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.

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.”

Something Witchy This Way Comes…

The story:

Poppy has always known she was different – cats follow her everywhere and mysterious things happen when she gets angry, bad things, like windows shattering and random fires. There’s usually blood involved. So exactly the kind of things that get you expelled from eleven schools in a row and which eventually drive her mother into a mental institution…

What Poppy doesn’t know is that there is a very reasonable explanation for all of this: her evil witch aunt swapped her out with a regular mortal – Ember – when she was less than a day old. Making Poppy, ta-da!, a witch… And poor Ember, a talentless mortal in witch clothes. (It’s difficult to say which character feels the most sorry for themselves at the beginning of the story.) Then there’s Leo, the young homeless boy who steals Poppy’s heart.

You can expect:

– Dark, gothic undertones. #myjam

– A cute, magical romance…. A love triangle of sorts. #SOmean

– Multiple p.o.v characters.

– Dark family secrets. #yeahbaby!

– High school drama.

– A brutal ending. Seriously. I need a sequel stat. This ending CANNOT stand! #obsessed #really?

Orchard Books is publishing The Hawkweed Prophesy on June 16th.

The Book Review: One Paris Summer by Denise Grover Swank

Publishing June 6th, ARC curtesy of Netgalley.

Goodreads Synopsis:

Sophie and her brother are sent to Paris to spend the summer with their father, his soon-to-be wife and his stepdaughter. The stepdaughter, Camille, agrees to show them around the city, but she makes it clear that she will do everything in her power to make Sophie miserable.

Sophie’s dream is to become a pianist, and she was supposed to spend the summer preparing for a scholarship competition. Still, after a few encounters with a gorgeous French boy, Sophie finds herself warming to the city. There’s just one hitch—he’s a friend of Camille’s.

Review:

Camille was a typical bully, the type we’ve all met before as young girls and know to dread. #evilstepsister Though this is probably one reason why I connected so well with the story, it also kind of sucked for Sophie!

I loved how Sophie’s life in Paris was built up slowly, brick by brick – with each new place explored, each new pastry tasted and each new phrase she learns. I really felt like I was learning how to live in Paris, whilst reading One Paris Summer.

Piano-obsessed Sophie grows up a lot during the course of the novel, in large part because of Camille’s actions. Her impression of her childhood crush is reformed, her relationships with her brother and estranged father mature and she learns to believe in herself more. 

Sophie’s less inclined to cry and mop around by the end of the novel. So I definitely liked and respected her more as the story progressed.

Matthieu was a typical French love interest – alluringly aloof and yet suitably romantic. His scenes definitely made me swoon a time or two, not something that YA usually does for me… Expect cute texts, sexy French lessons and the Eiffel Tower! 

The only negative thing I’d say is that Matthieu’s reasons for staying away from Sophie in the beginning, became rather tiresome after a while. I sort of felt like if the author had used maybe a smidgen more of her imagination, then she might of have solved this issue.

A Week In San Francisco With Nina LaCour and David Levithan…


We listened to beat poetry and Lehna’s poem, that one about friendship, reminded me of my best friends from high school and what leaving them behind felt like.

What we really were,
Were twins.
The kind that feel it
When the other is cold.
The kind that always hears
Two heartbeats
Instead of one.
Pinch me
And you’d say
Ouch.

We attended pride and watched the Dykes on Bikes. And we revelled in the openness. In the love.

Mark spent most of that week figuring himself out, when his closeted best friend found somebody else. But that was cool.

Mark: “I have this thing inside me, and it’s angry and it’s scared and it’s uncertain and most of all it’s so completely in love with him, and it would do anything to keep him, even if it means things staying the way they are now…. I don’t love him for who he is now. I wouldn’t love him for who he is two years from now. I love him for all the hims he’s already been with me.”

Katie ‘call-me-Kate’, the under-confident artist, ran away from her dream girl time after time, but what she was really running from, who knew? Only she did. Only her fears did.

And Garrison took our pictures, forced us to stare at our truths. To try to live them. He was safe, he was wise, he was honest and knew a little something about hearts. He told us, “Most lives are long, and most pain is short. Hearts don’t actually break; they always keep beating…. As that famous homosexual Winston Churchill once said, if you find yourself heartbroken, keep walking.”

That time I spent in San Francisco with Nina LaCour and David Levithan, that time was amazing.

It taught me that it was okay to not have stuff figured out. Any of it. Because that’s life.

But, funnily enough, eventually Kate did figure some important stuff out. And so did Mark.

Kate: “Hiding and denying and being afraid is no way to treat love. Love demands bravery. No matter the occasion, love expects us to rise…”

You Know Me Well by Nina LaCour and David Levithan (St Martin’s Griffin) publishes June 7th.

Book Review: Trust Me, I’m Lying by Mary Elizabeth Summer

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GOODREADS‘ SYNOPSIS

Julep Dupree’s a con artist and a sophomore at Chicago’s swanky St. Agatha High, where her father, an old-school grifter with a weakness for the ponies, sends her to so she can learn to mingle with the upper crust. For extra spending money Julep doesn’t rely on her dad—she runs petty scams for her classmates while dodging the dean of students and maintaining an A+ (okay, A-) average. But when she comes home one day to a ransacked apartment and her father gone, Julep’s carefully laid plans for an expenses-paid golden ticket to Yale start to unravel. Julep struggles to trace her dad’s trail of clues through a maze of creepy stalkers, hit attempts, family secrets, and worse, the threat of foster care. With everything she has at stake, Julep’s in way over her head. 

THE MAIN CHARACTER

Julep is a feisty and independent main character, who doesn’t like to rely on others – but sometimes, she just can’t help it. It’s this ‘criminal mastermind plus minions’ vibe that’s very Heist Society. My only criticism of Julep is that she could be too trusting at times.

THE ROMANCE

“I’m a con artist. As much as I might wish I weren’t, I’m still all smoke and mirrors. You can love and illusion, but the illusion can’t love you back. Even if it wants to.” – p.265

The romance aspects were understated, but clearly there. Sam, Julep’s BFF, is clearly in love with her from page one – but being Julep, she’s oblivious. Then there’s Tyler Richland, her school’s resident heartthrob, who decides Julep’s worth his time when she doesn’t run screaming from the dead rat someone’s placed in her locker… I liked both boys, so I never really knew who I should be shipping!

THE CON

“I lean against the wall, surveying the destruction in the kitchen. Something tells me whoever tossed the place did not find what he was looking for.” – p.12

I really liked the beginning of this one and the ending, but the middle seemed to lack focus, as Julep and the gang went from one loose end to another – following clues her father had left for her. The storyline picked up somewhat once the mob made it’s presence known.

“There are two things you need to know about the mob. The first is that mobsters hate con men…. The second thing to know about the mob is that they have a tendency to eliminate the competition in a rather permanent way.” p.67

Teaser Tuesday and Book Review: Fighting Dirty by Lori Foster

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I’m taking my #TeaserTuesdayPost from Lori Foster’s Fighting Dirty, coming February 23rd 2016 from Harlequin. This is at 13% on my e-ARC, when Merissa shows up at Armie’s flat…

“You’re in your underwear.”

Oh shit. He’d forgotten. Leaving the door open, he faced her. Damn, she was close. Like kissing close.

Like fucking close.

“They’re cute.”

“They’re absurd,” he corrected. The boxers sported two arrows – one that pointed up and said, The Man, and another that pointed to his junk and said, The Legend.

“I like them.” She leaned in – nearly stopping his heart – and gave the door a push to close it. Then she stayed right there, letting him breathe her in and feel the heat of her slender body and smell the scent of her skin.

This final book in the Ultimate series features a sexy, muscled fighter (Armie) and a sassy, wise-cracking, female bank teller (Merissa). Armie’s always been a player, but he has his reasons. After a bad experience as a teen, he’s learnt to avoid ‘monogamy’ and now he needs to keep his head down and stay out of the spotlight – or risk his world crashing down… But he’s always been tempted by Connor’s sister Merissa and even though he knows bringing her into his world would put her at risk, when danger enters her life in the form of a bank robbery, he can’t help but step in.


My Review:

Lori Foster is one of my favourite modern romance authors, but there were some aspects of Fighting Dirty which I found a little disappointing. Firstly, there are no flashback scenes to help establish any “boy falls for best friend’s younger sister” history, between Merissa and Armie. Also, in view of Armie’s reputation and profession, I thought the bedroom scenes were relatively tame. And we don’t hear much about Armie’s tattoos… #noooo!

There were some very funny/adorable moments between this pair. I will always remember the ‘Rissy Was Here’ scene, that one had me giggling out loud. #readthebook!

In Fighting Dirty we also get to revisit all the other pairings from this series and that’s a lot of fun. (When the women of this series set their minds to it, boy can they come up with some interesting after-hours girls’ night activities!…)

I liked the bromance too – there are so many great male characters and friendships in this series and Lori Foster can write men. I have no issue with her male P.O.V.s whatsoever; and I really liked how well-developed Armie’s character was. #all-the-feels

Armie and Merissa begin their romantic relationship quite quickly, so the narrative focus shifts to a crime/suspense angle about half way through… But, as the novel’s ‘bad guy’ is unmasked to the reader almost immediately, then the only question driving the narrative forward is ‘what will the bad guy decide to do to Merissa next?’ This made the book feel a bit of dragged out… #formulaic

If you want a by-the-book Romantic Suspense novel, then I’d recommend Fighting Dirty – this one’s got a bit of edge and a lot of Armie… #shirtless

Book Review: Chasing Impossible by Katie McGarry

  
I really love this series!! (I wasn’t that happy with the Noah/Ecco sequel though, so let’s just pretend that book never happened…) And ‘Chasing Impossible‘ was no exception. It’s got romance, intrigue, thriller-bits, giggly comedic-bits, young people trying to figure out who they are bits and great friendships.

Being inside of Abby’s world and rather original mind was something else. 
If horses were easy to get back on, then cars would have never been invented and we’d all have a huge family pet that lived in the garage. But that’s not how the world turned out.”

Abby’s just as fun an MC as I always thought she would be and just as complicated. 

Her sassy banter kept me smiling, even in the darkest parts of the novel:

[Speak] English, boys. Preferably full sentences with nouns and verbs. They teach it in school. Every year. No matter how much it blows.

I liked the dual Logan-Abby POV chapters and ‘daredevil’ Logan is pretty much ‘crazy’ Abby’s perfect match. Logan has own super-secret and his feelings for Abby actually help him to deal with it – now as I’m keeping this a spoiler free review, I shall say no more on the topic.

I did appreciate how important family was to Logan, but he clearly needed to take charge of himself… and he does that over the course of the story. 

Logan: “Not liking who I’ve become [dad] and telling me I don’t know who I am are two different things.

These two gave me all the feels. 

Read it! Read it!