Blog Tour: Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman!

I could not be more honored to be part of the blog tour for Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman!

love Starfish, y’all. Here’s my review if you haven’t read it, where I say things like:

There are hardly words to describe how much it means to me.

I could write an entire essay just on how much I love Kiko, our narrator.

I love contemporary that keeps you going as easily as a suspense does. The tension is so palpable, and I had to know what would happen to Kiko. I had to keep reading..

So, needless to say, I’m THRILLED to have a Q&A with Akemi on Off-Color Literature today!

These Things I've Done by Rebecca Phillips

Kiko Himura has always had a hard time saying exactly what she’s thinking. With a mother who makes her feel unremarkable and a half-Japanese heritage she doesn’t quite understand, Kiko prefers to keep her head down, certain that once she makes it into her dream art school, Prism, her real life will begin.

But then Kiko doesn’t get into Prism, at the same time her abusive uncle moves back in with her family. So when she receives an invitation from her childhood friend to leave her small town and tour art schools on the west coast, Kiko jumps at the opportunity in spite of the anxieties and fears that attempt to hold her back. And now that she is finally free to be her own person outside the constricting walls of her home life, Kiko learns life-changing truths about herself, her past, and how to be brave.

So without further adieu, here’s my Q&A with Akemi!

I was so, immediately enamored of your book. What inspired you to write Starfish? Which part of the story came to you first?


Thank you so much! STARFISH is very much the book I needed as a teen. I wanted this story to exist in the world because I felt like it was something that was missing on the shelves—and I hope the readers who need it most will find it and feel like they finally have a mirror. The part of the story that came to me first was actually the first chapter—a girl at an art show with a mother who is completely uninterested in her. It’s a scene that really shows Kiko’s insecurities of not being “enough,” but also her immense strength in recognizing how much she needs to escape her home life. And from there, the story grew!

Writing always has its difficulties, of course, but do you think it’s harder to write difficult/dark subject matter?

Oh, absolutely! Particularly when it’s difficult subject matter that pulls from lived experiences. There were a handful of moments in STARFISH that hit so close to home, and at times I found them triggering to write about. In a lot of ways, telling this story was like sharing pieces of my heart I hadn’t realized needed to be shared. But ultimately, I wanted this book to exist for people who will recognize what Kiko goes through, and who will follow her journey and feel like they’ve finally been seen. Hearing that readers connect and relate to Kiko so much makes me feel a little less lonely somehow—I hope readers will feel this way too!

I cried reading your book, which is one of the best compliments I could give. Did you cry while writing it?

Ahh my heart! That means so much to hear, thank you! I had a lot of anxiety while writing it, but I hadn’t cried over it until the day it sold to my amazing editor, Jennifer Ung, at Simon Pulse. And now every single time I hear from a reader who loved the book, I turn into a waterfall of emotions. Honestly, crying is my default setting at the moment.

There are so many great books that sadly don’t get the attention they deserve. Do you have a favorite lesser-known or under-appreciated novel? 

I’m probably going to be terrible at this question for two reasons: 1) My TBR pile is an actual mountain, and there are so many books that would probably be great for this answer but I haven’t actually read them yet! And 2) Unless it makes the NYT Bestseller list, I’m really terrible at knowing what’s already well-known and what isn’t. So I’ll cheat a little here and just list books Ithink are under-appreciated, mostly in the sense that I wish everyone in the universe was talking about them. In no particular order, THE EPIC CRUSH OF GENIE LO by F.C. Yee, SERPENTINE by Cindy Pon, NOTEWORTHY by Riley Redgate, THE GIRL FROM EVERYWHERE by Heidi Heilig, and DESCENDER, which is a graphic novel by Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen and I have no idea if the world already knows about this one but I AM OBSESSED.

Starfish (rightfully) has AMAZING reviews already! Do you read reviews? How well do you deal with any negative feedback?

When STARFISH found a home with a publisher, I told myself I wasn’t going to look at a single review. I know how I am, and I take things to heart really easily. I feel like I have quite thick skin when it comes to feedback from my agent, editor, or a critique partner, but not so much when it comes to strangers. My anxiety goes all over the place! And I didn’t want that to get in the way of my writing when I knew I had other projects to work on. But being a debut author can be a bit of a whirlwind, and there’s a ton of self-promo involved. So I’ve had to look at reviews from time to time to kind of stay in the loop of what’s going on promotion-wise. Once STARFISH is released, I want to avoid Goodreads at all costs, and only read the reviews people tag me in on Twitter. So far those ones have all been really nice, so I think people are being gentle with me haha!

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Akemi Dawn Bowman is a proud Ravenclaw and Star Wars enthusiast, who served in the US Navy for five years and has a BA in social sciences from UNLV. Originally from Las Vegas, she currently lives in England with her husband, two children, and their Pekingese mix. STARFISH will be published later this year (9/26/17, Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster), with a second YA contemporary to follow in Fall 2018. She is represented by Penny Moore of Empire Literary.

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Thanks so much to Akemi Dawn Bowman and Simon & Schuster for access to this book and the chance to be a part of this blog tour!

13 Amazing Chuck Palahniuk Quotes

It’s no secret that Chuck Palahniuk is one of my favorite authors. I did a whole post about it here. I lovelovelove his books, and will read anything he writes pretty much on principal. Hell, I have tattoos from several of his books.

Part of the magic is that he has particular lines and/or moments in books that could make you think for hours. I have spent a fair amount of time reflecting on/crying over some of these.

So! Without further adieu, here are 13 of my favorite Chuck Palahniuk quotes/moments!

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“All God does is watch us and kill us when we get boring. We must never, ever be boring.” 

13 Chuck Palahniuk Quotes

Invisible Monsters

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“What I want is to be needed. What I need is to be indispensable to somebody. Who I need is somebody that will eat up all my free time, my ego, my attention. Somebody addicted to me. A mutual addiction.”

Choke

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“You are not your job, you’re not how much money you have in the bank. You are not the car you drive. You’re not the contents of your wallet. You are not your fucking khakis. You are all singing, all dancing crap of the world.” 

Fight Club

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“No matter how careful you are, there’s going to be the sense you missed something, the collapsed feeling under your skin that you didn’t experience it all. There’s that fallen heart feeling that you rushed right through the moments where you should’ve been paying attention.
Well, get used to that feeling. That’s how your whole life will feel some day.
This is all practice.” 

Invisible Monsters

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“Rant goes, “Really, truly with her whole entire heart, does Echo hate somebody?”
I go, doesn’t Rant mean “love”?
And Rant shrugs and says, “Ain’t it the same thing?”

Rant

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“No, whether a woman is a concubine to fuck or a damsel to redeem, she’s always just some passive object to fulfill a man’s purpose.” 

Snuff

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“Death is a long process,” Archer says. “Your body is just the first part of you that croaks.” Meaning: Beyond that, your dreams have to die. Then your expectations. And your anger about investing a lifetime in learning shit and loving people and earning money, only to have all that crap come to basically nothing. Really, your physical body dying is the easy part. Beyond that, your memories must die. And your ego. Your pride and shame and ambition and hope, all that Personal Identity Crap can take centuries to expire.” 

Damned

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“A girl calls and asks, “Does it hurt very much to die?”
“Well, sweetheart,” I tell her, “yes, but it hurts a lot more to keep living.” 

Survivor
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“No matter how much you think you love somebody, you’ll step back when the pool of their blood edges up too close.” 
13 Chuck Palahniuk Quotes
Invisible Monsters
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“All the effort in the world won’t matter if you’re not inspired.”
Diary
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“The difference between how you look and how you see yourself is enough to kill most people. And maybe the reason vampires don’t die is because they can never see themselves in photographs or mirrors.” 
Haunted
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“In a world where vows are worthless. Where making a pledge means nothing. Where promises are made to be broken, it would be nice to see words come back into power.” 
13 Chuck Palahniuk Quotes
Lullaby
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What about you?

What’s your favorite Palahniuk quote or poem?

The Sunday Post | Weekly Wrap-up

I’m linking up with The Sunday Post hosted by Kimberly @Caffeinated Book Reviewer.

Hey y’all! A great week at school. So much fun stuff. Watched a documentary about cannibals and got to talk about cultural relativism, which is a blast. Also lots and lots of math, which can suck it. Glad to find some time to read and get out of that head space.

I did one review! (click on the picture to see the review):

The Taxonomy of Love is SO EFFING CUTE. A story about a boy with Tourette Syndrome working his way through life using taxonomies and trying to label things neatly. So adorable.

A Taxonomy of Love

I’ve received quite a lot of book mail recently, which I am ecstatic about! I haven’t taken pictures of all of them quite yet, but here’s one I took that I am SO excited about (the pic is a little blurry because due to issues, this is a screenshot of the original image):

HOW CUTE IS THIS BOOK? I could not possible love more the juxtaposition of the title and the cutesy look. I cannot wait to dive into this one, and I think it may be the next one I do. So look for that review coming up!

I hope everyone’s having a great week, and I can’t wait to read your book!

By the way, my fellow book bloggers!

For some reason, I am not able to comment on .wordpress or .blogspot blogs!! I have no idea why, and if you have any ideas please let me know! But please know I always read your weekly updates and love them, even if for whatever dumb reason I can’t comment.

A Taxonomy of Love is Something Really Special

A Taxonomy of Love by Rachael Allen

Published by Amulet Books: scheduled for Jan. 2018

Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Contemporary

Pages: 336

A Taxonomy of Love caught my attention right away! First, the title. I love it. The cover is adorable, and so apt. And the description of Spencer, our narrator, who has Tourette Syndrome (something I hadn’t seen in a book, and certainly not like this), and who is obsessed with the idea of classifications and taxonomies. I knew I would love it, and I did.

A Taxonomy of Love

All the Wrong Chords Book

The moment Spencer meets Hope the summer before seventh grade, it’s . . . something at first sight. He knows she’s special, possibly even magical. The pair become fast friends, climbing trees and planning world travels. After years of being outshone by his older brother and teased because of his Tourette syndrome, Spencer finally feels like he belongs. But as Hope and Spencer get older and life gets messier, the clear label of “friend” gets messier, too.

Through sibling feuds and family tragedies, new relationships and broken hearts, the two grow together and apart, and Spencer, an aspiring scientist, tries to map it all out using his trusty system of taxonomy. He wants to identify and classify their relationship, but in the end, he finds that life doesn’t always fit into easy-to-manage boxes, and it’s this messy complexity that makes life so rich and beautiful.

The Writing

The writing here pulls off something I think can be super difficult, which is that through the one book the kids age quite a bit. At the start, Spencer and Hope are just thirteen. Their crushes are very indicative of children that age. By the end, they’re nineteen! It’s a huge leap. The story takes place in separate parts for each age, and it does mean we miss a lot. For instance, we leave one year with Spencer and Hope not having spoken for a while, and when the next part starts, they’re friends again. This can be SO incredibly hard to pull off, and it is done so well here. The kids genuinely feel like they age without becoming whole new people, and it doesn’t feel rushed.

There’s also just a lot here that’s special. Most of our chapters are from Spencer’s point of view, first person present-tense narration. We also get some instant message (is this antiquated phraseology? Am I showing my age?) conversation between Hope and her sister, Janie. As well as letters from Hope to Janie. Interspersed throughout are little taxonomies, written out by Spencer, and they are so fun.

The Characters

This is so special to me, because the characters and my opinions of them changed quite a bit!

First, we have Spencer. He is just such a wonderful kid. We watch him go through so much. Not only his interest in girls starting to peak, but his life with Tourette Syndrome, his relationship with his brother (always perceived as perfect), the abandonment of his mother, his relationship with his father and stepdad. There is A LOT here, and I rooted for him the entire time. He’s also just such a good guy. Given his relationship with Hope, I was genuinely amazed and thrilled that the phrase “friend zone” was never thrown around.

Hope goes through her own arc, and thank fuck, right? Because how often do we see these stories from boys points of view where they chase their manic pixie dream girl around and we have no idea about what’s even going on with her. Hope is a person. She’s flawed, she deals with her own grief, and she’s not always entirely likable. I think it’s perfect, necessary that she’s like this. Her grief is so realistic to me, and I definitely felt for her even when I didn’t really like her.

The side characters are fun. Spencer eventually has some great friends. His brother and father also both go through incredible transitions.

As I mentioned earlier, I’d never read a story about someone with TS! And definitely, absolutely not like this. I hadn’t seen one as the main protagonist. And when I have seen them, they’re often in movies to be laughed at (think Duece Bigalow: Male Gigalo, if you’re old enough). This is an honest depiction of a kid trying to have a normal life with tics, and it’s so great.

Spencer also has an interracial relationship at one point, and they’re not shy to talk about the issues. They live in Georgia, and he talks a lot about being both proud and embarrassed of where he’s from. His girlfriend isn’t cast in a play because the male lead is white and they don’t want them to kiss on stage. They discuss the removal of the Confederate flag from the school, and how the kids are no longer allowed to wear it, and we get to see some interesting growth from Spencer’s brother and dad over it. The discussion about race playing a decent size while not being what the story is about is a huge deal to me.

When I Cast Your Shadow by Sarah Porter

Is that this is a fun, easy read that will most definitely tug at your heartstrings!

Thanks to NetGalley for advanced access to this book in exchange for an honest review!

The Sunday Post | Weekly Wrap Up

I’m linking up with The Sunday Post hosted by Kimberly @Caffeinated Book Reviewer.

Hey y’all! So, wow. It has been dead around here, right? I have had an INSANE few months. Some really rough mental health stuff which I know I’ve spoken about a little, work problems, and then I just headed into my last semester of college! So things have been crazy, and I know the blog took an unscheduled hiatus because of it.

But I’m so glad to be back! I have a great schedule going and I’m so, so excited.

I did one review! (click on the picture to see the review):

The Hollow Girl by Hillary Monahan is definitely an interesting one, and one I wouldn’t recommend to everyone though I enjoyed it. A horror about a girl taking revenge on her rapist.

I also did a review a bit back that you should definitely check out if you haven’t! When I Cast Your Shadow is SO weird and so fun and I really adored it.

The Hollow Girl by Hillary Monohan  When I Cast Your Shadow by Sarah Porter

I have quite a few arcs, and I’m thinking about trying to be approved for a few adult titles soon! I also received some GORGEOUS books in the mail that I cannottttt wait to photograph!

I hope everyone is having an incredible week, and I can’t wait to read your posts!