Waiting on Wednesday: Gilt Hollow

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“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases… This week I’m waiting on Gilt Hollow by Lorie Langdon (author of Doon), a YA Romantic Suspense novel, being published by Blink on the 27th September.

Synopsis:

Willow Lamott’s best friend is a convicted killer, and no one in the small town of Gilt Hollow will let her forget it. 

Over four long years, she’s tried to fade into the background—but none of that matters when Ashton Keller comes striding into school, fresh out of juvie and fueled by revenge. The moment their eyes meet, Willow no longer feels invisible. Drawn to the vulnerability behind Ashton’s mask of rage, she sinks deeper into his sinister world and begins to question whether he’s a villain, a savior, or both.

Ashton thought he wanted vengeance, until Willow Lamott stepped back into his life. Now he longs to clear his name and become the person she sees in him. But the closer they get to uncovering the truth, the darker the secrets become, and Ashton wonders if his return to Gilt Hollow will destroy everyone he loves.

Early Review:

“A romantic page-turner that will keep you guessing until the very end! – Melissa Landers, author of the Alienated and Starflight series

 

David Arnold is a Super-Racehorse! #Vic #KidsOfAppetite

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When I first picked up ‘Kids of Appetite‘ I was reminded quite strongly of another YA, ‘Alex Woods Versus the Universe‘ (an awesome read). Perhaps because it begins with the main character being interviewed at a police station, or maybe because Vic is smart and has an unusual way of looking at the world – a bit like Alex. And this was a sign of things to come. A sign that I was really, really going to like this particular coming-of-age story, with its ‘Pay It Forward‘ ethos and page-turner quality writing.

Okay, so here’s the premise: Vic decides his mum’s new boring-lawyer-boyfriend is completely unbearable, so he steals his dead father’s ashes and hightails it out of their house. He then discovers, inside the urn, a letter from his father, outlining a list of  obscure places he’d like his ashes to be scattered. When Vic meets Madeline Falco, who lives in a greenhouse with a ragtag group – mostly teens – who have their own troubled pasts, Mad offers to help him fullfill his dad’s wishes… And Vic accepts, becoming the group’s latest ‘Chapter’. This leads them on a journey which will ultimately end with both Mad and Vic in a police station, being questioned about a murder. Because, why not?

And the rare seeds which led David Arnold to write such a quirky mashup of a story? Moebius Syndrome; the Second Republic of the Congo Civil War (1997-1999); child abuse; SE Hinton; Matisse; side-ways hugs at funerals; fear of ‘natural’ food additives; and a love of ice cream, or salad wraps…

The Characters – 5/5 (eccentric and original, heart-warming and kind, awesome and funny)

The Dialogue – 5/5 (something special)

The Writing – 5/5 (beautiful, lyrical, honest, poetic, approachable, smart, vivid…)

The Level of Crazy – 4.5/5 (madcap adventure)

The YA Romance Angle – 4/5 (low-key, sweet, realistic, creative)

 

You know the places on this list. Take me there, won’t you?

Till we’re old-new,

– B

1. Hang me from the Parlour.     2. Toss me off the Palisades.

3. Bury me in the smoking bricks of our first kiss.     4. Drown me in our wishing well.

5. Drop me from the top of our Rock.

Spotted: Mexican Brujas in Brooklyn

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On the Back Cover:

Nothing says Happy Birthday like summoning the spirits of your dead relatives…

Alex is a bruja, the most powerful witch in a generation…and she hates magic. At her Deathday celebration, Alex performs a spell to rid herself of her power. But it backfires. Her whole family vanishes into thin air, leaving her alone with Nova, a brujo boy she can’t trust. A boy whose intentions are as dark as the strange marks on his skin. The only way to get her family back is to travel with Nova to Los Lagos, a land in-between, as dark as Limbo and as strange as Wonderland…

Inside the Book:

Characters and relationships: Alex suffers from crippling self-doubt at the start of the novel and at times, comes across as a little self-centred. But when faced with the realities of Los Lagos, she turns into a smart, practical, loyal and courageous main character. In fact, she’s kind of kick-ass! Alex’s family seemed interesting (lots of mystery there!) and I think getting to know them better, is one reason why I’d read a sequel. I also really liked Alex’s punchy best friend – which is good, because she becomes a love interest (*necessary spoiler*).

Action: Fun, inventive villains, cool twists and magical high jinx – but nothing too gory or anxiety inducing. The author did a great job at building suspense and creating tension; I never quite knew what was coming next for Alex!

Romance: I felt like the chemistry could have been ramped up a little more, but then again, I love a steamy romance…

Settings: I loved the way each scene began with a quote from a different magical ‘canto’ (song). I liked the gothic, ‘Alice in Wonderland’ feel of Los Lagos. And Alex’s home… with the chicken feet and vials of earth, stored next to the flour and the sugar, was great fun.

Keywords: 

Family, culturally diverse, LGBT relationship, high school, Brooklyn, magic and fantasy.

Expected publication: September 6th 2016 by Sourcebooks Fire Books.

Netgalley Picture Book Reviews

As some of you might know, I’m starting a Primary PGCE course in September, and I’ve been tasked with reading more children’s literature. So, here’s my take on the following picture books!

Birds of a Feather by Vanita Oelschlager (illustrated by Robin Hegan)

Designed to introduce kids to common idioms, using a humorous approach; the kids can help the teacher read aloud the idiom on each page and discuss the pictures. Then, when they turn the book upside down, the teacher can read aloud the written explanation and example given for each idiom.

Cons: the illustrations don’t always relate directly to the actual meaning of the idiom… Also a racoon is in one of the illustrations – an animal kids in the UK will not recognise.
Pros: Kids will LOVE THIS BOOK.
               Ages: 4+                           Rating: 5/5 + AUTO-BUY


Little White Fish Has Many Friends by Guido van Genechten

Designed to introduce kids to the concept of friendly play. The teacher can get the kids to explain what game little white fish is playing on each double-page spread, then read the book aloud and see if they’re correct!

Cons: games like dancing the “cha-cha” and giving “eskimo kisses” seem a little exotic for a kids book.
Pros: large, simple pictures, introduces kids to the names of various sea creatures.
                Ages: 3+                           Rating: 3/5

 

The Bear Who Couldn’t Sleep by Caroline Nastro (illustrated by Vanya Nastanlieva)

A story about a bear who cannot sleep and so ventures into New York city to visit the galleries, museums and streets there, before finally becoming sleepy… There are plenty of opportunities for the students to explain to the teacher what bear is doing on each page, as the pictures sometimes diverge from the text.

Cons: Perfect for kids from New York, but the landmarks mentioned might confuse kids from other parts of the world.
Pros: Beautiful illustrations and interesting settings, and a main character (bear) kids will relate well too.
              Ages: 3+                          Rating: 4/5

 

The Toothless Fairy by Timothy Jordan (illustrated by Matthew LaFleur)

A rhyming story about a lonely, ‘ugly’ fairy with a very sweet tooth! The teacher can use this book as a jumping point to ask about what makes Halloween fun i.e. spending time with your friends. And to discuss why too much sugar leads to issues with your teeth! It’s also great for introducing children to the idea of poetry as a narrative device.

Cons: Sophisticated language usages and the topic of ‘Halloween’ works well in the USA where kids know what ‘trick or treating’ is, but might not work so well outside of the USA where they don’t.
Pros: Fun and creative illustrations which kids will love!
                 Ages: 5+                                 Rating: 3/5

 

Vroom! Kevin’s Big Book of Vehicles by Lisbet Slegers

Designed to help children identify different types of vehicles and their various parts, uses some rhyming. Includes on-page activities for kids.

Cons: I felt the odd ‘story’ page, inserted between more educational pages, actually slowed the pace of the book. Also the technical information cited means this book is more useful for school-aged children,
Pros: large simple images, good technical vocabulary (e.g. “ambulance” and “combine harvester”), good explanations, lots of fun tasks for kids. A really useful book!
            Ages: 4+                     Rating: 4.5/5

 

Who Will Dance with Little Mouse? by Anita Bijsterbosch

A story about a small mouse who asks everyone to dance with him, but one after another they give their excuses… This book shows kids that if they don’t give up, they’ll eventually find someone to dance with! And that following your dreams can be fun.

Cons: The animals featured include a sloth, not something most kids would have heard of. Also, the story is repetitive.
Pros: Teaches some animal actions and sounds, with strong describing verbs. Large, simple illustrations. Shows kids what digital imaging can do.
               Ages: 3+                            Rating: 3/5

The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater

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Series Rating: 4.5 STARS

Recommended Reading Age: 13+ 

Read: via Audible

Short Series Review:

Privileged Gansey has always been told he’s destined for greatness and his quest to fulfil this prophesy has brought him to Aglionby School in his old orange Camaro, in search of a buried Welsh king who legend says can grant wishes. Here he meets Adam, the scholarship student with a humongous chip on his shoulder the exact size of his abusive father’s fists; and Ronan Lynch, a blunt-speaking boy who seeks out risk and excitement in any form. And maybe everything could have been simple, but then the boys meet Blue. Blue comes from an eccentric family of psychics, who have predicted that if she kisses her true love, he will die.

Once they’ve all met, a story unfolds. It’s about about lost souls and magic. It’s about family, friendship, loyalty and relationships (gay and straight). It’s about myth and legend, growing up, finding your voice and your purpose. It’s about a small Virginia town on a ley line and the mystery and intrigue related to that. It’s about car chases and hitmen, thieves and liars, demons and fey. It’s beautifully told, with wry observant descriptions and atmospheric settings. If you start reading this series, you won’t want to stop until it’s over. And even when it is over, you’ll want another book…

Tagline: A very modern fairytale.

If you’ve already read this series, what did you love/hate about it? 

I Wish Every Teacher Would Read…


When Kyle Schwartz asked his elementary students to complete the sentence “I wish my teacher knew…”, he did something extraordinary and his students rewarded him with their honesty. 



Kyle Schwartz doesn’t pretend to be the perfect teacher – he freely admits that he’s made his fair share of mistakes – but he does have some very valid, very relevant suggestions for teachers today. Suggestions which will:

  1. Help you to increase learning inside your classroom.
  2. Help you to foster a sense of community inside your classroom.
  3. Help you to provide a more inclusive and supportive environment inside your classroom.

At the core of Kyle’s approach lies a simple statement, made by child psychologist James Comer, that “no significant learning occurs without a significant relationship” and the belief that every child matters. 

He outlines and tackles real issues that face many of our students – food hunger and bereavements, for example – and his practical suggestions cover everything from how to welcome new children into your classroom, to holding ‘family-school conferences’ instead of a traditional ‘parents night’.

Understanding the realities of our students’ lives may not always be comfortable, but facing these issues head on is the best way to understand and help our students.

If you’re a teacher, you will benefit from reading this book and you will enjoy reading it! (I predict several eureka moments and lots of head nodding…) It doesn’t really matter which country you live in, or what age range you teach there, as issues our students face are the same. 

All of my teacher friends will be getting copies of this – from me! – for Christmas.

I Wish My Teacher Knew will be published July 12th by Da Capo Lifelong Books.

Miranda Kenneally’s A Woman On A Mission

Backstory:

While introducing her new book Miranda explains that during her early twenties she was working 15 hour days, with no opportunity to go to the gym or do drinks after work… And she doesn’t want her readers to make the same mistakes, especially whilst still in high school.

The main character in Defending Taylor, is so worried about ‘earning her way’ and getting into the right college, that she does every extracurricular she can and takes AP class, after AP class. And when this becomes too much for her she abuses prescribed medications to stay awake – putting herself and her future at risk. 

The story opens as Taylor’s world comes crashing down, when she’s caught with drugs on school property and expelled. At the same time Taylor breaks up with her boyfriend Ben, but she can’t tell her friends why. She won’t share that secret. To top it all off, Taylor’s senator father is not happy; he’s up for re-election and now her actions have effected his campaign. To force her to buck up, he sends her to the local state school, Hundred Oaks, where the soccer team sucks and the girls are mean, mean and meaner. The only bright spot in Taylor’s days is Ezra, her brother’s best friend, who for reasons unknown is home from college. 

My Thoughts:

This series just works for me. I usually beatle through these books in a day and this book was no exception. I read late into the night in order to finish it. It’s a compulsive read. And of course, our favourite guidance councillor makes a couple fun appearances! As do a few other familiar couples… 

The soccer elements weren’t as prominent in this novel as I expected them to be (do not anticipate another Catching Jordan style read) and the terminology/mechanics of the game were definitely dumbed down. I’d be interested to know if this last part was the author’s choice or an editor’s…

The romance was ramped up in Defending Taylor. I would not give this book to a younger teen! It borders on being a New Adult book, rather than YA. #sexytimes

Fortunately Erza was pretty crushable – I’d like a yummy construction worker boyfriend too please Miranda! And he was patient with Taylor, which I appreciated. So often romance authors write bolshy, pushy male characters who dominate the story… But Ezra’s the kind of guy you and I would actually want to get to know. #real #READit!


Sourcebooks Fire will be publishing Defending Taylor on July 5th 2016.

What did you prioritise in high school – fun or grades? And do you regret your choice?

7 Mostly Annoying Things about ‘The Problem with Forever’

1. It kept me up reading until like 3AM… I’d recommend it for readers who loved:

2. Mallory is the sweetest main character, seriously, and like me, she has trouble verbalising stuff sometimes, making her a little introverted, but she wants to participate more. #tooperfect And you know, her bestie Ainsleigh is like the most supportive person on the planet too. #jealous

3. Rider. Oh my god. I want one! But he’s fictional… #frustration He does have a girlfriend when we first meet him, but he totally drops everything to big-brother Mallory. #supersweet #sexyYA
4. Heartbreak. Rider and Mallory have the most heartbreaking history together and seeing the scars that left, broke me at times. #needtissues

5. The fact that the book had a final page… #nooooooo! That ending. ❤️ Thank god for Hector, Rider’s sort-of, dirty mouthed Puerto Rican brother. #companionbookfodder

6. The setting. High school romances are my jam people! Who told JLA that? Am I being stalked? Freaky…

7. This book reminded me of some pretty serious stuff: Everyone is human, no one is infallible, we all hurt sometimes. But life is always richer with love. #majorlifelessons

“Forever was knowing that moments of weakness didn’t equate to an eternity of them…. Forever was Carl and Rosa, Ainsleigh and Keira, Hector and Rider…. Forever was simply the promise of more. Forever was a work in progress.”

Weddings in Bookshops and Giggles on the L…

As I’m visiting New York for the first time, I decided to read something by a local author… So of course I went to the wonderful Housing Works bookshop in Manhattan. I have been buying books from them for years (over the Internet of course), so it was amazing to actually step inside their store in person… 


Did you know they do weddings?! They closed early for one while I was there. I found this photo on Yelp:

It was at Housing Works that I found Jesse Eisenberg’s ‘Bream Gives Me Hiccups’. A wonderfully zany collection of stories…You can expect wry incites into the modern day and an abundance of humour. 


The collection opens with a set of ‘restaurant reviews’ from a young boy (with an underlying commentary on his relationship with his divorcee mother). 


This is followed by a series of midnight text messages between a brother and sister; a father’s guide to the medications his son is prescribed; a series of conversations where men try to avoid invitations to dance; letters written to a high school guidance councillor; a monologue from a middle school bully; personalised spam emails; a series of imagined historic conversations; and so on…. 


What happens when a young boy, asked to wear his seatbelt, continues to question “why” in ‘Bream Gives Me Hiccups’, you ask? This is your answer (or part of it!):

Eisenberg’s selective use of stereotypes and attraction to cultural issues, make this a timely, funny and thought provoking book. It’s topics and approach may be ‘eccentric’ and ‘fluid’, but there is no doubt that for the reader, this book is a tour de force. 

I giggled on the subway and people stared… I didn’t care. #JesseEisenbergGaveMeGiggles

Okay, so I’m a Feminist… in Washington

Last week I was in Washington DC for the first time and spent an evening at Busboys and Poets, where I bought my first book on feminism at the grand age of 28… You could say I’m a little behind the curve on this one. Oh well!

In Arlington, opposite the Signature Theatre – now showing a fabulous production of La Cage aux Filles!

Bread pudding in the cafe!


Fem-I-ism: Belief in the social, political and economic equality of the sexes.” –p.14

Jessica Valenti’s thoughtful and classic book ‘Full Frontal Feminism’ has made a covert of me, because, guess what? I do care about women’s issues. I don’t want to see a glass ceiling in the workplace and I do want equal pay. I don’t want a bunch of male politicians telling me what I can or can’t do with my own body either and, strangely enough, I want to be able to walk down a normal city street without fear (of rape). I don’t want to try to live small, be small, in an attempt to fit an antiquated, yet traditional, ‘female’ ideal… And I would like my marriage (one day) to be an equal partnership. I also want childcare costs to not be a factor as regards my being able to return to work after having a child. I could go on…

‘Full Frontal Feminism’ is no heavy academic tome. It’s accessible – blunt, practical and not a little witty. Although I don’t always agree with Valenti’s perspective, I found her book to be full of scary and illuminating facts – from enacted laws (in the US and abroad) and population statistics, case studies and personal anecdotes etc. So if you’re trying to decide whether or not you are in fact a feminist, this is the book for you! It will spark an understanding of modem injustices and inequalities and, yes, likely convince you that more needs to be done to combat these instances.

Jessica:

When you’re getting abstinence-only education during the day and Girls Gone Wild commercials at night, if’s not exactly easy to develop a heathy sexuality.” pp.20-21

Both harassment and rape are the results of a culture that teaches men that women exist solely for them, their desires.” –p.79

The government wants happy housewives. More than they want financially secure women.” –p.131

One of the main problems with feminism today is its inability to recruit younger women and keep them interested.” –p.173

We should tell girls the truth; ‘Beautiful’ is bullshit, a standard created to make women into good consumers, too busy wallowing in self-loathing to notice that we’re second-class citizens.” –p.204

Men have body standards to live up to as well…. But their[s] – big, strong, muscular – push them to be strong, to take up space. Ours – skinny, skeletal, weak – push us to be fragile, to take up less space, to disappear.” –p.217

Perseverance and an ability to get shit done are generally thought of as good qualities in male politicians.But as a woman, you can’t win. ‘Cause if you’re not a “bitch”, you’re too “soft” for politics.” –p.224

Value yourself for what the media doesn’t – your intelligence, your street smarts, your ability to play a kick-ass game of pool, whatever.” –p.246

Just So You Know:

– April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month

– October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month

– The American Psychiatric Association says that “government restrictions on abortion are more likely to cause women lasting harm than the procedure itself.”

– Women are 40% more likely to be poor.

– Statistics show that mothers earn less and less with each child they have – the Mummy Wage Gap.

– The REAL Hot 100 list features women who are hot for what they do, not how they look.
So it’s a list woman could actually vote for!