Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Blog Tour: Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson - Excerpt and Giveaway




Title: Piecing Me Together
Author: Renee Watson
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Publication Date: February 14, 2017
Source: Publisher



Do you all see this cover?  It is absolutely gorgeous isn't it?

I couldn't pass up the chance to be on a blog tour for a book with such an amazing cover.  It just screams READ ME!

So today I happily bring you an excerpt from this gorgeous book!  Check it out!

Excerpt:

tener éxito
to succeed
When I learned the Spanish word for succeed, I thought it was kind of ironic that the word exit is embedded in it. Like the universe was telling me that in order for me to make something of this life, I’d have to leave home, my neighborhood, my friends.
And maybe I’ve already started. For the past two years I’ve attended St. Francis High School on the other side of town, away from everything and everyone I love. Tomorrow is the first day of junior year, and you’d think it was my first day as a freshman, the way my stomach is turning. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to being at St. Francis while the rest of my friends are at Northside. I begged Mom to let me got to my neighborhood high school, but she just kept telling me, “Jade, honey, this is a good opportunity.” One I couldn’t’ pass up. It’s the best private school in Portland, which means it’s mostly white, which means it’s expensive. I didn’t want to get my hopes up. What was the point of applying if, once I got accepted, Mom wouldn’t be able to afford for me to go?
But Mom had done her research. She knew St. Francis offered financial aid. So I applied, and once I got accepted, I received a full scholarship, so I kind of had to go.
So here I am, trying to pick out something to wear that doesn’t look like I’m trying too hard to impress or that I don’t care about how I look. St. Francis doesn’t have uniforms, and even though everyone says it doesn’t matter how you look on the outside, it does. Especially at St. Francis. I bought clothes with the money I made from working as a tutor at the rec center over the summer. I offered Mom some of the money I earned, to help with the bills or at least the groceries, but she wasn’t having any of that. She told me to spend it on my school clothes and supplies. I saved some of it, though. Just in case.
Mom comes into my room without knocking, like always. “I won’t be here tomorrow morning when you leave for school,” she says. She seems sad about this, but I don’t think it’s a big deal. “You won’t see much of me this week. I’m working extra hours.”
Mom used to work as a housekeeper at Emanuel Hospital, but she got fired because she was caught stealing supplies. She sometimes brought home blankets and the small lotions that are given to patients. Snacks, too, like saltine crackers, juice boxes. Then one of her coworkers reported her. Now Mom works for her friend’s mother, Ms. Louise, a rich old lady who can’t do much for herself. Mom makes Ms. Louis breakfast, lunch, and dinner, givers her baths, and takes her to doctors’ appointments. She cleans up the accidents Ms. Louis sometimes has when she can’t make it to the bathroom. Ms. Louise’s daughter comes at night, but sometimes she has a business trip to go on, so Mom stays.
I know Mom isn’t here just to tell me her schedule for the week, because it’s posted on the fridge. That’s how we communicate. We write our schedules on the dry-erase board and use it to let each other know what we’re up to. I close my closet, turn around, look at her, and wait. I know what’s coming. Every year since I started at St. Francis, Mom comes to my room the night before school and starts to give me the Talk. Tonight she’s taking a while to get to it, but I know it’s coming. She asks questions she already knows the answers to—have I registered to take the SATs yet, and am I still going to tutor at the rec, now that school had started?—and then she says, “Jade, are you going to make some friends this year?”
Here it is. The Talk.
“Really, Mom?”
“Yes, really. You need some friends.”
“I have Lee Lee.”
“You need friends who go to St. Francis. You’ve been there for two years. How is it that you haven’t made any new friends?”
“Well, at least I haven’t made enemies,” I say.
Mom sighs.
“I have friends there, Mom. They’re just not my best friends. It’s not like I got to school and sit all by myself in the cafeteria. I’m fine,” I tell her.
“Are you sure?” mom asks. “Because I swear, it’s like if you are Lee Lee aren’t joined together at the hip, you act like you can’t survive.”
Mom doesn’t understand that I want to have Lee Lee to look at when something funny happens—something that’s only funny to us. Our eyes have a way of finding each other no matter where we are in a room so we can give each other a look. A look that says, Did you see that? But at St. Francis, I don’t’ have anyone to share that look with. Most things that seem ridiculous to me are normal there. Like when my humanities teacher asked, “Who are the invisible people in our community? Who are the people we, as a society, take for granted?”
Some girl in my class said her housekeeper.
It wasn’t that I didn’t think she took her housekeeper for granted; it was that I couldn’t believe she had one. And then so many of my classmates nodded, like they could all relate. I actually looked across the room at the only other black girl in the class, and she was raising her hand, saying, “She took my answer,” and so I knew we’d probably never make eye contact about anything. And I realized how different I am from everyone else at St. Francis. Not only because I’m black and almost everyone else is white, but because their mothers are the kind of people who hire housekeepers, and my mother is the kind of person who works as one.
Lee Lee would get that. She’d look at me, and we’d have a whole conversation with only our eyes. But now I have to wait till I get home from school to fill her in on the crazy things these rich people say and do.
Mom keeps on with her talk. “I really wish you’d make at least one friend—a close friend—this year at your school,” she says. Then she says good night to me and walks into the hallway, where she turns and says, “Almost forgot to remind you—did you see my note on the fridge? You have a meeting with Mrs. Parker during lunch tomorrow.”
“On the first day of school? About what?”
Mom shrugs. “She didn’t give me details. Must be about the study abroad program,” she says with smile.
“You think so?” For the first time in—well, for the first time every—I am excited to talk to Mrs. Parker. This is the year that teachers select students to volunteer in a foreign country and do service learning projects. That was the thing that made me want to attend St. Francis. Well, that and the scholarship. When we met with Mrs. Parker, my guidance counselor, I think she could tell I was not feeling going to school away from my friends. But she knew from my application essay that I wanted to take Spanish and that I wanted to travel, so she said, “Jade, St. Francis provides opportunities for our students to travel the world.” She had me at that. Of course, she didn’t tell me I’d have to wait until I was a junior.
Mrs. Parker always had some kind of opportunity to tell me about. Freshman year it was an essay writing class that happened after school. Sophomore year it was the free SAT prep class that met on Saturday mornings. Saturday mornings. She likes to take me downtown to the Arlene Schnitzer Hall whenever there’s a speaker or poet in town, telling me I should hear so-and-so because kids in other cities in Oregon don’t get these kind of opportunities. I know Mrs. Parker is looking out for me—that she promised Mom she’d make sure I’d have a successful four years at St. Francis—but sometimes I wish I could say, Oh, no, thank you, Mrs. Parker. I have enough opportunities. My life is full of opportunities. Give an opportunity to someone else.
But girls like me, with coal skin and hula-hoop hips, whose mommas barely make enough money to keep food in the house, have to take opportunities every chance we get.

This excerpt was provided by the publisher for my use on the blog tour.

Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The Tour:

2/14: Story Sanctuary
2/15: Reading is Better than Cupcakes
2/16: YA Indulgences
2/17: Awkwordly Emma
2/21: Dazzled by Books
2/22: Here’s to Happy Endings
2/23: A Little Book World
2/24: Random Musings of a Bibliophile

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Blog Tour: City of Saints and Thieves by Natalie C. Anderson



Title: City of Saints & Thieves
Author: Natalie C. Anderson
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: January 24, 2017
Source: Publisher

City of Saints & Thieves is definitely not one of those books that I tend to gravitate to normally, but that is a good thing!  This year I told myself that I would do my best at reading more diversely and this book is definitely assisting me with that goal!

This story takes place in Kenya.  Our main character is Tina aka Little Girl.  Tina is a member of the local gang called the Goonda's.  She steals things for them.  And I don't mean she just pick pockets people on the street, she breaks into highly fortified locations that should be next to impossible to get into.

Of course, she doesn't do the jobs alone.  She has a team behind her being her eyes and ears.  BoyBoy who is not a Goonda handles all the technology stuff and hacks into things when Tina needs him to.  Bug Eye is the guy in charge.  And there is Ketchup.  He is...well he is Ketchup.  Tina doesn't really trust him, but he comes in handy as extra back up on jobs.

However, Tina's life was not always this way.  Tina and her mother were refugees from Congo.  Her mother found a place to work with a well to do family in a rich neighborhood.  Her mother eventually had another daughter, whose father just happened to be the man that Tina's mother worked for.  But over all, everything seemed to be going well for them and life was more or less just fine and dandy.

Until Tina's mother was murdered.

Tina, being pretty sure she knew who murdered her mother, took her sister and ran.  She got her sister set up with the Nuns and in school with them and then took off.  She never strayed far from her sister though, she felt she owed it to her mother to stick around and make sure that her sister was always safe and taken care of.  It is during her time on the streets that she found her way into the Goonda's and her calling as a thief.

There is no better motivation to become one of the best thieves out there if it means you can have revenge on your mothers murderer after all.

And it is when she breaks into the house that her mother used to work at, where she used to live, that this story starts.

It really does start off with quite a bang.  Pulling you directly into the story.  Action right from the get go.

I really appreciated the characters too.  Especially Tina.  Often times we don't truly get a strong female lead, but here in City of Saints & Thieves we do.  She is not one for apologizing and stepping aside.  She is the kind of girl that is going to fight for what she needs/wants/believes in.  And it is quite refreshing to have a character like this.

Also, while some of the locations of the story are made up, I believe we are still getting a glimpse as to what life is really like for those in Kenya, especially refugees.  I know not all end up in gangs etc...but I do think this book is allowing those of us who have never had the chance to go to places that these locations are influenced by to see what life can be like there.  Does it tell me everything I should know about Kenya and the hardships they face?  Does it tell me everything I need to know about the refugees from Congo?  No, it does not.  But it does give us readers a glimpse though, and what we choose to do with the glimpse is up to us. 

City of Saints & Thieves has strong characters and lots of intrigue and mystery.  Definitely not one to miss.

My Rating
4 Stars


This review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.  All thoughts and opinions are mine and mine alone.

Giveaway!


Enter for a chance to win one of five (5) finished copies of City of Saints and Thieves by Natalie Anderson (ARV: $18.99).
 
NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Enter between 12:00 AM Eastern Time on January 16, 2017 and 11:59 PM on February 3, 2017.  Open to residents of the fifty United States and the District of Columbia who are 13 and older. Winners will be selected at random on or about February 8, 2017. Odds of winning depend on number of eligible entries received. Void where prohibited or restricted by law.


Follow the Rest of the Tour!

Week One:
1/16 – Margie’s Must Reads – Review
1/17 – Children’s Book Review – Guest Post
1/18 – YA Wednesdays – Favorite Quotes
1/19 – Here’s to Happy Endings – Interview
1/20 – The Moral of our Stories – Review
 
Week Two:
1/23 – Oh the Book Feels – Review
1/24 – Bibliophile Gathering –Guest Post
1/25 – A Page with a View – Interview
1/26 – Icey Books – Quote Candy
1/27 – Reading Nook Reviews – Review
 
Week Three:
1/30 – Twinning for Books – Review and Pinterest Board
1/31 – Dark Faerie Tales – Interview
2/1 – Reading is Better with Cupcakes – Review
2/2 – ButterMyBooks – Guest Post
2/3 – Folded Pages Distillery – Review



Friday, January 27, 2017

Blog Tour: The You I've Never Known by Ellen Hopkins


Title: The You I've Never Known
Author: Ellen Hopkins
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Publication Date: January 24, 2017
Source: Publisher


To start us on, I figured I should be very honest with you.  I pretty much begged Hannah at Irish Banana Book Tours to put me onto this blog tour.  I knew I wanted to read the book, I knew I had an ARC already, and I knew that I would continue to put off reading if I wasn't on the blog tour.  I do that.  I put off books I really want to read almost indefinitely at times.  If I read them then they can be over and I don't want them to be over.  This is a really bad habit to have, I know...

Well, Hannah apparently found it in her heart to add me to this blog tour and I am so thankful that she did!

The You I've Never Known is probably my favorite Ellen Hopkins book that I have read so far.  I really think that she knocked this one out of the park.

The You I've Never Known is mostly told from Ariel's perspective.  She is a 17 year old girl who has lived pretty much her entire life moving from one place to another with her dad.  At times he would find a lady friend to live with for a short amount of time and other times they would just live out of the car.  Ariel's mother abandoned her and her father to be with her girl friend and gave up on them, so she has been out of Ariel's life for a very very long time.

At the point in her life that this story occurs though, Ariel and her father have finally put down some temporary roots in California.  Ariel is finally at a place in her life where she can let herself start to have friends and to find who she really is.

And that brings us to one of the big questions that Ariel looks to solve during the course of this story.  Who she is, especially when it comes to her sexual identity.  Is she into men?  Is she into women?  Is she into both?  Can she be bisexual?  Is that even a possibility?

And The You I've Never Known follows along with Ariel while she ponders these questions and works to discover herself and the answers to these questions....and more.  So much more.

Along with having Ariel's story, we also get a few "journal entries" from a girl named Maya.  Maya is trying to navigate life and get away from her abusive mother.

Oh my goodness guys.  My mind is still reeling from reading this.  I cannot stop thinking about it.  There is just so much in this book!  Discovering oneself, sexual identity, abuse, and more.  It is a really hard hitting read.  I had to put the book down on more than one occasion because there were points that were tough for me to get through and I had to take the extra time to digest what I had just read.  However, I could never put it down for very long because I just had to know what was going to happen next!

I will say that while I felt very invested in Ariel, that I didn't find myself drawn too much to the other characters.  The only exception of this was Maya.  It is probably because most of this story is about Ariel and told by Ariel.  So it is like you are in her mind.  It doesn't allow us to really get to know other characters all that deeply, but it does really let us get to know Ariel.  And I really liked getting to know Ariel.

I guess it doesn't really need to be said since this is an Ellen Hopkins book, but just in case you are new to her books... like the rest of her books there are some definite trigger warnings.  Domestic abuse and child abuse are two very strong topics for this book...and alcohol consumption.  Also, Ariel's father is very anti LGBTQIA and feel that should be noted.  It is part of Ariel's story though, but I just wanted readers to be aware of it.

Like I said in the beginning of my review, I really enjoyed The You I've Never Known.  It found myself very pulled in and rooting for Ariel to find her true self.  I am glad I read it and didn't put it off!

My Rating
5 Stars


This review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.  All thoughts and opinions are mine and mine alone.

Giveaway!



Follow the Tour!

Week 1:

Week 2:

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Blog Tour: The Matchstick Castle by Keir Graff - Guest Post!



Title: The Matchstick Castle
Author: Keir Graff
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: G. P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: January 10, 2016
Source: Publisher



Hi Everyone!

I am super pleased to be able to bring you a guest post from Keir Graff!  Keir Graff is the author of the newly released middle grade novel entitled The Matchstick Castle!  He has been kind enough to tell us about 7 authors that have inspired him and his writing.  I hope you enjoy!


Seven Authors and How They Inspire Me
By Keir Graff
Seven is an impossibly reductive number, but I had to stop somewhere or I would have, months from now, ended up with a list of everyone I’ve ever read—because I do learn from everything, good and bad. Still, these seven authors are first in my mind as I talk to readers about my new middle-grade adventure novel, The Matchstick Castle, while finishing a draft of my next one.
Beverly Cleary
One word: family. Well, three words: The Quimby family. Books about Ramona and her clan were some of my first middle-grade reading, and it was a formative experience to read about a fictional family that acted like a real one, with bad behavior and everything. I eventually would move on to swords, sorcery, and science fiction, but realistic fiction should form part of every kid’s reading diet—or at least books that don’t discard every last shred of family dynamics in favor of adventure. Yes, most good kidlit lets young readers imagine some degree of autonomy, but not all heroines and heroes need to be orphans.
Roald Dahl
My friend Ilene Cooper once wrote about Dahl, paraphrasing Longfellow: “When his writing is good, it’s very very good; and when it is bad, it’s horrid.” This is certainly true—for every Danny the Champion of the World (my personal favorite), there’s a George’s Marvelous Medicine. Still, I’ll always treasure him for his monstrously large imagination and for being the first children’s author to feed my appetite for stories about bizarre and sometimes disgusting things, with grown-ups portrayed as capricious, mean, and horrible. We may not like it as adults, but it’s important to remember that sometimes that’s exactly how kids see us.
Madeleine L’Engle
I realize I’m not exactly being original here, but as I was rereading A Wrinkle in Time the other day, I was struck by how forthright her young characters are about their emotions (and emotional breakthroughs) even before the action starts in earnest. I think editors today would tell their authors to be subtler about this, to string readers along, but L’Engle’s matter-of-factness about having characters wear their hearts on their sleeves and say what they mean is just utterly refreshing—especially because kids are more like that than adults, something grown-up authors and editors sometimes forget.
Lloyd Alexander
I loved Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, too, but the fantasy series that really hooked me as a kid was Alexander’s The Chronicles of Prydain. For me, Assistant Pig-Keeper Taran was simply more relatable than Bilbo or Frodo because I recognized my aspirations and frustrations more clearly in him. Or maybe I liked the fact that Alexander didn’t fill his pages with endless odes and songs, as did Tolkien—for whatever reason, I read these books to tatters*. Incidentally, The Book of Three was the first book I remember giving as a gift, to a fourth-grade friend, with the inscription I hope you enjoy this much as I do.
Russell Hoban
Hoban was responsible for the droll narrative voice of the beloved Frances the Badger series; his wife Lillian drew the pictures. Many people labor under the misapprehension that picture books are easy, but they couldn’t be more wrong—picture-book text is hard though few made it look as effortless as Hoban, with a voice that was dry, witty, warm, and wise in a few deft strokes. I do my best to emulate his economy of words even though I’m not yet good enough to write picture books. Hoban also wrote for grown-ups (including the seminal post-apocalyptic novel Riddley Walker)—which, because I do likewise, inspires me, too.
Daniel Pinkwater
There are a precious few artists I classify as True Creatives (capitalized because I’m thinking about trademarking the term and giving a TED talk**); they seem able to tap some deeper wellspring of creativity and tell stories authentically, without concern for commercial or critical reception. In film, I think of David Lynch and Hayao Miyazaki. In middle-grade fiction, I think of Daniel Pinkwater. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you haven’t read Lizard Music, which strikes me as a cross between Flannery O’Connor and Salvador Dali—which is to say, awesome.
James Kennedy
Yes, yes, I could be listing James here as a shameless way to plug our collaboration on the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival (which may be coming to your town in the next few months), but BE THAT AS IT MAY, I find James a creative inspiration. Not just for his seemingly inexhaustible ability to make up weird and wondrous things in The Order of Odd-Fish and some still-to-be-published works I’ve read, but for his intense focus on what makes a story great. Too many authors want to talk about money and contracts, but James is a writer whose favorite topic is storytelling, and I’ve learned a great deal from him.
*Figuratively speaking: I still own them.
**Just kidding.

Bio:
Keir Graff is the author of two middle-grade novels, including the The Matchstick Castle, published in January by G. P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers and Listening Library. Since 2011, he has been cohost of Publishing Cocktails, an occasional literary gathering in Chicago. By day, he is the executive editor of Booklist. You can find him on Twitter (@KeirGraff), Facebook (Keir.Graff.Author), and at www.keirgraff.com.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Review: Warren the 13th and The All Seeing Eye by Tania Del Rio and Will Staehle


Title: Warren the 13th and The All Seeing Eye
Series: Warren the 13th #1
Author: Tania Del Rio
Illustrator: Will Staehle
Publisher: Quirk Books
Publication Date: November 24, 2015
Source: Publisher

So this book was so much fun!  I realize the cover kind of promises this to you, but I am please to report that the cover is not lying to you!

Warren the 13th and the All Seeing Eye is about Warren the 13th (can I tell you anything more obvious? Probably not).  Warren the 13th lives with his Uncle Rupert, Aunt Annaconda, and a few others in an pretty run down hotel.  However, the hotel wasn't always run down.  When Warren's father was alive it was a beautiful place and business was thriving.  Unfortunately, he died when Warren the 13th was still too young to take over so his Uncle Rupert moved in to help him out.

And Uncle Rupert is lazy.... so things started falling apart, employees quit, and guests stopped visiting.

But that is really only the back story of how we get to the actual story that this book contains.  What happened is this - Uncle Rupert ended up marrying Annaconda and Annaconda is determined to find the mythical all seeing eye that is rumored to be hidden somewhere within the hotel!

One thing leads to another and everyone, including Warren the 13th, end up on a search for this All Seeing Eye.  This leads us to meeting quite a few fun and interesting people and takes us on quite the adventure!

Really, it is quite fun!

So, this book is meant to be a middle grade novel, but I think maybe some of the younger in that group might be a little turned off because the cover and the illustrations within (YES ILLUSTRATIONS) seem to have a darker Tim Burtonesque style to them and they might take it to mean this story will be scary.  And it isn't!  Not really!

Also, in regards to the illustrations....they are quite interesting to look at.  I know I enjoyed them all.  The ones in this book are done mostly in blacks/grays/reds/whites.  Pretty much like how you see them on the cover.  I think it really adds something to this story.  I don't think it would have been the same without them.

Also, random side note, my two year old kept taking the book from me so she could flip through and look at all the pictures.  She did this on multiple occasions.  My little book thief.

All in all, I found the story super fun.  It had a lot of puzzles you found yourself trying to figure out along with the characters - some of which were depicted in the illustrations.  And it was over all a great middle grade level mystery and I look forward to reading more of Warren's adventures.

My Rating
4 Stars


This review is based on a copy provided by the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.  All thoughts and opinions are mine and mine alone.


Fun Things!

Did you think I was done with only giving you my review?!  Well I'm not!  Today actually happens to be a very special day!  It is FRIDAY THE 13th!  And the wonderful people over at Quirk Books have given me something super special to share with you!

First - there is a special short story featuring Warren that you can check out!  Just click the link and go enjoy all the awesomeness they have in store for you!



And the final thing I have for you today in celebration of Warren the 13th is the cover for book 2!  I can't wait for it to come out so I can see what happens to Warren next!