These Things I’ve Done: A Review

Hello Readers & Writers,

Today I will be reviewing These Things I’ve Done by Rebecca Phillips which published August 2017 from Harper Teen. I received this title from Eric Smith, (thanks so much again!) as a review copy. There will be no spoilers so don’t click away. Though I will warn you that:

  1. This book surrounds the theme of death. Please take caution while reading.
  2. There is an incident of sexual harassment and it is talked about through some parts of the story.

These Things I’ve Done will punch you in the gut as it deals heavily with grief and its different stages: anger, guilt, understanding, etc. It has been on my list to read for the longest time and it did not disappoint.

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It is told in two alternating time periods, before and after the death of Dara’s best friend, Aubrey. These tales do eventually weave together in order to create a cohesive past as well as help the reader understand Dara’s relationship with Aubrey, and who Dara was before the incident. After reading both the first chapter of before and the first chapter of after, it broke my heart to see the stark contrast in Dara’s personality. Phillips did an amazing job at depicting a believable stage of grief, but it didn’t stop there. She dug into the layers of Dara’s psyche to show a teenage girl who was suffering, who didn’t know how to find forgiveness within herself.

The main premise is Dara returns to her hometown over a year after the death of Aubrey. She believes it is time to face the consequences of her horrible action and drown in the suffering she thinks she deserves. Her parents are unsteady around her and her little brother who she was once so close with is afraid of her. All of her former friends want nothing to do with her.  None of this compares to seeing Aubrey’s little brother, Ethan, someone who had been a huge part of her life prior to Aubrey’s death. Reacquainting with him leads to a roller coaster of emotions, unresolved problems, and finding acceptance. It also allows us as readers to gain a better sense of who Audrey was, both as a friend, and as a sister.

The story doesn’t leave you with a bleak outlook on life. It does have some sad bits and a lot of lines that will cling to your heart and not let you go, but it offers hope. It shows a way out of the darkness especially when you believe choices and actions cannot be undone. It shows that there will always be people to accept you and pick you up during the most difficult moments of your life.

Overall, it gets 4/5 stars from me and I will definitely be keeping an eye on whatever Rebecca Phillips has in store next.

Xx

Megan

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Games & Best Friends Featuring Anna Priemaza

Hello Readers & Writers,

I had the pleasure of interviewing Anna Priemaza, author of Kat and Meg Conquer the World releasing November 2017 from HarperTeen. This is a book I’ve been excited for and I was even more thrilled when Anna agreed to talk with me about the book. She raises some really strong points about friendship and identity.

Before I kick off the interview, here is a synopsis of Kat and Meg Conquer the World:

33877998Kat and Meg couldn’t be more different.

Kat’s anxiety makes it hard for her to talk to new people. The only place she feels safe is in front of her computer, playing her favorite video game.

Meg hates being alone, but her ADHD keeps pushing people away. Friends. Her boyfriend. Even the stepfather who raised her.

But when the two girls are thrown together for a year-long science project, they discover they do have one thing in common: their obsession with the online gaming star LumberLegs and his hilarious videos.

Meg’s pretty sure this is fate. Kat doesn’t know how to deal with someone who talks faster than she thinks. But if they can stick together and stay out of their heads, they might figure out how to help each other—and build the kind of friendship Kat never knew she wanted and Meg never believed she’d find.

Q1: Where did the idea for Kat and Meg Conquer the World come from?

Anna: When I’m brainstorming a book, I don’t think about plot, I think about people. My ideas notebook is full of characters and their relationship to each other. Kat and Meg Conquer the World stemmed from the concept of best friends who are opposites.


Q2: Did you grow up playing video games? If so, what did you love to play and on what gaming system?

Anna: I owe everything I am to the computer game Math Rabbit, which I played for hours and hours and hours when I was a kid. You don’t know joy until you’ve saved up enough e-tickets to buy the rollerskating poodle from the prize tent.

Also:

Gameboy – Super Mario Land, Kirby’s Dreamland, Yoshi, Rolan’s Curse, Tetris

N64 – MarioKart, Smash Brothers, Zelda: Ocarina of Time

Computer – Daggerfall, Heroes of Might and Magic, Jagged Alliance

We had only one computer and one console, so I spent a ton of time watching my sister play Zelda or my brother play some dungeon crawler game I can’t remember the name of. (How old do I sound? I swear I’m not that old. Technology changes quickly, kids!)


Q3: Do you share any traits with the characters you’ve created?

Anna: Well, like both of them, I’m a fangirling nerd and gamer who values friendship fiercely. I am also intimately acquainted with panic attacks and anxiety, like Kat, though some of the things that trigger my anxiety are different than hers.


Q4: What was it like getting into the headset of both Kat and Meg? Did you have an easier time with one character versus the other?

Anna: Kat came alive for me from the moment I set pen to the page. I have a vivid memory of writing the first few paragraphs of her first scene and thinking, “Oh! Hello, Kat! You’re here! It’s so nice to meet you!”

Meg took a bit longer to show herself, but once she did, I had a complete blast getting into her head. Meg is impulsive and gregarious and hilarious and although she is so very different from me, I adore her with my whole heart, and I love being in her head.


Q5: ADHD and anxiety are both important issues that need to be discussed in literature, but can also be complicated to write about given how they affect people differently. Did you do any research for these issues and what was that like?

Anna: Let me say first of all that I don’t consider Kat and Meg to be an “issue book.” It’s not a book about anxiety or about ADHD. It is a book about friendship, fandom, video games, and how people can be rocks for each other even when they themselves feel like quicksand.

I like to make this distinction because my own disabilities and mental health diagnoses feel similar to the fact that I have size 9 feet (okay, okay, size 9.5).

(Wait, what?

Bear with me, I have a point. You’ll see. I hope.)

The size of my feet is an unchangeable, defined part of me that impacts me in obvious (what shoes I can buy or wear) and not-as-obvious (how I walk or stand or balance) ways. I can’t wear the shoes of someone who has different sized feet than me–at least, I can’t wear them and be comfortable. My foot/shoe size impacts me on a day-to-day basis.

At the same time, though, if someone painted a picture of me, and it turned out all they painted was my feet… that’d be upsetting (not to mention creepy). I am more than my feet. I am more than my handicapped arm. I am more than my anxiety. I am more than my dermatillomania. I am more than my sensory processing disorder. (Though these things are all still a core part of me and impact me every day.)

Kat has severe anxiety, and that impacts everything she does throughout the whole book. But so does the fact that she is clever and thoughtful and ambitious and witty and completely badass at video games.

Meg has ADHD, and that impacts everything she does throughout the whole book. But so does the fact that she is fearless and brimming with ideas and passionate and hilarious.

All of this is to say that yes, I did a crap-ton of research for the aspects of Kat’s and Meg’s lives that are outside of my own experience–from reading through forums to watching YouTube videos to asking friends hundreds of questions to having numerous sensitivity readers. But my research did not define who they are, it just helped me paint various parts of their portraits with a bit more precision.


Q6: Describe Kat and Meg Conquer the World in three words.

Anna: Gamer girl BFFs


Q7: What do you want readers to take away from your book?

Anna: Friendship is badass and just as swoon-worthy as romance.


Q8: What is something you nerd out about?

Anna: I fangirl over YouTube gamers so much that I dressed as one for Halloween. I own at least 20 articles of Doctor Who-related clothing. At home, I live in my Hufflepuff hoodie. My husband and I own over 200 board games. I am…oh, wait, you said just one.


Q9:  Do you have plans for future books and if so, will they be a genre similar to Kat and Meg or a new one all together?

Anna: I’m currently working on my first round of edits for book two, which will come out from HarperTeen a year or so after Kat and Meg. It’s also a contemporary YA, about a girl who travels across Canada to search for her missing sister, accompanied by her sister’s best friend and the cultist accused of her murder.

As you can probably tell from that description, it’s a lot darker than Kat and Meg, but it still has a lot in common with my debut. It’s about relationships–friendship and family–and is still woven with nerd references and humour.

One thing you can expect from all my books is a primary focus on non-romantic relationships. Romance is great, but it’s only one of the thousands of ties that bind us to the people around us. We can have our heart broken by a friend, be supported by a rival, learn something from a younger sibling, be betrayed by a celebrity, be profoundly impacted by a stranger…*trails off, picks up ideas notebook, and starts writing frantically*


Author Bio: 

_DSC5200 v3 webAnna Priemaza is a contemporary young adult author and a practicing family and immigration lawyer in Edmonton, Alberta, where she lives with her husband. She can never quite remember how old she is, as she knits like an old lady, practices law like an adult, fangirls over YouTubers like a teen, and dreams like a child.

 

If you’d like to follow Anna and her work, which I highly recommend, see all these lovely links:

Website: http://annapriemaza.com/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/33877998-kat-and-meg-conquer-the-world

Twitter: https://twitter.com/annab311a

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/annapriemaza/

Amazon (US): http://a.co/3Egl2G7

Amazon (CA): http://a.co/7XifUqO

Once again, a big thank you to Anna for joining me today.  Be sure to preorder/pick up a copy of Kat and Meg Conquer the World. I sure will be. To see more book related posts on my end, keep an eye on the blog.

Xx

Megan

 

Home Sweet Home

I wrote this story about two years ago. It started off as nothing more than a drabble, something that needed editing and more character cultivation. I rewrote it about four times: adding details, taking them away, trying to make the story longer. I was determined to make the story publishable. After about ten attempts, Superhero in the Dark finally found its home.

*Cue me screaming with glee here*

This was one of the short stories I fought for, in the sense, that I wanted it out there for others to read. I was heavily attached to the characters involved and how they helped each other in their own way. Neither realized how important they were to the other. People can leave an imprint in one’s life without realizing it. For better or worse depends on the scenario. In the case of my story, it was for the better. images

Superhero in the Dark was a way of exploring the issue above as well as many others: friendship, death, abusive households. Sometimes the smallest encounters can keep people going. Sometimes, we don’t realize the little things we do are what tie people to the world around them.

I relate to that idea in many ways. When life got tough it was good friends and simple pleasures that kept me from falling apart in the same way they keep my main protagonist from falling apart. Not everything has to rely on romance or the shoulders of a lone individual. Maybe having this message out there was why I pushed hard for this story. Maybe my passions as a writer was motivation.

Nonetheless, I am thrilled to say that you can read my newest short story in the fourth issue of Firefly Magazine which can be found here. I hope you like it as much as I liked writing it and feel free to leave comments below. Note in advance that this story deals with some heavy issues and reader discretion is advised.

Xx

Megan

Literally Jumping For Joy

Wait for it.

Wait for it.

I GOT A SHORT STORY PUBLISHED.

It’s my third publication on a popular short fiction site known as Everyday Fiction. The fact I was able to snag this made me freak out. I ran into my parent’s room to tell them the news, nearly scaring them half to death while I screamed and rambled on about the achievement. I then proceeded to dance and jump around my house, shouting, “I’m so excited!” It was a very crazy day in my house you could say.

I wanted to post about this sooner, but I knew that I had to wait until the story was officially on the site. I was notified of it being accepted for publication about a month ago and since then, I’ve been counting the days until it was released and could be read by an audience that wasn’t just me and the family members who helped me edit it: my brother and sister in law.

This story was a shot in the dark. I submitted it not expecting to get anything out of it. The literary world is one filled with constant rejection and revision. Everyday Fiction however, decided to give me a chance. They sent me an email with feedback from multiple editors and I took their words into account and made the necessary changes.

It turned out the effort was rewarded because I accomplished my goal of getting one short story published this year.

The story that was picked up is called “Comatose” and it’s a flash fiction piece centered around two friends, one who is forced to make a decision that no friend ever wants to make. It’s a heavy piece and originally, I didn’t plan to write anything aside from the opening line in my journal. I figured I could turn it into a poem, but the line kept nagging at me. One evening I sat down and produced this story. I was surprised to say the least, though it turned out to be more than just a work in progress.

Now, without further ado, I present to you Comatose. I hope you guys enjoy it. Feel free to leave comments here or on the story itself.

CLICK HERE.