why i read (and write) YA as an adult

DSC_0341The YA community, as readers and writers, consists of a wide range of people. Sometimes adults who are within the community are given a hard time. While this is diminishing (as far as I have seen), it is still there. Admittedly, I am even sometimes hesitant to go into the YA section in bookstores because I’m weary of being judged. (Ridiculous, I know.)

I was pondering YA a lot the other day. Truth be told, I’ve been in a big slump (which is why you haven’t heard from me) with reading and writing. It wasn’t until I read SMOKE IN THE SUN that I was reminded again just why I love YA so much.

When you’re an adult, it’s very easy to lose sight of hope and adventure. Maybe not always, and maybe I’m setting myself up to get a slew of comments on this. I think, for most adults, even if you are working your dream job and have everything you ever could have hoped for when younger– it’s still easy to get caught up in the every day “adulting” and lose a bit of yourself.

Yes, we grow and we learn and mature and all that truly good stuff.

But I think there’s always a piece of us that should stay, well, young.

I love YA for the hope. For the young adults facing problems so much bigger than themselves and conquering them. Maybe it’s not normal to see a seventeen year old save the kingdom/world… but some teenagers save their family every.single.day. It’s amazing to see a fourteen-year-old face problems that seem so far fetched, but when held to the “real life” scenarios some face, they’re nothing.

That’s hope. It’s hope that these everyday problems are conquerable, solvable, achievable. It’s hope that young adults in real life have the ability to do extraordinary things because these characters show them that it’s not impossible. It’s the hope of chasing dreams, love, life, adventures, jobs and the reality that it is scary, and that’s okay. It’s the hope that they can believe in themselves and not back down from challenges, but face them.

 

Hope is what makes me go back to reading it. Not because I can’t handle adult books, or because adult fiction is too boring or hard to read. And it’s not because I don’t think I could write adult fiction, either, because I imagine I could if I really put my mind to… and there’s part of me that hopes I can write at least one in my lifetime.

Goodness, though, that hope is so strong. It’s motivational, to see characters and write characters in a time or place or event that is outside of my own with that motivation and determination that we can sometimes lose. They don’t settle.

I’m not saying I’ve settled, and I’m not saying that I’ve lost hope. I’m saying that in this world we are a part of, there are things each and every day that can suck the life and hope out of a person. And, to me, YA counteracts it.

Hope.

True, undeniable, tangible hope.

That’s what I love about YA.

 

Do you read and/or write YA? I’d love to hear from you on this!

 

smoke in the sun by renee ahdieh, a review

34818921_656760461337893_6792604178645516288_n-1SMOKE IN THE SUN by Renee Ahdieh had a book birthday on June 5th! To tell you I was waiting on this sequel with so much anticipation would not do it justice. Almost exactly a year ago I did a review on the first book in this duology, FLAME IN THE MIST.

Here’s what Goodreads has to say:

After Okami is captured in the Jukai forest, Mariko has no choice—to rescue him, she must return to Inako and face the dangers that have been waiting for her in the Heian Castle. She tricks her brother, Kenshin, and betrothed, Raiden, into thinking she was being held by the Black Clan against her will, playing the part of the dutiful bride-to-be to infiltrate the emperor’s ranks and uncover the truth behind the betrayal that almost left her dead.

With the wedding plans already underway, Mariko pretends to be consumed with her upcoming nuptials, all the while using her royal standing to peel back the layers of lies and deception surrounding the imperial court. But each secret she unfurls gives way to the next, ensnaring Mariko and Okami in a political scheme that threatens their honor, their love and very the safety of the empire

This sequel did not disappoint. I was so excited when Amazon accidentally? sent this to me a few days early so I got a head start on reading it. I had missed spending time with Mariko and Okami, and this book brought me right back into their beautiful word.

I enjoyed getting to know new characters, but much like with the The Wrath & The Dawn duology, I was every-so-slightly disappointed that I didn’t get to know these characters as deeply as the others. At times the book felt a little rushed, and a little unfinished, with the additions. However, I was very, very thankful for the epilogue- because without it I’m not sure I would have loved this book as much as the first. Just being honest, here!

Needless to say, overall, I am waiting to see what Renee Ahdieh has next. I am a huge fan.

If you’re in the Phoenix area, Renee will be in Tempe next Wednesday! I personally can’t wait to go. This will be my first reading/book signing- can you believe it? If you’re there, please make sure to say hi (if you like, of course)!

Wait For Me book review

Sorry for the absence, guys. I am in a new season of life and it has been kicking my butt!

I had been waiting to read Wait For Me by Caroline Leech since before it came out. From the cover reveal to release, I’ve been very excited about this WWII Historical Fiction. And I was not disappointed! Here’s the description:

It’s 1945, and Lorna Anderson’s life on her father’s farm in Scotland consists of endless chores and rationing, knitting Red Cross scarves, and praying for an Allied victory. So when Paul Vogel, a German prisoner of war, is assigned as the new farmhand, Lorna is appalled. How can she possibly work alongside the enemy when her own brothers are risking their lives for their country?

But as Lorna reluctantly spends time with Paul, she feels herself changing. The more she learns about him—from his time in the war to his life back home in Germany—the more she sees the boy behind the soldier. Soon Lorna is battling her own warring heart. Loving Paul could mean losing her family and the life she’s always known. With tensions rising all around them, Lorna must decide how much she’s willing to sacrifice before the end of the war determines their fate.

The story of Lorna and Paul really brought me into Lorna’s world. I enjoyed getting to know the characters, and above all loved how much their relationship tugged on my heartstrings. The struggle of their story was real, and it was a good change from many other romances in YA literature.

I felt like I really got to know Lorna through her relationships and inner dialogue. She was a teenager that others can relate to, even with the historical time period. The only thing I wished for more of were perhaps descriptions of her surroundings. I wanted to see more of where she was in Scotland, and feel it with her. There was just a small piece missing in this, but it didn’t hurt the story or character development by any means.

One thing I have learned lately is to always read the notes from the author, especially when it comes to historical fiction. It’s intriguing to know what is real and what was changed for the sake of the story. I found it so reassuring to know that the author had received a letter from someone who had a grandmother who actually married a POW- knowing that Lorna and Paul’s story could have some truth to it made it that much more heart-wrenching.

If you love period pieces, particularly learning more about WWII, and you love a good romance- I highly recommend this book!

 

flame in the mist by renee ahdieh, a review

IMG_9142If you’ve read my reviews of The Wrath & The Dawn and The Rose & The Dagger, you know I’m a big Renee Ahdieh fan. Her use of history and periods of time, with a fantastical twist, are beautifully done to the point that I’m not always sure I’m ready a version of fantasy. She weaves her worlds and characters in a way that suck you in immediately, so I was more than excited when I found out she was writing another series.

I finished Flame In The Mist in a mere 32 hours, and I’ll forever be grateful for that because it was right before my new little man came into the world. Here’s the Goodreads description:

The only daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has always known she’d been raised for one purpose and one purpose only: to marry. Never mind her cunning, which rivals that of her twin brother, Kenshin, or her skills as an accomplished alchemist. Since Mariko was not born a boy, her fate was sealed the moment she drew her first breath.

So, at just seventeen years old, Mariko is sent to the imperial palace to meet her betrothed, a man she did not choose, for the very first time. But the journey is cut short when Mariko’s convoy is viciously attacked by the Black Clan, a dangerous group of bandits who’ve been hired to kill Mariko before she reaches the palace.

The lone survivor, Mariko narrowly escapes to the woods, where she plots her revenge. Dressed as a peasant boy, she sets out to infiltrate the Black Clan and hunt down those responsible for the target on her back. Once she’s within their ranks, though, Mariko finds for the first time she’s appreciated for her intellect and abilities. She even finds herself falling in love—a love that will force her to question everything she’s ever known about her family, her purpose, and her deepest desires.

I loved this book because it threw me for a few loops I wasn’t expecting, something her previous duology did as well. Mariko was a very strong character, and initially I thought her love interest might be someone who it didn’t turn out to be. I loved how torn she was between her blood-relatives and, in the end, a new found family.

If you loved Renee Ahdieh’s previous works, I highly recommend this new read. An interest in Japanese culture is also a plus, as this weaves in some very beautiful peaces of dress, food, honor, and more.

Go read it!

 

 

The Hate U Give book review

IMG_6904I had been looking forward to this book since way back when. I love being plugged in to the author/writing community on Twitter. While I’m not going to lay any sort of claim to knowing the author personally, I know someone who knows her– and that always brings books closer to my heart.

But this one, y’all… this one would have been there anyway.

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend, Khalil, at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, Khalil’s death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Starr’s best friend at school suggests he may have had it coming. When it becomes clear the police have little interest in investigating the incident, protesters take to the streets and Starr’s neighborhood becomes a war zone. What everyone wants to know is: What really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does—or does not—say could destroy her community. It could also endanger her life.

I read this book in 72 hours, and it would’ve been faster if I didn’t have to adult. The characters/setting was so vivid that I was pulled into every detail of what was going on. Starr was amazing with her torn life and decisions, and I loved every character. As in, no character was lacking story or personality. They all came to life.

This book is extremely relevant to current events, and one that makes you want to sit and think and discuss so many issues. No matter where you stand or what you believe– you should read this book.

Everything Everything book review

IMG_6288EVERYTHING EVERYTHING by Nicola Yoon was a book I kept seeing around Instagram, and honestly picked up once I saw the trailer for the movie (don’t hate). While I love YA, I’m not always a huge YA Contemporary person. I have had my moments with John Green and other authors and loved them, but overall I will admit I tend to stick with Historical Fiction the most.

However, one must always branch out. And I’ve made it a goal to do that more and more this year.

My disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I’m allergic to the world. I don’t leave my house, have not left my house in seventeen years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla.

But then one day, a moving truck arrives next door. I look out my window, and I see him. He’s tall, lean and wearing all black—black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers, and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly.

Maybe we can’t predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It’s almost certainly going to be a disaster.

I loved the creativity that went into this book. All of Madeline’s drawings, diagrams, lists, etc– it adds so much to the book. I love books in any genre that take everything one step farther, and I really think this book did that.

The only negative thing I thought during my time with this book was how realistic some of it was. Of course that’s the fun of fiction, but books like these you have to wonder and question certain aspects of it all. Not saying things/situations aren’t possible, just saying I couldn’t decide how believable it was to me- even in moments I was immersed in the story.

No spoilers, but there was a twist that I was not expecting. And my goodness how it made my heart throb/break/beat. See what I did there? Now you hopefully don’t know what kind of twist it is!

I would suggest reading this before the movie (May 19) if possible. You won’t regret it!

damaged goods by jennifer bardsley, a book review

IMG_0637If you haven’t read Genesis Girl, the first book in the BLANK SLATE set– stop right now, and go read it.

After you’ve done that (and I don’t think it will take you long, because it consumes you until you’re finished), you can come back and read this review about the second book of BLANK SLATE.

Here’s what Goodreads has to say about Damaged Goods:

Blanca has everything she ever wanted, a hot boyfriend and the loving support of her foster father. She’s finally escaped the abusive control of her birth father and her tortured childhood at Tabula Rasa School.

But the scars of Blanca’s Vestal upbringing run deep, especially when the FBI start asking questions.

Blanca feels abandoned by her boyfriend, who is hunting for Lilith, Blanca’s only blood relative. The Defectos, a support group of Vestal-Rejects, offer Blanca comfort which she readily accepts.

While the Vestal order crumbles, Chinese rivals, the Guardians, rise to power and wrest control of important Tabula Rasa contacts. As Blanca’s life is thrown into chaos once more, she struggles to recognize friend from foe, and one miscalculation can have devastating consequences.

This sequel to Genesis Girl sucked me in, fast. Thanks to having a sick day, I read the majority of this book in one setting, and I’m so glad I got to do just that.

I loved the questions that were answered in this book, the ones we were left with after reading Genesis Girl, and I loved the twists and turns this sequel took us on. The twists, in the end, that were presented might have made me gasp out loud.

The biggest thing I love about both of these books is the big idea it presents with the Vestals. A community of kids being raised in a hunkered-down school that is technology free does not feel like it’s something too far off from our future. In fact, all the ideas that Bardsley presents gives a person pause, considering the technology age we live in today.

I love Blanca’s character and how she struggles with not wanting to be a brainwashed Vestal, but still hold true to the way she was raised without the burden of too much technology.

The only thing that left me a little puzzled were the questions we didn’t get answered in this book, which makes me hope/hanker for a third book.

If you haven’t read these books, I’m very serious: Go. Now.

bouncing genres as a writer

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As a writer, you hear a lot of things in the rumor mill/professional tips/ writing tips, that often you want to question. For example, one of the first things someone told me was I needed to settle on a genre in order to make it as a writer.

At the time, I was dipping my toes into the publishing world by querying my first project (which eventually got shelved and is now under revision with my agent). I told someone that my Young Adult Contemporary was going out into the world, but I had this Young Adult Historical Fiction I just had to start getting down or I was going to go crazy. I might have mentioned some Picture Book ideas I had as well, and that I always wanted to do a cookbook.

This is what you get when someone asks you what you are writing/ want to write/ etc.

After a nice pause, this person said, “I think, as an author, you should probably stick one thing you’re good with and keep writing that. Like, Contemporary, right? That’s what John Green does?”

I bit my lip, nodded my head, and responded: “Well, they’re just ideas right now, after all. I guess we’ll see.”

I was nervous.

I started second-guessing my writing goals, and stayed away from the computer for a little bit– worried I was doing myself an injustice by writing a Historical Fiction rather than trying my hand at another Contemporary.

Thankfully, I have an amazing bestie/CP/beta reader who told me something very important:

Write what you feel called to write. Write what you want. Write. If you’re writing, you’re doing it right.

Or, it was something like that.

So, here are a couple things to think about if you can’t shake that Middle Grade idea when you typically write Romance, or however the skipping around goes for you.

Write it. Get it out of your system.

Get that MG down on paper. You might find that MG is more of your calling than Romance! Or, you know what I mean. OR you might find out that it isn’t. Or you might find out you love both! Whatever the case, you’ll never know unless you try. And that’s one of the biggest things about writing, isn’t it?

Do some research.

There are plenty of published authors who have written in more than one genre (like, I don’t know- J.K. Rowling?). Don’t just google authors and what they write, talk to some fellow writers who are writing in the genre you want to try. Or who write more than one type of book. This is going to help you grow! You can never get too much help. Well, maybe that’s not entirely true, but you definitely can never ask too many questions!

Never listen to naysayers.

People are going to put you down all the time in life. This, I find, especially happens when you are in the creative sphere trying to spread your wings. Don’t listen to people- particularly people who have NO IDEA what they’re talking about. Talk to more than one person about your idea, and always make sure you include a fellow writer or two.

 

By the way, if I had never written that YA Historical Fiction- I never would have snagged my agent. Letting fear and doubt dictate what you do is never good.

Remember:

Write what you feel called to write. Write what you want. Write. If you’re writing, you’re doing it right.

 

 

Also, Congratulations to @darkchiibsb for winning the Amazon $10 gift card! Please contact me @ emily.herring.dunn@gmail.com to connect and receive your prize! Thanks so much for following, everyone!

 

iron cast book review

img_0076Iron Cast was one of the last books I read of 2016, and as soon as I started it I had a hard time putting it down. It’s a beautiful historical fantasy set in 1919 that is full of twists a reader would be hard to catch until that very moment in the story.

Historical fantasy really seems to be growing on me. Being a lover of historical fiction, I’ve been branching out more and more and I’m not sorry for it. Although I’m pretty sure historical fantasy will never be something I, myself, could write– I thoroughly enjoy the authors who do.

And Destiny Soria’s work is no exception. Here’s the description from Goodreads:

In 1919, Ada Navarra—the intrepid daughter of immigrants—and Corinne Wells—a spunky, devil-may-care heiress—make an unlikely pair. But at the Cast Iron nightclub in Boston, anything and everything is possible. At night, on stage together, the two best friends, whose “afflicted” blood gives them the ability to create illusions through art, weave magic under the employ of Johnny Dervish, the club’s owner and a notorious gangster. By day, Ada and Corinne use these same skills to con the city’s elite in an attempt to keep the club afloat.

When a “job” goes awry and Ada is imprisoned, she realizes they’re on the precipice of danger. Only Corinne—her partner in crime—can break her out of Haversham Asylum. But once Ada is out, they face betrayal at every turn.

This description, to me, does not adequately portray the book. While it obviously grabbed my attention, a little more insight to the details might make one want to read it even more.

The dual point of view in this book really helps the reader get to know the two main characters, Ada and Corinne. Their friendship is what drives the book, which is one of the reasons I loved it so much. While there are romances brought into the chapters, they are not the focus, or even big highlights, that run the plot.

The magic in this book is beautiful, and it brings up some good questions with it. The characters toe the line with their gifts between what is right and what is wrong, but the justification that is brought to light in all of it is because they have been forced into a position where they cannot use their gifts solely for good.

This point and thought, as off as it might seem, made me think of X-Men and how the mutants are forced between what is right and what is wrong because of how the world sees them. It’s the same type of concept, and one that can be applied to many issues constantly arising in our world today.

I would not have heard of this book had I not just been perusing Amazon one day for more historical fiction/fantasy, and I worry that it’s the same for others. If you haven’t heard of it, and are a lover of historical fantasy, you’ll want to pick this up.

Now.

This instant.

Go.

 

Dream Eater cover reveal

I am so excited to be participating in the cover reveal for World Weaver Press’s Dream Eater by K. Bird Lincoln- the first novel in a new urban fantasy series!

Koi Pierce dreams other peoples’ dreams.

Her whole life she’s avoided other people. Any skin-to-skin contact—a hug from her sister, the hand of a barista at Stumptown coffee—transfers flashes of that person’s most intense dreams. It’s enough to make anyone a hermit.

But Koi’s getting her act together. No matter what, this time she’s going to finish her degree at Portland Community College and get a real life. Of course it’s not going to be that easy. Her father, increasingly disturbed from Alzheimer’s disease, a dream fragment of a dead girl from the casual brush of a creepy PCC professor’s hand, and a mysterious stranger who speaks the same rare Northern Japanese dialect as Koi’s father will force Koi to learn to trust in the help of others, as well as face the truth about herself.

Does that not pull you in?? OH. And look at this awesome cover!

dream-eater-front

Dream Eater will be available April 4th in paperback and ebook via Amazon, B&N, Kobo, iTunes, and WorldWeaverPress.com. You can also find Dream Eater on Goodreads!

Keep checking back if you’re following this book! We may be blessed with a little something-something from the author.

Happy reading!