Thursday, September 29, 2016

VASSA IN THE NIGHT Blog Tour: Review + Q&A with Sarah Porter #BlogTour

Vassa in the Night
by Sarah Porter
Source: Received an ARC from Raincoast Books Canada in exchange for an honest review.
Publisher: Tor Teen
Release Date: September 20, 2016
Number of Pages: 304 (Hardcover)

Description from Goodreads:
In the enchanted kingdom of Brooklyn, the fashionable people put on cute shoes, go to parties in warehouses, drink on rooftops at sunset, and tell themselves they’ve arrived. A whole lot of Brooklyn is like that now—but not Vassa’s working-class neighborhood.

In Vassa’s neighborhood, where she lives with her stepmother and bickering stepsisters, one might stumble onto magic, but stumbling out again could become an issue. Babs Yagg, the owner of the local convenience store, has a policy of beheading shoplifters—and sometimes innocent shoppers as well. So when Vassa’s stepsister sends her out for light bulbs in the middle of night, she knows it could easily become a suicide mission.

But Vassa has a bit of luck hidden in her pocket, a gift from her dead mother. Erg is a tough-talking wooden doll with sticky fingers, a bottomless stomach, and a ferocious cunning. With Erg’s help, Vassa just might be able to break the witch’s curse and free her Brooklyn neighborhood. But Babs won’t be playing fair. . . .

Inspired by the Russian folktale Vassilissa the Beautiful and Sarah Porter’s years of experience teaching creative writing to New York City students.


I've always been a big fan of fairytales and folk tales, but Vassilissa the Beautiful was a new one to me so I was very excited to read VASSA IN THE NIGHT! I thought that it sounded quirky, imaginative, and very strange...and that's exactly what it was! My first thought after finishing it was that it was delightfully weird, and I'm still standing firmly by that days after finishing it!  

The main character of VASSA IN THE NIGHT is, you guessed it, Vassa! As far as main characters go, I liked the choices that Vassa made, but there was a bit of a wall between her and the reader. She's fairly aloof. You don't really get to know her all that well, and she stays pretty mysterious, which definitely plays into the mysterious elements of the story. I'm a pretty big character reader though, so I did feel some disconnect from her, but I still really loved getting to see everything unfold around her. I also just really loved that she was always ready to embrace the strange things going on around her, and as weird as things got, she never once backed away. The quirkiest thing about Vassa had to be Erg though. Erg is a wooden doll that Vassa's mother left her when she died, but she's not just a regular wooden doll. Nope. Erg is a walking, talking, breathing, eating, and totally animate being...and boy was she interesting! I think the standout strange character for me was Dex though, but I'm going to let him be a surprise for you until you read the book yourself. Then come back and let me know if you're a Dex fan, too. ;)

For me, the best part about VASSA IN THE NIGHT was the story and the writing! The writing was wonderful, and constantly kept me guessing. It definitely had a magical, fantastical feel to it that fit really well with the folktale aspect of the story. As I said before, I'm not very familiar with the Vassilissa the Beautiful folktale, so I started off just knowing the very basics and Vassilissa and Baba Yaga, but VASSA IN THE NIGHT has me very intrigued and I think I'll have to look into the folktale a bit more! I loved getting to see Vassa, Babs, and all of the strange things going on in the magical realm of Brooklyn! ;) 

 While there were definitely moments during VASSA IN THE NIGHT where I was left a bit puzzled, it was still an extremely enjoyable story to read. It's a quirky book, and I think if you go into it expecting there to be some mystery and confusion, you'll really enjoy it, too.
 Overall, I really enjoyed VASSA IN THE NIGHT! It was a bit confusing at times, but the writing really swept me away and I couldn't put it down. I recommend this to anyone who loves beautiful writing with zany and mysterious plotlines, especially if you're a fan of folktales and fairytales. :)

Q&A with Sarah Porter!

My Question:

I've always been interested in folktales and fairytales, so I've been eagerly awaiting VASSA IN THE NIGHT since I heard about it months ago! I've also always been interested in how much folktales and fairytales evolve, yet somehow still manage to keep people interested. I'm guessing that you're also a folk and fairy tale fan, so what interests you when it comes to folktales and fairytales and the retellings of them, and why do you think we still find them so fascinating years after they originate?

Sarah's Amazing Answer:

I don’t think this is a particularly original idea—but I’d say that the fascination of folk tales comes from the fact that they evolve through so many tellings, over so much time. Each of the stories has not one, but hundreds of authors, and that multiplicity of voices embedded and hidden in every story means that in reading them we’re relating to a broader human imagination. You know, if you read a novel, you’re relating to the specific mind it came from, to one particular voice emerging from a specific time and place. But when you read a folk tale, you’re relating to an entire culture, to the psychological forces of dozens or thousands of people who contributed to that story in some way, added or altered something in the way they narrated it, over centuries. And it’s amazing the way the stories weave through each other: lots of people have pointed out the similarities between Vassilissa and Cinderella, or between Cupid and Psyche and “East of the Sun, West of the Moon.” It’s as if a universal human mind, and all of human history, sat down at your fireside and started speaking.
 About Sarah Porter (Bio & Photo from her Website)

I write stories that seem to me to be quite true enough for all practical purposes. Among them are VASSA IN THE NIGHT, THE LOST VOICES TRILOGY, and the forthcoming WHEN I CAST YOUR SHADOW and TENTACLE AND WING. Realism makes little sense to me and I experience more truth in the fantastic. I always have new novels underway, both Young Adult and Grownup/ Literary/ Speculative. When not writing my own weird stuff, I can often be found leading creative writing workshops with amazing young NYC public-school writers via Teachers & Writers Collaborative. Or I might be drawing, or gardening, or wandering wraithlike through the streets. I live in Brooklyn, land of mystery, with my awesome husband Todd and our two cats, Jub Jub and Delphine.
What do you think?
Does VASSA IN THE NIGHT sound like a book you'd enjoy?
Have you read it already? What'd you think?

And do you agree with Sarah?
Why do you think fairytales and folktales fascinate us so much?

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Cover Reveal: Heat Wave by Karina Halle #CoverReveal

Hello to all of my lovely bookish peeps! 

You know me, I'm always excited to share pretty covers with you, and today I have an absolutely GORGEOUS one for all of us to enjoy! 

The fabulous New York Times Bestselling author, Karina Halle, has a new book coming out in the beginning of November called HEAT WAVE and today I'm going to share the cover!

Without further it is!

By Karina Halle

Release Date: November 3, 2016!!
They say when life closes one door, another one opens.
This door happens to lead to paradise.
And a man I can never, ever have.

Still grieving the loss of her sister who died two years ago, the last thing Veronica "Ronnie" Locke needed was to lose her job at one of Chicago’s finest restaurants and have to move back in with her parents. So when a window of opportunity opens for her – running a kitchen at a small Hawaiian hotel – she’d be crazy not to take it.

The only problem is, the man running the hotel drives her crazy:
Logan Shephard.
It doesn’t matter that he’s got dark brown eyes, a tall, muscular build that’s sculpted from daily surfing sessions, and a deep Australian accent that makes your toes curl.
What does matter is that he’s a grump.
Kind of an asshole, too.
And gets under Ronnie’s skin like no one else.

But the more time Ronnie spends on the island of Kauai, falling in love with the lush land and its carefree lifestyle, the closer she gets to Logan. And the closer she gets to Logan, the more she realizes she may have pegged him all wrong. Maybe it’s the hot, steamy jungles or the invigorating ocean air, but soon their relationship becomes utterly intoxicating.

There’s just one major catch.

The two of them together would incite a scandal neither Ronnie, nor her family, would ever recover from.

Forbidden, Illicit, off-limits – sometimes the heat is worth surrendering to, even if you get burned.
Add HEAT WAVE to your Goodreads TBR, and remember, it's available NOVEMBER 3rd!


Karina Halle is a former travel writer and music journalist and The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today Bestselling author of The Pact, Racing the Sun, Sins & Needles and over 25 other wild and romantic reads. She lives on an island off the coast of British Columbia with her husband and her rescue pup, where she drinks a lot of wine, hikes a lot of trails and devours a lot of books.

Halle is represented by the Waxman Leavell Agency and is both self-published and published by Simon & Schuster and Hachette in North America and in the UK.

Hit her up on Instagram at @authorHalle, on Twitter at @MetalBlonde and on Facebook. You can also visit and sign up for the newsletter for news, excerpts, previews, private book signing sales and more.

If I just had to choose two things that I love most when it comes to pretty covers they would be sparkles and lots of colour, so I absolutely LOVE HEAT WAVE's cover! The gradient from the sunset that's incorporated into the text is gorgeous, and I really love the sparkly purple background! I also just think HEAT WAVE sounds fantastic and it's definitely on my TBR!
What do you think of the cover for HEAT WAVE?
And who else is excited to read HEAT WAVE?

Monday, September 12, 2016

LABYRINTH LOST Blog Tour: Review & Q&A with Zoraida Córdova! #BrooklynBrujas #LabyrinthLost

It's FINALLY here!! LABYRINTH LOST is now out...and you can get a copy, and you can get a copy...and I can get a copy! We can all go out and get copies of this AMAZING book!

I have been eagerly (and quite impatiently, I might add) awaiting the release of Zoraida Córdova's newest book, LABYRINTH LOST!! I am not ashamed to admit that I fangirled like crazy when Raincoast Books sent me an ARC of it, and I tortured myself a bit by waiting until it was closer to the release date, but it was soooo worth the wait! I think this is my favourite book of Zoraida's yet, and I'm extremely excited to share my review and a quickie Q&A with you all for the fantastic Canadian blog tour that Raincoast has put together!

Labyrinth Lost (Brooklyn Brujas #1)
by Zoraida Córdova
Source: Received an ARC from Raincoast Books Canada in exchange for an honest review.
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Release Date: September 6, 2016
Number of Pages: 336 (Hardcover)

Description from Goodreads:
Nothing says Happy Birthday like summoning the spirits of your dead relatives.

I fall to my knees. Shattered glass, melted candles and the outline of scorched feathers are all that surround me. Every single person who was in my house – my entire family — is gone.

Alex is a bruja, the most powerful witch in a generation…and she hates magic. At her Deathday celebration, Alex performs a spell to rid herself of her power. But it backfires. Her whole family vanishes into thin air, leaving her alone with Nova, a brujo boy she can’t trust. A boy whose intentions are as dark as the strange markings on his skin.

The only way to get her family back is to travel with Nova to Los Lagos, a land in-between, as dark as Limbo and as strange as Wonderland…

Beautiful Creatures meets Daughter of Smoke and Bone with an infusion of Latin American tradition in this highly original fantasy adventure.


I first heard about LABYRINTH LOST about a year before it released...and I immediately started fangirling over it! Magic, brujas, a journey to another world, and written by Zoraida Córdova...sign me up! I've been a fan of Zoraida's writing since I first read THE VICIOUS DEEP, and I've eagerly devoured and loved everything she's written since...and LABYRINTH LOST was no exception! In fact, it's my favourite out of everything she's written so far!

Why did I love LABYRINTH LOST so much? Well, there are plenty of reasons. The first reason is the characters. Zoraida always writes amazing characters! They're dynamic, and usually flawed in a way that makes them extremely easy to connect with. Her characters have so much depth and I always find myself loving each and every one of them, and Alex was the same! She was vulnerable, and super self-conscious, which I think anyone who's been (or currently is) a teenager can relate to. Even with her doubts, Alex is so strong and determined, but what I loved most about her was her capacity for love and her willingness to grow and to forgive. I really admired everything about her, and I think she's a wonderful character to see in a young adult novel because she's definitely someone worth admiring.

Alex isn't the only amazing character though! Her family is also absolutely fantastic! From her sisters, Lula and Rose, to her mother and extended family members, LABYRINTH LOST is packed full of some wonderful family dynamics, and diversity, too! While Zoraida admits in her author's note at the end of the book that she's invented much of the belief system for the brujas and brujos in her story when it comes to the deos and their actual magic, the cultural elements surrounding them are definitely rooted in reality and inspired by research and her own background, which I really loved! It was fantastic to get to see a diverse cast of characters, and I loved seeing the importance that their ancestors and family histories played in their lives! :D

Gotta love that snark! ;D
The other two big characters in LABYRINTH LOST are Rishi and Nova, and I loved them both, too!!! I'm not going to go into too much detail about these two because I think you need to get to know them for yourself when you read the book and I don't want to spoil anything, but I really loved what they each added to the story. I loved their dynamics with Alex, and they were certainly never boring. :P

Now that I've blabbered on about my love for Zoraida's fantastic characters, I've got to tell you about the story and the world-building! I thought that they were both absolutely superb!!! LABYRINTH LOST was the perfect coming-of-age story, and it reminded me of epic journeys where the hero has to discover themselves in order to return home and become the hero that they're meant to be. The magical elements and intricate world of Los Lagos really added to whole journey element, and I LOVED getting to see the world that Zoraida created!!! It reminded me of her previous trilogy, The Vicious Deep, which I loved! The world was extremely well thought out⎯it was intense, magical, and completely enthralling!!! I was reading it far too quickly, so I actually forced myself to slow down as I read, and that made me love it even more!! Once you start this book, you definitely won't want to put it down!

If it isn't obvious already, I loved LABYRINTH LOST, and am completely smitten with the world of the BROOKLYN BRUJAS! I can't wait for more of their world, and I was ecstatic when I heard that Zoraida would be writing more Bruja books!!! So, now that I've told you all about why I loved this book, I'm going to tell you that you should definitely read it! If you're a fan of magical stories and you love complex characters, intricate world-building and an abundance of diversity in your books, then you'll absolutely love the LABYRINTH LOST and the BROOKLYN BRUJAS, too! I seriously can't recommend this book it, read it, read it!!

Q&A with Zoraida Córdova!

My Question:

The world of the Brooklyn Brujas that you've established in Labyrinth Lost and your Vicious Deep trilogy are intertwined (I may have squee'd out loud when I realized this after seeing Tristan's name :P)--did you always have plans to expand the world you first created in The Vicious Deep? If not, what inspired you? And are there other parts of the world you've created that you'd like to explore?

Zoraida's Fabulous Answer:

After creating the world of The Vicious Deep, I was left with characters who wanted their own stories. The Vicious Deep has more than merpeople. There are allies who are vampires and shapeshifters. Their stories are still to come. At that time, these brujas were still an idea. I wasn’t sure how I wanted to frame their story. Alex Mortiz and her sisters have been in my thoughts longer than Tristan and The Vicious Deep. Even though they exist in the same universe, borough, and school, I needed to tell Alex’s story completely separate from Tristan. Though, I am super glad that you caught the Tristan reference!

Going forward, I want this magical New York to have many layers. Book 2 in the Brooklyn Brujas series is going to be from Lula’s point of view. I’ve been toying around with the idea of bringing in some characters from Tristan’s book (not Tristan himself) into Lula’s story. It all depends on how well they fit into the plot line. At the end of the day, I have to be true to the worlds I’ve created.

 About Zoraida Córdova

Zoraida Córdova was born in Ecuador and raised in Queens, New York. She is the author of The Vicious Deep trilogy, the On the Verge series, and Labyrinth Lost. She loves black coffee, snark, and still believes in magic. Send her a tweet @Zlikeinzorro

Connect: Website | Goodreads | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

Yes!!! I absolutely loved Zoraida's answer to my question!!
Hearing that there are more stories from Zoraida's magical imagination to come has me so excited!!! And I'm glad to hear that the second Brooklyn Brujas book will be from Lula's POV. I was wondering if it would be Alex again, or if each book would follow a different sister, so I guess now we know! ;D

What do you think?

Are you as excited about LABYRINTH LOST as I am?
Does it sound like something you'd like to read?
If you've already read it, what did you think?
And who else got super excited to find out that Tristan and Alex's worlds are intertwined?
And what did you think of my Q&A with Zoraida?

Friday, August 5, 2016

Jen, Moriah, and Ambur's Excellent Read-a-long Adventures: THE ROSE & THE DAGGER - Review & Playlist!

Hello, hello! 

Sooo....I've been a pretty bad blogger lately, and I haven't been posting at all this summer, but today I have an extra awesome post to share!! Jen, Moriah, and I have continued our read-a-long adventures with the sequel to The Wrath & the Dawn, THE ROSE & THE DAGGER! We decided that for this one we would share our reviews and also our own fanmade playlists with however many songs we wanted that reminded us of THE ROSE & THE DAGGER!

So...let's get straight to it! 

(The Wrath & The Dawn #2)
by Renée Ahdieh

Source: Borrowed from the library.
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
Release Date: April 26, 2016
Number of Pages: 416 (Hardcover)

Description from Goodreads:

The darker the sky, the brighter the stars.

In a land on the brink of war, Shahrzad is forced from the arms of her beloved husband, the Caliph of Khorasan. She once thought Khalid a monster—a merciless killer of wives, responsible for immeasurable heartache and pain—but as she unraveled his secrets, she found instead an extraordinary man and a love she could not deny. Still, a curse threatens to keep Shazi and Khalid apart forever.

Now she’s reunited with her family, who have found refuge in the desert, where a deadly force is gathering against Khalid—a force set on destroying his empire and commanded by Shazi’s spurned childhood sweetheart. Trapped between loyalties to those she loves, the only thing Shazi can do is act. Using the burgeoning magic within her as a guide, she strikes out on her own to end both this terrible curse and the brewing war once and for all. But to do it, she must evade enemies of her own to stay alive.

The saga that began with The Wrath and the Dawn takes its final turn as Shahrzad risks everything to find her way back to her one true love again.


I absolutely LOVED the first book in this duology, THE WRATH & THE DAWN, so I was extremely eager to pick up THE ROSE & THE DAGGER! I was hoping for vibrant prose, excellent characterization, and some seriously high-stake situations similar to the first book and Renée Ahdieh didn't disappoint!

THE ROSE & THE DAGGER was just as magical, and amazing as the first book⎯I really didn't want it to end! It was exactly what I could have hoped for, but I definitely wouldn't have minded if it were longer. I don't think I can ever get enough of Shazi, Khalid, Jalal, and Despina! As soon as I started reading, I didn't want to put it down and I was so glad to be back in the wonderful world that Renée Ahdieh created!

This book begins just slightly after THE WRATH & THE DAWN left off, and the rapid pace Ahdieh established in the first book just keeps going! I loved seeing both Shazi and Khalid grow in their own parts of the story, but I loved when they worked together even more. I ship those two so much! AS always, I love how feisty and strong Shazi is. She never faiths to make me grin like a madwoman with her witty and quick remarks...and I really loved seeing Khalid come into his role! I also loved seeing him interact with more of the characters. While the first book is pretty much confined to the palace in Rey, THE ROSE & THE DAGGER expands over a much larger area. Jalal and Despina are still my favourite secondary characters in this duology, but I also really loved getting to see Shazi's sister, Irsa, in THE ROSE AND THE DAGGER! She didn't have much of a role in the first book, but in this one, she really comes into her own!

Sequels are always a bit tough to review because I don't want to spoil anything, so I'm being rather vague, but just know that I loved this book! I loved the characters, the story, the magical elements, the little tie-ins with One Thousand and One Nights, and the writing itself! I absolutely adore Renée Ahdieh's writing style, and her characterization is wonderfully dynamic⎯even amidst her minor characters, there isn't a flat character in the whole bunch!

Overall, I absolutely loved both THE WRATH & THE DAWN, and THE ROSE & THE DAGGER! This is one duology where both books equally pack an absolutely epic punch, and the ending will leave you satisfied...but possibly also eager for more, just like me!


1. "A Whole New World" - Aladdin Soundtrack (Disney)

I just simply couldn't resist putting this song on my's ridiculous yes, but I honestly kept singing it in my head throughout several parts of the book. Once you read it, I'm sure you'll know the parts I mean. hahah


2. "Icarus" - Bastille (from All This Bad Blood)

I'm a HUGE Bastille fan, so I pretty much adore all of their songs. "Icarus" is a particular fave of mine, and it definitely reminded me of one of Shazi's stories, so when I was thinking of a playlist for THE ROSE & THE DAGGER, this song immediately came to mind.


3. "Demons" - Imagine Dragons (from Night Visions - Deluxe Edition)

Imagine Dragons is another of my favourite artists, and I think "Demons" is pretty much the PERFECT song to describe Khalid and the complexities in his past which have led him to the path that he's been on before he met Shazi. Want to know more about those demons? Well, my lips are sealed, you'll have to read the books to find out. ;) haha


4."Treacherous" - Taylor Swift (from Red - Deluxe Edition)

I'll be the first to admit that I'm a big Taylor Swift fangirl, too. haha Anytime I think of romance in books, I tend to think of T-Swift songs, but I think this song is extremely fitting for Shazi and Khalid. Their love really is treacherous...and I love that. Take out the modernizations in this song, and this song is even more perfect! :D


5."All of the Stars" - Ed Sheeran (from x - Deluxe Edition)

Ah, Ed Sheeran. I really just CANNOT make a playlist without an Ed song, and I think that this song is another one that fits well with Shazi and Khalid.


6. "Strange Magic" - Darren Hayes (from Ella Enchanted Soundtrack)

This is another one of my silly picks for my playlist. There's a bit of magic going on in this duology, and I thought that "Strange Magic" added a nice levity to those scenes.


7. "Haven't Met You Yet" - Michael Bublé (from Crazy Love)

 This song totally reminds me of Jalal and Despina....I can totally picture Jalal singing this song before he met her, and after I think he would change the words to "Hadn't met you yet"...he's such a charmer that I just know he'd totally pull something like that. ;D


8.  "Let Her Go" - Passenger (from All the Little Lights)

 Another song that reminds me of Jalal. That's all I'll say because I don't want to give away any spoilers. ;)


9. "She Is" - The Fray (from How to Save a Life)

I feel like this song completely embodies how Khalid feels about Shazi...and just listening to this song with them in mind gives me ALL the feels!!!


10. "Teardrop" - Newton Faulkner (from Hand Built by Robots)

This happens to be one of my absolute favourite songs about love. It's a song with simple lyrics, but it never fails to make me smile and to move me, so I'd just apply this song to all of the couples in this books, but it definitely reminds me of Irsa's storyline the most. :)


11. "Brave" - Tawgs Salter (from The Vampire Diaries soundtrack)

This is also one of those songs that I just love so freaking much, so I pretty much think of it whenever I want to make a playlist, so I may be biased, but I think it fits, too. Again, this one is perfect for Irsa⎯it's all about being brave, especially in love.


12. "Heart Like Yours" - Willamette Stone (from If I Stay Soundtrack)

First, I really wish Willamette Stone was a real band...their songs are my favourites on the If I Stay soundtrack, and second, this song is PERFECT for Khalid! I think it really embodies his feelings for Shazi. :)

Listen to my playlist on 8tracks, here:

Don't forget to check out Jen's (The Book-Nook) and Moriah's (Feel Your Books) posts, too! 

What do you think?
Have you read THE WRATH & THE DAWN and THE ROSE & THE DAGGER yet?
If not, do you want to?

And what did you think of my playlist?
Do you have any songs that you'd add to a playlist for either/both books in THE WRATH & THE DAWN duology?

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Release Day: DEFENDING TAYLOR by Miranda Kenneally!

Woo hoo!! 

Happy Book Birthday to Miranda Kenneally!
Today's the release day for DEFENDING TAYLOR!

Defending Taylor
By Miranda Kenneally
Release Date: July 5, 2016
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Praise for Defending Taylor

“I can’t quite put my finger on what is so enthralling about Kenneally’s newest novel, but it totally sucked me in. I loved that Kenneally didn’t go with an easy, traditional happy-go-lucky ending. I also enjoyed the flawed nature of the characters, which made them feel more relatable. This is a great summer read and my favorite novel by Kenneally so far!”
RT Book Reviews, 4 Stars


There are no mistakes in love.
Captain of the soccer team, president of the Debate Club, contender for valedictorian: Taylor’s always pushed herself to be perfect. After all, that’s what is expected of a senator’s daughter. But one impulsive decision—one lie to cover for her boyfriend—and Taylor’s kicked out of private school. Everything she’s worked so hard for is gone, and now she’s starting over at Hundred Oaks High.

Soccer has always been Taylor’s escape from the pressures of school and family, but it’s hard to fit in and play on a team that used to be her rival. The only person who seems to understand all that she’s going through is her older brother’s best friend, Ezra. Taylor’s had a crush on him for as long as she can remember. But it’s hard to trust after having been betrayed. Will Taylor repeat her past mistakes or can she score a fresh start?
Buy Links (The Defending Taylor e-book includes an exclusive bonus story with Jordan and Henry from Catching Jordan!) : Amazon | Apple | B&N | BooksAMillion | !ndigo | Indiebound

About the Author:
Growing up in Tennessee, MIRANDA KENNEALLY dreamed of becoming an Atlanta Brave, a country singer (cliché!), or a UN interpreter. Instead she writes and works for the State Department in Washington, D.C., where George W. Bush once used her shoulder as an armrest. Miranda loves Twitter, Star Trek and her husband. Visit

Social Media Links: Website | Twitter | Instagram

Excerpt from Defending Taylor:
I now understand culture shock: it’s me experiencing Hundred Oaks High for the first time.
A lot of kids go here. Five hundred? A thousand? There are so many I can’t tell. At St. Andrew’s, there were only forty kids in my entire class. We lived on a calm, sprawling, green campus. Walking down the halls of Hundred Oaks feels like last-­minute Christmas shopping at a crowded mall.
Two guys wearing football jerseys are throwing a ball back and forth. It whizzes by my ear. A suspender-­clad male teacher is hanging a poster for the science fair, while a couple is making out against the wall next to the fire alarm. If they move another inch, they’ll set off the sprinklers. At St. Andrew’s, kissing in the hall was an über no-­no. We snuck under the staircase or went out into the woods. Ben and I did that all the time.
Thinking of him makes me stop moving. I shut my eyes. Dating Ben was stupid. Going into the woods with him was stupid. Thinking about what happened makes me so mad, I want to rip that newly hung science fair poster off the wall and tear it apart.
A boy shoves past me, slamming my arm with his backpack. That’s what I get for loitering in the middle of the hallway with my eyes closed. He looks me up and down. “You coming to Rutledge Falls this afternoon?”
“Paul Simmons challenged Nolan Chase to a fight. Rutledge Falls. Three o’clock. Don’t tell the cops.”
A fight? Where the hell am I? Westeros?
A girl bumps into my side. “Watch it!” Flashing me a dirty look, she disappears into a classroom with a group of friends, chattering away.
Seeing those girls together reminds me of my best friends, Steph and Madison. Right now, they’re probably gossiping before trig starts. I miss Steph’s cool British accent and Madison’s cheerful laugh.
I take a deep, rattled breath. And then another. I feel trapped, like the time I got locked in my grandpa’s garage and no one found me for an hour and I banged on the windows until my fists turned purple from bruises.
I can’t believe I had to leave my school. My home.
All because I made one stupid decision.
I check my schedule. My first class is calculus 1, the most advanced math course Hundred Oaks offers. Just a week ago, I was taking an advanced calculus quiz at the University of the South. St. Andrew’s is one of the best prep schools in the country, and they offer seniors the opportunity to take courses at the university, which is up the road. Even though I was still in high school, the professors treated me just like a college kid. I was only in the course for two weeks, but still. It was insanely difficult. The truth is, unlike everybody else in my family, I hate math. I have to work at it harder than anything else in my life.
But if I didn’t take college calc, there’s a good chance I wouldn’t get into an Ivy League school. I need to go to a top-tier school because that’s what people in my family do. My father attended Yale, and my sister Jenna is there now. According to Dad, my brother Oliver—­Jenna’s twin—­is a traitor for going to Princeton, but I think Dad respects him for having the balls to make his own decision.
When Dad called me into his home office last night, he barely looked at me as he pored over my new schedule. The silence was killing me.
“I don’t know how Yale will still consider me if I’m not taking all AP courses,” I said. “Hundred Oaks only offers AP chemistry.”
Dad sighed, took off his glasses, and set down my schedule. “I’m incredibly disappointed in you, Taylor.”
I looked him straight in the eyes. His quiet restraint worried me. I’d never seen him so upset.
But I was upset too. He rarely had time to call me when I was away at school, but he could spare a few minutes to comment on my one screwup? After how hard I’ve always worked?
Over the years, I’ve done hours of homework every night. I had a 4.2 GPA at St. Andrew’s. A 1520 SAT score. I was on track to be valedictorian. I was captain of the soccer team and on the debate team. I did everything I could to show Yale that I worked hard. That I am a unique individual. Because that’s what Yale wants.
But my one misstep has muddied my glowing record.
Dad ended our conversation with a death knell.
“Tee, I gave you all the tools you needed to succeed,” he said. “I’ve paid for your private school education since first grade, and you squandered it by getting kicked out.”
“I’m sorry,” I said, my face burning. “I’m going to keep working hard at Hundred Oaks though.”
“You’re damn right you will.”
My father had me so flustered, I wasn’t thinking straight when I said, “Maybe Yale will still take me because of who I am.”
“You mean because of who I am.” Dad rubbed his eyes. “I’ve always taught you kids the importance of integrity, and the minute you got into trouble, instead of owning it, you called me to bail you out. And now you’re doing it again. Using my name to try to get ahead.”
I hung my head. “I’m sorry, Dad.”
“I love you more than anything, but you have to take responsibility for what you did. You’ll have to figure college out on your own.”
“What does that mean?” I asked slowly.
“It means I’m not lifting a finger. I won’t be calling the alumni association or the school president to put in a good word for you.”
“But didn’t you do that for Jenna and Oliver?” I blurted.
He put his glasses back on. “You need to own up, Tee.”
So here I am, glancing around the unfamiliar halls of Hundred Oaks. The school is neat and orderly, but it doesn’t look completely clean, like no matter how hard you scrub, it still looks old. At least it’s not juvie.
I step into my math class, which is already filled with kids. I choose an empty seat at a wobbly wooden desk and stare out the window at the sunny, seventy-­degree September day. I bet at St. Andrew’s, my world politics teacher is telling my friends, “Gather your books. It’s a beautiful day out. Let’s have class in one of the gardens.”
I check out the problem set on the whiteboard. I could do this level of math years ago…
My former guidance counselor told me that colleges look for trends in our GPA and activities over four years of high school. So that means when colleges see my application, they will see:
      I’m taking easier classes;
      I’m no longer doing debate;
      I’ve lost my soccer captainship this year; and
      I was expelled.
I have never simply given up when calculus got a lot tougher or an opponent ran faster than me on the soccer field. So I refuse to believe my entire future is over because of one mistake.
I just need to figure out how to move forward.


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I'm a HUGE Miranda Kenneally fan and I love her Hundred Oaks series, so her release days always get me super excited! Any other Miranda fans out there?

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