Thursday, January 30, 2014

Here's to You, Zeb Pike VBT

Fact: When Zebulon Pike attempted to climb what is now known as Pikes Peak, he got stuck in waist-deep snow and had to turn back.

That’s the last thing Dusty Porter learns in his Colorado history class before appendicitis ruins his life. It isn’t long before social services figures out that Dusty’s parents are more myth than reality, and he and his siblings are shipped off to live in Vermont with an uncle and aunt they’ve never met.

Dusty’s new life is a struggle. His brother and sister don’t seem to need him anymore, and he can’t stand his aunt and uncle. At school, one hockey player develops a personal vendetta against him, while Emmitt, another hockey player, is making it hard for Dusty to keep pretending he’s straight. Problem is, he’s pretty sure Emmitt’s not gay. Then, just when Dusty thinks things can’t get any worse, his mother reappears, looking for a second chance to be a part of his life.

Somehow Zebulon Pike still got the mountain named after him, so Dusty’s determined to persevere—but at what point in life do you keep climbing, and when do you give up and turn back?

Sometimes I wonder if I’m the only high school freshman on the planet who actually likes school.

Well, I guess I don’t really like school itself. I don’t really enjoy writing papers or listening to lectures or dealing with quadratic formulas or any of that stuff. It would probably be more accurate to say that I like resting.

School is one of the few places where I get a chance to relax, sit back, and not think too hard. My buddy Race hates when I talk like that—he says it’s egotistical of me to brag that I can ignore about 80 percent of what our teachers say and still get the grades I do—but I’m not trying to brag. That’s just how school is for me.

Take the class I'm currently chilling out in: history with Ms. Carlson. This is a class that probably makes other freshmen want to slit their throats. I mean, I know all students think their teachers drone on and on, but Ms. Carlson brings it to the level of an art form. She must have been absent from teacher school on the day “class discussion” was introduced as a method of instruction.

Me? I love this class. Most of the time I completely zone out for forty minutes and just recap whatever I missed with a little textbook-skimming during study hall.

Today I’ve managed to lean back in my chair as far as it will go, and I’ve got my feet propped up on my backpack. I’m half-listening to Ms. Carlson; she’s going on about the Pike Expedition. After all, this is Colorado Springs, home of Pikes Peak, the semifamous and epically huge mountain that is currently looming right outside our classroom window.

“Zebulon Pike and his team did attempt to ascend the peak, but they were forced to turn back, essentially due to weather conditions and a lack of appropriate gear. There were no REIs in the area then, you see.”

The class titters, which is more of an effort to keep Ms. Carlson smiling than a nod to how great the joke is. Ms. Carlson is one of those teachers who enjoys thinking she’s hilarious. We’re a bunch of students who enjoy inflated grades.

“Wait, Ms. Carlson, I don’t get it. Do you mean he didn’t get to the top?”

Johanna, thanks so much for stopping by. So, why don’t you tell us a little about yourself?
Thank you so much for having me on your blog! Let’s see…what to tell you about me. Hmmm. I was born in Vermont, but I live in Colorado now, so most of my writing is set in one of those two places. I’ve been a middle school teacher and curriculum writer for ten years, which I’m super proud of. I ski badly, and I’m addicted to NFL football—particularly the Giants and the Broncos. (It’s a Manning thing. Well, really it’s because I used to live on the east coast and now I live in Denver. But I do love me some Mannings.)

How did you get started writing?
I’ve just…always written. My first book was The Story of Jackie, the Killer Whale, which I wrote when I was in the third grade. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t coming up with story ideas and trying to get them down on paper.

What was the inspiration for your book?
This book was inspired by SOOO many different students I’ve taught over the years. Students struggling with parent neglect, students deciding whether or not to come out, students handling their parents’ divorce…in my acknowledgement page, I basically had to issue a blanket thank you to every kid I’ve ever had in a classroom.

What’s the one genre you haven’t written in yet that you’d like to?
I think I’d like to try writing a romance about adults someday. I really enjoy reading the romance genre; I’m such a sucker for people falling in love and having an adorable happy ending. I’ve written a short story or two in this genre, but nothing novel-length yet.

Are there any genres you won’t read or write in? Why?
Well…when it comes to reading, not really. I would say that science fiction and fantasy are probably the genres I read the least of, but I still get in my fair share of those books. I’m addicted to the written word.

In terms of writing, the only full-length novels I’ve ever written have all been YA. Because I work in middle schools, I’m constantly surrounded by young adult novels, and it’s the genre I know the best and truly enjoy writing the most.

So, what are you working on right now? Got any releases planned, or still writing?
I have another book coming out from Harmony Ink Press in March called Every Inferno. I so love this book. It’s a little darker than Here’s to You, Zeb Pike—the main character has dealt with a lot of loss in his life, and he has pretty serious anger issues. I’m really proud of the characters in this novel, and it’s got a mystery element to it!

Alright, now for some totally random, fun questions. Favorite color?    Purple. No idea why. I’ve loved it since I was a kid.
Favorite movie?    The Princess Bride. What’s not to love?
Book that inspired you to become an author?
There are sooo many. To Kill a Mockingbird is the book that keeps me going when I’m frustrated with writing. Sometimes I need to be reminded that a book really can speak to many different people and change hearts and minds. The writing is that book is just so powerful.

Alright, you have one superpower. What is it?
DEFINITELY the ability to freeze time. Time is totally my enemy. If I could freeze time I could get so much more writing done!!

You can have dinner with any 3 people, dead, alive, fictitious, etc. Who are they?
Ooh, such a great question. This one is REALLY tough.

#1. The band The Decemberists (I’ve decided a band counts as a person). Their music just speaks to me, and I have a feeling they’d be a blast to eat with—seems like they all have a pretty great sense of humor.

#2. Wil Wheaton. I’m totally in love with him from his Wesley Crusher days, and his Twitter feed suggests he’d be an entertaining dinner date. (His wife can come.)

#3. Shakespeare. I know it’s cliché and all, but I have a lot of questions for the guy. Starting with how any one person can be that prolific in an age where you had to write everything by quill.

Last question: Which of your characters are you most like and how/why?
I’m probably most like Jack. We’re both teachers, we both like helping teenagers, and we both really want to do right by the people in our lives. Jack’s a lot more patient than I am, though.

That’s all from me, thanks so much for taking the time to stop by!
Thanks so much for having for me! And great thanks to everyone who stopped by for this interview.

My Review:
3.5 stars

Now, I'm not usually a big YA reader, but when I read the title and blurb, I just had to give Zeb a try.

Now, I'm a bit conflicted on my review. For while I did enjoy the book, I also didn't enjoy parts of it. For instance, the romance. It wasn't a big part of the book, and it felt like it was added in after the fact to me. Also, while I enjoyed the simplistic storyline, at times I just got bored. To me, this book is definitely more geared towards the younger, teenage crowd which I liked. It's nice to see positive, realistic, LGBT books written for teens.

All in all though, I loved the characters, the realistic story, and an overall nice read. I would recommend Zeb Pike, especially for a younger crowd.

Johanna will be awarding one ebook to one randomly drawn commenter and one print book (US only - international winners will receive an eBook substitution) to a second randomly drawn commenter during the tour. So the more you comment, the better your chances of winning.

January 20: Andi's Young Adult Books (interview) and Andi's Young Adult Books (review)
January 22: It's Raining Men - Promo (18+)
January 24: It's Raining Books
January 28: Writers and Authors
January 31: My Tangled Skeins Book Reviews - review only

Author Bio and Links:
Johanna Parkhurst grew up on a small dairy farm in northern Vermont before relocating to the rocky mountains of Colorado. She spends her days helping teenagers learn to read and write and her evenings writing things she hopes they’ll like to read. She strives to share stories of young adults who are as determined, passionate, and complex as the ones she shares classrooms with.

Johanna holds degrees from Albertus Magnus College and Teachers College, Columbia University. She loves traveling, hiking, skiing, watching football, and spending time with her incredibly supportive husband. You can contact her on Facebook or find her on Twitter.

Buy Links:
Amazon     |      Barnes & Noble     |      Dreamspinner Press


  1. Thanks so much for the great interview!

  2. It's been such a fun tour so far!


  3. Does it say something about me that my first thought when I saw the name "Wil Wheaton" was Big Bang Theory. LOL Loving the tour so far!


  4. I have this one on my TBR list - it sounds really good. Thanks for the interview and giveaway!

    jen.f {at} mac {dot} com