New Kids On The Block 2019 with Rosiee Thor

New Kids On The Block is a year-long series on Pop! Goes The Reader meant to welcome and celebrate new voices and debut authors in the literary community.

Are you a debut author whose book is being published in 2019? It’s not too late to sign-up! If you want to participate in New Kids On The Block this year, please don’t hesitate to get in touch! You can send a tweet or DM on Twitter to @Pop_Reader or email me at [email protected]. I would love to collaborate with you!


About Rosiee Thor

Rosiee Thor began her career as a storyteller by demanding to tell her mother bedtime stories instead of the other way around. She lives in Oregon with a dog, two cats, and four complete sets of Harry Potter, which she loves so much, she once moved her mattress into the closet and slept there until she came out as queer. Rosiee is represented by Saba Sulaiman of Talcott Notch Literary Services.

Author Links: WebsiteTwitterInstagramGoodreads


They’re just words. Gay. Bisexual. Queer. Just words. Asexual. Aromantic. Just plain, simple words. They’re not even all that long. But I’m a writer. I should know better. Nothing – spoken or heard, written or read – is really just words.

I was queer before I had a word for it – and I’ve had a lot of words for it. Some of them were more apt than others. Some of them still come around every so often when I find the words I have aren’t enough, when the moment calls for another word to add to my laundry list of identifiers. I say it’s a laundry list because that’s how it feels when I say it out loud for others to hear – like I’m rattling off a list of words they’re going to have to listen to me explain. I can see it cross over their face right around the second identifier. I don’t even get past the word aromantic before I see the dread in their eyes. If I’m feeling very brave, I might interrupt myself and say, “You know what, it’s too complicated. ‘Queer’ is fine.” If I’m not feeling brave, I’ll just sink back into the awkward silence I’ve created and cover my shame with a drink of water I’ll swallow along with my identity.

I shouldn’t have to be brave to be myself, but I live in a world where it’s more dangerous to explain who I am than to be someone I’m not. There’s a lie I wear like a second skin when I’m in public with people I don’t know, people I don’t like. It’s a smile I don’t mean, a laugh I hold as a shield against flirtation. I am reminded every day that this world I live in wants to change me, and it is brave to walk outside whether I claim my identity or not.

As a science fiction writer, I don’t have to write my world. I don’t have to write the violence and hate and microaggressions I feel every day. I can write a world where queerness isn’t the exception, a world without allonormativity, a world where the language of identity opens to understanding, rather than ending in shame. My genre does not require realism of me. It allows me to imagine a future different from our present. I can write myself a world that accepts me for who I am.

I know I can… and yet, it is almost a foreign concept, too far fetched, too distant for me to reach. Conventional wisdom among the queer community is that vocabulary gives us strength. Our identifiers allow us to communicate feeling, to express a shared experience with one another, and find ourselves in the media we consume. Labels can be powerful–not for everyone, not all the time, but the more we grow in our language and understanding of identities, the more nuance we can apply and the better we are at expressing and understanding ourselves. Identifying labels in fiction are vital to creating representation that not only resonates, but empowers and unites.

In SFF subgenres, we have the opportunity to use labels like bisexual, demisexual, aromantic etc. without dancing around the word for the sake of “historical accuracy” or “realism.” Others have said smarter things about it than I ever will. When I set out to include my own identity in Tarnished Are The Stars, I did so knowing I didn’t want to obfuscate my vocabulary with implications. I challenged myself to use the words on the page, and I’m happy to say I met that challenge – not without difficulty, but still, a small triumph. I put myself on the page, both in spirit and in words.

Still, as I look at the world around me and the world that I created, I see the places where I could have pushed my imagination harder. I couldn’t visualize a world–even eight hundred years in the future–where a boy who doesn’t want to get married, who doesn’t feel attraction, and who doesn’t enjoy physical contact would already know the words to identify himself. I didn’t know the words until I was 24, and I know others have waited longer to finally discover the language they need. Perhaps it comes from living in a world where we don’t even exist in the freaking dictionary, or perhaps it comes from my own selfish need to write what I know, but on some level I wonder if that boy I wrote didn’t deserve a better world.

I changed the date, I changed the fashion, I changed the conflicts, and the technology, and the whole entire planet. But I didn’t change the world. And for that fictional boy, and for any readers who don’t know the vocabulary for their sexuality yet, I wish on some level I could.

They say we’re making progress every day, that even today it isn’t as bad as it was ten years ago, so why shouldn’t I be able to look ten years into the future, and ten years after that, and ten after that and so on until I can see a world where the words aromantic and asexual are known by every living soul? Where they are as common as the word gay or straight or even book or chair? There will come a day when my identity is validated and cherished, not just by me and those that share my labels, but by those who don’t–by those who don’t even have a mother or a sister or an uncle or a son who do. It’s there, a dim light waiting at the end of a tunnel. Someday, I hope I can see it and write it. But until then, I have words that were shared so generously with me.

Asexual. Aromantic.

The power of words, and the power of queer community saved me – knowing there are others like me who understand who I am, and that there are others not like me who still understand. Before I found my labels, I felt alone. I worried every day that I might be too broken to fix. But now I know I am too strong to break, and too loved to be alone. Two words showed me that, and I hope I can share them – proudly on the page – with readers who need them most.

Title Tarnished Are The Stars
Author Rosiee Thor
Pages 384 Pages
Intended Target Audience Young Adult
Genre Science Fiction
Publication Date October 15th 2019 by Scholastic Press
Find It On GoodreadsAmazon.comChaptersThe Book Depository

A secret beats inside Anna Thatcher’s chest: An illegal clockwork heart. Anna works cog by cog — donning the moniker Technician — to supply black market medical technology to the sick and injured, against the Commissioner’s tyrannical laws.

Nathaniel Fremont, the Commissioner’s son, has never had to fear the law. Determined to earn his father’s respect, Nathaniel sets out to capture the Technician. But the more he learns about the outlaw, the more he questions whether his father’s elusive affection is worth chasing at all.

Their game of cat and mouse takes an abrupt turn when Eliza, a skilled assassin and spy, arrives. Her mission is to learn the Commissioner’s secrets at any cost — even if it means betraying her own heart.

When these uneasy allies discover the most dangerous secret of all, they must work together despite their differences and put an end to a deadly epidemic — before the Commissioner ends them first.

Do! Judge A Book By Its Cover Issue 120: Contemporary (Part 25)

Do! Judge A Book By Its Cover is a regular feature on Pop! Goes The Reader in which I pay tribute to some of the best and brightest the publishing world has to offer in the way of book cover design. This feature is inspired by Katie’s feature Cover Love on her blog One Page At A Time. The idea is being used with her gracious permission.

Please Note: I’ve done my best to credit the designers and artists responsible for the beautiful covers below, but was unable to find this information for a number of those listed. If you know of an uncredited designer responsible for any of these book covers, please let me know and I would be happy to include proper attribution in this post. Their work is lovely and deserves to be credited.

01. You Should See Me In A Crown by Leah Johnson (Cover design by Stephanie Yang)
02. Love, Unscripted by Owen Nicholls

03. Dear Universe by Florence Gonsalves
04. We Are The Wildcats by Siobhan Vivian (Cover art by Dana Lédlová)

05. Grown-Up Pose by Sonya Lalli
06. The Love Story of Missy Carmichael by Beth Morrey

07. More Than Just A Pretty Face by Syed M. Masood
08. The Perfect Escape by Suzanne Park (Cover design by Nicole Hower, Cover art by Louisa Cannell)

09. The Wrong Mr. Darcy by Evelyn Lozada
10. The Jetsetters by Amanda Eyre Ward

11. Smooth by Matt Burns
12. Camp by L.C. Rosen (Cover design by Sasha Illingworth, Cover art by Matthew Dartford and AJ Jeffries)

13. The Falling In Love Montage by Ciara Smyth (Cover design by Jenna Stempel-Lobell, Cover art by Spiros Halaris)
14. The Second Home by Christina Clancy

15. They Could Have Named Her Anything by Stephanie Jimenez (Cover art by Ronald Wimberly)
16. You Say It First by Katie Cotugno (Cover design by Jessie Gang, Cover art by Ana Hard)

17. The Burning by Laura Bates
18. Where We Go From Here by Lucas Rocha (Cover design by Baily Crawford, Cover art by Marina Esmeraldo)

Now it’s your turn! What are some of your favourite Contemporary covers? Did I list one of your favourites here or is there one I forgot that just has to be included? Let me know in the comments!

Cover Reveal: The Stepping Off Place by Cameron Kelly Rosenblum

Cover reveal season is in full swing in the YA and MG communities! So many beautiful covers have been revealed over the last few weeks and today on Pop! Goes The Reader I’m so excited to have partnered with author Cameron Kelly Rosenblum to reveal another as we share the cover for Cameron’s 2020 debut novel, The Stepping Off Place! Coming to a book store and library near you in Summer 2020, The Stepping Off Place has been compared to E. Lockhart’s We Were Liars, and follows one girl’s search for answers, understanding, closure and healing after the unexpected suicide of her closest friend. The Stepping Off Place is said to include a nonlinear exploration of grief and is ultimately meant to honour the the unbreakable female bond between the two friends. Please read on to learn more about The Stepping Off Place, including an exclusive note from the author about the book’s inspiration and an opportunity for one lucky reader to win an advance reader copy of the novel!


About Cameron Kelly Rosenblum

Cameron Kelly Rosenblum is a former teacher and now a children’s librarian. She lives near Portland, Maine with her husband and two children. The Stepping Off Place is her debut novel.

Author Links: WebsiteTwitterInstagramGoodreads




Writing this novel was a way for me to process losing my best friend from adolescence. We were well into adulthood when she died by suicide, and it’s been several years now, but I still shake my head in disbelief. She was magnetic, beautiful, athletic, irreverent and hilarious, and simply the most fun of just about anyone I’ve ever known. Though we’d lived on opposite sides of the country for many years, we always kept in touch with funny cards (snail mail only!). My shock when I learned of her passing was exacerbated by the fact that I found out too late to attend her service. I never properly mourned her, so I turned to my go-to for emotional processing: writing. I’d been writing middle grade seriously for a while, but I abandoned that to try YA, so I could recapture those years of our teens in my imagination. So, The Stepping Off Place is an homage to my friend. I am forever grateful I had her in my life, and making sense of her illness is the heart of this story. Hattie and Reid are definitely fictionalized, but the force of an unbreakable female bond is worth celebrating! Ours has lasted beyond a lifetime.


Cover art by Michaela Goade

Title The Stepping Off Place
Author Cameron Kelly Rosenblum
Intended Target Audience Young Adult
Publication Date Summer 2020 by HarperTeen
Find It On Goodreads

Every girl loves her best friend, but Hattie is more like Reid’s social oxygen. Hattie’s the badass, Reid’s the wingman; that’s how it’s meant to be. But when, two weeks before the start of senior year, Hattie drowns off the coast of Maine while summering with her family, Reid must confront the devastating loss and her own identity crisis, all while hearing and seeing Hattie everywhere. The police declare that Hattie died by suicide, but it just doesn’t make sense. Hattie was one of the most enigmatic and joyful people Reid has ever known. Something just doesn’t feel right, and in her grief, Reid immediately begins to question the circumstances surrounding Hattie’s death — and the secrets kept by the person she thought she knew better than herself. This is the summer that Reid is forced to reexamine everything she knows about alphas and betas, truth and lies, the complexities of mental health, and what it means to step into yourself.

As an extra, exciting bonus, Cameron has been kind enough to offer one lucky reader the opportunity to win an advance reader copy of The Stepping Off Place! One winner will be chosen at random at the conclusion of the giveaway and the prize will be distributed by Cameron when ARCs become available. This giveaway is open to residents of the U.S. and Canada. Please fill out the Rafflecopter form below to enter!

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Protected: Patreon: October 2019 Wallpaper(s)

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Giveaway: 10 Blind Dates by Ashley Elston

Hi everyone! Today on Pop! Goes The Reader I’m super excited to have partnered with Disney Book Group to host a giveaway for one of my most-anticipated 2019 releases, 10 Blind Dates by Ashley Elston! Elston’s latest novel has been compared to the work of Jenny Han and Morgan Matson, and is not only a romp-filled romantic comedy, which I adore, but is also set during my favourite holiday and time of the year! Heck, I love it so much I even dedicate the entire month of December on Pop! Goes The Reader to a celebration of all the winter holidays in ‘Tis The Season: Authors Talk Holidays!

There’s nothing I don’t look forward to and love about Christmas, including the movies, the music, the food, and especially the thirty years of memories I’ve been fortunate enough to make with those I love. Because Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving in October, I ordinarily begin to get into the Christmas spirit in November, and one of my favourite ways to do so is with a book (or a dozen) set during the holiday season. That said, there aren’t many young adult novels that take place during this time of year that I haven’t already read, so I’m always excited when new ones are published and 10 Blind Dates is no exception! Set over the Christmas break and culminating in a kiss on New Year’s Eve, 10 Blind Dates promises to be the perfect companion to a warm cup of cocoa this winter. I’m so thrilled and thankful to have partnered with Disney Book Group and been given the opportunity to share a copy of this book with one of my readers!

Go on your very own literary “blind date”! One (1) winner receives:

● A copy of 10 Blind Dates
● An additional “surprise” title from Disney Book Group.

Giveaway open to US addresses only. Prizing and samples provided by Disney Book Group.

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Title 10 Blind Dates
Author Ashley Elston
Pages 336 Pages
Intended Target Audience Young Adult
Genre Contemporary, Romantic Comedy
Publication Date October 1, 2019 by Disney-Hyperion
Find It On GoodreadsAmazon.comChaptersThe Book Depository

One broken heart, ten blind dates — and a whole lot of confusion!

Sophie wants one thing for Christmas — a little freedom from her overprotective parents. So when they decide to spend Christmas in South Louisiana with her very pregnant older sister, Sophie is looking forward to some much needed private (read: make-out) time with her long-term boyfriend, Griffin. Except it turns out that Griffin wants a little freedom from their relationship.

Heartbroken, Sophie flees to her grandparents’ house, where the rest of her boisterous extended family is gathered for the holiday. That’s when her nonna devises a (not so) brilliant plan: Over the next ten days, Sophie will be set up on ten different blind dates by different family members. Like her sweet cousin Sara, who sets her up with a hot guy at an exclusive underground party. Or her crazy aunt Patrice, who signs Sophie up for a lead role in a living nativity. With a boy who barely reaches her shoulder. And a screaming baby.

When Griffin turns up unexpectedly and begs for a second chance, Sophie feels more confused than ever. Because maybe, just maybe, she’s started to have feelings for someone else…Someone who is definitely not available.

This is going to be the worst Christmas break ever…or is it?


About Ashley Elston

Ashley Elston is the author of several novels including: The Rules for Disappearing (a finalist in the Best Young Adult Novel category of the International Thriller Writers Thriller Awards) and This Is Our Story. She has a liberal arts degree from Louisiana State University in Shreveport and worked for many years as a wedding photographer before turning her hand to writing. Ashley lives in Shreveport with her husband and three sons.

Author Links: WebsiteTwitterInstagramGoodreads


As a little bonus, preparing this post for 10 Blind Dates made me really excited that Christmas is now right around the corner and I thought it might be fun to share a few of my favourite lesser-known holiday albums and my favourite songs on each! While I also enjoy the more traditional albums and artists I listen to faithfully every year (Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, Vince Guaraldi, Michael Bublé, Mariah Carey, etc) I also love discovering new voices to help me get in the holiday spirit and the five below are just a few of my personal favourites. I hope you’ll enjoy them too, and that they’ll be able to provide the soundtrack to some of your holiday festivities this year!