Melanie has a whole series (everything comes in 3s with Melanie!) of these gorgeous gratitude journals. This one, while helping journalers achieve daily gratitude goals, will ALSO help a local organization near and dear to Melanie Hooyenga’s heart. $1.00 from the sale of every journal will go to OUT ON THE LAKESHORE, an LGBTQ community centre in Melanie’s own Michigan.
Head over to Amazon and add this cute little rainbow flag of a journal into your cart! You know you want to!
I do this every now and again, and 2020 is a good year to boost books you enjoyed. It’s been a bad year for releases, as far as in-person events go. Authors have suffered, and bookstores have suffered. Here’s a few book suggestions for those on your list (Or for yourself! We all deserve to pamper ourselves after the year we’ve had!)…these are books I read and loved this year.
Before the books, though, I’d like to highlight another kind of gift! Small businesses just starting out right now are the kind of thing we need! I know just the one to support. LET’S TALK ABOUT SIMCOE & CO.! From their simple but elegant branding, to their FRESH products, I love everything about them!Click on the logo image below to head over to their Facebook page:
Full Disclosure: This brand new company is my niece’s brainchild. They’ve just released their first product in time for Christmas. If you’re in the GTA area (or even if you’re not) check them out at the link in the logo above. They’re located in Port Perry, Ontario and they’re currently featuring SUGAR SCRUBS in various delectable scents.
Their products are cruelty free and vegan. Give their Facebook page a like so you can watch as things unfold!
BOOKS? BOOKS! Did someone say books?
I’m going to suggest 5 from the 25 I read so far this year. Honestly, though, all the books I read this year were awesome. For the ones I don’t highlight here, you can check them out on my Goodreads.
(CLICK ON COVERS TO VISIT AMAZON LINKS)
For travelers and wanderlusters–or those thinking of becoming one–I have just the book! No surprise I read a lot of Camino books. I just finished two more, and I’m about to highlight both of them! First is the travel memoir…
There’s Something Going On! Walking the Camino de Santiago – by Simon Donlevy.
If I say this felt like an audio-book without the audio, you might look at me kind of funny…but that’s exactly what it felt like. Simon Donlevy is a storyteller. I felt like the author was telling me the story of the 6 month sabbatical they took. This retelling of the sabbatical not only covers their travels on the Camino, but also the decisions and planning that went into taking the sabbatical and the trip to Spain. And it covers the after-Camino experience as well. I found it well told and quite enjoyable. Wasn’t fully what I was expecting. That’s what I love about Camino books…they’re always about more than just the Camino. They’re about decisions, plans, serendipity, the unexpected. If you have walked the Camino, you’ll enjoy this book for taking you back to the journey. If you haven’t, it’s a good primer for getting to know both the locations on the Camino and its magic.
Camino Maggie: Teen Rebel Series – by Joy Llewellyn
Truth be told, it feels almost risky telling you about this one! The synopsis is close to the synopsis of my most recent release. It follows four young teens (all girls) who walk the Camino de Santiago in order to avoid the punishment of their crimes. I just found out about this book in November and read it out of curiosity. I loved it! Maggie is a rich girl who breaks into her aunt’s store out of some sense of daring…not to mention to impress the boy who sort of put her up to it. She gets caught. Her Aunt Camille suggests (gives her no option, really) she accompanies her, her friend Andy, and a small group of delinquents to Spain for the experience. The four girls bond as they make their way across Spain. I think young adults would really enjoy this book…as well as any Camino enthusiasts.
Chasing the Sun (The Campfire Series Book One) – by Melanie Hooyenga
This is also a YA book. I’ve spent most of my reading year reading YA…both for pleasure and because it’s what I write. Teens would love this book…but as with all YA books, they’re not just for teens. Anyone on your list who enjoys a sweet love story will enjoy Chasing the Sun. Here’s my review from Goodreads…
Chasing the Sun was such a lovely falling-in-love story between two extremely vulnerable teens who were both a little reluctant to do so. Sage comes to the story having experienced an emotionally tumultuous relationship with a manipulative emotional abusive partner. Neb arrives having just lost his father suddenly in an extremely traumatic way. Together they navigate a path toward each other first through texts and then in person when they finally meet at a summertime school camping trip to view a total solar eclipse together. Both are tentative but excited. Sage wants to believe in love again, but doesn’t fully trust her own judgement. Neb is adjusting to a new city…and isn’t quite sure how to allow himself to feel joy while simultaneously mourning the loss of his father. When Sage and Neb do meet in person, sparks fly immediately. But are sparks enough? This story is filled with wonderfully cute falling in love moments. The eclipse almost becomes a character as the story winds down and the tension mounts and the moment of the eclipse nears. I loved everything about this story!
Now for a book with a one-two punch!
Surrender Your Sons – by Adam Sass
I absolutely loved this book and the power it gave to gay teens! I felt like I could conquer the world after reading this heartbreaking heartrending heartracing story! Get it for LGBTQIA+ readers on your list, whether or not they’re teens. We all carry wounds and trauma that will be both re-lit and assuaged by this book. It would also be an eye-opening read for straight readers. It’s a powerhouse. I honestly thought I reviewed this on Goodreads, as I have talked about it so much and so often that I misremembered actually leaving a review. I will have to rectify that. Just take my word for it, it’s an incredible book. Follow gay teens to a formidable island of oppression as their whisked off from their lives to a disgusting conversion camp. Watch as they try to take their fates into their own hands.
Last, but not least, a book from a pub-sib! From DUET BOOKS, the same Interlude Press imprint that published my latest, The Camino Club.
The Summer of Everything – by Julian Winters
I love Julian Winters books. Like their author, they just radiant light and joy. My Goodreads review below isn’t really enough. Winters’ books are always exceptional! This one was no less so. All readers would love this YA set in Santa Monica. Here’s the synopsis:
Adulting is hard. Just ask Wes Hudson. An avid comic book geek, Wes excels at two things: slacking off and pining after his best friend, Nico. Advice from his friends, ‘90s alt-rock songs, and online dating articles aren’t helping much with his secret crush. And his dream job at Once Upon a Page, the local indie bookstore, is threatened when a coffee shop franchise wants to buy the property. To top it off, his family won’t stop pestering him about picking a college major. When all three problems converge, Wes must face the one thing he’s been avoiding—adulthood.
And my review: Another amazing offering from the incomparable Julian Winters. Loved, loved, loved this story! Loved Wes and Nico and Ella and Coop and the rest of the group! This so so heartfelt! Bring tissues.
That’s 5 books and 1 fantastic small business that promises to have you savoring the aromas of Bergamot, Peppermint, Maple Syrup and more!
Happy 2020 Socially Distant Masked Christmas to you all!
I’m thrilled to have a visitor to the blog today! Melanie Hooyenga is here to discuss her most recent series of books, including today’s release— CHASING THE SUN!
First! Let’s get acquainted with her previous body of work.
Hooyenga is fresh from her THE RULES SERIES of books that took her readers to the snowy ski slopes with THE SLOPE RULES, to the biking trails with THE TRAIL RULES, and, back to the snow for some snowboarding with THE EDGE RULES!
Melanie Hooyenga’s book series previous to THE RULES SERIES was THE FLICKER EFFECT SERIES. This series featured FLICKER, FRACTURE, and, FADED.
It looks like Hooyenga will be leading us now to the Campfire!
Melanie Hooyenga begins her THE CAMPFIRE SERIES with BOOK 1, CHASING THE SUN! Chasing the Sun drops on Tuesday August 11th, 2020 (THAT’S TODAY)! I hope you’re ready for this one!
I’m thrilled to have Melanie on the site today to tell us a bit more about this book that arrives today (AUGUST 11, 2020)!
KC: I’m so excited for the release of your next book, CHASING THE SUN! Sounds like a great concept, with the eclipse and the camping trip and the suggestion of a meet-cute romance! Can you give us a rundown on what to expect with this book? What’s the story?
MH: Chasing the Sun is a lighthearted romance with space puns, Portland shenanigans, and enough feels to totally eclipse your heart. But as my readers have come to expect, I slipped heavier issues in between the moments of butterflies and furtive glances.
The short description is “The new boy. The quiet girl. Will they find love during the solar eclipse?” and it breaks my heart a little how much of the story is hidden in there. WHY Neb is the new boy and WHY Sage is the quiet girl is really the heart of the story.
Sage and Neb first get to know each other via text, so when they finally meet in person it looks like insta-love, but they’ve known each other longer. And I love writing kissing scenes, so I promise there is lots of kissing.
Here’s the blurb:
Neb Connelly has looked forward to the solar eclipse for as long as he can remember. When his only friend in his new town invites him on a school camping trip to watch it, he’s there.And only 67% of his wanting to go is because of the quiet girl on the group text his friend started.She gets his jokes, doesn’t mind when he geeks out about the eclipse, and for the first time in months, he’s ready to chase more than the sun.
Recently single Sage Winters fears she’s too damaged for love, but her self-help-loving best friend drags her on a “path of self-healing” — which apparently includes going camping with twenty classmates to see the solar eclipse. And Neb, who she’s never met but whose silly space jokes turn her insides to mush, will be there. But when they finally meet in person, another girl stakes her claim on him. Does Sage run the other way to save her heart, or risk it all for a chance at happiness with this space boy?
KC: In the synopsis for Chasing the Sun, there’s a few signposts that catch the eye. ‘…Sage Winters fears she’s too damaged for love…’ and Neb Connelly being the new boy in town. Sounds like they’re both brimming with backstory. Did you want to share a bit about what they’re both going through personally and emotionally and what they both bring to the story? It sounds like there’s a simmering story here that goes way beyond two kids potentially finding love during a solar eclipse?
MH: The story is told from two points of view: Sage, who recently got out of an emotionally abusive relationship, and Neb, who moved in with his mother after his father’s sudden death. Both of their pasts are based on my personal experiences, and I enjoyed weaving together the darkness that comes with heartbreak and uncertainty about the future with a lot of space jokes and teens getting to know each other.
The book opens with Sage telling her best friend Naomi about an email she received from her ex-boyfriend. He broke up with her earlier that summer, and it wasn’t until she was single that she realized how controlling and manipulative he was. In the months leading up to the start of the book, Sage has been working on rebuilding her confidence and self-esteem, but hearing from her ex throws her off.
In the email, he asks several things, like ‘am I selfish?,’ ‘did I not care for you enough?,’ and ‘am I possessive?’ These are verbatim from an email my ex-husband sent me seven years after we were divorced, and within a day of reading that email, the beginning of this story developed in my head. There are scenes where Sage struggles to remember who she used to be before the person she loved twisted her into someone afraid to make a decision for herself—or question what he demanded—and all of those were based on my personal experience. I didn’t label what I went through as emotional abuse until years after my divorce, because when you’re living it, it’s just your life.
I knew I wanted to write about a character going through that self-discovery, and even almost a decade after my divorce, there were definitely times when I was rage typing.
As for Neb, his father died suddenly at the beginning of the summer and he has to move across the state to live with his mom, who divorced his father when he was in middle school. Going into the story, I figured this would be a typical “new kid in school” story, but I should have known better. My dad died six years ago, and while his death wasn’t as sudden as in the book, there were several times when the emotions of losing my father slammed me in the chest. The life lessons that Neb’s father taught him are such a part of who he is that it felt like I was weaving another living, breathing character into the book.
KC: TBH, I’m already in love with the suggestion of geeky space jokes and puns! And I love the idea of the story centering around an upcoming solar eclipse. Did you want to delve into this part of the story for your readers? What drew you to using this concept? And does this possibly point to a secret or not-so-secret fascination that you yourself might have with space and puns?
MH: Chasing the Sun takes place during the 2017 solar eclipse, back when we were allowed to touch each other without worrying about anything other than if your advance will be reciprocated. The energy and excitement that gripped the country leading up to the eclipse sparked an idea for a novel and I thought it would be fun to have a group of kids road trip to a place that was in the “path of totality”—and of course have a romance between two of them.
(Side note: I received the email from my ex five days before the eclipse, so what started as two separate ideas came together very quickly.)
I don’t consider myself to have a fascination with outer space, but my ex watched a LOT of shows about space, including The Universe on the History Channel, which is how I was introduced to Neil Tyson DeGrasse (and why I had to give him a shout-out in the book).
This book required a lot of research, both about the 2017 eclipse and eclipses in general, but my favorite part was the humor. For those who don’t know me, I am a giant dork. The cornier the joke, the better, and including tons of puns (haha) into a book has made me very happy! I did get help from Twitter with some of the jokes, and they’re all mentioned in the book’s acknowledgements.
Even some of the science came from my life. There’s a line in the book when Neb talks about celestial navigation and Sage asks if he can navigate by the stars even in the daylight. My dad became a boat captain later in life and studied celestial navigation, and this is from a conversation we had when he was driving me to Mexico and even though neither of us had ever been there, he always seemed to know exactly where we were.
(Writing this, I’m realizing just how much of my relationship with my ex leaked into this book. He and I lived in Mexico for three years and it formed a lot of who I am now.)
KC: I understand this is the first book in The Campfire Series. Can we get a sneak peek at what to expect from the rest of the series while you’re here?
MH: Of course!! I’m planning two more books in the Campfire Series—Chasing the Moon and Chasing the Stars—and as the series name implies, there will be lots more kissing by a campfire! I’m still working on the outlines for these books, but Chasing the Moon will feature Naomi and her brother Theo on a family hiking/camping trip in the Grand Canyon. It will also be dual-POV, and I’m excited to jump into another romance.
Chasing the Stars will feature another character from the first book as they canoe and camp in a dark sky park—which is a space recognized for“an exceptional or distinguished quality of starry nights that is specifically protected for its scientific, natural, educational, cultural heritage, and/or public enjoyment,” according to the International Dark-Sky Association. So lots of stars to kiss beneath!
Thank you so much for having me, and letting me share the story behind the characters in my latest book.
KC:And thank YOU, Melanie! Looking forward to reading Chasing the Sun! A BIG Happy Book Birthday to you! I wish you all the best with the entire series!