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.


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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.

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

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!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Middle Grade Madness 2017 is Here!

Hi Everyone!

I am so excited to tell you all about Middle Grade Madness!

This is the second year of Middle Grade Madness.  Last year it was hosted by Lilybloombooks and it was a lot of fun!  And I am so thrilled to let you all know that I am going to be co-hosting this fun reading challenge with you for the year 2017!

If this is the first you have heard of this fun reading challenge you are probably wondering what we are talking about.  Middle Grade Madness is a reading challenge for the year for Middle Grade books!  You read as many as you want and then you come to our monthly post and link up your review(s) for the Middle Grade novels that you read!  Super simple!  You don't even have to make a post for it, you can just link your blog/Goodreads/Amazon to the sign up linky and you are good to go!

And just for some additional fun to this challenge, there will be giveaways!

Super fun and super easy.  And a great way to share the love for Middle Grade books!

Here is the really important information in bullet format for you!
  • Join the Madness until December 31st 2017 at 11:59 p.m EST
  • Link up!  You do NOT have to create a specific sign up post - your blog link is fine.  You don't even have to have a book blog to join!  If you don't have a book blog, you can link up Amazon or Goodreads profiles, for example
  • The 1st of every month a new link post will go live to link up to.
  • Monthly Links close on the 10th of the FOLLOWING month.  If you miss a post, no worries!  Link it up on the following month!
  • There will be giveaways on each month's post.  Unless otherwise noted.  Each link submitted counts as an entry, so be sure to link up those reviews!
  • If you want you can email your links to lilybloombooks(at)hotmail(dot)com
  • We will promote ti too!  Use the hashtag #MadforMG2017 
  • Us it as a challenge or just for fun! It's completely up to you!

If you have any questions, feel free to ask them in the comments or to contact myself or Lilybloombooks!

Here is the linky!

Friday, January 6, 2017

Blog Tour: Life in a Fishbowl by Len Vlahos - Excerpt and Giveaway!

Title: Life in a Fishbowl
Author: Len Vlahos
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Publication Date: Januaary 3, 2017
Source: Publisher

Hi everyone!

I am super pleased that I get to share with you an excerpt from the book Life in a Fishbowl by Len Vlahos!

Don't worry, I wont bore you with my talk today!  We all know you are really here because you want to read an excerpt of this book and then enter the giveaway...and maybe even then go order your own beautiful gorgeous copy!

So here you go!


Jared kept the news of his brain tumor to himself for four days, spending most of that time lying on his office floor, trying to think. He came out just often enough to make sure his family wouldn’t suspect anything was amiss, going right back in once he was convinced they were thrown off the scent of trouble.
Jared tried hard to think of a way out of what he saw as his financial predicament. There was college to pay for soon. And cars and spring break vacations and whatever else kids needed money for. But mostly he was just trying to think. When he was bored with lying in the dark, he would turn on his computer and click from once cancer website to the next. The grim news he read about high-grade glioblastoma multiformes made his head hurt, and he found himself linking instead to news and entertainment sites.
That was how he happened on a strange article from a few months earlier:
Divorced Man Auctions His Life Online
March 14—Worldwide News Now
When Jens Schmidt realized he needed a fresh start, he auctioned his material possessions online. From an unused tube of toothpaste to a 2002 Toyota Camry, Schmidt put his entire life up for sale to the highest bidder.
The thirty-four-year-old Dutchman, a successful attorney who likes to hang glide and ski, seemed to have it all. But then his wife of seven years, an Italian woman named Anna Mazzucchi, filed for divorce, and Schmidt deided it was time to move on.
“I just didn’t want any reminder of my life before,” he said.
Schmidt’s listing includes his house, his hot tub, his clothes, his television, his cat, and his car. He also notes: “My friends are included in the package. If you win the auction, they promise they’ll be nice to you.”
Jared looked up from the article on his computer screen, and the world froze for a moment.
An idea started to percolate in Jared’s brain. A crazy idea. An idea only a man with a high-grade glioblastoma multiforme could possibly have. He would auction his life—not his things, but his actual life—on eBay. The euthanasia lobby was pressuring him to take a position on a proposed expansion to Oregon’s right-to-die laws; he would become their post boy. Jared Stone, for sale to the highest bidder—do with him as you please.   

This excerpt from Life in a Fishbowl was provided by the publisher.


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Jan 3—Swoony Boys Podcast
Jan 4—Ex Libris
Jan 5—Peace Love Books
Jan 6—Reading is Better with Cupcakes
Jan 9—Here’s to Happy Endings
Jan 10—WhoRU Blog
Jan. 11—Dazzled By Books
Jan. 12—It Starts at Midnight
Jan. 13—The Story Sanctuary