Tag Archives: YA

Buy It, Borrow It or Bag It: SPECIAL EDITION Revisiting Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself by Judy Blume

 Sally    Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself is one of only two books that I read by skipping the first chapter. (The other was Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, in case you were wondering.) As most of you know, I was a huge fan of Judy Blume as a child and I devoured every book of hers that I could get my hands on, but when I opened Sally…I was stumped. The thing had a prologue (something I only associated with grown up books) and was set in 1945. What the heck?

I put that book back on my bookshelf faster than I you can imagine but it bothered me. Why would Judy write a book that seemed like such a radical departure from everything else she penned? The blurbs on the cover suggested it was a wonderful story, but I didn’t connect to it. For months I would try to start it again and again but I couldn’t get through the first couple of pages. In addition to the title’s namesake there was this character named Ma Fanny and they were on this beach and a guy comes on the radio to announce that the war is over and two pages later we are in chapter one and trying to find out if Sally’s brother Douglas is going to live or die. Sound confusing? Then you are feeling my pain.

At some point, I had the book at school when a teacher told us to read quietly and in an effort to look busy, I pulled out Sally and opened it up to the middle of the book. It was the chapter in which Sally starts her new school in Miami Beach, Florida and it felt like a second beginning to the story. I read through the rest of the book but when I was finished I had more questions than I had answers for. Why was part of Sally’s family in Florida? Were her parents divorced? Why does she call her father Doey Bird and her grandmother Ma Fanny? I started backing up on chapter at a time and re-reading the text piecing together more and more of the story…finally, when I backed up to Chapter 1 and the Prologue the whole thing made sense and I realized it may very well be Judy’s masterpiece.

I was not surprised to discover in adulthood that Sally is the most autobiographical book Blume ever wrote. She grew up in the post war era and at one time, did spend the winter in Miami with her mother, brother and grandmother while her dentist father stayed up north to work. In Sally, Judy brilliantly captures that moment of childhood in which you are still naive, take everything literally, do not understand sarcasm and when no one wants to tell you what is going on. You are still young enough to let your imagination run away with you, such as when she thinks her old Jewish neighbor is actually Adolf Hitler in disguise and she truly believed that at any random moment, someone would come up to her and say “Hey kid, we’re going to make you into a star!” (Yes, I suffered from that delusion as well.)

The thing about Judy Blume books is that you always learn something, whether you are planning to or not and Sally is no exception. Not only did I learn about movies I would later make a point of seeing, but it spawned an early interest in the Greatest Generation. In addition, it helped me learn a lot about Judaism and some of the traditions her family adhered to and ultimately became one of my favorite books.

While I ordinarily do not suggest that people read a book out of order so that they  can eventually fall in love with it, sometimes it is worth it. Several years later when I opened up a book about a boy wizard my son was so crazy about, I nearly closed it inside of three pages, but he assured me I had to get past that first chapter in order to appreciate it. I let the book sit for six months and when I picked it up again, I thumbed to Chapter 2. Suddenly everything fell into place and I went back and revisited the pages I’d skipped. If you have never read Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself, I highly recommend it. Check it out of the library, find a $1 used copy…I don’t care, just do it. Within the story you will discover the young Judy Blume and how her upbringing and imagination would lead her to create characters like Peter, Fudge, Margaret and more. If I ever had the chance to discuss one of Judy’s books with her, it would be this one. (OK, maybe “Margaret” because it had such a profound impact on me, but Sally would be up there!)

As we celebrate the return of Judy this year with “In the Unlikely Event” (which I am currently reading) don’t let this golden gem pass you by!


Until next time, keep calm and rock on!




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Buy It, Borrow It or Bag It: Purity by Jackson Pearce

Purity       Ahhh…purity balls. For those of you who may not know what I am talking about, they are weird, highly religious father-daughter dances in which girls wear white and pledge to be a virgin until they are married, let daddy pick their groom and lay flowers at a cross before performing some strange dance for Jesus. Look, I am all in favor of abstinence, but something about this ritual rubs me the wrong way. I am all about the father-daughter relationship. I had a GREAT one with my dad, but I can’t imagine pointing every potential suitor in his direction in order for them to be vetted prior to my dating them.
In Purity, the heroine (whose name I forget even thought I read it last week) made several promises to her mother on her death bed and now finds herself trying to determine if she can live up to those ideals. As she plans a purity ball with her father, she finds a loophole in the process and decides to have sex before pledging her virtue to dear old dad. Her best friends are supportive, but one of them can’t help wondering if it’s really a good idea to give something away so callously.
This story falls apart quickly. As the main character creates a short list of potential lovers and plots to seduce them, the friends add little to the plot line, except for the boy, who you know she probably likes and who likes her in return even though there is no satisfying end between those two. The father –daughter relationship is sweet but one gets the feeling that these two don’t talk often enough and that they are doing what they think they “have” to do in memory of the mom rather than what they want to do. I hoped for something more, but Pearce didn’t deliver. Bag It.

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Happy Monday! Happy Memorial Day!

Hello Everyone!!!

It seems like forever since I have blogged, and in a way…I guess it has been! For all of you who thought I might have been dead the past few months, I assure you, my life has been crazier than usual, and that is saying something.

So, what have I been up to? Well, when last I left you, I was neck deep in my latest writing project, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Catholicism. After a few intense months of reading more of the Catechism than I EVER intended to and researching more patron saints than I ever knew existed, I am almost finished with the manuscript which will be available in January 2015. I am pleased to say that I did NOT end up being an atheist after all of this, and in fact, I have new found respect for some of the rules that prior to this writing, didn’t always make a lot of sense. I’m not saying that I think the Church is right about everything, but I definitely understand the logic they used to come up with some of these things. (And in a few subject matters, I have determined that the Church is a lot more inclusive than I gave them credit for.)

One of the fun things about writing something like this is being able to explain things in “real words” knowing that a priest has looked over it and agreed with my assessment of the subject. When I had to tackle one of the hot bed issues facing the Church, I flat out said that the language used in the Catechism does not read well and only serves to confuse the situation. One chapter is dedicated to asking a priest a bunch of burning questions and I have to say that his answers were very thoughtful, insightful and not full of the “party line.” I really worked hard on this book and I truly hope everyone likes it when it is published!

I also spent the last few months planning two weddings. For everyone who was shocked by the surprise announcement that I was getting married, rest assured…it was not a spur-of-the-moment decision. It was decided at the end of last year, but I am one of those weirdos who refuses to put every aspect of her life on Facebook. I often tell people that I “talk a lot, but I rarely say anything important.”

Wedding1    Opting out of a big “event,” we decided to get married in Disney World (partly because the scenery is fantastic) and to wrap both the ceremony and honeymoon into one occasion. This was thwarted when I learned that the Catholic Church doesn’t really “do” weddings in theme parks. No problem. We decided to get married “officially” here in Indiana and then do a small vow renewal in WDW a few weeks later. I didn’t think the Indiana wedding was going to be a big deal until my priest offered to marry us on EASTER SUNDAY. Now, I know that Easter travels around the calendar like Thanksgiving, but I am no fool…if you have the chance to get married on the biggest day of the Church Calendar, you take it!

photo-2    So I was all excited about the upcoming nuptials and the book I was working on, when FIFTEEN MINUTES OF FAME was released. Talk about adding fuel to the inferno of my life! LOL I had waited so long for this novel to be published and I could not wait to share the story of MonAmi with all of my readers. Everyone who has read it has been very pleased with it and has said nothing but good things. Thank you all for being so supportive. As I started the FMOF publicity campaign, Terri Stacey at WIBC asked me for an interview and when we were finished taping it, she mentioned that it would run on Easter Sunday. I had to laugh and then told her what I would be doing on Easter…she was sooooo excited that she asked me if she could announce my wedding on the radio! Could this get any better? I was so glad that I had kept it kind of quiet up to that point and would have the thrill of hearing it on air before walking down the aisle! Even my youngest son thought it was quite the coup:

 Vincent: So let me get this straight, you are getting married on Easter. The wedding is being announced on the

          radio on a show featuring an interview with you while promoting your book? 

         Julie: That is correct. 

         Vincent: Well now, that’s just a banner day for you isn’t it? 

Wedding 2    It was a small but beautiful ceremony attended by some of our closest friends and I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. I didn’t have to worry about centerpieces, a band, table cloths or renting a reception hall. We bought a small cake, invited everyone back to the house for some food and sat around my dining room table chatting. I didn’t feel like I didn’t “see” somebody or feel so stressed out that I couldn’t enjoy the day. As much as I love the pomp and circumstance of a big wedding…I’m telling you, there is something to be said for a small affair!

wedding 3    After Easter, the countdown was on for Disney. Again, their wedding coordinators made the choices simple so that I merely had to show up, go where they told me to go and do what they told me to do. Our biggest splurge on both events was the castle photo shoot. I’m telling you…its definitely worth the price to take over Cinderella’s palace before the park opened. (even better, it didn’t rain!)

So, now that the weddings are over, the book is almost completed and FIFTEEN MINUTES OF FAME has been launched, I am looking forward to the future. This summer, I will be appearing to promote my little rock star at a variety of venues, I will be covering stories once again for local magazines, playing lots of tennis and hopefully gearing up for my next big project which is TBA for the time being. (I know you understand)

Rest assured, I will have some upcoming Buy It, Borrow it or Bag It’s coming up in the near future, and we will see the return of fabulous fridays. Just know I am still among the land of the living and I thank each and every one of you for your support!

Keep Rockin’


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Author Spotlight- Kate Roth Natural Harmony

Today, I am thrilled to present Kate Roth, a fellow author and a dear friend who was a student of mine when she was just starting out! Her first two releases, The Low Notes and Reckless Radiance were so successful that she is continuing the momentum with a brand new series she can’t want to tell you about! 

Name: Kate Roth

NaturalHarmony_ebookcover      Title of current book: Natural Harmony  (ISBN: 978-0991151400

1. Tell our audience a little about yourself: I’m a writer inspired by music, film, art as well as the wealth of stories I’ve heard through my career as a professional hair stylist. My first two novels, new adult romance The Low Notes and new adult paranormal romance Reckless Radiance were originally released by Rebel Ink Press. Natural Harmony is my third novel and the first in a series of stand-alone romances called The Confession Records Collection. I’m a small business owner and I live in Indiana with my husband, Adam and our dog, Sampson.

2. Tell us a little about your latest release: Suddenly named the acting president of her uncle’s record label, former pop princess Sabrina Walker is finally ready to grow up. While her professional life moves forward, she still clings to the last fragment of her past life in the form of an uncertain relationship with her manager, Beau.

When Sabrina hires handsome, young assistant, Wade Lawson, he awakens in her the hidden confidence she’s always desired. What starts as a casual affair quickly intensifies to something much more.

Sabrina must decide—return to the familiar life of an insecure one-hit-wonder, or embrace Wade and the woman his passion has helped reveal.

3. What was the inspiration behind the story? I’ve always been fascinated with fame and the music industry and for a while I even had dreams of being a singer. I wanted to tell the story of the girl who comes in second and how that doesn’t always have to be a bad thing. Sometimes when one career fizzles, you see another golden opportunity in front of you.

katepic    4. How long did it take you to write it? The initial seed was planted back in January 2013 I think, but I didn’t start writing it until the spring. My first real sprint on it was in May 2013 and I was finished by September. I was living and breathing this book in that short span of time. It just moved right through me.

5. How long did it take you to find your publisher/agent? This book is my first independent novel! I started with a small press in 2012 and as I watched the romance genre and, honestly, the whole of the industry over the last two years, I realized the careers I most aspired to were that of indies. It was a completely new experience and so far I’m loving it. I was recently released from my contracts with my small press for my first two novels so I re-released those as indie works too and I’m very happy right now with the way it’s all playing out.

6. How are you marketing the book? Facebook is probably my biggest marketing tool. I love interacting with my readers and fellow authors. I have a blog tour starting on Jan. 20th and I’m hoping to gain some attention there as well.

7. Did you always know you wanted to write? Yes. I wrote my first ‘chapter book’ in sixth grade and from then on it was always something I did for fun and for my friends to read. As I got older, I took it a lot more seriously.

8. Do you have a traditional “day job” or are you a full time writer? I am a hair stylist by day. I own a small studio where I do hair four days a week. I would love to be writing full time but for now I’m sticking to two jobs.

9. Who are some of your favorite authors? Growing up I loved Judy Blume and Katherine Applegate. I really love Emily Giffin, Gail McHugh, Joe Hill, Kim Karr and about a thousand more!

10. What’s next for you? I’m working on the next two books of the Confession Records series and after that another New Adult romance set in my fictional town of Wexley Falls. I have a lot of other projects started, including an erotic romance, a Confession Records novella, James’s story from The Low Notes and a handful of others. I have plenty to keep me busy!

11. How can our readers get in contact with you? My website is the best place for finding my purchase links and info about the books. www.katerothwrites.com My Facebook page is where I post a lot of fun teasers, giveaways and what I’m working on daily. www.facebook.com/authorkateroth. I’m also on Twitter @KateRothWrites and have a blog www.katerothwrites.blogspot.com


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Behind the Scenes: Fifteen Minutes of Fame Pt. 3

Eyes   When I wrote FIFTEEN MINUTES OF FAME, I knew that I wanted to create a project that would marry my two passions: music and prose. There was no way I would ever allow FMOF to be “merely” a book. It had to be more and that is what I have been working on in the past few weeks, creating a multi-media vehicle for the story that would bring FMOF to life in different ways and help other young artists realize their dreams!

DIARY-pink415     Starting in January 2014 readers will be able to check out MonAmi’s Tour Diary. This diary is the companion blog to FMOF and contains a number of deleted scenes, insights and a “peek into MonAmi’s brain” on a variety of subjects. This is the spot to connect DIRECTLY with the character. Ask MonAmi a question and chances are, she’ll answer it.

I am also accepting demo CDs, MP3 files (sent through Yousendit.com), t-shirts, guitar picks, and other swag from bands who want to get their name out to a wider audience and get their music into some new hands. These will be used as giveaways at book signings and on my blog tour in exchange for your helping to promote FMOF! You don’t have to send a ton of stuff, but whatever you can afford to part with would be awesome! I will do my best to promote it and pass it along so that we can all enjoy our “fifteen minutes of fame” a little longer.  E-mail me at Julie@Julieyoungfreelance.com for more information.

rocstar final seriously    In addition, I will be announcing some upcoming song writing contests as my 4/1/14 publication date draws near. This will be your opportunity to WRITE one of MonAmi’s songs and have it promoted on YouTube, on the Fifteen Minutes of Fame Web site, blog….you name it! Who knows? If it’s good enough, MonAmi herself may actually record your version of it for download! (and cut you in for part of the profits!)

There will be more to come, but this will give you the idea of how far we’re taking FIFTEEN MINUTES OF FAME. So the question is…

Are you ready to rock?


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Behind-the-scenes: Fifteen Minutes of Fame Pt. 1

RHP2013Logo      As most of you know, my first novel-FIFTEEN MINUTES OF FAME is coming out in the spring of 2014 by Rocking Horse Publishing. As excited as I am about the book, I have posted very little about it. Oh, people know the basics…”It’s a story about a rock star”…but few know where the idea came from, how LONG I’ve been playing around with it and what I planned to do with it.

Until now.

FMOF       The idea for FIFTEEN MINUTES OF FAME came to me 24 years ago this month. I was a young mother of a five-month-old, living in North Carolina and because I had nothing to do one day…I decided to write a rock opera. Suffice to say, it was not Jesus Christ Superstar, but I do remember the basic premise being there right from the start: A young, rocker being pushed to the breaking point and fleeing at the pinnacle of her career.

Over the years, the story evolved and changed. I drew bits and pieces from rock biographies, bands I admired and my own imagination. As the story moved from rock opera to screen play to God-only-knows-what, I had to revise with the times and more than once I wondered if anyone would believe a story about a mysterious, manufactured rock star living a double life. A few years later, Hannah Montana hit the Disney Channel and I was torn between feeling pleased that my concept was a winner…and PO’d that Disney had beaten me to the punch! LOL

However, despite the family-friendly spin on rock and roll superstardom, I knew there was a side of this not being told. Music history is littered with the carcasses of young performers who were molded into a carefully crafted image, given no creative freedom, and who were ran into the ground by the same people who promised to protect them. Through FIFTEEN MINUTES OF FAME, I strove to create a story that would show the good, bad and ugly side of the music business told by the girl who lived the dream:

I don’t know the statistics on the subject, but the list of rock stars that cracked under the pressure could read like a Who’s Who list of the industry if it were actually compiled. If I had the inside track on which performers would adjust well to the madness and which are train wrecks waiting to happen, I would go find another singer somewhere and become her manager…After years of trying to ignore it, I decided that the time had come to tell everyone the truth, to lift the veil and let everyone see what really happened. My career is not without its controversies, but I survived in a world where some fall by the wayside and others think they are one hit song away from a comeback. For better or for worse, this is my story: the behind the scenes reality about manufactured fame and all of the trappings that come with it from the girl who sold her soul to rock and roll. 

                       -MonAmi, Fifteen Minutes of Fame

 Up Next: Who is MonAmi?

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