Spotlight: Defending Taylor by Miranda Kenneally (Excerpt + Giveaway)

Spotlight: Defending Taylor by Miranda Kenneally (Excerpt + Giveaway)Defending Taylor by Miranda Kenneally
Published by Sourcebooks Fire
Published: July 5th 2016
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There are no mistakes in love.

Captain of the soccer team, president of the Debate Club, contender for valedictorian: Taylor's always pushed herself to be perfect. After all, that's what is expected of a senator's daughter. But one impulsive decision-one lie to cover for her boyfriend-and Taylor's kicked out of private school. Everything she's worked so hard for is gone, and now she's starting over at Hundred Oaks High.

Soccer has always been Taylor's escape from the pressures of school and family, but it's hard to fit in and play on a team that used to be her rival. The only person who seems to understand all that she's going through is her older brother's best friend, Ezra. Taylor's had a crush on him for as long as she can remember. But it's hard to trust after having been betrayed. Will Taylor repeat her past mistakes or can she score a fresh start?

I now understand culture shock: it’s me experiencing Hundred Oaks High for the first time.

A lot of kids go here. Five hundred? A thousand? There are so many I can’t tell. At St. Andrew’s, there were only forty kids in my entire class. We lived on a calm, sprawling, green campus. Walking down the halls of Hundred Oaks feels like last-­minute Christmas shopping at a crowded mall.

Two guys wearing football jerseys are throwing a ball back and forth. It whizzes by my ear. A suspender-­clad male teacher is hanging a poster for the science fair, while a couple is making out against the wall next to the fire alarm. If they move another inch, they’ll set off the sprinklers. At St. Andrew’s, kissing in the hall was an über no-­no. We snuck under the staircase or went out into the woods. Ben and I did that all the time.

Thinking of him makes me stop moving. I shut my eyes. Dating Ben was stupid. Going into the woods with him was stupid. Thinking about what happened makes me so mad, I want to rip that newly hung science fair poster off the wall and tear it apart.

A boy shoves past me, slamming my arm with his backpack. That’s what I get for loitering in the middle of the hallway with my eyes closed. He looks me up and down. “You coming to Rutledge Falls this afternoon?”

“What?”

“Paul Simmons challenged Nolan Chase to a fight. Rutledge Falls. Three o’clock. Don’t tell the cops.”

A fight? Where the hell am I? Westeros?

A girl bumps into my side. “Watch it!” Flashing me a dirty look, she disappears into a classroom with a group of friends, chattering away.

Seeing those girls together reminds me of my best friends, Steph and Madison. Right now, they’re probably gossiping before trig starts. I miss Steph’s cool British accent and Madison’s cheerful laugh.

I take a deep, rattled breath. And then another. I feel trapped, like the time I got locked in my grandpa’s garage and no one found me for an hour and I banged on the windows until my fists turned purple from bruises.

I can’t believe I had to leave my school. My home.

All because I made one stupid decision.

I check my schedule. My first class is calculus 1, the most advanced math course Hundred Oaks offers. Just a week ago, I was taking an advanced calculus quiz at the University of the South. St. Andrew’s is one of the best prep schools in the country, and they offer seniors the opportunity to take courses at the university, which is up the road. Even though I was still in high school, the professors treated me just like a college kid. I was only in the course for two weeks, but still. It was insanely difficult. The truth is, unlike everybody else in my family, I hate math. I have to work at it harder than anything else in my life.

But if I didn’t take college calc, there’s a good chance I wouldn’t get into an Ivy League school. I need to go to a top-tier school because that’s what people in my family do. My father attended Yale, and my sister Jenna is there now. According to Dad, my brother Oliver—­Jenna’s twin—­is a traitor for going to Princeton, but I think Dad respects him for having the balls to make his own decision.

Me?

When Dad called me into his home office last night, he barely looked at me as he pored over my new schedule. The silence was killing me.

“I don’t know how Yale will still consider me if I’m not taking all AP courses,” I said. “Hundred Oaks only offers AP chemistry.”

Dad sighed, took off his glasses, and set down my schedule. “I’m incredibly disappointed in you, Taylor.”

I looked him straight in the eyes. His quiet restraint worried me. I’d never seen him so upset.

But I was upset too. He rarely had time to call me when I was away at school, but he could spare a few minutes to comment on my one screwup? After how hard I’ve always worked?

Over the years, I’ve done hours of homework every night. I had a 4.2 GPA at St. Andrew’s. A 1520 SAT score. I was on track to be valedictorian. I was captain of the soccer team and on the debate team. I did everything I could to show Yale that I worked hard. That I am a unique individual. Because that’s what Yale wants.

But my one misstep has muddied my glowing record.

Dad ended our conversation with a death knell.

“Tee, I gave you all the tools you needed to succeed,” he said. “I’ve paid for your private school education since first grade, and you squandered it by getting kicked out.”

“I’m sorry,” I said, my face burning. “I’m going to keep working hard at Hundred Oaks though.”

“You’re damn right you will.”

My father had me so flustered, I wasn’t thinking straight when I said, “Maybe Yale will still take me because of who I am.”

“You mean because of who I am.” Dad rubbed his eyes. “I’ve always taught you kids the importance of integrity, and the minute you got into trouble, instead of owning it, you called me to bail you out. And now you’re doing it again. Using my name to try to get ahead.”

I hung my head. “I’m sorry, Dad.”

“I love you more than anything, but you have to take responsibility for what you did. You’ll have to figure college out on your own.”

“What does that mean?” I asked slowly.

“It means I’m not lifting a finger. I won’t be calling the alumni association or the school president to put in a good word for you.”

“But didn’t you do that for Jenna and Oliver?” I blurted.

He put his glasses back on. “You need to own up, Tee.”

So here I am, glancing around the unfamiliar halls of Hundred Oaks. The school is neat and orderly, but it doesn’t look completely clean, like no matter how hard you scrub, it still looks old. At least it’s not juvie.

I step into my math class, which is already filled with kids. I choose an empty seat at a wobbly wooden desk and stare out the window at the sunny, seventy-­degree September day. I bet at St. Andrew’s, my world politics teacher is telling my friends, “Gather your books. It’s a beautiful day out. Let’s have class in one of the gardens.”

I check out the problem set on the whiteboard. I could do this level of math years ago…

My former guidance counselor told me that colleges look for trends in our GPA and activities over four years of high school. So that means when colleges see my application, they will see:

I’m taking easier classes;

I’m no longer doing debate;

I’ve lost my soccer captainship this year; and

I was expelled.

I have never simply given up when calculus got a lot tougher or an opponent ran faster than me on the soccer field. So I refuse to believe my entire future is over because of one mistake.

I just need to figure out how to move forward.

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About Miranda Kenneally

Growing up in Tennessee, Miranda Kenneally dreamed of becoming an Atlanta Brave, a country singer (cliché!), or a UN interpreter. Instead she writes, and works for the State Department in Washington, D.C., where George W. Bush once used her shoulder as an armrest. Miranda loves Twitter, Star Trek and her husband.

 

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Blog Tour: Defending Taylor by Miranda Kenneally (Review + Giveaway)

taylor

Blog Tour: Defending Taylor by Miranda Kenneally (Review + Giveaway)Defending Taylor by Miranda Kenneally
Series: Hundred Oaks #7
Published by Sourcebooks Fire
Published: July 5th 2016
Buy on Amazon
Add to Goodreads
four-half-stars

There are no mistakes in love.

Captain of the soccer team, president of the Debate Club, contender for valedictorian: Taylor's always pushed herself to be perfect. After all, that's what is expected of a senator's daughter. But one impulsive decision-one lie to cover for her boyfriend-and Taylor's kicked out of private school. Everything she's worked so hard for is gone, and now she's starting over at Hundred Oaks High.

Soccer has always been Taylor's escape from the pressures of school and family, but it's hard to fit in and play on a team that used to be her rival. The only person who seems to understand all that she's going through is her older brother's best friend, Ezra. Taylor's had a crush on him for as long as she can remember. But it's hard to trust after having been betrayed. Will Taylor repeat her past mistakes or can she score a fresh start?

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

I originally read Defending Taylor as a draft and I loved it right away. It was one of those books that made you think how far you would go for a friend or someone you loved and if it would be worth it. It made you think about how mistakes can define you even when you don’t want them to and how people can perceive you differently. And it did all this in pure Miranda fashion, with humor, a hot boy prospect, and natural drama.

Defending Taylor is about Taylor Lukens, high school senior and the daughter of a US Senator. Taylor has been working hard her whole life at her private boarding school. She wants to get into Yale and wants to make her parents proud. In a split second decision Taylor does something that completely changes her life and how people look at her. Now home and going to Hundred Oaks high school she finds herself lost. The people she was trying to make proud are disappointed in her, she no longer knows if Yale will be an option and she lost everything she loved about her life. She is lonely. And then she runs into her long time crush Ezra. Ezra helps her start to look at things differently. Suddenly Taylor has her eyes opened on more than just Yale. But when you made a bad decisions in the past does that mean you will do it again?

I guess what I love most about Miranda’s books is that she doesn’t use what I call manufactured drama. She takes her plot and makes her characters actually talk about things and fight instead of having misunderstanding where people storm off. Defending Taylor does all of this with great finesse and I just love that. Not to mention I really loved Taylor and that cutie Ezra.

Defending Taylor is yet another gem by Miranda Kenneally. Honestly I don’t really know what to say about her books any more That I haven’t already said. They are just the kind of books that make you feel good and books everyone should read.

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About Miranda Kenneally

Growing up in Tennessee, Miranda Kenneally dreamed of becoming an Atlanta Brave, a country singer (cliché!), or a UN interpreter. Instead she writes, and works for the State Department in Washington, D.C., where George W. Bush once used her shoulder as an armrest. Miranda loves Twitter, Star Trek and her husband.

Tour Schedule:

Week 1:
6/27: Bookiemoji 
6/29: Lost In Lit 
 
Week 2:
7/4: Andi’s ABCs 
 

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Blog Tour: Jesse’s Girl – Miranda Kenneally (giveaway)

 Blog Tour: Jesse’s Girl – Miranda Kenneally (giveaway)Jesse's Girl by Miranda Kenneally
Series: Hundred Oaks #6
Published by Sourcebooks Fire
Published: July 7th 2015
Buy on Amazon
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four-half-stars

Practice Makes Perfect.Everyone at Hundred Oaks High knows that career mentoring day is a joke. So when Maya Henry said she wanted to be a rock star, she never imagined she’d get to shadow *the* Jesse Scott, Nashville’s teen idol.But spending the day with Jesse is far from a dream come true. He’s as gorgeous as his music, but seeing all that he’s accomplished is just a reminder of everything Maya’s lost: her trust, her boyfriend, their band, and any chance to play the music she craves. Not to mention that Jesse’s pushy and opinionated. He made it on his own, and he thinks Maya’s playing back up to other people’s dreams. Does she have what it takes to follow her heart—and go solo?

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

I don’t deny the fact that I am a lucky girl. I got to read Jesse’s Girl for the first time when it was in draft form and wasn’t even called Jesse’s Girl. I fell in love with it then but I wanted to wait to review it until I had done a reread. Honestly, though, it didn’t matter. The book was awesome in draft and awesome in a final copy. Miranda Kenneally once again does what she does best and gives you awesome boys, wicked cool girls and a story that will keep you invested ill the end. Not to mention the laughs.

Jesse’s Girl is about Maya Henry (if you read Catching Jordan there is a reason the name seems familiar) a punk rock girl in a country world. Maya has dreams of being a famous punk rocker some day but those are few and far between in her hometown in Tennessee. When Maya is given the chance to shadow Jesse Scott, country music God, for one day she feels like this is her chance to see how the business works. Too bad Jesse doesn’t trust anyone, as they are all looking for something, and makes that very clear to Maya off the bat. Even with their differences, the two spend a day together that changes them both in a way they never expected.

If you have read a Kenneally book before you know they usually involve some kind of sport. Football, running, softball…they have all played a role in the past Hundred Oaks books. Jesse’s Girl is different in that case.  Instead of using a sport Miranda went with music and it worked for this story. I think the magic of two different music styles in a music city was the perfect way to take a tale about a normal girl and a famous guy. When I first read the synopsis I was sad there would be no use of sports, but it was the right decision for this story and I think ended up adding to it.
Nashville! What isn’t there to love about Nashville?? I have gone once and it has been one of my favorite cities that I have ever visited in the US. Having that is the background for Jesse’s Girl was pretty amazing as I was able to picture a lot of the places from my short visit there. I was also able to picture how easy it was for Maya to feel out of place as a punk rock girl because Nashville is anything but. It was pretty much the perfect setting for a story like this. Truthfully…it made me want to hop on a plane and go to the Ryman Auditorium, the Grand Ole Opry and pop in a Tootsie’s. Who’s in for a road trip??
Hands down what I liked best in Jesse’s Girl was the characters. Maya Henry…talk about spunk. She knows who she is and isn’t afraid to stand out. She stands up for herself and does what she thinks is the right thing. She’s funny and uncertain but also sure of who she wants to be and I loved that. And Jesse. Oh adorable Jesse Scott. He had some of the perfect one-liners in the book that just made me laugh, still make me laugh when I think about them. He is definitely closed off (and with good reason) but there is something very open about him too. Just add him to the list of the amazing Kenneally Boys (have we trademarked that term yet?? We should!). Plus you know there will be the inevitable cameo from characters in other books, I mean Maya’s last name is Henry for crying out loud.
All in all I loved Jesse’s Girl both times I read it. It made me laugh and cringe and then smile as Maya and Jesse navigated through whatever was going on between the two of them. I loved the way the story was told and how it all went down in the end. I loved the cameo of some old favorites while starting off a generation of new Hundred Oaks kids to love. It did exactly what I think a good book should do and it made you feel just like you were part of the day and had become friends with Jesse and Maya yourself.

Open Internationally (if The Book Depository ships to your country). Winner gets one Miranda Kenneally book of their choice. One winner. Goes until 7/6/15 at 11:59pm EST.

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Blog Tour Book Spotlight: Some Kind of Normal – Juliana Stone

Blog Tour Book Spotlight: Some Kind of Normal – Juliana StoneSome Kind of Normal by Juliana Stone
Published by Sourcebooks Fire
Published: May 5th 2015
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What is normal? For Trevor, normal was playing fast guitar licks, catching game-winning passes, and partying all night. Until a car accident leaves him with no band, no teammates, and no chance of graduating. It’s kind of hard to ace your finals when you’ve been in a coma. The last thing he needs is stuck-up Everly Jenkins as his new tutor, those beautiful blue eyes catching every flaw.

For Everly, normal was a perfect family around the dinner table, playing piano at Sunday service, and sunning by the pool. Until she discovers her whole life is a lie. Now the perfect pastor’s daughter is hiding a life-changing secret, one that is slowly tearing her family apart. And spending the summer with notorious flirt Trevor Lewis means her darkest secret could be exposed.

This achingly beautiful story about two damaged teens struggling through pain and loss to redefine who they are, to their family, to themselves, and to each other is sure to melt your heart.

Praise for Juliana Stone
“Just what readers need.” –School Library Journal

“A contemporary romance with a conscience…Stone writes it with confidence and style.” –Kirkus

“The classic miscommunication, the emotional pushing and pulling, the ‘will she?’ and ‘won’t he?’ of the destined-to-be-in-love. Readers of Miranda Kenneally, Jenny Han, and Susane Colasanti will enjoy Stone.” –VOYA

“A story of family, first love, and forgiveness. I couldn’t stop reading. I loved it!” –Miranda Kenneally, author of Catching Jordan

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Excerpt from Some Kind of Normal: 

“You got any?” he asked.

“Any what?”

“Tattoos?”

“Me?” I had to laugh at that. Wow. Before last year that would have been grounds for major punishment. Heck, up until my senior year, I hadn’t been allowed to wear lip gloss. Now I wasn’t so sure that my mom would even notice, and since I avoided my dad whenever I could…

“No,” I said, shaking my head. “My skin is untouched.”

His eyes widened a bit, and I felt heat creep up my neck. Great. Now I was blushing again.

“Untouched,” he said with that lopsided smile that made my stomach dip. “I like that.”

“You do?”

“Yep. A clean slate. There’s something almost poetic about that, you know? Tragic too. How many people get a do–over?”

Trevor reached for my hand, and though my first instinct was to snatch it back, his long fingers enveloped mine before I had the chance. He turned my hand over so that my palm faced up and then traced the little blue lines that ran down my wrist.

I can’t lie. It felt weird and good, and my heart took off once more, so fast that I was surprised he couldn’t hear it.

“This is…kind of…like ink,” he said, his words a little slow as if he was thinking hard. “But it’s alive.”

He glanced up again, and all I could do was nod before my eyes dropped to his hand. Mine was still there, small and pale next to his large palm and tanned skin. I saw the thin blue veins that ran down my wrist, the ones that carried blood from my heart, electrifying my cells and feeding my body.

His thumb rested just beneath my pulse, and I swallowed thickly. Crap, he was going to feel how fast it was, and that would be embarrassing.

“Your fingers are rough.” I blushed harder and thought that there was no way I could sound any more like an idiot. Not even if I was trying.

“Yeah,” he answered. “It’s from playing guitar. I practice a lot so my calluses are nice and strong.”

“I used to play piano.”

Wow. Good comeback. I guess it was better than a clarinet or trombone, but really. Dork much?

…Had he always looked this intense?

“What?” he asked. He smiled again and I thought that on a scale of one to ten, his smile was a total eleven. “You’re into the classics. That’s cool. Didn’t picture that.”

“Really. What exactly did you picture?” Shoot. Did I really want to hear this?

“I don’t know. PBS and that Jane Austen?”

Okay. First off, I was impressed that he knew who Jane Austen was, and secondly…he knew who Jane Austen was!

I dropped my eyes, because I was pretty sure that my cheeks were as red as the roses planted just outside the library. Trevor Lewis wasn’t anything like what I thought he’d be. He wasn’t stupid and he wasn’t arrogant. He wasn’t slow or weird.

He seemed pretty normal to me.

You know, for a guy with tattoos and blue hair.

About Juliana Stone

USA Today bestselling author Juliana Stone fell in love with books in the fifth grade when her teacher introduced her to Tom Sawyer. A tomboy at heart, she split her time between baseball, books, and music—three passions that carried over into adulthood. When she’s not singing with her band, she’s thrilled to be writing young adult and adult contemporary romance, and does so from her home in Canada.

boyslikeAlso by Juliana Stone:
NEW IN PAPERBACK!
Boys Like You
Two Broken souls…one hot summer

Nate Everet’s life was all about acoustic guitar, girls in short shorts, and hot Southern nights.Until the accident.

Monroe Blackwell’s life was full of soccer goals, flirty skirts, and bright city lights. Until the accident.

Now Nate has a best friend who might never wake up, a summer of community service, and enough guilt to drown him. Monroe has a family that’s falling apart, a summer of banishment to her grandma’s, and a choking grief that makes it hard to breathe.

Nate and Monroe are two lost souls struggling with grief and guilt. But together, they have a chance at acceptance and finally finding the forgiveness they crave.

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The Summer After You and Me Spotlight {Giveaway}

The Summer After You and Me Spotlight {Giveaway}The Summer After You and Me by Jennifer Salvato Doktorski
Published by Sourcebooks Fire
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Sunbathing, surfing, eating funnel cake on the boardwalk—Lucy loves living on the Jersey Shore. For her, it's not just the perfect summer escape, it is home. And as a local girl, she knows not to get attached to the tourists. They breeze in over Memorial Day weekend, crowding the shore and stealing moonlit kisses, only to pack up their beach umbrellas and empty promises on Labor Day. Lucy wants more from love than a fleeting romance, even if that means keeping her distance from her summertime neighbor and crush, Connor.

Then Superstorm Sandy tears apart her barrier island, briefly bringing together a local girl like herself and a vacationer like Connor. Except nothing is the same in the wake of the storm. And day after day, week after week, Lucy is left to pick up the pieces of her broken heart and broken home. Now with Memorial Day approaching and Connor returning, will it be a summer of fresh starts or second chances?

Buy Links:

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Jennifer was asked: What are your top 5 favorite titles and why?

It’s so hard to pick! I have some newer favorites from authors I’ve read more recently, like The Sky is Everywhere, by Jandy Nelson, and Eleanor & Park, by Rainbow Rowell, but I think I’ll keep this list “classic” and tell you what my all-time faves are because this list never changes.

  1. To Kill a Mockingbird. I re-read this book every few years and never get tired of it. Scout may be one of the most endearing characters in all of literature. From the opening line until the end, Scout speaks to me; telling an important story that is every bit as relevant today as it was when it was first published in 1960. Yes, I’ve already preordered Go Set a Watchman.
  2. Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, I recently read a list of important “must reads” in YA literature that’s been kicking around social media lately and was shocked to find that this title was not on it. What? I consider Judy Blume’s books to be the cornerstone of YA fiction. Judy Blume was one of my earliest and most important influences. Her books were groundbreaking and anyone writing YA today owes her a debt of gratitude.
  3. The Outsiders. See above regarding “grounding breaking,” and “debt of gratitude.” S.E. Hinton made me see storytelling in a new light and taught me the importance of voice.
  4. The Catcher in the Rye. I picked up this book for the first time in seventh grade. I’d finished a test early and my teacher told me to select a book off the classroom shelf and read quietly. No problem there. Not when I found this book to be absolutely mind blowing!! It was also un-put-down-able. I remember forgoing all homework that night until I finished it.
  5. A Wrinkle in Time. “Tesseract.” The word and its meaning have stuck with me since I was ten years old. It’s how Madeleine L’Engle explained time travel, a/k/a the wrinkle in time, and I thought it was brilliant. As a kid who grew up watching reruns of the original Star Trek series and The Twilight Zone, how could I not instantly love this book?

An Excerpt

 Connor opened the gorgeous double doors, each with half-moon stained-glass windows on the top, and motioned me inside. “After you.”

The house had that distinct yet hard-to-describe smell of a beach home that had been closed up for a while. I walked to the center of the high-ceilinged foyer and immediately pic­tured pine garland and twinkling white lights wrapped around the sweeping banister.

“Wow. I’d love to spend Christmas here,” I said and immedi­ately regretted being so sappy.

Connor smiled. “You could fit a twelve-foot tree in this hallway.”

I admit, over the years I’ve had my share of Connor-centric fantasies. However the image of him watching his children pad down the stairs on Christmas morning had never been one of them…until that very second. I liked thinking about Connor that way.

“Come on. You’ve got to see the master bedroom.”

The wholesome image of a Malloy family Christmas van­ished. Aha, I thought. That was the Connor I knew.

“Uh-uh,” I said. “The widow’s walk. I want to go there first.”

“Race you,” he said and took off running.

He beat me up the two flights and was waiting for me in the third-floor hallway toward the back of the house. Off the hallway was an art studio, with a drafting table and a bookcase. There was also a telescope standing near the window.

“Follow me.” He crossed the studio and unlocked the dead­bolt to the narrow door leading outside.

“You’ve already been up there?”

“First thing I did when I got here,” Connor said.

“Not the master bedroom?”

“Nah, that’s the first thing I wanted to do when you got here.”

I thought it was just more flirty banter, but Connor’s flushed cheeks looked as warm as my body felt. He stared at me for a beat too long and my throat constricted. I was suddenly aware that I’d left the house with slept-on hair and no mascara. The look on Connor’s face told me he hadn’t noticed. His eyes never left mine.

Finally he said, “Come on, Luce. I’ll follow you.” The space was tight when I passed in front of him, and the closeness of his body gave me the shivers. I opened the door and stepped outside onto a small patio. I walked toward the wrought-iron spiral staircase that lead to the widow’s walk on the roof and placed my hand on the railing. My knees felt shaky as I began the climb, but I never looked back.

About Jennifer Salvato Doktorski

The author of two YA novels and is a freelance nonfiction writer. Her first paid writing gig was at The North Jersey Herald & News, where she wrote obituaries and began her lifelong love of news and coffee. She lives in New Jersey with her family.

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