Watch our author video interview, “15 minutes with… Sara Ella,” now! Here, we talk about her latest release in The Unblemished Trilogy, Unraveling, world building and how she got so attached to stories with a HEA (Happily Ever After)! You don’t want to miss this interview brought to you by NetGalley, Meryl Moss Media and BookTrib.com.
What happens when happily ever after starts to unravel?
Eliyana Ember doesn’t believe in true love. Not anymore. After defeating her grandfather and saving the Second Reflection, El only trusts what’s right in front of her. The tangible. The real. Not some unexplained Kiss of Infinity she once shared with the ghost of a boy she’s trying to forget. She has more important things to worry about—like becoming queen of the Second Reflection, a role she is so not prepared to fill.
Now that the Verity is intertwined with her soul and Joshua’s finally by her side, El is ready to learn more about her mysterious birth land, the land she now rules. So why does she feel like something—or someone—is missing?
When the thresholds begin to drain and the Callings, those powerful magical gifts, begin to fail, El wonders if her link to Ky Rhyen may have something to do with it. For light and darkness cannot coexist. She needs answers before the Callings disappear altogether. Can El find a way to sever her connection to Ky and save the Reflections—and keep herself from falling for him in the process?
A nice place to start is with your blogger origin story – how did Just Love get started?
I started Just Love in 2015 as a solo blogger. I was fairly new to the LGBTQIA+ romance community, and was frustrated by my search to find quality books to spend my money on; other review blogs were difficult to navigate, or had different reading tastes. So I started Just Love to document what I was reading, share it with the world, and help other people make informed decisions on what to read!
At first, the site was Just Love Romance, because that was all that I was reading. Back then, my job allowed me plenty of time for reading, and I was devouring 7-10 books a week and reviewing them. But in April 2016, unable to keep up with that pace anymore, I brought on seven new reviewers—the most amazing group of people ever! I was so fortunate to find such a diverse and talented team. We changed the name to Just Love, since we weren’t just reviewing romance anymore, and the blog continued to grow.
Today we have almost a dozen full-time and part-time reviewers, and we just celebrated our second birthday!
You have a queer romance series (M/M and F/F) coming out in 2017. Can you talk a little bit about how reviewing has influenced your own writing?
Reviewing makes me take a step back from reading to critically analyze a book. What works and what doesn’t? Why did I enjoy a trope in one book, but not in another? When you spend so much time thinking about what you read, it definitely helps with your own writing. For example, I love the “stranded in a blizzard” trope in romance, but the plots were often so predictable that I couldn’t really appreciate it. So I wrote Whiteout, which was my take on that trope, and tried to do something different there.
Just Love also helped me find the courage to submit my own writing for publication. Through blogging, I met authors and publishers, and gained a much better understanding of the publishing industry. I was able to ask my favorite authors how they got started, and connect with editors who offered fantastic advice. Because of this, there was less of an ‘unknown’, and I wasn’t so scared to pitch my books!
Do you have a preferred approach to writing reviews for books? Has your style evolved over the years, particularly since becoming a blogger?
When I started blogging, my reviews were, “This is why you should (or shouldn’t) read this book.” Now my approach has changed; I want to tell a reader my reaction. How did this book make me feel, why did I enjoy (or dislike) this novel? I urge my reviewers to do the same. By making the review personal, you’re better able to convey your emotional response to it, which I think helps people make a decision about whether to read a book or not. If you’re just saying, “This is a good book and you should read it because it’s well written,” well… I don’t find that very believable.
Which upcoming book(s) on NetGalley are you the most excited about reading and recommending to your followers? And are there any covers on NetGalley that you’re loving?
I can tell you that everyone on our blog is excited for Illegal Contact by Santino Hassell (an M/M football romance). I’d say this is our most anticipated release of the summer!
I’m also personally super excited about Tash Hearts Tolstoy by Kathryn Ormsbee, which is a YA novel with an asexual protagonist!
As for my favorite covers? I think the covers for Layla Reyne’s Irish & Whisky series are stunning! (Book One, Two, and Three).
Another cover I adore is Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore… I have this ARC in paperback, and it’s simply gorgeous!
Does Just Love have anything special planned for GLBT Book Month this June?
Since we’re a queer-only review site, we haven’t planned anything specifically themed around GLBT Book Month. We do have a few really awesome (and still Top Secret!) featured posts going up this month, though. And beginning in July we’ll be starting theme months, bringing in special guests and highlighting books around a common identity/orientation or concept.
Your blog in two sentences:
Reviews, discussions, and author posts highlighting queer (LGBTQIA+) books. Also occasional posts about pasta or chocolate, many twitter shenanigans, and tons of late-night hilarity!
The one book you wish was never-ending:
Wolfsong, by TJ Klune. I was so upset when I got to the last page that I immediately started re-reading it! (Thankfully he’s writing a sequel…)
Your favorite two publishers for GLBT titles:
Just two?! There are so many great ones out there. Maybe a bit biased, but I’ll say Riptide Publishing is one of them. And Interlude Press is phenomenal—high quality fiction and amazing authors!
The last book that made you smile:
The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli. What a perfect, brilliant, hilarious read!
And to finish off our interview, if you could have coffee (…or something stiffer) with any author, dead or alive, who would it be, and why?
J.K. Rowling. The Harry Potter books turned me from “reader” to “book lover” and introduced me to online community. Without them, I wouldn’t be where I was today.
Thanks so much, El, for spending time with us and answering our questions!
As the start of holiday season, July is always a bumper month for fiction – and this year it’s a particularly fine crop. Matt Haig is back with another wise and warm novel, Lisa Jewell continues to be one of the UK’s most intriguing writers, Neel Mukherjee cements his reputation as a writer of consummate skill and invention, while The Upstairs Room introduces a compelling new voice in Kate Murray-Browne.
We think all of these books are going to be big news this summer, so don’t forget to read and review. Talking of which, be sure to check out our recent Reader Spotlight post, which features UK blogger Leonie Byrne. Enjoy!
Matt Haig has become one of the UK’s most beloved authors – and the author of Reasons to Stay Alive and The Humans has done it again with How to Stop Time.
Tom Hazard looks like a normal, forty-something teacher. But as he takes lessons on witch-hunts and wars, he can’t tell his pupils the real truth. He was there to witness it all. Owing to a strange condition, Tom has been alive for centuries, seeing everything from Elizabethan England to Jazz-age Paris. All he wants now is a quiet life. But his past is catching up with him – just as he’s doing the one thing he must never do: fall in love.
Clever, unusual and romantically charged, this is a superb novel of how we change and how we stay the same.
The Upstairs Room Kate Murray-Browne Picador UK Edition
The Upstairs Room is a remarkable debut of unsettling power, introducing a writer of rare skill and empathy. It is supposed to be their dream house: a four-bedroom Victorian terrace in East London. But that dream is slowly turning sour. Richard seems overly interested in their enigmatic lodger, Zoe, while Eleanor is perturbed by the chilling atmosphere of their new home – especially the strange upstairs room, where the previous owner, Emily, has written her name hundreds of times. This is a expertly crafted novel of domestic disharmony and secrets.
A State of Freedom Neel Mukherjee Chatto & Windus UK Edition
Neel Mukherjee’s second novel, The Lives of Others, was shortlisted for the Man-Booker Prize 2014, and heralded the arrival of one of the most compelling, sharp and innovative writers in world literature. A State of Freedom is his remarkable follow-up, a deeply affecting, stunningly written novel of India in all its fractured forms. Following five characters as they negotiate the shifting cultural and emotional spaces of their situations, Mukherjee teases out a devastating portrait of people caught between the lives they have and the lives they desire for themselves.
Lisa Jewell first made her name with the iconic rom-com Ralph’s Party – but her more recent books, especially the bestselling I Found You, have combined her unerring sense of character with far darker and disturbing plots. Then She Was Gone is perhaps her most chilling book to date, and is Lisa’s best book yet. Laurel’s daughter, Ellie, disappeared at the age of 15, and a decade later, Laurel is still coming to terms with the loss. Despite this there’s a new man in her life and things seem to be looking up. But then she meets his daughter. And she is the spitting image of Ellie…
Flight of a Starling Lisa Heathfield Electric Monkey UK Edition
Paper Butterflies was one of the most popular Teen & YA titles uploaded to NetGalley in 2016, and Flight of a Starling is sure to be an even bigger hit with readers and reviewers. Sisters Rita and Lo have spent their lives in the air, taking their trapeze act from town to town as part of the family circus. Their life of freedom, and their close family, means they never want to stay anywhere for too long. Until Lo meets a boy, triggering a sequence of events that will rock their circus community….
Natasha Pulley’s The Watchmaker of Filigree Street was an internationally bestselling novel of magic and intrigue, and this new novel draws on the same captivating world. India, 1859, Merrick Tremayne is sent to Peru to find chinchona bark, the only cure for the malaria that is plaguing the country. There he discovers a legacy left by two generations of explorers before him, one that will prove more dangerous and valuable than the India Office could ever have imagined.
Already creating a huge amount of buzz online and on NetGalley, Sarah Franklin’s Shelter is set to become one of the year’s hottest debuts. It is the Second World War and Connie Granger has escaped her bombed-out home to become a ‘lumberjill’ in the Women’s Timber Corps. There she meets an Italian prisoner of war, Seppe; their relationship changing their lives for ever. Both must make a life-defining choice and try to discover their place in a world they hardly now recognise.
City of Saints & Thieves Natalie C. Anderson Rock the Boat UK Edition
This unbearably tense thriller has earned comparisons with The Hunger Games and The Thief Lord, but the compelling and richly drawn setting of Kenya make City of Saints & Thieves stand out as a brilliantly accomplished work in its own right. In the shadows of Sangui City, street-thief Tina patiently plots her revenge on those she believes shot her mother. When an opportunity presents itself, she takes it with both hands. But things do not go quite as planned. And her desire to finally uncover the truth about why her mother was killed, will place her mortal danger…
Watling Street is a thought-provoking, vividly written and witty look at our island through the prism of just one road: one that runs from Dover to Anglesey. Watling Street (now built on as the A2, the A5 and the M6 Toll) is a road of witches and ghosts, of queens and highwaymen, of history and myth, of Chaucer, Dickens and James Bond. Along this route Boudicca met her end, the Battle of Bosworth changed royal history, Bletchley Park code breakers cracked Nazi transmissions and Capability Brown remodelled the English landscape. A fascinating journey well worth taking.
Conn Iggulden’s first foray into the world of fantasy is as breath-taking and as visceral as you might imagine. In the city of Darien, twelve families rule in a time of uneasy peace. Just one act will bring chaos and disorder: a plot to kill a king. It’s an act of treachery that will summon strangers to the city – Elias Post, a hunter, Tellius, an old swordsman banished from his home, Arthur, a boy who cannot speak, Daw Threefold, a chancer and gambler, Vic Deeds, who feels no guilt – and Nancy, a girl whose talent might be the undoing of them all. Sparkling, immersive and utterly spell-binding.
Librarians' Choice: top 10
Librarians’ Choice has announced the Top 10 titles for June 2017 that librarians across Australia love. You can request or wish for the featured titles below on NetGalley right now, and view more information on the Librarians’ Choice site.
If you are a librarian in Australia, you can nominate titles for the Librarians’ Choice list via NetGalley!
Originally published on Bookish.com, our sister company.
No literary genre is an island. Even if there is one genre you usually read, odds are, it has more in common with other kinds of stories than you might think. No one knows this better than Jill Santopolo, whose latest novel The Light We Lost draws on her experiences writing and editing across a number of genres. Here, she tells readers about the lessons she’s learned from her genre-spanning career.
Before I started writing The Light We Lost, I spent ten years editing children’s and young adult novels across many different genres. I’m still doing that, and I love it. I love being able to work on mysteries and paranormal romance and fantasy and historical fiction and contemporary novels because I can look at what one author has done really well in one genre, and see how it might apply to what another author is writing in another genre. I can give tips to a mystery writer about narrative tension from editing a romance novel, I can give tips to a historical fiction writer about world building from editing a fantasy novel. I love being able to do that, finding pieces of the writing craft that crossover from genre to genre.
So when, a few years ago, my boss, the publisher of a children’s book imprint, asked me to read E.L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey to see if there was anything that she did that we might learn from and share with the young adult novelists we were working with, it made perfect sense to me. And I did come up with some things that I thought might be useful—some that I also ended up applying to my own writing of The Light We Lost. And when I did so, it got me thinking: What have I learned as a children’s book editor that could make my adult writing stronger? While young adult novels aren’t a genre, they do have some similarities as far as craft is concerned—and they’re elements of craft that I thought might my make my own novel stronger.
Pacing One of the things I keep in mind when I’m editing children’s books is that books are competing for kids’ attention with sports, video games, apps, homework, play dates… basically everything. The goal with any children’s book is to keep the pace of the story moving so quickly that there isn’t any place that feels natural to pause, nowhere to put the book down and go do something else instead. We want those kids to fall asleep with their books on top of their blankets. And one of the ways to make that happen is to pay special attention to pacing. When I started writing The Light We Lost, I kept that in mind. I wanted my readers to get so wrapped up in the momentum of the story that they fell asleep with it on their blankets as well.
Love Triangles I’ve edited more than one teen romance with a love triangle at its center, and, as an adjunct professor at The New School, have worked with students who are writing books with love triangles in them, too. The “who will s/he choose” and “who would I choose” is something that seems to connect readers deeply to the characters whose stories they’re reading—think about Bella, Edward, and Jacob from Twilight. Katniss, Peeta, and Gale from The Hunger Games. Calla, Ren and Shay from Nightshade. The trick, I think, is creating two characters who are potentially a good match for the main character because they fulfill different needs that the character has. Then the reader—and the character—get to choose which of those needs is more important. Making that decision along with the main character is a way to connect the reader to the story, and that’s always my goal—to make that connection.
Short Chapters The Light We Lost is written in vignette form, none of which is more than a handful of pages long. This is something else I look for when I edit books for children and teens. It’s easy to read “just one more,” when the next chapter is only a couple of pages long. This ties in with pacing, but is slightly different because it’s not just the idea of keeping the action moving, but it’s the idea of making each scene as tight and taut as possible.
No Extra Words When I’m line-editing novels for kids and teens, I often circle words or sentences or whole paragraphs and write “needed?” next to them in the margin. I tried to do the same thing with The Light We Lost. The book’s not all that long, and every word that’s in there feels, to me, like it’s absolutely necessary. I hope readers feel the same way.
There’s that old writing mantra: Write what you know. And then there’s the addendum: Write it slant. For the past 15 years I’ve known children’s books. But with The Light We Lost, I took what I learned and I wrote it slant.
Jill Santopolo received a BA in English literature from Columbia University and an MFA in writing from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. She’s the author of three successful children’s and young-adult series and works as the editorial director of Philomel Books, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers group. An adjunct professor in The New School’s MFA program, Jill travels the world to speak about writing and storytelling. She lives in New York City.
Let’s start with the beginning: why did you first get involved with blogging?
It all started a couple of years ago, when I started a blog mainly to get things off my chest. I’ve always loved writing and reading but I’m useless with keeping a journal, so I decided to start a blog to talk about what was going on in my life and the random thoughts I had. The blog worked for my initial idea but I was constantly looking for what my niche could be. Despite being a big reader it never occurred to me that people would want to read my book reviews. I had no idea that there was this whole community of other book lovers out there. I’d often thought about applying for a job as a reviewer in a magazine or newspaper but had no idea where to start! Then an author friend of mine told me about NetGalley. When I started reviewing for NetGalley it made sense to put those reviews on my blog as well as on social media, and so Life has a Funny Way was reborn as a book reviewing blog. I still post other bits and pieces on there but my main passion is the book reviewing!
How has reviewing books changed your experience as a reader?
I’ve tried not to let it change my experience too much if I’m honest. At first I was reading all these amazing reviews from other bloggers or reviewers and they were making them really cool by adding quotes. So, I started writing quotes down as I was reading. But then I realised that this was having a negative impact on my reading. I was hunting down quotes and dragging myself out of the story to write them down. So now I just choose one or two quotes usually from the beginning of the book to use as an introduction. Of course, if I’m reading on kindle it’s easier as I can highlight whole passages if I want to! On the other hand, though it’s enriched my reading experiences in a big way, when you’ve read a ton of books (1733 at last count) it can be hard to remember specifics about what you’ve read. Reviewing allows me to go back at the end of the month, the year, even 10 years later and refresh my memory, not on whether the book was one I enjoyed but why I enjoyed it so much. It also allows me to share my love of books with other people in the book community which in turn can lead to recommendations which will enrich other readers’ lives.
You just started a BookTube channel – how do you like vlogging so far?
Vlogging is so different to blogging! I don’t know what I really expected from vlogging, or how successful I thought I would be, but what I have found is that it’s a lot of fun. Writing is my thing, speaking not so much, so it took a while to get into the swing of things. But once I saw that people enjoyed what I was saying it’s just gotten better and better. It’s introduced me to a community of fellow book lovers which I never knew existed. When I try to talk about books to anyone in real life I see their eyes glazing over and that’s fine, if that’s not their thing. But talking to my subscribers on YouTube, I’m talking to people who love books as much as I do, who understand my crazy book loving ways. It’s also been great to get recommendations on books from other people’s channels and share our weird book habits, loves, hates and passions. I’ve also made some great friends who I now speak to over email and I’m going to be starting a book related newsletter with one of them soon. Vlogging has really expanded my horizons.
Are there particular subgenres that you prefer or find more interesting at the moment? Are there any trends that you are excited to see come or go?
I love high and epic fantasy like The Lord of the Rings & A Game of Thrones because you can really get lost in a book which creates a whole world which is alternative to your own. As a writer as well as a reader I admire the incredible talent of writers like Tolkien, Martin and Laini Taylor because they can actually create these books with such beautiful writing, I mean, what would it be like to be inside their minds? Minds where a whole new universe can be created?
Urban Fantasy novels have also long been a favorite, books like Cassandra Clare’s Shadowhunter series, books which create an alternative world but it’s a different kind, it’s the world which is your own world but better, more adventurous. I always come away with the niggling feeling that maybe there is something else right in the corner of my eye and one day I could just be there at the right place and time to slip into it. It’s pure escapism and I love it!
There’s a huge trend at the moment for “Royalty based” fantasy novels. I loved The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen but I’ve found myself avoiding other “Queen” books. I was in Waterstones over the weekend and that seemed to be all that was on the shelves. I’d like to pick up some books which have original and new ideas. Fantasy is such an amazing genre because a lot of it comes straight from the imagination and can’t really be based on life experience or researched in the way other genres can. That’s why I think it’s so important to come up with new and exciting ideas. I would really like to see more Mermaid books orientated towards adults and YA.
You’re working on a debut novel. Can you talk a little bit about your writing process and how you make time while in university and with an active blog?
Oh well, what can I say about my writing process? It’s very haphazard to say the least. It’s a fantasy novel I’m writing but I keep losing myself in other people’s fantasy writing instead of doing my own! I started my novel about 3 years ago, and just wrote in notebooks whenever I had a spare minute and whenever the muse struck so to speak. Now, I tend to only write when the muse strikes. I need to get a new laptop as mine is really slow which puts me off writing because I can’t be bothered to wait for it to boot up! My blogging, writing short stories, creative writing for university and of course now my Booktube and my full-time job all take up a huge amount of time as well. But when I do sit down to write, I write a lot. Rather than setting myself a goal such as 500 words per day, I find that writing when I feel inspired works better for me because I can sit down and write 5k+ words at a time, but then I might not write again for 5+ months. It’s a slow process but I want to get it right, I’m in no rush!
Which upcoming Fantasy book(s) on NetGalley are you the most excited about recommending?
Alice: The Wanderland Chronicles by JM Sullivan is a title I’ve just requested and I’m hoping to be approved for. I love Alice in Wonderland retellings and I’ve even written a short story version of one myself!
I’ve recently been approved Prophecy Awakened by Tamar Sloan, a novel about two teenagers who get together and set off a chain of events relating to a prophecy, it sounds magical and has a cool cover so I’m looking forward to starting that.
Darien, Empire of Salt by CF Iggulden is another one I’ve just been approved for and it looks like a super cool Game of Thrones style novel so I’m really intrigued by it. There’s a lot to live up to with George RR Martin’s series and I’m hoping this will satisfy my cravings for fantasy-cum-historical fiction!
Rotherweird by Andrew Caldecott has been one of my favorite reads of the year so far. Not just as a Netgalley read but overall it was amazing! It’s all about a town which has been cut off from the rest of England and nobody knows why. There’s a mystery at the centre and it revolves around this really cool fantasy element, but I won’t say anymore because it’s better as a surprise!
Your blog in two sentences:
Life has a Funny Way is a quirky blog inhabited by lots of gifs. It’s very welcoming and frequently updated as I do read a lot!
Your favorite 2 publishers for Fantasy titles?
Penguin Random House Group and Harper Fiction have both published some amazing fantasy books in the last 12 months, either under their own name or their imprints.
Your favorite snack(s) to eat while reading:
Vegetarian Pizza & Ben and Jerry’s Chocolate Brownie Ice Cream (not together of course!).
And to finish off our interview, if you could go on a road trip with any author, dead or alive, who would it be, and where would you go?
I had to think long and hard on this one because there are so many authors I love, particularly in the fantasy genre. I think, though, that my choice would have to be Laini Taylor, author of Strange the Dreamer. I’ve been a huge fan since first reading Daughter of Smoke and Bone and my fangirling has only grown as time has gone on. On our trip, we would go to Prague which is the setting for Daughter of Smoke and Bone and explore it through the eyes of Karou, the main character in the series.
Thanks so much, Leonie, for spending time with us and answering our questions!
Would you like to nominate someone to be featured in our Reader Spotlight series? Fill out this form!
We hope to see you at BookExpo America & BookCon!
BookExpo America: June 1st & 2nd BookCon: June 3rd & 4th
Javits Center, New York City
Fun reasons to visit our booth, #2015:
Declare yourself a true #BookAdvocate by taking a selfie in front of our banner. Share it to show that you help books succeed!
Snag one of our buttons & postcards (for yourself and a friend!).
Exciting news this year:
We’re sharing a booth with Bookish, our sister company! Get a Bookish tote bag and your badge scanned, to be one of the first readers notified about a special giveaway that will be happening on the Bookish site after BEA/BookCon.
Psst: Giveaway will include signed swag
from Leigh Bardugo and Christina Lauren,
plus more Bookish goodies!
Won’t be attending? No worries! You can still share in the excitement by
downloading the Buzz Books to discover the most highly-touted books being
published this fall-winter.
LibraryReads has announced the top ten books available in June that librarians across the country love. You can request or wish for the featured titles below on NetGalley right now, and view more information on the LibraryReads site.
Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz
The Alice Network: A Novel by Kate Quinn
(William Morrow Paperbacks, 9780062654199)
We’ve rounded up covers we love, and we hope you will too. We’ve also gathered all of your cover votes from this month, and your most loved cover is…The Party by Robyn Harding!
Click on each cover to read the full description, request (or wish for) the title, and “Like” the cover if you haven’t already. If you’ve read these titles, don’t forget to share feedback with the publisher and with your friends & followers.