Monday, February 27, 2017

Review: The Cruelty by Scott Bergstrom

Title: The Cruelty
Author: Scott Bergstrom
Series: The Cruelty #1
Publisher: Feiwel and Friends
Publication Date: February 7, 2017
Source: Publisher

The Cruelty...

Oh what can I say about this book...

To be totally honest with you, I read this book months ago...  And I have kept putting this review off.

Kind of one purpose.

Why?  Because I have mixed feelings about this book.

On one hand, I did like it.  On the other hand, I didn't.

The Cruelty is about a girl named Gwendolyn.  Gwendolyn's father is a diplomat.  He has worked for the U.S. Government for years.  And he gets kidnapped.  So, naturally, Gwendolyn sets off to go rescue her father.

And the road to rescuing him is not pretty at all.  She finds herself in a dark world.  Human trafficking, drugs, murder, arms smuggling, etc.  It is a dark world that she has found herself in, in Europe, that she must navigate to find and rescue her father.

To be honest, the premise of this book is what really pulled me in.  I thought it sounded exciting and that it was going to be a really great story.

I also thought, that since it was marketed as a YA read, that it was going to not be too dark.

And that was my bad.

It was dark and at times pretty horrible.  I was a lot darker than I thought it would be for a YA read.  Scott Bergstrom didn't really spare his readers from the harsh reality of the world Gwendolyn has to navigate in The Cruelty.

And there were many times I wanted to give up on the book, but I kept picking it back up determined to finish it.  I have nothing against a dark book.  I will willingly read them all the time.  But for the longest time I had a hard time accepting that The Cruelty was meant for the YA reading crowd.

I did eventually flip to the back cover and see it was recommended for ages 17+ and that helped me get past some of my prejudices.  So there is that.  But I would really not recommend this book for the younger/more immature crowd.  As mentioned before - it traverses the dark underbelly of Europe.  Sex trafficking and arms dealing are probably the most prominent topics.  And there are definitely triggers for that and for other things.

It is these issues that have stuck with me the most since I have finished reading The Cruelty.

And yet, all that said, I still found myself occasionally able to enjoy the story and I did finish it.  Will I continue with this series?  That is a maybe leaning towards a no.  I might though.  I wouldn't mind seeing where this series is going and I wouldn't mind (hopefully) seeing Scott Bergstrom growing as a writer.

My Rating
3 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.

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!


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.


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.


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