Philadelphia.