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.

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

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.

Kurt Vonnegut’s Crusade Against Stupidity #BookReport

Considering he passed away in 2007, reading ‘A Man Without a Country’ is probably the closest I’ll ever get to meeting Kurt Vonnegut. And I’m not okay with that. His essays here are honest, pessimistic and funny as hell.

Everyone should read Vonnegut. Age is not a factor here. Vonnegut is a Socratic thinker – he questions everything and that is not a bad thing.

So many topics are dipped in and out of in these essays and his opinions are gut punches against society, each and every one of them… The man did not shy away from calling out society’s ironies, lies and hypocrisies. 

I might not agree with all of his views, or his politics, but I really enjoyed reading about what he had to say. You can expect discussions around:

Greenpeace. Fossil fuels and our irresponsible, Earth-destroying, consumption of them.

“Guesser” politicians and the constitution. Kurt Vonnegut is fearless in his socialist leanings and his criticisms of  politicians – Stalin and Mao included.

There is a tragic flaw in our precious Constitution… Only nut cases want to be President. –p.102

The news. Only Chicago’s In These Times gave Vonnegut hope for our news cycles.

Religion.


War, the military and modern weaponry. Kurt Vonnegut versus weapons of mass destruction. 

They [soldiers] are being treated, as I never was, like toys a rich kid got for Christmas. –p.72

Education.


Racism and sexism and many other isms…


History and family.

 There have never been any ‘Good Old Days’, there have just been days. And as I say to my grandchildren, “Don’t look at me. I just got here.” -p.131

Technology and the Meaning of Life.

Electronic communities build nothing. You wind up with nothing. We are dancing animals. How beautiful it is to get up and go out and do something. We are here on Earth to fart around. Don’t let anybody tell you any different. -p.62

Healthcare. 


Writing tips and how he got into comedy/satire. 

Rules only take us so far, even good rules. –p.134

You can’t really misfire with a tragic scene. It’s bound to be moving if all the right elements are present. But a joke is like building a mousetrap from scratch. You have to work pretty hard to make the thing snap when it’s supposed to snap.” -p.128

Music.

Be prepared to be wowed by these essays… To dispair and to laugh out loud!

Some books recommended by Vonnegut:

  1. Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge – Ambrose Bierce
  2. Democracy in America – Alexis de Tocqueville
  3. The Tin Men – Michael Frayn
  4. The Mysterious Stranger – Mark Twain

Book Review: Summer Skin by Kirsty Eagar

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Jess Gordon is out for revenge. Last year the jocks from Knights College tried to shame her best friend. This year she and a hand-picked college girl gang are going to get even. The lesson: don’t mess with Unity girls. The target: Blondie, a typical Knights stud, arrogant, cold . . . and smart enough to keep up with Jess.

A neo-riot grrl with a penchant for fanning the flames meets a rugby-playing sexist pig – sworn enemies or two people who happen to find each other when they’re at their most vulnerable? It’s all Girl meets Boy, Girl steals from Boy, seduces Boy, ties Boy to a chair and burns Boy’s stuff. Just your typical love story.

Summer Skin’s the first book I’ve purchased by Aussie author Kirsty Eagar and I read it in no time at all! You can expect a really refreshing, super-funny New Adult romance, which also explores the pains of growing up in a hip, new, media-friendly age.

Jess is a firecracker on the page and a great main character. I loved how loud she was. Some characters creep across the page and can be just a little bit boring – but not Jess! The secondary characters were also really well developed; proving that people and relationships (friendships or LTRs) can certainly be a lot more complicated than you’d ever expect them to be!

Mitch is a flawed love interest, but that’s the thing about this book. The romance isn’t ‘novel perfect’ (despite its superb pacing) and there’s heaping, steamy spoonfuls of reality mixed in. Jess makes mistakes and Mitch has moments where he buries his head in the proverbial sand, or is a big fat grump. But this just makes the novel more honest, more real.

#shipshipship! #21stcentury #girlpower #wowbook

Mini Book Review: Star Flight by Melissa Landers 

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Life in the outer realm is a lawless, dirty, hard existence, and Solara Brooks is hungry for it. Just out of the orphanage, she needs a fresh start in a place where nobody cares about the engine grease beneath her fingernails or the felony tattoos across her knuckles. She’s so desperate to reach the realm that she’s willing to indenture herself to Doran Spaulding, the rich and popular quarterback who made her life miserable all through high school, in exchange for passage aboard the spaceliner Zenith.

When a twist of fate lands them instead on the Banshee, a vessel of dubious repute, Doran learns he’s been framed on Earth for conspiracy. As he pursues a set of mysterious coordinates rumored to hold the key to clearing his name, he and Solara must get past their enmity to work together and evade those out for their arrest. Life on the Banshee may be tumultuous, but as Solara and Doran are forced to question everything they once believed about their world—and each other—the ship becomes home, and the eccentric crew family. But what Solara and Doran discover on the mysterious Planet X has the power to not only alter their lives, but the existence of everyone in the universe… 

I love YA sci-fi, so it’s funny that this was my first ML read. I don’t think it will be my last though, especially since there’s going to be a sequel to Star Flight!

This first book introduces us to an eclectic set of characters, all with their own backstories and arch-nemesises, which made this an addictive and action-packed adventure – from the half-robotic captain, to a runaway Princess, Solara’s new flight companions are quite the motley crew and even pampered Doran was kind of entertaining when taken out of his element and dumped onto a clunky old frigate of a spaceship.

Book Strengths: a gutsy heroine, wicked BANTER, laugh out loud moments, the chemistry, the intrigue, armed spaceships a la Star Wars, PIRATES who hold duals and offer to parlay! An interesting but unlikely twist at the end… The book even briefly paid homage to Firefly (does anyone not love Joss Whedon?!), with a set of crazy, blood-thirsty, metal pierced assassins cast as the scary bad guys of space.

Pet Peeve: We didn’t really get any resolutions to the main characters’ problems, which meant this book was very much an ‘intro’. The only thing this book really achieved was to deliver a romance and set up the world/characters for book two…