Countdown to a New Year, December 31: Judith of Binge on Books

Countdown to a New Year, December 31: Judith of Binge on Books

From December 20 through December 31, Binge on Books will be hosting a series of posts each day counting down to the new year. Joined by authors, publishers, and fellow bloggers, this series will focus on takeaways from 2017 and what we can look forward to in 2018. Think the biggest, longest, most book-filled reflection of the past year and the hopes and dreams for the new one all wrapped into one: that’s Binge on Books’ Countdown to a New Year. Come see what your favorite members of the book world have to say about the past year and what’s up next for them in the year to come!

**Plus every day in the countdown will feature prize packs of ARCs and book giveaways plus a final BIG giveaway of a Kindle Fire! Enter every day for a chance to win!**

Outweighing the Negatives

It has been a hard year.

Full stop.

I am one of those people who generally prefers to ignore the negative and just focus on the positive but it has been hard, y’all. Hard in so many psyche-impacting ways: politically, personally, professionally, emotionally. I’ve had my womanhood and my person attacked on several fronts, my intellect and my dreams called into question. The mudslinging has been unparalleled and the overt hate has been overwhelming.

We can all agree that 2017 was a doozy; it had so many downs that at times, I was worried that we – the book community – would never be able to bounce back. That the core of what makes us a strong and forward thinking bunch was gone for good. But we’re a resilient and all-inclusive group. Full of dreamers and doers, thinkers and thoses who find hope in the smallest of gestures. We are a rag tag motley of writers, publishers, publicists, agents, and readers that just want to see ourselves in books and in turn, allow others to see themselves. For all our differences, we’re a community that I am so grateful to be a part of.

Yes, it’s been hard but on the flipside, it’s also been a stellar year full of magical, life-changing reads and the achievement of several personal milestones. So, instead of focusing about all the bad, let’s chat about all the amazing things that happened in 2017! It’s time to outweigh the negative.

On the Books Front:

If you read some phenomenal books this year, raise your hand! At this end, I read so many fantastic reads that narrowing it down to a handful is tough but there are a few that stand out as extra special:

1. Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by MacKenzi Lee: a bisexual historical caper set in England and the Continent. LOVE IT. There are duels, mad chases, lavish parties, pirates, and so much more all packed into this one book!

2. Fence by C.S. Pacat: I’ve been in love with C.S. Pacat’s writing since her seminal Captive Prince series. Fence is a queer YA comic featuring two protags who love to hate each other but man, can they fence.

3. Idlewild by Jude Sierra: while it did not come out in 2017, I certainly did read it then and am counting it as a knock out 2017 read. Superb writing and the nuanced characterization of two men learning to love…it’s so spot on.

4. The Cruel Prince by Holly Black: astounding fantasy YA set in the world of faerie! There is a human protagonist, a whole faerie court, and a not love story. You must read it!

On the Personal Front:

2017 rocked my world on the personal front:

1. HEA USA Today: at the end of 2016, I had the opportunity to start up a column on HEA USA Today called Rainbow Trends. That column focused on specific tropes and trends in queer romance and was a chance for me to explore them on a national forum. In 2017, Rainbow Trends is still going strong and in addition I was able to interview and promote some of my favorite diverse authors on HEA USA Today.

2. TeenVogue: if you had told me a year ago that I would be a frequent contributor to Teen Vogue by the end of 2017, I would have laughed. Seriously, laughed in your face. And yet, here I am, a frequent contributor to Teen Vogue! Talk about an amazing gig – I currently pen a queer books column for the mag and get queer books to the people who need them, teens. It has been humbling to say the least and I thank my lucky stars daily that I have this chance.

3. The Mary Sue: Starting in January 2018, I’ll be reviewing queer geeky reads for The Mary Sue! I am a book pusher, no qualms about it and this next column I’ll be penning will feature a wealth of queer reads with a slightly geeky bent. I. Cannot. Wait.

4. The release of Sight Unseen anthology: pushing the publishing envelope has always been my goal with Open Ink Press, the small pub I created in 2016. Through it I want to give authors an opportunity to take risks with their writing and craft stories that aren’t status quo. Sight Unseen is an amazing addition to this vision–the premise is simple: give authors a chance to write and publish anonymously and in turn, free them from the constraint of reader or publisher expectation. The stories Emma Barry, Sherry Thomas, Meredith Duran, Erin Satie, and J.A. Rock created for the anthology went beyond my wildest expectations and were lauded on many fronts.

5. Book friendships: And finally, this year has given me an opportunity to grow and nurture so many book friendships with authors, agents, publishers, and of course, readers. It is so worthwhile to be able to talk books with a group of smart, well-versed people and I cannot wait to see what 2018 has in store.

Some promises to myself (not resolutions):

1. Ask for help when I need it. If you know me personally in any capacity, you’ll know that I love to work myself to a state of overwhelm. Seriously. Living on 2-3 hours of sleep and trying to accomplish practically EVERYTHING is a clear indicator that I am not very good at asking for help from others. This year I am promising to do that…at least a little bit.

2. Treat myself with kindness. So rarely do we allow ourselves to be kind to ourselves. We have to be kind to others, to those who do us a bad turn, to those who are jerks, to those we really want to punch in the face. We have to be kind in the face of petty slights and stupid crap but we hardly ever find time to forgive ourselves and treat ourselves kindly. Well, screw that! This year I’m treating myself with kindness. I’m not going to beat myself up all the time about dumb stuff. I’m not going to expect perfection because that’s not plausible and frankly, it is a little boring.

3. Make myself and my wants a priority. Fin.


Judith is the owner and curator of the book review site Binge on Books, as well as the boutique press Open Ink and the literary PR agency, A Novel Take PR. You can also find Judith on HEA USA Today with her LGBTQ romance column Rainbow Trends, and on Teen Vogue talking her favorites in queer YA and New Adult.

Connect with Judith: @bingeonbooks


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Countdown to a New Year, December 29: Erin Finnegan

Countdown to a New Year, December 29: Erin Finnegan

From December 20 through December 31, Binge on Books will be hosting a series of posts each day counting down to the new year. Joined by authors, publishers, and fellow bloggers, this series will focus on takeaways from 2017 and what we can look forward to in 2018. Think the biggest, longest, most book-filled reflection of the past year and the hopes and dreams for the new one all wrapped into one: that’s Binge on Books’ Countdown to a New Year. Come see what your favorite members of the book world have to say about the past year and what’s up next for them in the year to come!

**Plus every day in the countdown will feature prize packs of ARCs and book giveaways plus a final BIG giveaway of a Kindle Fire! Enter every day for a chance to win!**

THINGS I LEARNED IN 2017 THAT EVERYONE ELSE ALREADY KNEW

I’m a believer in lifelong learning. I witness it every day as the caretaker of my elderly father, who is currently teaching himself how to code.

Inspired by this, maybe, I tried to assess what I learned this year. Specifically, what did I learn about books?

One lesson stood out. It ends up, I was just catching up on what so many others already knew: Young Adult fiction is awesome, even for those of us who haven’t been teenagers in awhile.

When Young Adult began its steep ascent in publishing, I didn’t think I’d be a fan. Too much dystopia, too many stories about kids asking the questions I’d already answered for myself, and didn’t care to revisit.

Was I ever wrong. If 2017 showed me anything, it was that YA isn’t just a genre for high school students and Hollywood scouts. The very best of the genre serve as a bellwether for change, as an index for where literature and culture are headed. It can push old boundaries, and teach us lessons about both ourselves and others, and hint at how the next generation of thought leaders will shape the world.

And the best in this genre in 2017 wasn’t just the best YA of the year, it was some of the very best of the year’s fiction.

Case in point: Angie Thomas’ brilliant The Hate You Give. Along with a lot of other readers, it was my book of the year not only because it entertained, but because it made me stop, go back, re-read, and think. The characters are so vivid, the dialogue so on-point, and the story fleshed out in the realist of realism: so-called bad guys sometimes do honorable things, and good guys sometimes lapse. Not every story is clear-cut.

I was sickened but not surprised to hear that a Texas school district banned THUG. In this current political climate, it may have been inevitable. They couldn’t be more wrong. This isn’t a book you keep out of kids’ hands. This is a book that belongs in every high school library in this country.

Young Adult books may tell us about community and our place in it, but they are so often at their core coming of age novels. And I learned this year that coming of age doesn’t have to be an instruction manual. It can be relevant long past your teen years.

Coming of age should be about introspection, about learning something about yourself, and when its done well—whether combined with fantasy or romance or action/adventure—it has the power to connect with anyone, of any age.

My favorite example of 2017 (and there were several) was the book that was so ballsy as to spoil it’s ending in the title: Adam Silvera’s They Both Die at the End. Ultimately, it makes sense, because dying isn’t the point of this well-written novel—it’s about how you use the time you have.

YA can also be just plain fun, and in this world of daily (sometimes hourly) WTF-ery, we can use a little laughter.  Sound good? Try F.T. Lukens’ The Rules and Regulations for Mediating Myths & Magic. A friend accurately described this wonderfully weird and wild ride as being “a literary version of the waiting room in Beetlejuice.” It’s fast, it’s wild, it had me laughing out loud—while still making a point about being true to yourself, no matter how daunting that may be.


Erin Finnegan is a former journalist and PR flack who now spends a lot of time thinking about and occasionally writing books in her home outside Los Angeles. Her novel Luchador (Interlude Press, 2016) was named one of Publishers Weekly’s Best Books of 2016 and was named the best independently-published romance of 2016 by Foreword Reviews. She is also the author of Sotto Voce (2014) and Last Call at the Casa Blanca Bar & Grille, part of the Interlude Press anthology, If the Fates Allow.

Connect with Erin on her website: http://www.erin-finnegan.com/


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The Thousandth Floor and The Dazzling Heights by Katharine McGee

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Countdown to a New Year, December 28: Jude Sierra

Countdown to a New Year, December 28: Jude Sierra

From December 20 through December 31, Binge on Books will be hosting a series of posts each day counting down to the new year. Joined by authors, publishers, and fellow bloggers, this series will focus on takeaways from 2017 and what we can look forward to in 2018. Think the biggest, longest, most book-filled reflection of the past year and the hopes and dreams for the new one all wrapped into one: that’s Binge on Books’ Countdown to a New Year. Come see what your favorite members of the book world have to say about the past year and what’s up next for them in the year to come!

**Plus every day in the countdown will feature prize packs of ARCs and book giveaways plus a final BIG giveaway of a Kindle Fire! Enter every day for a chance to win!**

When I reflect on 2017, it’s hard not to think of all of the things that have been weighing on us. As a country. As a community. In my life, as an educator and as a mother. Of the number of times I have cried and thought, how am I going to raise children in this world?

Do I want to walk into 2018 with these fears and worries? In a perfect world, I could blithely say I’d let them go. But I doubt the world will do the same just because an arbitrary date passes on a calendar. I many ways, I think we’re walking into harder days. And yet, in this struggle, there is tremendous potential.

The truth is that the only thing in my life I can control is me. My actions. My responses, my capacity to give love, understanding, understanding, and faith. Not my faith in a god or religion, but in people. In goodness, in strength and resilience, in the will to overcome.

Many of these things are moments that come from wellness practice in my own life. Every moment of my life – particularly a year such as this, with the additional strain of finishing my Masters and going right into a PhD – is geared toward making sure I am doing my best to manage my mental illness. To be successful, a good mother, a writer and student, a teacher and a human all at once.

I don’t know how much of a true or lasting impact I can have within our LGBT romance community – I write slow like a turtle, so I’m off and on people’s radars. But I am there from time to time, and I have a voice. I’ve spent this year crafting a story from my heart. I wrote A Tiny Piece of Something Greater while writing my thesis. I wrote a character, Reid, who lives with the same mental illness I do (cyclothemia). I wrote a story about a boy overcoming, managing, falling in love, and surviving. Learning through mistakes and missteps to thrive. I wrote things in that book that were so honest they cracked me open – I cried through the whole process of writing this book. I had anxiety attacks. I couldn’t sleep. I slept like a baby because of the catharsis. I wrote a beautiful story about resilience and spent a year practicing (or trying) to practice Reid’s fight and success. Not just because I was writing it, but because the world today calls for it.

2017 has been a really good year for *finally* seeing good MI representation in books. There’s been some fantastic #ownvoices stuff, but also, authors without mental illness doing their research. Getting sensitivity readers. Asking questions. And so importantly, not using MI as a plot device to move something else forward without understanding what our lives and struggles are. I am not a plot device. And while A Tiny Piece of Something Greater won’t be out until May of 2018, I think that there are takeaways from writing that book and getting ready to share it that dovetail with so much else happening this year that I’m going to pack up in little boxes and take with me. That I hope we can all take together.

We are resilient.

We are fighters.

We have experienced success.

We’re fighting through missteps.

We are waking up.

We are awake.


Jude Sierra is a Latinx poet, author, academic and mother who  began her writing career at the age of eight when she immortalized her summer vacation with ten entries in a row that read “pool+tv”. Jude began writing long-form fiction by tackling her first National Novel Writing Month project in 2007. In 2011Jude was introduced to the Glee fan community began writing fanfiction, where her stories garnered thousands of readers.

Jude is currently working toward her PhD in Writing and Rhetoric, looking at the intersections of Queer, Feminist and Pop Culture Studies. She also works as an LGBTQAI+ book reviewer for From Top to Bottom Reviews.  Her novels include Hush,  What it Takes,  and Idlewild, a contemporary LGBT romance set in Detroit’s renaissance, which was named a Best Book of 2016 by Kirkus Reviews. Her upcoming novel, A Tiny Piece of Something Greater will be available in May of 2018.

Social Media Links: Website Twitter Goodreads Facebook


Enter to win one of 3 prize packs of books! 

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The Thousandth Floor and The Dazzling Heights by Katharine McGee

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Neighborhood Girls by Jessie Ann Foley

Far From the Tree by Robin Benway

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An Interview with The Complex author, Cathy E Zaragoza

A few months ago, back when we were very new to this whole book blogging thing, I was chatting away quite obliviously one night with one of our twitter followers, Cathy Zaragoza. BTW this was all done by twitter so I may be elaborating a bit.

“Cathy,” I said in a wheedling tone. “I desperately need entries into a Jillian Dodd Dream Wedding writing contest. Can you help me out so I don’t look like a tool with no entries?”

Cathy very coolly responded with, “Oh sure, sign me up. I write a bit, I dabble. I can come up with a sweet and poignant entry for you, no problem.”

“Wait, you write?” I asked, dumbfounded because in the like 4 months we’d known each other that had somehow NEVER come up. “Huh. That’s cool. What have you written?”

And then Cathy proceeded to wow me even more by whipping out a link to her self-published novel, The Complex and then letting drop the bomb that she’s like 21 or 22 and was already hard at work on the sequel to it with ideas for the third and fourth just fomenting up there in her brain.

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An Interview with Frankie Rose, author of the much hyped, Sovereign Hope

If you’re like us (and since you’re here reading, I think you more than likely are), you like to troll twitter and facebook for a glimpse of the next big thing. “Next big thing of what”, you might be wondering; well, we don’t have a pre-determined subject really. We just like to troll around for whatever strikes our fancy and figure out what the most hyped about thing within that genre is.  Then we learn all about it, absorbing that information to use later at parties and what not. You know, to look cool. It’s an art form really.

So a few days ago I noticed that A LOT of book bloggers were talking about some new author. Nothing new there. New authors crop up all the time. But then, the buzz about her got bigger and bigger until all the 5+ star reviews of her book made me take interest. “Ah-ha!” I thought, here’s the most hyped about thing in YA fiction these days. “Yes! I am on the ball. Watch out party at the Powers’ house. You are in for a treat.” But then of course, I realized something: I had heard of this author before AND was even planning on interviewing her. That’s right, Frankie Rose, the sweet author who contacted me a month or so ago about her debut novel, Sovereign Hope, was the next big thing! And I was in on it!

Frankie was so delightful, just so open and candid in the Q&A we did with her that I can honestly say that if the book lives up to its creator then we have a force to be reckoned with on our hands.

Here’s the most recent blurb about the book:

Farley Hope was seventeen when her mother disappeared. In the last six months not much has changed, except that her eighteenth birthday came and went and still no sign of Moira. Her life is just as complicated as it always was: since her father died in a car crash before she was even born, she’s officially parentless, and to top it all off she’s still suffering from the hallucinations. Mind-splitting, vivid hallucinations- the kind prone to induce night terrors and leave you whimpering under your covers like a baby.

The last thing on her mind is boys. Farley is on break from St. Judes’ when she meets Daniel. It’s not some casual run in at a party, or even a blind date with friends, though. Daniel is the guy stalking her in his 1970′s Dodge Charger; the guy standing at her  window in the LA lunch hour traffic, determined  on dragging her out of her truck.
The moment Farley lays eyes on Daniel, everything changes. However, regrettably for Farley, her life isn’t set to change for the better. She is drawn into a world that will shake apart everything she thought she ever knew. There are truths out there that she must learn: who her father really was, and what it means to have his blood flowing through her veins; that a person’s soul is their only real currency, and there are people who would do anything to take hers; that loving someone can hurt so much more than hating them; but, most importantly, when your future is predestined, there is little you can do to change it.
Farley Hope is prophesied.
Her coming has been awaited for hundreds of years.
She is destined to end the tyranny of the Soul Reavers.
To do so she must die.
—————————————————–

J: Ooh, cool synopsis! So Frankie, what inspired you to write this debut novel? What was the process you went through to get it published? What advice would you have for other aspiring debut writers? Any tricks of the trade you’ve learned the hard way?

F: Gosh, this is a big question! I guess what truly inspired me to write Sovereign Hope was the desire to do something different. There were so many books that I’d read and loved, but followed the same kind of pattern, and with the same kinds of protagonists and bad guys.

With the publishing, I was offered a traditional publishing contract with a small press publishing company but I decided that I wanted the freedom to publish Sovereign Hope when I was ready, not when they were. And I wanted to keep control of the project as I saw it, so that the end product would be entirely mine. My title, the cover that I wanted… that was really important to me. So, in order to do that I learned everything I needed to so I could self-publish, which was a big task, but it was remarkably rewarding. I’ve loved the route I’ve taken to get Sovereign Hope out into the world!
As for tricks of the trade, the one thing I would suggest to anyone wanting to self publish would be to get the advice of many instead of the few, and definitely not the advice of your friends! People naturally want to please other people, and that often leads to them saying lovely things which are all well and good, when sometimes an author needs to hear the painful truth!

J: Could you describe your writing process for us?

F: Initially, I like to mull over an idea for a couple of days and let it really take shape in my mind. Once I’ve thought about the topic of the book, the events and the characters, I’ll start putting it down on paper. Really rounding out who the main characters of the book are going to be. From there I’ll start thinking about the events of the story and the order in which they will occur and how they affect each other. The last stage is really plotting out each individual chapter with the specifics. The specifics are really important… If you don’t plot the chapters and stick to the outlines of what you need to accomplish for each stage, then you’re likely going to get sidetracked or veer off path.

J: Why should we read your book? What sets it apart from all the rest?

F:When I wrote Sovereign Hope, I wanted to create a world completely different to other YA paranormal books. I wanted to build something that would be memorable because there was nothing else like it out there. I’ve been told by many of my readers that I accomplished this, and I can only hope I have! Another important part of Sovereign Hope, for me, is the characters. I wanted Farley to be strong and independent, and to have an attitude all of her own. And with Daniel, I wanted him to possess many qualities, not just be super hot and ready to protect Farley at the drop of a hat. Don’t get me wrong, he is super hot and fiercely protective, but he has his own story and insecurities.

J: Has your family been supportive of you as you try to make your way as an author?

F: They really have. All of them have been lovely about it. I live just about as far away as I could possibly get from my family, so it’s really great to connect with them on facebook and things like that. My husband’s side of the family are really wonderful, too. I love them to bits, and they have been fantastically supportive of me and of Sovereign Hope.

J: What would you consider to be your personal mantra?

F: Don’t Give Up!!! Has to be… There were a hundred points along the road to where I am right now that I could have just stopped and said, “this is way too hard.” I really did have to pick myself up and really push myself to continue. It was hard because I had faith in what I was going- I think the sheer volume of information that you need to learn when doing everything for yourself can be a little daunting at times. But, truly, once you understand what needs to be done, it’s just a matter of organising yourself. So Don’t Give Up!!

J: What author and which fictional character would make you squeal like a fangirl if he/she sat down next to you at a restaurant?

F: Huh… I would go nuts if Neil Gaiman sat down next to me in a restaurant! He’s an amazing author, and I have a lot of respect for his work. The worlds he creates are phenomenally enjoyable. As for a character… I think at the moment it would have to be Cassel Sharpe. The way Holly Black wrote him in her Curse Workers series was so good. I loved that everything was from a guy’s perspective.

J: What are three things you cannot live without and why?

F: 1. I literally could not live without my phone. I must reply to at least thirty emails with it every day, especially when I actually manage to get five minutes away from my desk.
2. I would be lost without my husband. I’m sure he’d object to being called a ‘thing’, but I’m gonna have to stretch the boundaries of the word in order to include him! He takes care of things when I’m too busy to accomplish ridiculously easy things that would take all of two minutes.
3. Lastly, I would be lost without the internet. If I didn’t have the internet, researching for my work would be much, much harder, but also I would find it difficult to connect with my family and friends, who have been immensely supportive during the process of me writing and publishing this book.

J: Who has influenced you the most in your life?

F: Hard question. I would have to say it’s a collective group of people. My friends have been really influential in that they’ve encouraged and pushed me, and helped pick me up when I’ve been feeling a little overwhelmed by everything. The same goes for my husband and my family, of course.

J: Last but not least, the burning question I always must know: window or aisle and why?

F: I’m gonna say aisle. I hate being trapped and not being able to get up so I can move around. Also, I always remember that scene from Fight Club where Brad Pitt debates whether to give Ed Norton ‘the ass or the crotch’,- I don’t like having the ask myself the same question whenever I’m trying to shimmy past strangers in order to get to the bathroom! I’m pretty tall, too, so being able to stick your legs out is always nice.

Haha. There you have it! Girlfriend loves Neil Gaiman (so do I!) and she knows how to insert a good ass or crotch into her interview. Good times.

Be sure to check out Frankie Rose’s book, Sovereign Hope today to see what all this hoopla is about. If you’re still on the fence, even after those fun responses, our own review will be out shortly to help tip the balance in her favor.

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