The Bookanistas: Our Big Relaunch

Posted by houndrat on Thursday May 30, 2013 Under Bookanistas, contests, Uncategorized, Young Adult

The Bookanistas originally came together because of one common love: books. Our goal was simple: to spread that love of wonderful stories with the rest of the world. And now, after years of blogging and love-spreading, our goal remains the same, but our group is getting a makeover. We’re relaunching our website with a brand new look––and TONS of bookish prizes.

But first, we’re talking about favorite Bookanistas Bikini & Beach Weather reads, just in time for summer!

Mine? Well, I am a SoCal girl, so walking cliche or not, my favorite summer reads do often feature a beach–like The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han, or Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler. Oh, heck, who am I kidding? Give me a frothy, cold drink, the sound of crashing waves, and any good romance, and I’m in summertime heaven. What are your favorite summer reads?

As far as bikinis go–well, I’m all about the board shorts because yo, this junk is staying inside the trunk.



Signed copies of these Bookanista-authored books…

LET THE SKY FALL by Shannon Messenger
BY BLOOD by Tracy Banghart
TOUCHING THE SURFACE by Kimberly Sabatini (plus a swag surprise)
BAD TASTE IN BOYS by Carrie Harris
AUDITION by Stasia Ward Kehoe
THE GIRL GUIDE by Christine Fonseca (plus sweet swag)
MILA 2.0 by Debra Driza
LEVEL ONE by Lenore Appelhans

AND A SECOND WINNER WILL GET A BOX FILLED WITH Bookanista-beloved reads including DITCHED by Robin Mellom, JELLICO ROAD by Melina Marchetta, TAKEN by Erin Bowman, CLOCKWORK ANGEL by Cassandra Clare, MONSTROUS BEAUTY by Elizabeth Fama and SPARROW ROAD by Sheila O’Connor.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

You can find lots more Bookanista Relaunch Book Love at our sites around the interwebs:  Carolina Valdez MillerCarrie Harris,  Christine Fonseca,Corrine JacksonDebra DrizaElana JohsonJessica LoveKaty UppermanKimberly SabatiniLenore Appelhans,  Nikki KatzRebecca BehrensShannon Messenger , Shelli Johannes-WellsStasia Ward KehoeTracey Neithercott , Tracy Banghart 

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Bookanista Review: WHAT HAPPENS NEXT by Colleen Clayton

Posted by houndrat on Thursday Feb 7, 2013 Under Uncategorized

This review is like whoa, LONG OVERDUE.  Actually, a blog post in general is long overdue. So many things going on, so little time–the usual excuses. But I do plan on jumping back into the blogging saddle (ouch?) soon!

The Book:

How can you talk about something that you can’t remember?

Before the ski trip, Cassidy “Sid” Murphy was a cheerleader (on the bottom of the pyramid, but still…) and a straight-A student, with two of the best friends a girl could ask for. 

When Sid finds herself on a ski lift with hunky local college guy, Dax Windsor, she’s thrilled. “Come to a party with me,” he tells her, but Dax isn’t what he seems. He takes everything from Sid-including a lock of her perfect red curls-and she can’t remember any of it.

After the ski trip, Sid is an insomniac and an obsessive late-night runner, unable to relate to her old friends.

Caught in a downward spiral, Sid drops her college prep classes and takes up residence in the A/V room with only Corey “The Living Stoner” Livingston for company. But as she gets to know Corey–slacker, baker, total dreamboat–Sid finds someone who truly makes her happy. Now, if only she could shake the nightmares, everything would be perfect… 

Witty and poignant, Colleen Clayton’s debut is a stunning story of moving on after the unthinkable happens.

The cover:

The Review:

First off, you should know–this book made me cry. When Sid finally comes clean, at the end…BIG. UGLY. TEARS.  Clayton got to me, and in a way that I didn’t feel was manipulative at all, but authentic. Huge kudos for that!

I really connected with Sid. I love the character Clayton created–a real girl with real friends. At the beginning of the book, she’s far from the media-dictated ideal in terms of body shape, and she’s mostly okay with that–BRAVO.  When her attitude does change, her quest to shed her bountiful curves is driven by an out-of-control urge to hide from male attention, and her reasoning feels scarily–and heartbreakingly–real.

As for the love interest, Corey?  He’s wonderful. Patient, funny, caring. Misunderstood, but not in that typical bad boy way. I haven’t seen many love interests in young adult fiction like him, and that’s a shame. The way Corey respects and cares about Sid is a fine example of a healthy teen relationship.

I loved how this was an “issue book” at heart, yet Clayton added enough lightness that it didn’t feel bleak. I loved how even though Sid was clearly struggling with something huge, that she could still find moments of joy–not every second was grim.

To sum it up:  Clayton tackles a pair of tough issues and handles them with honesty, poignancy, and yes, even humor. I would recommend this book to virtually anyone.

((NOTE: this book could be triggering for those with eating disorders and survivors of sexual assault)

What Happens Next is available at a bookstore near you!

Barnes & Noble



See the stories other Bookanistas are raving about:


Katy Upperman  praises THE TRAGEDY PAPER


Jessica Love thinks THE SEA OF TRANQUILITY is terrific


Stasia Ward Kehoe delves into OUT OF THE EASY

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I’m venturing out of my cave to help celebrate the upcoming release of Dawn Rae Miller’s newest story, CRUSHED.  I’m so excited for this book to come out! I remember when Dawn started writing this story, and we decided that her main character Fletch and the love interest from one of my WIPs (Reilly) would have a total bromance in real life.   Here’s the blurb:

For seventeen-year-old serial womanizer Fletch Colson, life is a game and if he plays by the rules, he’ll win it all: his dream college, his parents’ money, and a hot (if a little vapid) girl on his arm. Really, it couldn’t be easier. All he has to do is get good grades, live a privileged boarding school life, and try not to mess up too much. 

However, when he accepts the seemingly impossible bet to change his ways and be “just friends” with smart, beautiful, tempting Ellie Jacobs – a girl who seems hell bent on confusing him – Fletch’s whole world is turned upside down. 

Suddenly, what seemed simple and clear, no longer feels right and Fletch must decide if winning it all is worth losing a piece of himself.

Doesn’t that sound amazing?  Let’s check out the cover (designed by the hugely talented Pixy!):

What do you think?  I’m totally in love with the starkness of the crumbling heart. Plus, that little touch of black splatter at the top–it really grabs me.

And now, here’s the excerpt that Dawn so kindly shared with us!

I run through the empty Quad, tearing at the tie around my neck, shedding my sports coat. I toss it on a stone bench – the one Reid likes to stretch out on before class.

I need to get out of here. I need to be free.

Graduation. Princeton. A girl like Calista.

That’s my life. That’s what everyone expects from me.

My brown dress shoes pinch my toes as I run, but it’s a small thing. The hole in my heart aches more.

What the fuck is wrong with me?

Dust flies up as I run along the path toward the faculty lot. I search for the side path Ellie led me down, the one toward the clearing, but I can’t find it.

I pick my way through the fern-covered ground to a fallen tree and climb up. Redwood bark covers my dress pants, but I don’t care.

I shouldn’t complain. I have everything I could ever want: two parents and the best friends. My grades are good. I’ll go to a top college.

I have everything.

And it feels all wrong.

Awesome, right? I want to read this NOW–alas, it’s not out until December 11th. But to make that sting a bit less, I’m giving away two pre-order copies of the book. Just leave a comment by December 5th for a chance to win!

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STARTERS by Lissa Price Giveaway Extended!

Posted by houndrat on Wednesday May 23, 2012 Under Uncategorized

So, in typical absent-minded Deb fashion, I managed to mess up the ending date of my STARTERS giveaway.  Instead of making the contest run for one week, I’m pretty sure it wasn’t even open for one minute. Smooth, very smooth.  Also, it’s come to my attention that the ending date–Wed. May 17th, 2012–was most likely a figment of my imagination (the 17th was a Thurs). Minor technicalities aside (hey, just go with it!)…the good news is that I’m extending the contest to Monday, June 4th at noon PST.

To win one of two free copies of STARTERS, comment on the original post. That’s it–no hoop-leaping or death-defying feats required (though you’re free to vlog those if you like).

Meanwhile, I’ll be around…contemplating nuclear physics trying my hand at My Little Pony erotica-fanfiction plugging away at MILA Book Two.



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Divergent Finale: DAUNTLESS WEEK

Posted by houndrat on Tuesday Jun 7, 2011 Under Uncategorized

Just a quick drive by to remind you all that it’s DAUNTLESS WEEK, the last week of our Divergent Faction Challenge!

Go forth, be brave, and report back on Friday!


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So, in the true interest of Candor:  I got so involved in finishing up my draft for MILA that I totally spaced on my post on Friday.  And I’m honestly still short on time. I promise to post more on Candor at the end of this week, but for now, let’s just say there’s probably a reason that faction pulled up for me on the quiz.

This week’s Divergent Faction Challenge is:  ERUDITE. 

Oh, and I’ll be adding links to those who posted on  their CANDOR experience below. Check them out if you get a chance!

Sarah Nicolas


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Two for Tuesday, er, Wednesday: Double Rainbows

Posted by houndrat on Wednesday Aug 18, 2010 Under random stuff, Uncategorized, writing

Okay, so when I put up my post about SCBWI yesterday, I somehow forgot the most crucial thing.  It was there, in LA, among all those writerly types, that I first learned about Double. Rainbow. (All. The. Way. Across. The. Sky.)

I know, right?  This is life-altering stuff.  I also couldn’t find the two key photos of me and one of my roomies yesterday, but it worked out perfectly. In true *Two for Tuesday style, here are Stephanie Kuehn’s and my two attempts to make a Double Rainbow of our very own:

Wait, are we trying to fly away?



Hey, I never said they were GOOD attempts. 

And how would any Double Rainbow Two for Tuesday be complete without both the

A) Double Rainbow Guy:

B) **The Double Rainbow Song:

*Yes, I wrote this whole post before realizing it was, in fact, Wednesday. So it’s technically a Two for Wednesday instead. Sue me.

**Houndrat is not responsible for any ear worms that may result. 

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Top 10 Things I Learned at SCBWI

Posted by houndrat on Tuesday Aug 17, 2010 Under Uncategorized, writing, Young Adult

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I STILL feel like I’m recovering from SCBWI. I had such an AMAZING, AWESOME, FANTABULOUS time, meeting up with a bunch of online peeps, attending keynotes, and generally just flying my crazy-flag. A huge shout-out to my roomies: Veronica Roth, Corrine Jackson, Stephanie Kuehn, and honorary one-night-only roomie Dawn Miller–you ladies are both super fun and amazingly tolerant. Cough.

So, in honor of my trip, I’ve put together a list of top 10 things I learned at SCBWI. While there may be some useful tidbits for writers on here, a lot probably falls firmly into the Oh-my-god-Deb-is-so-freaking-random category. Don’t judge.

10. The girls of YA Highway are all gorgeous (really, it’s uncanny), fun, and great at leading field trips! Also, they rock at coming up with cool group costume ideas:

So glad they let me terrorize hang with them!

9. Veronica Roth likes to spoon when she shares a bed with you. Okay, joking, joking–there was no spooning involved at all–partly bc I sleep like a vampire, partly bc I think she would have punched me in the nose in her sleep if I’d tried.

8. Some editors suggest that book tours often don’t promote sales enough to justify the expense, and endorse other forms of marketing as much more effective. (see, I DID listen sometimes). This was interesting to me because I’ve always heard so much about book tours as the MAIN way of promoting your book.

7. Hannah Moskowitz talks faster than should be humanly possible. And yet I STILL understood her. Hmmm….. (also, she’s freaking adorable, though she’ll probably kick my ass for using that term to describe her).

6. Yes, editors are sick of paranormal, but yes, it’s still selling. Make sure yours has a unique spin.

5. Don’t ever open up urban dictionary in a group setting. Ever. Also, writers know many, many bad words and hand gestures (thank you, Steph–the guy in our breakout session will remember that moment forever).

4. Not all of your roommates will appreciate your stunning Wham! medley…especially not when you sing it on the Santa Monica Boardwalk.

3. According to several editors, ebooks are not a sign of the Bookpocalypse! No, really. Some editors actually embrace ebooks as a good thing for publishing.

2. The jacuzzi at the host hotel doesn’t stay open nearly late enough.

1. Writers, agents, and publishers are some of the best peeps ever!  (cue random photo montage;)

The Musers (and Cindy Pon!) chilling by the pool....

Dawn Miller, taking a shopping break...

Emilia and Jay Asher, looking pretty in pink...

Cindy Pon (who told me I almost broke her lap, HA!)

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I don’t know about you, but I’ve noticed a bit of a trend lately in YA books—heck, all books, for that matter. The trend? That much less wordage is going into describing the characters’ clothes.

I’m sort of guessing this is a backlash from the decline of chick lit, and even though this makes me very sad—I love, love, love my Bridget Jones and Sophie Kinsella! (and NOT just because I can relate to the Queen of Babble! Really!)—I do get it. Sort of. I mean, I get that people don’t want oodles and oodles of brand names to smack them upside the head every time they turn the page. To be sure, some of those books definitely read like product placements look in movies. Like, the authors deserved some serious kickbacks, or at the very least, free purses. ‘Cuz you can never have enough of those. Especially when you defile them as rapidly as I do.

But, on the other hand…I sort of miss the descriptions of outfits, of what the characters are wearing at any given time. Call me girly if you will (though, this is kind of amusing, given the dust gathering on my hair-styling appliances) or fashion conscious (HA! Even more amusing since most of my capris are older than my soon-to-be first grader)…or, better yet, call me someone who thinks clothes can say a lot about a character.

I mean, picture a high-school guy wearing a buttoned-up collared shirt and khakis to class, and another wearing a Sex Pistols t-shirt and ripped jeans. Without knowing anything else, you’ve suddenly got a few clues into their respective personalities. Provided they aren’t wearing those outfits to be ironic. Or it’s Halloween. Anyway.

To prove my point, I’m posting the names of popular YA characters below, followed by the kind of swimsuit I envision those characters wearing.

Yeah, okay, so maybe it’s an excuse for me to screw around on the net plan my new life as a swimsuit designer distract myself from the impending 2-day car ride of doom with the kidlets (meep!) But seriously, I think people’s personalities and circumstances influence their clothing choices—even swimwear. How your character dresses him or herself really might give your reader some new insight.

First up: Katniss from Hunger Games. Okay, so let’s face it: Katniss has no time for frivolity. She’s either helping her family survive, or she’s battling for her own life in the Hunger Games. So no cutesy, decorative crap for her—she needs sleek, fast and utilitarian. Hence I think this Speedo skinsuit would work:

Lean, mean, swimming machine!

Lean, mean, swimming machine!

Now, tell me this doesn’t say something about the wearer, especially if that person wasn’t at a swim meet?

Next up, Grace from The Dark Divine. Grace is a little old-fashioned in some ways, and given her father’s profession and her church-oriented upbringing, I just can’t see her being comfortable flashing a ton of skin. So I pictured her in something a little retro with good coverage:

Polka Dots, for the win!

Polka Dots, for the win!

Really, doesn’t this suit say that? That here’s a girl who isn’t trying to flaunt a bunch of skin, but is comfortable with herself all the same? Unlike the next character, Rose from Vampire Academy, who, let’s face it, realizes she’s hot and has no shame in sharing her hotness with others. I totally picture her wearing a skimpy string bikini:

Flaunt it, baby!

Flaunt it, baby!

And finally, the sparkly-vamp loving girl herself, Bella Swan. For the most part, Bella is a totally self-conscious character, one who eschews attention. So I envisioned her in a plain Jane black swimsuit—one that wouldn’t make anyone look twice, with good coverage, no frills, just generic.

The Safe Choice

The Safe Choice

So, what do you think? Do you agree with the overall style of my choices for these characters? And that clothes say something about a character’s personality? And, most importantly—what style of swimsuit do YOU wear?

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So, we’re on week 3 of Corrine Jackson’s group writing process series. And this week’s topic is: Deepening Your Characters: What is at the heart of a complex character?

Wait—you mean our characters have to be deep? Um…

Joking, of course. Characters need to have layers, and almost more importantly for me—they need to have flaws. I’m sorry, but being that I’m about a bazillion degrees away from perfect myself (shocking, I know), it’s really hard for me to relate to flawless characters. You know, the ones that are beautiful, rich, have superpowers, get the guy, and gosh darn it, are just flat-out nice. All. The. Time.

All that and she bakes, too?  Kill me  now.

All that and she bakes, too? Kill me now.


In fact, I’ll even go a step further. I would much rather read about a deeply flawed character than one without any imperfections. Why? Because the deeply flawed character is a heckuva lot more interesting.

If you don’t believe me, check out Justine Larbalestier’s novel Liar, where her MC Micah is a pathological liar, or Courtney Summer’s Regina in Some Girls Are. As a former high school bully, Regina was hard to relate to at times, and had some major issues. Heck, I didn’t even really *like* her half the time. That said, I finished that book in one sitting and still teared up at least three times.

When I think of some of the most memorable film characters—from Scarlett O’Hara to Forrest Gump to Hans Solo—I can see that they all have flaws. Perfection just isn’t exciting. But character flaws, and how they deal with conflict IN SPITE of them, is.



So, a complex character is one who has both strengths and flaws, good and bad. Just like a real person—except when it comes to our characters, we get to torture them. Legally.

Ah, torture. That brings us to the book I’m reading, Plot & Structure, and what it has to say on character. Because you can create the most interesting character in the world, but the reader will never know unless you make that character struggle—and change as a result. The character arc, so to speak.

When James Scott Bell talks about characters, he has this to say:
What makes a plot truly memorable is not all of the action, but what the action does to the character. We respond to the character who changes.

To him, I think the heart of a complex character is the ability to change.

Now, go check out Cory’s blog and her links to all the other participating writers’ blogs!

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