Pimp My Bio: Pitch Wars 2017

This is my first year entering Pitch Wars and I could not be more excited (or nervous!).

First things first, my book! My MS is a YA contemporary romance called SEEING STARS

Seventeen-year-old Arianna Gold’s life seems perfect, but underneath the façade of popularity, she’s hiding her real life: a set of neglectful and abusive parents, and her depression and anxiety which led to a prior suicide attempt. When people look at Arianna, they see a future singer or the football star’s girlfriend, but when August Stone, the school’s number one nerd, discovers the truth, he threatens not only her self-constructed image, but her heart. It would be easier to just ignore him, but Arianna needs his help to pass algebra and graduate so that she can get out of Connecticut to pursue her dreams.

 

August Stone is a boy genius: top of the class, bound for the Ivy Leagues and a career in astronomy (planetary science, to be exact). And that means he has no place in Arianna’s circle—especially around her jealous, hot-headed boyfriend; even when it becomes dangerous. Though he could blow her cover, she can’t stay away from him. He sees her the way no one else does, for the girl she really is, not the one she pretends to be.

August quickly becomes the only person she can trust with her secrets, but as their relationship grows from strictly mandated, to friends, to something more, so do the risks involved. His father makes it clear he thinks August is throwing away his future to be with a girl that isn’t good enough for him and she could lose the comfort and safety of her perfectly constructed world. She knows that it’s fake, but it’s all she has. And she’s scared that losing it could make her mental health spiral again.

SEEING STARS (complete at 52,000 words) is a contemporary YA with an alternating timeline: telling the story of how two teens from very different families form an unlikely and ill-fated romance and how that goes on to affect their futures. It is a story of sex, love, nerds and the lifelong battle of mental illness and absent parents that will appeal to fans of Rainbow Rowell and Jennifer Niven.

 

About Me:

My name is Eliza Turrill and I have a BA in English and Writing as well as a publishing certification from Denver Publishing Institute. I have had poetry published in my undergraduate literary magazine, Neon, and won an honorable mention for one of the poems.

By day I am a writer/editor for a large health system in IL and co-run their Internal Communications. By night, I am also a writer and video game nerd. (Carpal tunnel couldn’t stop me!)

I grew up in a small New England town similar to where this novel takes place, and have dealt with my own personal struggles with mental health. I can certainly lend authority to this tricky, yet important subject. I am also a proud member of the LGBTQ+ community. Ari is queer (refers to her sexuality as fluid), but this novel mainly deals with hetero relationships.

I created a Pinterest board that captures the spirit, people, fashion and settings that go with Seeing Stars. You can find it here. This board can be further curated as a promotional tool and interactive companion for the novel.

Here are some songs that inspired, or fit the mood of this novel:

  • Tracy Chapman- Fast Car
  • Kesha- Praying
  • Halsey- Colors, Drive, Gasoline (pretty much the whole badlands novel. I picture Ari’s music with the rawness of Halsey and the commercial appeal of T Swift).
  • Taylor Swift- Red (seriously, I must have listened to this song 100000 times over the course of this journey), Wildest Dreams, 1989 album.
  • Ben Folds Five- Brick
  • Mariah Carey- You’ll Always Be My Baby
  • The Verve Pipe- The Freshman
  • Coldplay- Fix You
  • CCR- Fortunate Son (Because they both like CCR)
  • Grizzly Bear- Slow Life
  • Vampire Weekend- Pretty much all of their songs.
  • Miley Cyrus- Malibu
  • Dave Matthews Band- Crash Into Me
  • Train- Drops of Jupiter (Though Augie hates it for its inconsistencies)
  • Counting Crows- Colorblind
  • The Killers- All These Things That I’ve Done
  • Matchbox 20- Bright Lights
  • Pink- Don’t Let Me Get Me/18 Wheeler
  • Lana Del Rey- Summertime Sadness

You can find me here: Twitter, Instagram, portfolio, LinkedIn, Goodreads.

Here is a picture of my beautiful cat and faithful writing buddy, Bella:

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My favorite books/authors include (but certainly not limited to):

  • Nicola Yoon
  • S. Jae Jones- Wintersong
  • Rainbow Rowell
  • Sarah J. Maas
  • VE Schwab
  • JK Rowling
  • Judy Blume- Summer Sisters
  • Janet Fitch
  • Ernest Cline- Ready Player One
  • Deborah Harkness- All Souls Trilogy
  • Jennifer Niven- All the Bright Places
  • Amy Zhang- Falling Into Place
  • Gabrielle Zevin- The Storied Life of AJ Fikry
  • Sylvia Plath- The Bell Jar

To sum it up: SEEING STARS is a gritty YA: dealing with themes of sex, drugs, bullying, mental health and family dysfunction. (It also has an alternating timeline–claps hands).It shows that mental illness is not just something you beat or get over, but that it’s a part of you and involves peaks and valleys. Ari is flawed and does not just “get better”, but learns ways to improve through therapy positivity and self-awareness. They both succeed, and are stronger, despite their obstacles.

I want to show young women that they deserve all the love and happiness in the world and that THEY’RE WORTH IT! For the nerds and popular kids and everyone in between who struggle with mental health, but still dream of the stars. I’m looking for a mentor that is totally behind this and can help me with conflict. The voice, romance and pacing are strong: this book has had many beta readers and polishes but I am so ready to get my hands dirty and get into the trenches bringing this book to the best it can be. I’m definitely a hard worker!

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Review of “A Court of Mist and Fury” by Sarah J. Maas

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Rating: 5/5 Stars

Pub:  May 2016 Bloomsbury

“Feyre survived Amarantha’s clutches to return to the Spring Court—but at a steep cost. Though she now has the powers of the High Fae, her heart remains human, and it can’t forget the terrible deeds she performed to save Tamlin’s people.

Nor has Feyre forgotten her bargain with Rhysand, High Lord of the feared Night Court. As Feyre navigates its dark web of politics, passion, and dazzling power, a greater evil looms—and she might be key to stopping it. But only if she can harness her harrowing gifts, heal her fractured soul, and decide how she wishes to shape her future—and the future of a world cleaved in two.

With more than a million copies sold of her beloved Throne of Glass series, Sarah J. Maas’s masterful storytelling brings this second book in her seductive and action-packed series to new heights.” -Summary Goodreads.com

Ugh. I’m not sure where to start on this review so I will start at the beginning of my expansive notes which start at the beginning of the book. Also, I apologize for the length of this review, I have a lot of things to say.

From the setup, and the way she paints Tamlin, which I’m guessing is from her spending too much time within the book that she lost a little perspective, you can tell that she does not like Tamlin. Perhaps I need to re-read the first one, and I plan to, but I do not remember Tamlin being this big of an ass. I thought he was more accepting of her fighting and tough side in the last book. Feyre so abhorrently did not want to marry Tamlin, that it took me, as a reader, by surprise.

With all that said, this is a book, that at its heart, is a story of a girl finding her freedom and finding herself. It was absolutely gorgeous and powerful. This is a book for people who have suffered from unhealthy relationships, PTSD (I’ll come back to this), and the guilt of not wanting what you once thought you needed. Maas also covers male rape respectfully, something not talked about enough. A quote that absolutely struck me right in the feels: “I realized how badly I’ve been treated before, if my standards had become so low. If the freedom I’d been granted felt like a privilege and not an inherent right.” Holy. Shit. Maas hits the nail on the head here. I know this feeling and I know that many young girls do. She no longer needed a protector or a safe life full of food, wealth and safety. She became someone else when her human body died. Yes, this was hammered into us a lot of times throughout the book, but we needed to hear it. We needed to listen.

Maas handles PTSD with stunning grace. She did her research. Feyre couldn’t handle certain colors, the feeling of being trapped, and Tamlin’s disrespect and misunderstanding of that cemented their differences. He ignored it all together.

Coming back to what I said in the first paragraph, I do think that Maas went a little far with the heavy comparison between Spring and Night court. Everything was better: the clothes, the company. While yes, accurate, the setup was a little obvious.  With that said, everyone in the Night Court was pretty fucking awesome. Also, the conversations were well-written and nothing felt like boring court politics. That is not easy.

From then on my notes devolve into “WOWOWOWOW THIS BOOK IS FUCKING AMAZING”. I mostly ran out of intelligent things to say when my emotions took over. This book, this book right here, is so much, miles better than the first. I think this made my list of favorite books of all time. You can tell she must have been planning or already done with this book when she wrote the first because pieces of the second were important in the first and vice versa. I definitely want to read some more things from her. (Based on this, she would write a good vampire! There were many similarities).

Tamlin was such a flat character, but Rhys? Rhys is incredible. Sometimes I forgot about the war building because I got so into the story of him and Feyre. Maas showed us that you can be possessive in a way that is healthy and what an honest, real relationship should look like. (The sex scenes were quite a bit for YA, seems more like new adult, not that I’m complaining!)

The ending let me down a little bit. I was frustrated because the plot buildup of this war throughout the whole book, which was secondary to her and Rhys, but still, didn’t really happen at all? I didn’t completely understand what the King of Hybern wanted. And now the whole next book will be about that again? The last few chapters felt a little rushed and confusing. It was most certainly a buildup for the next book. Which I get, but I do enjoy everything getting resolved and I’m also a little bummed at what the immediate future holds for them. Without spoiling, let’s just say things are gonna be a bit awkward? Not sure how she is going to handle certain things there. But we shall see.

Regardless of the ending, this is a truly incredible book. A female character who is strong, but wasn’t afraid to break along the way and let herself be true to what she wanted and needed. I loved it. Perhaps this holds a special place based on my experiences, but even so, the writing was excellent. What can I say? Maas is kind of a master.

Review of “Uprooted” by Naomi Novik

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Rating: 3/5 Stars

Pub: May 19th 2015 by Del Rey

“Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley. We hear them sometimes, from travelers passing through. They talk as though we were doing human sacrifice, and he were a real dragon. Of course that’s not true: he may be a wizard and immortal, but he’s still a man, and our fathers would band together and kill him if he wanted to eat one of us every ten years. He protects us against the Wood, and we’re grateful, but not that grateful.”

Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.

Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.

The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows—everyone knows—that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn’t, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.

But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.” -Summary from Goodreads.com

This book has a few instances of violence against women. Dragon grabs her arms and quite literally drags her, to the point of bruising, and early on a prince tries to rape her. Dragon calls her useless among many other things. These things didn’t sit well with me. The Dragon was almost too mean in the beginning. That being said I am a romantic, and I still liked the buildup of them getting to know each other. I won’t spoil it but I loved loved learning his real name and the magic she felt with it.

I am aware that this book draws quite a bit from Eastern European folklore of which I’m not too familiar with (except vampires) so I don’t feel a great authority to speak on that. I’d also be interested to learn more about the language used for the magic spells!

Dragon and Agnieszka spend a good chunk of the story apart, rendering it not really/completely about them, as the sorely lacking synopsis alludes to. (Seriously that synopsis is bad). There was also a lot of uninteresting court politics in this book. It was very long and had a few different pieces to it, I think this whole world and story could have been told in more than one book (and I am not usually the person to say this).

I did like the ending, even if it did feel a little abrupt. The best part of it for me was what Agnieszka was doing, that felt real to her character. It wasn’t all about the love story and she didn’t just blindly follow Dragon, she did what she knew was true to her. I liked that.

With all that said I don’t think this is exactly my type of fairy tale retelling, there was a good amount of pieces I didn’t really enjoy. But the story is there and quite detailed, so still 3 stars for me.

15 Books As Darkly Romantic As ‘Twilight’, Because That Chemistry Is Exactly What Kept You Turning Pages Years Ago

15 Books As Darkly Romantic As ‘Twilight’, Because That Chemistry Is Exactly What Kept You Turning Pages Years Ago

I love these Bustle lists.

Review “Life and Death: Twilight Reimagined”

Life and Death: Twilight Reimagined

Stephenie Meyer

Pub: Oct 2015 Little, Brown

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Rating: 4/5 Stars

I was pretty excited about this. I love Twilight and I am not ashamed to admit it and I don’t think you should ever be ashamed to love the things that bring you joy. Yes, people have said over and over that Twilight gives young girls an example of an unhealthy relationship. To those I would say 1: it’s fiction, he’s a vampire, he’s not even human and they are often betrayed as possessive due to their animalistic nature. This was never meant to be a book about relationship advice. 2: in the foreward to this Stephenie Meyers states: “She’s [Bella] also been criticized for being too consumed with her love interest, as if that’s somehow just a girl thing. But I’ve always maintained that it would have made no difference if the human were male and the vampire female- it’s still the same story. Gender and species aside, Twilight has always been a story about the magic and obsession and frenzy of first love.” Gosh, she hits the nail on the head here. We all remember our first love. Mostly, it wasn’t healthy. It was obsessive, all consuming and tortured. You could think of nothing else and it was filled with a childish innocence and beauty. Isn’t that what Twilight does for us? I think it’s beautiful and that my life has been made better for this story.

Now, mushy stuff aside. I love Edythe…I might actually love Edythe more than Edward (shh don’t tell). She is way less broody and tortured and suffering. She is strong and she says stuff like “Try not to get caught up in antiquated gender roles” BOOM (Stephenie probably put this in here to appease us, but I still love it). There’s also a scene where Beau sees Edythe in his dreams and it’s really quite beautiful. I will say I wasn’t as attached to the other Cullen members as I was in the original series, but I think that’s due to the fact that I kept picturing them in the original. It was a little bit more confusing to keep track of everyone.

If you’re a team Jacob fan…sorry guys, Jules role is minimal to nothing. Stephenie hints at a budding friendship but this story is different. I won’t spoil it but the ending is a total surprise and is INCREDIBLE. I wish the original could have ended this way but I can see why it couldn’t (plus we would have had way less books). It’s more practical and I love it, I really do. I’m also really impressed that Stephenie kept this a secret, it wasn’t public until the release day. Considering what happened with Midnight Sun I can see why she pulled all stops and probably had legal documents alllll over this. Good for her. That is seriously difficult to do in this day and age.

I would say if you’re a Twilight fan then you definitely need to read this. If you kind of liked it but were unsure about the gender roles, read it. Otherwise, check your negativity at the door, this is a safe space 🙂

(Also I’ve been really excited to see the fan art coming out and they all make Edythe a red-head even though it’s supposed to be golden. Weird?)

 

Happy Banned Books Week!

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-Astoria Bookshop, NY

Here’s the banned books week website.

What are some of your favorite banned books? I might say Great Gatsby and Huck Finn, both hugely important, if not arguably the most important pieces of American literature.