November and December 2018 Reading Recap

Hi guys! Since I was not able to do a Reading Recap for November, I’ve decided to compile the books I’ve read in the past two months in my first ever Reading recap of the year! I read a total of 13 books these past two months, with a little over a third of them rereads of some classic favorites I’ve read in the past. I hope you enjoy the first Reading Recap of the 2019!


5 Stars

The Last Cherry Blossom by Kathleen Burkinshaw

The Last Cherry Blossom

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The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (Reread)

the book thief

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Everlasting Nora by Marie Miranda Cruz

Everlasting Nora

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The Rat Prince by Bridget Hodder

The Rat Prince

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A Time to Die by Nadine Brandes

A Time to Die

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A Time to Speak by Nadine Brandes

A Time to Speak

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A Time to Rise by Nadine Brandes

A Time to Rise

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Author Interview with Melissa Sarno, MG Realistic Fiction Author of “Just Under the Clouds”

Hi guys! I am starting off the first full week of my last semester of high school. It’s pretty crazy to think about that. I mean, I’m graduating this year!!! It’s almost a real reality. The journey leading up to this moment feels very surreal. Today on the blog, Melissa Sarno and I are having a conversation over her MG realistic fiction debut novel Just Under the Clouds. It’s high up on my TBR, so I can’t wait to read it! Enjoy!


About the BookJust Under the Clouds

Can you still have a home if you don’t have a house?

Always think in threes and you’ll never fall, Cora’s father told her when she was a little girl. Two feet, one hand. Two hands, one foot. That was all Cora needed to know to climb the trees of Brooklyn.

But now Cora is a middle schooler, a big sister, and homeless. Her mother is trying to hold the family together after her father’s death, and Cora must look after her sister, Adare, who’s just different, their mother insists. Quick to smile, Adare hates wearing shoes, rarely speaks, and appears untroubled by the question Cora can’t help but ask: How will she find a place to call home?

After their room at the shelter is ransacked, Cora’s mother looks to an old friend for help, and Cora finally finds what she has been looking for: Ailanthus altissima, the “tree of heaven,” which can grow in even the worst conditions. It sets her on a path to discover a deeper truth about where she really belongs.

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1. Why do you love writing? When did you first have a love for writing, and how was it formed?

I love writing because I love getting in a character’s head and living there. I love listening to a voice and following it to understand the heart of the story. And I love exploring themes so I can make sense of my own life. I also like finding just the right rhythm for a sentence. And, the challenge of puzzling through a story and unlocking mysteries and connections.

I started writing when I was around eight years old. My father brought a home-computer in the early 1980s. There was only one game on the computer, PacMan, and, I got bored with it so I turned to the only other thing I could actually do on the computer and that was to play around on a word-processing program. There was just the cursor and the keyboard, and I started fooling around with words and stories. Soon, I started writing by hand in lined marble notebooks whenever I could.

2. What are your favorite books, genres, and authors? Which ones have impacted you and your writing style the most?

I love reading fiction. I prefer realistic fiction but I also like quirk, some absurdity, a hint of magic, or surrealism. I guess you could say literary fiction is my favorite genre. Some of my favorite children’s authors are: Kate DiCamillo, Sharon Creech, Rebecca Stead, Ali Benjamin, Jaqueline Woodson, Beth Kephart, and Rita Williams Garcia. On the adult fiction side, I love George Saunders, Haruki Murakami, Jhumpa Lahiri, Paul Yoon, Aimee Bender, and Elizabeth Strout. I think they’ve all impacted me in different ways. Many of these authors have very lyrical, rhythmic prose, and I am attracted to that as a reader and writer.

3. What do you do when you’re not writing? Is writing a part-time or full-time job?

Writing fiction is something I have to fit into the tiny cracks and openings in my day. There are many days when I do not fit it in. I have a one year old and four year old who keep me very busy. I am also a freelance writer for many children’s media companies where I write content for toys, games, magazines, learning software, podcasts and more.Just Under the Clouds

4. Your debut MG realistic fiction novel Just Under the Clouds follows the story of Cora and her family as they try to navigate homelessness after her father’s death. Since homelessness affects nearly half a million individuals in America–including almost 60,000 families–how does your novel explore the harsh reality of homelessness for young readers, and what do you hope to achieve when a child picks up your novel?

Just Under the Clouds focuses on the instability of homelessness, as Cora and her family seek permanence in their housing situation. I tried to be realistic about the unsafe conditions of many shelters and the emotional stress of not having a permanent home. But, ultimately, this is a hopeful story about the true meaning of home; how it can be more than a place, and shift and change as we do. I hope the story will encourage readers to think about what home means to them. And I hope they will find compassion for themselves and others in Cora’s situation.
Continue reading “Author Interview with Melissa Sarno, MG Realistic Fiction Author of “Just Under the Clouds””

ARC Review: Just for Clicks by Kara McDowell — A Cute and Fun YA Clean Romance that Explores the Reality of Social Media Fame

Hi guys! I am so excited to share with you the FIRST review of the New Year! I think it’s personally fitting to start off my 2019 reviews with Just for Clicks because social media is so prevalent in today’s increasingly technological society. However, it can be good at times (by connecting and fostering long-distance relationships) and bad at times (by fostering trolling, mob mentality, hatred, division, and online shaming). Just for Clicks explores the life of social media superstars with all of its ups, downs, and dangers. This is definitely a 2019 debut that you need to check out! I hope you enjoy!


About the BookJust for Clicks

Mommy blogs are great . . . unless the blog happens to belong to your mom.

Twin sisters Claire & Poppy are accidental social media stars thanks to Mom going viral when they were babies. Now, as teens, they’re expected to contribute by building their own brand. Attending a NY fashion week and receiving fan mail is a blast. Fending off internet trolls and would-be kidnappers? Not so much. Poppy embraces it. Claire hates it. Will anybody accept her as “just Claire”? And what should Claire do about Mom’s old journals? The handwritten entries definitely don’t sound like Mom’s perfect blog persona. Worse, one of them divulges a secret that leaves Claire wondering what else in her life might be nothing but a sham . . .

Just for Clicks releases on February 19th from Amberjack Publishing. Pre-order it today!

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Just for Clicks Review

Disclaimer: I received a free physical ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This will not affect my review in any way.

Even though I read Just for Clicks many weeks ago, it felt so refreshing to read such an engaging, fun, and CLEAN YA contemporary romance. It’s been such a long time since I enjoyed a book simply because it was entertaining and delightful to read. (As much as I love to read life-changing books, there’s only so much heartbreak and introspection I can handle. We need fun adventures every once in a while.) I loved this story so much that I could not set it down. I was so hooked from the beginning, and I found myself laughing and crying (metaphorical tears of joy) all throughout the book. Kara McDowell’s well-written debut starts off the New Year right, providing readers with cute yet compelling coming-of-age story filled with fame, romance, humor, and secrets. It’s filled with various communication media (emails and text messages) that add a depth of originality and light-heartedness.

Continue reading “ARC Review: Just for Clicks by Kara McDowell — A Cute and Fun YA Clean Romance that Explores the Reality of Social Media Fame”

Top 10 Books of 2018 — The Year of Middle Grade

Hi guys!! It’s been quite a while since you’ve last heard me talk about books here, so Happy New Year!! I’m going to try my best to get some blogging in during my FINAL semester of high school. Man, I’m surprised I’m at this point already! Before I go on, I want to wish each and every one of you a wonderful 2019 full of many blessings and joys. 2018 was definitely a crazy year for me, but it was full of so many life-changing and amazing books! Here are my Top 10 Books of 2018! I think it was a great year for kidlit–I have nine Middle Grade novels and one picture book in the list below, and I am very happy to share which 10 they are! Please do check these books out–you will NOT regret it! (This list is excluding rereads, and I will only include one book per series.)


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10. Kat Greene Comes Clean by Melissa Roske

Kat Greene Comes Clean

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I’m starting off this list with a beautiful gem of a book! Kat Greene Comes Clean is one of the funniest novels I’ve read this year, and it’s one of the few books that you just want to give a great big hug. I couldn’t help from smiling all throughout this story! This MG realistic fiction debut offers such a vivid glimpse into some of the struggles that many children, especially those who have to parent themselves, go through. The lessons are heartwarming, the humor is belly-filling, and the story itself is life-changing.

9. Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

Fish in a Tree

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I loved Fish in a Tree so much that I read it twice this year. The first time I read it, I literally could not put it down–I finished it within a single day. It’s a lot like Wonder (which I’ve yet to read but I’ve watched and loved the movie)–a bright and talented girl with dyslexia has to overcome her disability, her bullies, and even herself as she discovers new friends and her true potential. Fish in a Tree has taught me how to never underestimate people who are neurodivergent, for they may be some of the brightest and smartest people I would ever meet. Certainly, I’ve also connected with Ally’s story as I knew how it feels not to fit in with everybody else, but both she and I found the friends that love us regardless of our quirks.

8. Open If You Dare by Dana Middleton

Open If You Dare

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When I can connect with a book, my reading experience is transformed so much because I can see myself in the characters. I share so many of Birdie’s feelings as she has to face an uncertain future regarding her friends moving away–it’s very similar to what I’m facing right now as I’m about to go off to college. I read this back in junior year, I know I probably need to reread it sometime during this semester. Truly this novel made me cherish the few yet true friendships I possess, and it has moved me so much to tears.

Continue reading “Top 10 Books of 2018 — The Year of Middle Grade”

Semi-Hiatus Announcement

Hi everybody!! As you may know, I am a senior in high school, and these past few months have been some of the craziest, busiest, and most stressful parts of my life. With me being halfway to graduation, I am currently focusing on trying to prepare for college, apply for scholarships, etc. Because of that, I have placed blogging in the backseat in the meantime. For the rest of the year, I will not be posting anything so I could focus on many other priorities. However, I will be working on blog posts for January in the meantime, which is why I’m saving most of my reviews and interviews for the upcoming month. I will try to get started back up on blogging when the school year starts (and I get a whole bunch of things out of the way), but please know that I will be stepping away from the blog at times throughout the school year. Thank you for your understanding. Have a Merry Christmas!

Everlasting Nora by Marie Cruz Blog Tour: Book Review — An Authentic and Gripping Portrayal of the Poverty Millions of Filipinos Face Today that is Blossoming with Hope and Resilience

Hi guys! Today (or tomorrow) is my last day of school, and I am so relieved to finally be on Christmas Break. I’m going to use these next two-and-a-half weeks to rest, bond with my family, and catch up on a bunch of school/college-related stuff. I am also very glad to be a part of the Everlasting Nora Blog Tour, hosted by the wonderful Kate at The Backwards Bookshelf. I really enjoyed and loved Marie Miranda Cruz’s (a Filipino author writing a book set in the Philippines!) debut novel, and I hope you enjoy my review.

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About the BookEverlasting Nora

An uplifting middle-grade debut about perseverance against all odds, Marie Miranda Cruz’s debut Everlasting Nora follows the story of a young girl living in the real-life shanty town inside the Philippines’ North Manila Cemetery.

After a family tragedy results in the loss of both father and home, 12-year-old Nora lives with her mother in Manila’s North Cemetery, which is the largest shanty town of its kind in the Philippines today.

When her mother disappears mysteriously one day, Nora is left alone.

With help from her best friend Jojo and the support of his kindhearted grandmother, Nora embarks on a journey riddled with danger in order to find her mom. Along the way she also rediscovers the compassion of the human spirit, the resilience of her community, and everlasting hope in the most unexpected places.

Trigger Warnings: violence, child abuse, classism, extreme poverty / hunger, kidnapping, descriptions of blood and other serious injuries.

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Everlasting Nora Review

Disclaimer: I received a free electronic copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. This will not affect my review in any way.

To be honest, I have not read very many books that feature Filipino main characters. In fact, I could probably even count them on a single hand if I tried. When I first heard of the opportunity to join the blog tour for Everlasting Nora and have the opportunity to read and review this wonderful debut novel, I jumped at the chance. As a Filipino-American who was born in the Philippines, moved to the United States when I was three, and visits the Philippines every two years, I knew that I had to read this book. Combine that with my love for Middle Grade, and Everlasting Nora was the book for me.

Continue reading “Everlasting Nora by Marie Cruz Blog Tour: Book Review — An Authentic and Gripping Portrayal of the Poverty Millions of Filipinos Face Today that is Blossoming with Hope and Resilience”

The Royal Order of Fighting Dragons Blog Tour: Guest Post by Dan Elish on “What I’ve Learned after Writing Nine Novels”

Hi guys! I hope your December is going off to a great stop! You might be noticing that I’ve been a bit more sparse with my posts lately. Because my senior year is so crazy right now, I’m focusing a lot more on preparing for college, especially finishing scholarship applications and working on school-related projects and activities. I realized I need to lessen blogging for now so I can get a lot of important stuff done in the meantime, but when Christmas break comes about, that’s when I hope to become more active. Today, Dan Elish (who worked on CyberChase, one of my favorite shows as a kid) is here on the blog to talk about what he learned after writing The Royal Order of Fighting Dragons, his tenth novel in all! Thanks to Jean at JeanBookNerd for letting me be a part of this tour! I hope you enjoy!

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About the BookThe Royal Order of Fighting Dragons

Born to… Fight?

Ike Rupert Hollingsberry is haunted by the past because complete strangers won’t let him forget that his famous father died on the set of The Fighting Dragons, a cult favorite that still has people talking. But when he’s attacked by a large locust, like the one that killed his dad, Ike is helped by the geekiest nerd of all, Elmira Hand. Killing the giant locust is only the beginning of the surprises in store for Ike as he is whisked away from New York City to an isolated Florida compound to assume his role as the next in line to lead the Royal Order of Fighting Dragons—that are NOT supposed to exist—and learns his dad’s death was a cover-up for a far greater purpose…

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What I’ve Learned after Writing Nine Novels

It seems that I keep re-learning the same thing every time I sit down to write a new book. You see, each time I think that the book itself will write itself quickly. I’m always wrong. Books never “write themselves” and certainly not quickly. There are always false starts along the way and lots of rewrites to get the story right.

Take my first book, THE WORLDWIDE DESSERT CONTEST. I remember it vividly. I had just finished re-reading CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY. “I can write something like this,” I thought. “It’ll take me three months.” Ha! That three months soon turned into a year and a half. The original draft was 350 pages long. The published book is 220 pages. You could say that I wrote too much. It took a lot of thought to know what to cut and what to keep.

I got the idea for my third book, THE GREAT SQUIRREL UPRISING, when an image of a squirrel on a skateboard racing away from a squad of police popped into my head. That got me thinking. What story could contain that amusing image? Eventually, I realized that the squirrel was running from the cops because he was trying to take over Central Park. As usual, I thought the actual writing would go quickly. As usual, I was wrong. That book took over a year to get right. I had to figure out why the squirrels were taking over the park. I needed a human character, a girl, to communicate with the animals. I needed a beginning, middle and end.

My most recent book, THE ROYAL ORDER OF FIGHTING DRAGONS also began with a single idea that took longer than expected to develop. It began with Ike Hollingsberry, a New York City kid. What would it be like, I wondered, if Ike’s Dad had been the star of a famous TV show called THE FIGHTING DRAGONS? What if Ike’s Dad died mysteriously on the set of the show? Better yet, what if the show was real? What if there really was a Royal Order of Fighting Dragons and Ike was the next in line to be its leader?

Sounded cool.

Sounded easy!

Uh, nope…

Writing THE ROYAL ORDER OF FIGHTING DRAGONS took about two years on and off. For starters, I had to figure out who Ike’s friends were going to be (he has five of them, Diego, Elmira, Kashvi, Alexandro and Lucinda). I had to figure out who the villain was going to be (Theodore Opal, a crazy real estate developer in NYC).  I also had to figure out the backstory of where the dragons came from? (King Arthur’s Court, over one thousand years ago). Inotherwords, there was a lot to organized, a lot to think through and a lot to rewrite.

So if you asked me what I’ve learned after writing now ten novels? In a way I’ve learned a lot. In a way I’ve learned very little. I still think a new book is going to take less time than it does. Each time out, I need to re-discover that I’m in it for the long haul. I need to care enough about the idea to want to put in the hard work. I think it’s something that every writer has to re-discover every time.


About the AuthorDan Elish

Dan Elish is the author of nine novels, including The School for the Insanely Gifted, The Worldwide Dessert Contest, and Born Too Short: Confessions of an 8th Grade Basket Case (Simon & Schuster), which was named a New York Public Library “Book for the Teenage” and a “Young Adult Choice for the International Reading Association.”

Dan co-wrote the book for the Broadway musical 13with music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown, which premiered on Broadway in 2008 and is slated to be a movie by CBS Films. Dan is also a TV writer who has worked on shows such as Cyberchase (PBS) and Jo-Jo’s Circus (Disney). Dan has received fellowships and scholarships to the Bread Loaf and Sewanee Writers’ Conferences and is represented by Matt Bialer at Greenburger Associates. He lives in New York with his wife and children.

PHOTO CONTENT FROM DAN ELISH

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Did Someone Just Say… Giveaway?

Dan Elish Giveaway1 Winner will receive a Signed Copy of THE ROYAL ORDER OF FIGHTING DRAGONS by Dan Elish

1 Winner will receive a $25 Amazon Gift Card

Open to International

Must be 13+ to Enter

Ends on December 17th, 2018

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Follow the Rest of the Tour Here!

Tour Schedule

WEEK ONE
NOVEMBER 26th MONDAY A Dream Within A Dream TENS LIST
NOVEMBER 27th TUESDAY BookHounds INTERVIEW
NOVEMBER 28th WEDNESDAY The Avid Reader EXCERPT
NOVEMBER 29th THURSDAY Cover2CoverBlog EXCERPT
NOVEMBER 30th FRIDAY JeanBookNerd REVIEW & INTERVIEW
NOVEMBER 30th FRIDAY Mythical Books GUEST POST

WEEK TWO
DECEMBER 1st SATURDAY TTC Books and More INTERVIEW
DECEMBER 2nd SUNDAY J.R.’s Book Review REVIEW
DECEMBER 3rd MONDAY Insane About Books REVIEW
DECEMBER 4th TUESDAY RhythmicBooktrovert REVIEW
DECEMBER 5th WEDNESDAY Oh Hey! Books WOULD YOU RATHER

WEEK THREE
DECEMBER 6th THURSDAY LILbookLovers GUEST POST
DECEMBER 7th FRIDAY Sabrina’s Paranormal Palace REVIEW
DECEMBER 7th FRIDAY Captivated Reading TENS LIST & EXCERPT
DECEMBER 8th SATURDAY Crossroad Reviews REVIEW
DECEMBER 9th SUNDAY Movies, Shows, & Books REVIEW


Happy Reading!

+ J.M.J.

~ Kester

“There were only two classes of people who heard the cry Christmas night: shepherds and wise men. Shepherds: those who know they know nothing. Wise men: those who know they do not know everything. Only the very simple and the very learned discovered God–never the man with one book.” — Archbishop Ven. Fulton J. Sheen

Comment below, or find me in one of my social media pages, and let’s chat!

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Book Review: The Last Cherry Blossom by Kathleen Burkinshaw — An Important Candle Illuminating Goodness in Our Dark World

Hi everybody! Today is the last day of November, so I found it timely to share my review of The LAST Cherry Blossom by Kathleen Burkinshaw. She is such a sweet and amazing person, and it is my honor to be reviewing her debut MG historical fiction novel. It is an amazing work of fiction, and one that everyone–not just children–need to read. I hope you enjoy!


About the BookThe Last Cherry Blossom

Following the seventieth anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, this is a new, very personal story to join Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes.

Yuriko was happy growing up in Hiroshima when it was just her and Papa. But her aunt Kimiko and her cousin Genji are living with them now, and the family is only getting bigger with talk of a double marriage! And while things are changing at home, the world beyond their doors is even more unpredictable. World War II is coming to an end, and Japan’s fate is not entirely clear, with any battle losses being hidden fom its people. Yuriko is used to the sirens and the air-raid drills, but things start to feel more real when the neighbors who have left to fight stop coming home. When the bomb hits Hiroshima, it’s through Yuriko’s twelve-year-old eyes that we witness the devastation and horror.

This is a story that offers young readers insight into how children lived during the war, while also introducing them to Japanese culture. Based loosely on author Kathleen Burkinshaw’s mother’s firsthand experience surviving the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, The Last Cherry Blossom hopes to warn readers of the immense damage nuclear war can bring, while reminding them that the “enemy” in any war is often not so different from ourselves.

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5 Stars

Disclaimer: I received a free signed finished copy of this book from the author for review consideration. This will not affect my review in any way.

The Last Cherry Blossom means a lot to me as an American and as a Filipino. As I’ve learned more and more about World War II as an American student, it is very easy to villainize people in the Axis powers and in the Soviet Union. Many times, it’s true and justified—the Nazis and fascists of Germany and Italy executed millions of people they deemed “inferior” while the communists of Russia killed and deported many more in their atheistic, paranoia-filled, and anti-intellectual society. As the Japanese invaded countries throughout the Pacific, including my birth country the Philippines, they committed many heinous crimes from raping thousands of “comfort women” forced into sexual submission to sending Koreans to working in hard-labor mines. The Japanese brought about the infamous Bataan Death March that went through the province me and my dad’s side of my family is from. This review is in no way condoning what they did to millions of people around the Pacific, and I condemn their actions during the Great War (from the Bombing at Pearl Harbor to the Balloon Bombs that have caused many American casualties).

However, The Last Cherry Blossom–based on the true story of the author’s mother who endured through the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and its aftermath as a child–is a glimpse into the life of a young Japanese girl during World War II, one that shows that the lives of the Japanese weren’t that much different than the lives of the Americans. It was very surprising to see the Western (even American) influences in their culture, from business attire to hairstyles to even the popularity of jazz music. (I couldn’t believe it myself! Japan was more Western than we would have thought.) The enemy is truly not as different from us than we think. That’s one reason that makes this novel one that needs to be read to all children and taught to all students. This is a story that needs to be told. Artificially, it may seem like the ordinary life of a girl going through some family troubles during World War II, but it’s not just that. It’s a book filled with Japanese culture and history, one that will give readers a better understanding of the world around them and the world before them. It truly has enlightened me and changed my view on Japanese life in World War II. Certainly, I have learned a great deal from The Last Cherry Blossom, and it has made me view World War II in a different light. It has made me wonder things like, did citizens know the atrocities their troops committed in foreign lands? Did they know what the Germans and the Italians were doing? What was their propaganda like that villainized America? (I will say that a lot of what we did during World War II was not justifiable, such as the internment of Japanese-Americans, the racist propaganda, and the Korematsu decision.)

The most effective thing about this novel is how the story structures around the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. As readers, we know the inevitable is going to happen, but the author leads us to love the characters more and more—leading us to dread that tragic day of August 6th, 1945, with every passing chapter. With every triumph and failure that Yuriko endured, I found my heart slowly and slowly not being able to handle my fearful anticipation. I knew her city was going to get hit with the bomb, and that added another layer of suspense and scariness. Surprisingly, the moment the atomic bomb hits still was very unexpected. It was heartbreaking. It was horrifying. It was perfectly executed. It truly depicted how one moment life was normal and the next mass destruction ensued, and it shocks you back into the reality that your life could end at any moment. As an American student, you are not really taught about the effects of the atomic bombs—but being able to witness it as if it were first-hand was horrifying yet enlightening. It is a powerful testimony to the urgent need for every nation in the world to abolish nuclear weapons. If Fat Man and Little Boy were that bad, imagine the destruction wrought about by current nuclear arsenals around the world comprising of nuclear missiles and hydrogen bombs. We need to know how horrible this kind of destruction is because it might happen to us, and by reading a book like The Cherry Blossom, we can become convinced why we must strive for world peace.

The Last Cherry Blossom is truly one of the most beautiful, most chilling, most real books I’ve read this year. I would even go as far as to consider it one of the best written novels I have encountered. (For reference, its writing rivals that of Salt to the Sea, and that was a beautiful book.) This book is very important and very relevant in today’s society, a society where nuclear annihilation remains a looming threat in our near future. Certainly, Burkinshaw’s debut novel is a candle illuminating good into the world. I believe it should become a classic that will withstand the test of time.


About the AuthorKathleen Burkinshaw

Kathleen Burkinshaw is a Japanese American author residing in Charlotte, NC. She’s a wife, mom to a daughter in college, and owns a dog who is a kitchen ninja.  Kathleen enjoyed a 10+ year career in HealthCare Management unfortunately cut short by the onset of Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD). Writing gives her an outlet for her daily struggle with chronic pain. She has presented her mother’s experience in Hiroshima to middle and high schools, as well as at education conferences for the past 8 years. She has carried her mother’s story in her heart and feels privileged to now share it with the world. Writing historical fiction also satisfies her obsessive love of researching anything and everything.

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Happy Reading!

+ J.M.J.

~ Kester

“In our lives we must experience both beginnings as well as endings. It is like the season changing after the last cherry blossom falls.” — Kathleen Burkinshaw

Comment below, or find me in one of my social media pages, and let’s chat!

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Happy Thanksgiving! An Acknowledgements-Styled Thank You

Happy Thanksgiving everybody!! I hope you are having a blessed day full of food, love, and family! I want to give a HUGE thank you to everyone who has helped me out in my blog, so I’ve decided to write a little “Acknowledgements” section here like I would do if I were to write a novel.


It’s been a great two-and-a-half years as a book blogger, and I certainly would not be able to be where I am today without the help of some amazing people.

Thanks to Lilly, Cayli, and Kelsey for being three of the greatest co-bloggers I could ever have. Certainly, you have helped me out a tremendous amount, and I had such a great time blogging with you all. I hope many amazing books will be in your futures!

Thank you to all the bloggers, Twitter friends, and blog readers who have encouraged me throughout my blogging journey, especially Krysti, Sarah, Ashleigh, and Karlita for all of their love, support, and bookish conversations. Thanks to Danielle, whose frequent comments on my blog posts make my day. Stephanie, you may not be here with us today, but you will always be in my heart for being my best blogger friend and my virtual teacher.

Thanks to every single author who I’ve interacted with both online and in real life who have been on my blog and who have supported me in all of my endeavors. Thanks to Jarrett Lerner, who has introduced me to the wonderful MG community. I’m giving another huge thank you to Alice Faye Duncan, who certainly has inspired and encouraged me in my personal life. Thanks to Melissa Ostrom for all of your love and support online–seeing your Tweets online makes me smile. Thank you, Mary Weber, for blessing me greatly with your fun and caring personality and for the conversation we had over Dunkin’ Donuts and coffee at SE-YA. More thanks to Nadine Brandes and Monica Tesler for changing my life with your books. Thank you Jennifer Brody for being the first author I’ve ever connected with and became an enormous fan of. Thanks to D. G. Driver for hanging out with me at SFB and being such a great friend (a local author friend!) both online and offline. Finally, thanks to the Tennessee kidlit community, the MG community, and the YA community for all of your encouragement and support, including Kristin O’Donnell Tubb, Andrew Maraniss, Linda Williams Jackson, Corabel Shofner, Jenn Bishop, Dana Middleton, Ann Braden, Bridget Hodder, Brad McLelland, Melissa Roske, Mindee Arnett, Kathleen Burkinshaw, Shaila Patel, Monika Schroeder, Christina Soontornvat, Jake Burt, Rebecca Donnelly, Mary Fan, Sally J. Pla, Alyssa Hollingsworth, and Lyndsay Ely. I’m probably forgetting a whole bunch of people, but THANK YOU!

Thanks so much to Morgan Rath, my publicity contact at Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group, for introducing me to so many wonderful books and authors. I certainly would not have the opportunity to help promote so many amazing books if we were not connected. Thanks also to Jean at JeanBookNerd, who has brought me onto some amazing blog tours. I appreciate all of your kindness and understanding, and it is my pleasure to work with the best blog tour organizer ever.

Thanks so much to my librarians, Mrs. Mason and Mrs. McCartney, for helping cultivate my love of books. Thank you, Mrs. Mason, for helping instill in me a newfound passion for reading, and thank you, Mrs. McCartney, for allowing me to be a library assistant to help spread my love of books to others in our school. Thank you to my 9th grade English teacher Mrs. Cox, who also was influential in not only growing my love for books but also helping bring about the idea for me to start book blogging.

Thank you readers, for supporting me by subscribing to my blog and social media platforms and reading my posts. It means a lot that somebody–that is, you!–is reading my posts. Your comments and likes and retweets make me smile, and it is my pleasure to help spread the love for books with you.

Thank you to my family for all of your unconditional love and support. I would not be here today if you did not support me in all of my endeavors. I love you all. Thanks to my mom and dad for being there for me from blogging to music. Thanks to my sister for also supporting me.

Finally, thanks to God, who has given me the great gift of life and all of my talents and blessings. This blog would not have existed without Him. I attribute all of my successes to His grace, and I certainly pray He may continually guide me as a book blogger and help me use my blog to “unite book lovers, both big and li’l.” Thanks to my Heavenly mother Mary for also being there for me, and all of my saint friends for cheering me on every step of the way. Gloria in excelsis Deo.


Happy Reading!

+ J.M.J.

~ Kester

I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Comment below, or find me in one of my social media pages, and let’s chat!

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November LILbooKtalk: “Neurodiversity in Children and Children’s Literature” with Sally J. Pla and Monica Tesler

Hi guys! I am really excited to share with y’all this month’s LILbooKtalk about “Neurodiversity in Children and Children’s Literature” with Sally J. Pla and Monica Tesler, two amazing people and highly talented authors. I am such a huge fan of Monica’s Bounders series, which has a very special place in my heart, and I am looking forward to reading Sally’s Stanley Will Probably Be Just Fine one day. A common thing that unites both Sally’s and Monica’s books is that they feature main characters that are neurodivergent, which means that their brains operate outside of the norm. I am very glad to have both of them here to talk about neurodiversity in children and in children’s literature. I hope you enjoy!


About Stanley Will Probably Be Just FineStanley Will Probably Be Fine

This novel features comic trivia, a safety superhero, and a super-cool scavenger hunt all over downtown San Diego, as our young hero Stanley Fortinbras grapples with his anxiety—and learns what, exactly, it means to be brave.

Nobody knows comics trivia like Stanley knows comics trivia.

It’s what he takes comfort in when the world around him gets to be too much. And after he faints during a safety assembly, Stanley takes his love of comics up a level by inventing his own imaginary superhero, named John Lockdown, to help him through.

Help is what he needs, because Stanley’s entered Trivia Quest—a giant comics-trivia treasure hunt—to prove he can tackle his worries, score VIP passes to Comic Fest, and win back his ex-best friend. Partnered with his fearless new neighbor Liberty, Stanley faces his most epic, overwhelming, challenging day ever.

What would John Lockdown do?

Stanley’s about to find out.

Goodreads

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound | Book Depository


About Earth Force RisingEarth Force Rising

Bounders have always known they were different, but they never suspected they were the key to saving Earth.

Jasper Adams is excited to join the Earth Force military agency as part of its first class of Bounders, a team of kids training to be elite astronauts. He can’t wait to connect with others like him and learn to pilot spaceships that can travel across the galaxy in an instant.

But when Jasper arrives at the space station, nothing is as it seems. Security is sky-high, and Jasper and his new friends soon realize that Earth Force has been keeping secrets—one of the biggest being a powerful, highly-classified technology that allows the Bounders to teleport through space without a ship. Only Bounders can use this tech, which leads Jasper to a sinister truth—humanity is facing a threat greater than any they’ve ever known, and Bounders are the ones standing between their planet and destruction.

Will Jasper and his friends rebel against Earth Force for hiding the truth or fulfill their duty and fight for their planet? The fate of Earth may rest on their choice.

Goodreads

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound | Book Depository


LILbooKtalk November 2018.png

(Questions are in bold)

Kester: The first author we have today is the awesome Sally J. Pla, award-winning author of The Someday Birds, Stanley Will Probably Be Fine, and Benji, the Bad Day, and Me. Would you like to tell us a few things about you and your novels?

Benji, the Bad Day, and MeSally: Hi you guys! I suppose you could say that my mission in a sense is to populate children’s literature with as many characters as I can whose brains just operate a little bit differently than the norm. This is my mission because I am from a neurodivergent family and MY brain operates just a bit differently. Rates of autism these days are one in 59 kids, and with other types of neurodivergence such as ADD, ADHD, etc., there are so many kids out there who need heroes and characters that reflect their reality.

Kester: I definitely agree!! I’m very glad to have you here with us today, Sally, to help you on your mission! Alongside Sally is the amazing Monica Tesler, author of the MG sci-fi Bounders series, which is personally my favorite series of all-time. I had the opportunity to meet her in person at the SE-YA Book Fest! Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and your books?

Earth Force RisingMonica: Thanks, Kester, for inviting us to chat with you today. You know how excited I am that you’re a fan of the Bounders series! Bounders is a science fiction adventure series for tweens and teens. The stories are about the first class of cadets at the EarthBound Academy, kids who always knew they were different but never suspected they held the key to saving Earth. Similar to what Sally mentioned, I set out to write the Bounders series with the hope that some kids who may not often see themselves in books would see themselves as heroes in these stories. I also come from a family with lots of brain difference, so it’s something that is very close to home.

Kester: I’m very glad to have you, too, Monica, with us today! And I’m very glad to have been able to read your amazing series! (I know I need to read Sally’s books, too!) The characters in the Bounders series, The Someday Birds, and Stanley Will Probably Be Fine are all neurodivergent. For those who may not be familiar with that term, would you mind explaining what neurodiversity is in your viewpoint? Why do you believe it is important to accept neurological differences such as autism, ADHD, and dyslexia?

Sally: I would start by defining terms. In accord with autism advocate Nick Walker’s terms—neurodiversity refers to the broad panoply of brain differences across the human spectrum. Neurodivergence refers to those (including myself) whose brains operate differently due to autism, ADD, ADHD, etc. Differently brained folks add to and enhance the human experience! We are all stars shining with different lights.

Monica: I was typing something… but Sally’s answer more eloquently captures the definition neurodiversity. I do tend to think of it quite broadly as anything not neurotypical. And like Sally mentioned, there is a broad spectrum when it comes to brains.

Stanley Will Probably Be FineSally: That is not to say that there are not certain challenges, and it is these challenges that my books hopefully will help to address. I think Monica must feel similarly. I was recently at a conference called “Love and Autism,” and I met the most amazing, talented, incredible young autistic writers and thinkers and artists and designers and surfers! It made me realize again how much people that society considers “potentially disabled” are actually incredible and full of abilities. They are different, not less. I want to keep writing stories featuring such characters so that we can expand our notion of what being human really means in all of its challenges and joys. Sorry, I am blabbing; I will stop now!

Monica: I love what you’re saying, Sally. I’m trying to figure out the format over here! I’ve written and deleted a dozen times! I’ll get faster, I promise!

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