Sunday Street Team: INTERVIEW with Jessica Verdi on What You Left Behind

Posted by The YA Book Traveler , Sunday, August 30, 2015 4:07 PM

What You Left Behind
by Jessica Verdi

Synopsis (GR):
Jessica Verdi, the author of My Life After Now and The Summer I Wasn’t Me, returns with a heartbreaking and poignant novel of grief and guilt that reads like Nicholas Sparks for teens.

It’s all Ryden’s fault. If he hadn’t gotten Meg pregnant, she would have never stopped her chemo treatments and would still be alive. Instead he’s failing fatherhood one dirty diaper at a time. And it’s not like he’s had time to grieve while struggling to care for their infant daughter, start his senior year, and earn the soccer scholarship he needs to go to college.

The one person who makes Ryden feel like his old self is Joni. She’s fun and energetic—and doesn’t know he has a baby. But the more time they spend together, the harder it becomes to keep his two worlds separate. Finding one of Meg’s journals only stirs up old emotions. Ryden’s convinced Meg left other notebooks for him to find, some message to help his new life make sense. But how is he going to have a future if he can’t let go of the past?

“Ryden’s story is a moving illustration of how sometimes you have to let go of the life you planned to embrace the life you’ve been given. A strong, character-driven story that teen readers will love.”—Carrie Arcos, National Book Award Finalist for Out of Reach

About the Author:
Jessica Verdi lives in Brooklyn, NY, and received her MFA in Writing for Children from The New School. She loves seltzer, Tabasco sauce, TV, vegetarian soup, flip-flops, and her dog. Visit her at and follow her on Twitter @jessverdi.


Thanks for having me on your blog, Sarah!

Questions about the book:

1. What was the inspiration behind What You Left Behind? Did you know someone who died of cancer?
The idea for What You Left Behind was sparked by an article my husband sent me about a teenage girl who had cancer and was pregnant, and wasn't allowed to make her own decision of whether she wanted to abort her pregnancy and continue her cancer treatments, or stop the cancer treatments and have the baby. Her parents chose for her (they chose stop cancer treatments and have the baby) and she died a couple days after giving birth, leaving the baby to be raised by her boyfriend. This isn't exactly what happens in the book, but the issue of choice is one that is very important to me, so I wanted to write about that. And of course I was completely interested in the single teen dad grieving the loss of his girlfriend story. I do know people who have died of cancer, and my husband is also a cancer survivor, so it’s a subject that’s never too far away in my daily life.

2. Why did you decide to write a book from a male point of view? Was it difficult?
I actually started drafting the book as a dual narrator (Ryden and Meg) story, while Meg was still alive. About 75 pages in, I realized that wasn’t the way to go at all (it would have been about a billion pages long, haha), and that this story should really be told by Ryden, and begin in the middle of his journey. I actually found writing from a boy’s POV easier than writing from a girl’s. I think, because he's a boy and I'm not, I may have subconsciously felt more freedom to just take his character wherever it needed to go, because, since we were already so different, there was no element of "me" clinging to him. No "Well, I would or wouldn't do that," etc.

3. What was the most challenging aspect when it came to writing this book?
There were a lot of challenging issues in writing this book, from figuring out where it should start (as I mentioned above) to dealing with all the heavy emotional elements of grief and guilt and helplessness. But I’m glad I stuck with it.

4. What was the most fun part of writing this book?
I love the mother/son relationship in this book, and so writing the scenes where Ryden’s mother is present was lots of fun.

5. What message do you want readers to walk away with?
I’m not sure I have any “message” at all, in that sense, other than to keep going, keep trying your best, take the hard stuff one day at a time, and remember to take joy in the good stuff.

Questions about writing:

1. What does your daily writing schedule look like?
Because I have a full time job as a Senior Editor at a romance novel publisher, I don’t have much time to write during the week. So I try to set aside Saturdays and Sundays as writing time. It’s hard to have to work seven days a week and essentially not have a weekend, but I’d go crazy if I didn’t have time set aside to write, so I make it work. I have to write at home—I find myself too easily distracted when I try to write in public. My brain tends to be freshest in the morning, so I start early and write write write until I’m fried. If I start in the afternoon, I’m usually less productive.

2. How do you plan out your books?
I usually use index cards to outline—I write each plot point, both big and small, whatever comes to mind, on a card, and then arrange them into an order that, when written out, would sort of resemble a book.

3. What is it like working alongside of the publisher?
I love it. It’s so encouraging to be working with people who love your book as much as you do, and who are working tirelessly to get it out into the world. Every step, from the developmental editing to the copy editing to the design and the marketing and so many other things, would be completely overwhelming (and maybe even impossible) without the help and support of the publisher.

4. Why did you become an author?
I became an author because I love telling stories. I was an actor for a long time before I started writing, and it was frustrating because I always had to wait to get cast in something in order to be able to do my art. But with writing, you can do it on your own terms—no permission necessary. It’s an incredibly inspiring and freeing feeling.

5. Do you have any news for your next project you can share?
Nothing official that I can share just yet, but I will say I’m working on books in two new genres—one is a fantasy YA co-written with an author friend, and one is an adult book that I’ll be writing under a pen name.

Thanks Jessica!!!

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NEW Book Trailer: Sword and Verse by Kathy Macmillan

Posted by The YA Book Traveler , Saturday, August 29, 2015 10:23 AM

Sword and Verse

by Kathy MacMillansa

Raisa was only a child when she was kidnapped and enslaved in Qilara. Forced to serve in the palace of the king, she’s endured hunger, abuse, and the harrowing fear of discovery: everyone knows she is Arnath, but not that Raisa is a Learned One, a part of an Arnath group educated in higher order symbols. In Qilara, this language is so fiercely protected that only the King, the Prince, and Tutors are allowed to know it. So when the current Tutor-in-training is executed for sharing the guarded language with slaves, and Raisa is chosen to replace her, Raisa knows that—although she may have a privileged position among slaves—any slip-up could mean death.

That would be challenging enough, but training alongside Prince Mati could be her real undoing. And when a romance blossoms between them, she’s suddenly filled with a dangerous hope for something she never before thought possible: more. Then she’s propositioned by the Resistance—an underground army of slaves—to help liberate the Arnath people. Joining the rebellion could mean freeing her people…but she’d also be aiding in the war against her beloved—an honorable man that she knows wants to help the slaves.

Working against the one she loves—and a palace full of deadly political renegades—has some heady consequences. As Raisa struggles with what’s right, she unwittingly uncovers a secret that the Qilarites have long since buried…one that, unlocked, could bring the current world order to its knees.

And Raisa is the one holding the key.

Book Trailer

Review: The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

Posted by The YA Book Traveler , Friday, August 28, 2015 12:00 AM

The Wrath and the Dawn (The Wrath and the Dawn #1)


One Life to One Dawn.

In a land ruled by a murderous boy-king, each dawn brings heartache to a new family. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, is a monster. Each night he takes a new bride only to have a silk cord wrapped around her throat come morning. When sixteen-year-old Shahrzad's dearest friend falls victim to Khalid, Shahrzad vows vengeance and volunteers to be his next bride. Shahrzad is determined not only to stay alive, but to end the caliph's reign of terror once and for all.

Night after night, Shahrzad beguiles Khalid, weaving stories that enchant, ensuring her survival, though she knows each dawn could be her last. But something she never expected begins to happen: Khalid is nothing like what she'd imagined him to be. This monster is a boy with a tormented heart. Incredibly, Shahrzad finds herself falling in love. How is this possible? It's an unforgivable betrayal. Still, Shahrzad has come to understand all is not as it seems in this palace of marble and stone. She resolves to uncover whatever secrets lurk and, despite her love, be ready to take Khalid's life as retribution for the many lives he's stolen. Can their love survive this world of stories and secrets?

Inspired by A Thousand and One NightsThe Wrath and the Dawn is a sumptuous and enthralling read from beginning to end. 

My Thoughts 2.5 Stars

Wow, you probably are like, WHAT? Are you crazy? Well, I suppose perhaps because, gosh, I did NOT like The Wrath and the Dawn.

Why you might ask?

1. Sharzhad. I found Shazi extremely annoying. She rubbed me the wrong way right from the beginning when she was arrogant enough to think she could survive the night when no other woman had. Her little trick did seem to work but still she was so confident that she would be ok. This seemed unrealistic to me. All the characters including a boyfriend was also convinced that if anyone could survive it would be Shazi. I didn't like her character.  She did get better throughout the book but it was a bit too late for me to make a real connection.

2. The love triangle. Ugh, this love triangle made me crazy. Tariq was super annoying and also really full of himself. How could one boy save a girl from a palace heavily guarded? I could not connect with his character at all.

What I did like:

Yes, there were a few things I liked.
1. The writing. There is no arguing here, Renee's writing is fantastic. I could easily see, hear, smell and taste everything in the world building.
2. The food. My favorite thing, to be honest, was the food. It sounded so delicious.
3. Khalid. I suppose Khalid was my favorite character. He seemed to be the most interesting of them all and his reactions to situations seem appropriate.
4. I did enjoy the chemistry between Khalid and Shazi.
5. The diversity! Yay! This was one of my most anticipated books this year in part to the diverse setting.

Sadly, The Wrath and the Dawn did NOT work for me. I found the characters annoying, the plot not that exciting, the mystery to be unsatisfying.

I am okay with being the black sheep of the crowd but am sad to say that this didn't live up to my expectations.

With any black sheep read, I would still strongly suggest you to read it. Most people LOVE this book. It just wasn't for me. 

Unpopular Opinions Book Tag!

Posted by The YA Book Traveler , Thursday, August 27, 2015 7:49 AM

The Unpopular Opinion Book Tag was created by The Book Archer. I was tagged by Karina. Thanks!

Popular Book or Series you didn't like.

There is a lot to say here but these were my biggest disappointments this year. I wanted to DNF both The Storyspinner and An Ember in Ashes but I trudged through it. The Wrath and the Dawn also was such a let down for me. I did NOT like the characters. My review to come tomorrow.

Blog Tour: Bounce by Noelle August PLUS Giveaway!

Posted by The YA Book Traveler , Wednesday, August 26, 2015 12:00 AM

Title: Bounce
Author: Noelle August
Series: Boomerang #3
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Release Date: August 25, 2015
Source: ARC provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review.

This final chapter in the fun and steamy New Adult trilogy by Noelle August (authors Veronica Rossi and Lorin Oberweger) features two aspiring musicians who must choose between their careers…and their sizzling attraction for each other.
Playing the occasional club gig just isn’t cutting it for twenty-two-year-old cellist Skyler Canby, who’s trying to support herself and her mother back home in Kentucky. Persuaded by her best friend Beth to accompany her on an audition for the first feature film launched by Blackwood Entertainment, she figures why not? Beth’s a shoe-in for the lead, but maybe Skyler’s newly dyed pink hair will help her stand out enough to score a small speaking part.
Never in her wildest dreams does Skyler imagine she’ll land the lead role or that she’ll have her shoes knocked off her feet by the kiss her audition partner, Grey Blackwood, plants on her—a kiss that feels very real and not at all “acted. ”
After throwing a party that causes thousands of dollars of damage to his older brother’s home, reckless musician Grey Blackwood gets roped into working off his debt on the set of his CEO brother’s newest project. Grey spends his days fetching coffee and doing odd jobs around the studio, but he lives for nights when he performs with his band. He knows if he can stay focused, success as a singer is just around the corner. But that’s tough with a distracting pink-haired girl occupying his every waking thought.
Skyler and Grey have every reason to resist each other. But, like a song neither of them can get out of their minds, they have no choice but to go where the music takes them.

My Review

Bounce is the third book to the wonderful Boomerang New Adult series by Noelle August (which is a pen name for Veronica Rossi and Lorin Oberweger). I am a huge fan of Boomerang (book #1) and Rebound (book #2) because they're fun, sexy and have characters that feel real.  

There are many great things about this series in general. 
1. Realistic Dialogue: Many books I've read this year have unfortunately made me cringe because the characters are saying things you know people in real life would never say. This is not a problem whatsoever in these books.
2. Well developed main and secondary characters: Another aspect about this series are all the characters are unique and well written. They all have been thought out and feel real.
3. The character's voices: Since Veronica and Lorin each take a main character, this is extremely helpful in both point of views sounding like different people. In some books this is problematic. 
4. Humor: One of my favorite things about the Boomerang series is the humor. Not only is this fun but so many characters are charming and become endearing.

The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey - Audiobook Review!

Posted by The YA Book Traveler , Wednesday, August 19, 2015 12:00 AM

The Girl at Midnight (The Girl at Midnight #1)
by Melissa Grey 

Goodreads Summary:

Beneath the streets of New York City live the Avicen, an ancient race of people with feathers for hair and magic running through their veins. Age-old enchantments keep them hidden from humans. All but one. Echo is a runaway pickpocket who survives by selling stolen treasures on the black market, and the Avicen are the only family she's ever known.

Echo is clever and daring, and at times she can be brash, but above all else she's fiercely loyal. So when a centuries-old war crests on the borders of her home, she decides it's time to act.

Legend has it that there is a way to end the conflict once and for all: find the Firebird, a mythical entity believed to possess power the likes of which the world has never seen. It will be no easy task, though if life as a thief has taught Echo anything, it's how to hunt down what she wants . . . and how to take it.

But some jobs aren't as straightforward as they seem. And this one might just set the world on fire.

My Thoughts - 5 Stars!

Top Ten Tuesday: Auto-Buy Authors

Posted by The YA Book Traveler , Tuesday, August 18, 2015 10:29 AM

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish. Click the link for more info and join in!

For this week, I have only a few auto-buy authors. There are many authors I'll read their books but I may just get them from the library instead of buying.  

But below are authors I will auto-buy, always.

How I started making Book Trailers and How!

Posted by The YA Book Traveler , Monday, August 10, 2015 11:09 AM

Hi Everyone!

I thought I'd do a quick post to explain why I got started making book trailers and how I go about it.

It all started with the Witchlanders Truthwitch Street Team, I guess you could call it, competition. You could create entries so you could get picked to be on the street team.

So, I decided to make a video entry to Truthwitch! I had so much fun with it, that I decided I'd start making trailer for other books.

Here is my >>> Channel

How do I choose?
  • This slightly difficult. First of all, I pick a book I'm actually excited about. If I'm not inspired, it's not gonna happen.
  • Then I go and read the Goodreads summaries.  There have been books I've wanted to make a trailer for, but the summary is too long, explains too much, or just doesn't flow.
  • Once I finally have my "eureka" moment I get to work.

How do I make them?
  • Search, search, search.  Because I do not film my own video, I search YouTube and Vimeo for the types of video I'm seeking. There are lots of amazing indie films on Vimeo that have been wonderful to use.
  • Then I have to find the right music. Sometimes I've used songs that author was inspired by (such as for the Truthwitch and Queen of Shadows trailers). Other times, they are songs suggested to me by friends (Thanks Pili) and sometimes it's just searching YouTube.
  • I also make sure to check out any Pinterest boards the authors may have. This really helps me with how they envision the world and the characters.
  • Then I record my voice for the narration. I went to college for Broadcast and Cinematic Arts so I have some background in video and audio editing. On my home computer I'm editing with Sony Vegas Pro 8.0.
I've had a TON of fun making these and am always up for suggestions! I made the Vengeance Road and Six of Crows trailer because friends suggested.

Let me know what you'd like to see and it may be my next trailer!

Watch my latest for Never Never by Brianna Shrum 

(Side note: I do this on my own free time because I love it. I already was contacted by an unknown author to read their book and create a video...for free! Please don't contact me to make you a video. I always do the choosing.)

Legacy of Kings by Eleanor Herman - ARC Review + Eleanor's Fan Casting

Posted by The YA Book Traveler , Friday, August 7, 2015 12:00 AM

Legacy of Kings (Blood of Gods and Royals #1)by Eleanor Herman

Release Date: August 25, 2015

Goodreads Summary:
Imagine a time when the gods turn a blind eye to the agony of men, when the last of the hellions roam the plains and evil stirs beyond the edges of the map. A time when cities burn, and in their ashes, empires rise.

Alexander, Macedonia’s sixteen-year-old heir, is on the brink of discovering his fated role in conquering the known world but finds himself drawn to newcomer Katerina, who must navigate the dark secrets of court life while hiding her own mission: kill the Queen. But Kat’s first love, Jacob, will go to unthinkable lengths to win her, even if it means competing for her heart with Hephaestion, a murderer sheltered by the prince. And far across the sea, Zofia, a Persian princess and Alexander’s unmet fiancĂ©e, wants to alter her destiny by seeking the famed and deadly Spirit Eaters.

Legacy of Kings was a book that I instantly wanted!  Why? Because of that cover! I received a copy of Legacy of Kings from the publisher for review. Thank you!

The World:
One of the most interesting aspects of this book was when in history it occurs. It takes place in the time of Alexander the Great (340 BC) when he was still a teen before he ruled the world.  This was one of my favorite things about the book. I had never read a book that took place in this time-frame (except the Bible) and was curious if it would seem confusing or if there would be difficulty understanding the world. But, I had no problem with the world building in Legacy of Kings at all. Everything was described wonderfully by Eleanor, and it doesn't leave you lacking.

Not only is this world set in BC history, there is also magic! I love the combination of historical fiction AND fantasy. Not only is magic prevalent in this world but so are magical creatures. Who doesn't love that?

I was really wishing for a map in the ARC because I had to Google the area in which these events take place. I was told that the final copy of the book would indeed have a map which will make this book even better!

The Characters:
This book has 6 main point of views (there are a few others). Sometimes, in books, this bothers me and other times it doesn't. I didn't particularly have any issues with the amount of voices in the book. I found them all distinct and well written. Most, if not all, the characters all are carrying around secrets. It was fun guessing what those secrets could be or how they would play out.

Legacy of Kings is a high fantasy full of romance, magic, secret plots and adventure. To me this book felt like a set-up book for the rest of the series. Events that occur in this book set the stage for the story line to continue and pick up in book two.I enjoyed the book, however, I found it rather long and it took me a while to read it. There was nothing wrong with the book but I didn't find myself emotionally invested in it. However, it's a strong first book to a new high fantasy series and I have high hopes for the next book.

I gave Legacy of Kings a 4 out of 5 Stars

Eleanor Herman's Fan Casting:
In the ARC, Eleanor lists who she would fan cast for all the main characters so I thought that would be fun to include in this review.

Alex: Daniel Sharman

Heph: Jack Falahee

Kat: Emma Watson

Jacob: Matt Lanter

Cyn: Caitlin Stasey

Zo: Shay Mitchell