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!

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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.

Everlasting Nora Blog Tour.png


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.

Goodreads

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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!

The Royal Order of Fighting Dragons Tour Banner.jpg


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…

Goodreads

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Dan Elish Guest Post.png

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.

Website | Creating through the Pain (Blog) | Twitter | Facebook


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

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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

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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!

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

Book Review: The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert — Beautifully Horrifying with a Chilling Narrative and Mystical Storytelling

Hi guys! Today I am at the TN All Northwest Honor Choir festival, and this is my SIXTH and final year to be part of such an amazing program. I will truly miss it when I graduate–certainly it’s one of the highlights of each school year. My review today will be about The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert, a creepy fairy tale-filled YA debut from earlier this year. I hope you enjoy!


About the BookThe Hazel Wood

Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother have spent most of Alice’s life on the road, always a step ahead of the uncanny bad luck biting at their heels. But when Alice’s grandmother, the reclusive author of a cult-classic book of pitch-dark fairy tales, dies alone on her estate, the Hazel Wood, Alice learns how bad her luck can really get: her mother is stolen away―by a figure who claims to come from the Hinterland, the cruel supernatural world where her grandmother’s stories are set. Alice’s only lead is the message her mother left behind: “Stay away from the Hazel Wood.”

Alice has long steered clear of her grandmother’s cultish fans. But now she has no choice but to ally with classmate Ellery Finch, a Hinterland superfan who may have his own reasons for wanting to help her. To retrieve her mother, Alice must venture first to the Hazel Wood, then into the world where her grandmother’s tales began―and where she might find out how her own story went so wrong.

Goodreads

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3 Stars

Disclaimer: I received a free finished copy of this book from the publisher for review consideration. This will not affect my review.

Before I start, let me tell you that The Hazel Wood is one of the beautifully haunting novels I’ve ever read. I read horror very occasionally—it’s not something that I read too much of. However, when I first read The Hazel Wood, I could not set the book down at all. It was so intriguing and suspenseful that I had to devour the chilling narrative and mystical storytelling. I wish I could rate this book higher—I did enjoy it very much—but the ending is what kind of “ruined” it for me. I did not feel very satisfied to be honest. It was as if the lead-up was so mesmerizing with its creepiness and its adventure but then the drop-off was disappointing.

Although I’m not a horror person, the feeling that I love regarding such stories is not being scared but being creeped out. I think that’s why I loved the two stories—“Alice Three-Times” and “The Door That Wasn’t There”—the most. I wish there was more backstory to the novel, though; I wanted more of the stories. Rather than seeing the character of Thrice-Killed Katherine, I wanted to actually know her true story and her true background. Instead, all Melissa Albert includes is just two out of the twelve stories listed and features and alludes to characters from the rest. Honestly, if Albert writes a novel with all of the Tales from the Hinterland, I would read it. Overall, the author’s writing style perfects the eerie tone that makes horror novels both creepy and beautiful. The story definitely gave me chills that I felt right down my spine.

I loved The Hazel Wood until the very end—this is where it began to unravel for me. Firstly, although the author stated that her novel was not intended as an Alice in Wonderland retelling, The Hazel Wood does draw a lot of parallels between their counterparts that share the same name. (I have nothing against this; I just wanted to point it out.) Alice Prosperine’s journey follows the typical “hero’s quest,” but when the climax arrived and Alice reached the self-knowledge she was searching for the entire time, it felt disappointing. Without getting into any spoilers, the revelation was easily predictable—I didn’t expect the realization but I really did not see it coming. I felt it was too predictable from the beginning, like the hints were too obvious and not that subtle. (They were like road signs that say “Hey! Look at me!” but you end up overlooking them.) There were details that I did not like and that I could not reconcile with the rest of the story and world-building. Some events and stories did not have a lot of importance or effect—for example, while I loved the inclusion of the “The Door That Wasn’t There” story, it had very few contributions to the actual plot. I did see how it was “important” to the understanding of some details, but for me, it was not as effective in terms of reasoning behind its addition. (I loved the story and wanted more of it, but I feel like its addition was not that necessary.) While Albert’s writing style is superb from the start, the story structure wasn’t the best.

Overall, The Hazel Wood had a lot of potential with its intriguing premise and its chilling narration, but its execution could have been cleaner. Certainly, until the very end, it was beautifully mesmerizing and horrifying. I think twisted fairy tale lovers and classic horror fans will enjoy venturing into The Hazel Wood


Happy Reading!

+ J.M.J.

~ Kester

“We make up horrors to help us cope with the real ones.” — Stephen King

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Guest Post with J. Keller Ford, YA Fantasy Author of BANE OF THE DRAGON KING, on “Saying Goodbye to Fallhollow”

Hi guys! Saying goodbye is probably one of the hardest things in the world, isn’t it? It’s extremely hard to let go of the people, places, and things we love. As a senior, I’m letting go of so much this year. Last semester was hard because I had to say goodbye to people who have been in my life for a long time, from my parish priest (who left for the Air Force) to one of my fellow violinists in my orchestra (who left for college). It’s even more heartbreaking to think that I am going to say goodbye to so many things and people who have shaped my life over the past years as a student–from the orchestra I’ve played in for the past six years to the teachers and friends that have changed who I am. It’s funny that when you don’t see them, you don’t miss them because you know you have a chance of seeing them again, but when you are leaving for good, you begin to miss them. J. Keller Ford definitely knows this feeling as she is wrapping up her Chronicles of Fallhollow series with book three, and I’m very blessed to have her on my blog to share her story about her remarkable series.


About the BookBane of the Dragon King

Fallhollow is at war. The sudden deaths of the only two heirs that could have saved it has plunged the entire land into chaos. Despite all the magic thrown at him, the Dragon King still lives. Hope for any sort of victory seems faint until Charlotte discovers a secret that could change the course of history.

Armed with the power to set things right, Charlotte embarks on a perilous journey with the sly and cunning Prince Izmayel Ascatar Venniver IV, Lord of the peaceful Edryd dragons. But her journey of peace is thwarted, and Hirth’s most fearsome enemy plans to use Charlotte to destroy the kingdom and claim the universe as his own.

As Fallhollow and the Kingdom of Hirth descend into a battlefield of bloodshed and death, David, Trog, and the warriors of Hirth march toward war with an impossible plan to bring down the Dragon King, destroy his armies, and return the kingdom to its former glory. All they need is a little faith, a few extraordinary surprises, and a lot of magic of the most unexpected, generous kind.

This book is the final dramatic and magnificent conclusion to the Chronicles of Fallhollow trilogy.

Bane of the Dragon King is releasing from Month9Books tomorrow!

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J. Keller Ford Guest Post

Saying Goodbye to Fallhollow

When I started this trilogy many, many years ago, I never thought about ending it. My focus was on writing it. I thought developing the worlds, the characters, the plots were the hardest things I could ever do.

I was wrong.

Saying goodbye to a story that has been with me for most of my life is probably the most difficult thing I’ve ever done with regards to my writing.

I started the first book in the Chronicles of Fallhollow trilogy when I was very young. Of course it didn’t resemble anything like it does now, but the concept was there. When my father died right before my 12th birthday, I made a promise to him that I would finish the story I began. He used to feed my imagination with stories of bravery and honor and sacrifice. See, my dad was in the Army when he passed away, and served 2 terms in Vietnam. He enlisted with the Navy in WWII and also served in Korea. He saw a lot of war, lost a lot of friends, and though he rarely spoke of the horrors he lived, he always told me stories of heroism and what honor, love and sacrifice looks like. I carried those stories with me all my life and weaved them in the page of the Chronicles of Fallhollow.

In the Shadow of the Dragon KingOne of my main characters, Sir Trogsdill Domnall, was fashioned after my dad. Reading back on my stories, I can’t believe how much of my dad is in him. Trog is private, harsh at times, but compassionate and loving and he conceals a lot of pain both from war and life. I think I will miss Trog the most. It’s strange. While I was writing Trog, I could hear my dad’s voice. It was as if he were with me, leaning over my shoulder, telling me what to write. Of course, Trog has his own personality and voice, but they melded well with my dad’s and I think the two of them would have gotten along great (if there was any way they could have met).  It was cathartic to write Trog because in many ways, I got to visit my dad every day for years. To say goodbye to Trog … well my heart breaks a little. It’s not as bad as saying goodbye to my dad in real life, but it is still sad. But I can always go back and visit them anytime I want because they’re in books now.

My dad aside, it’s very bittersweet to put “The End” on something that has taken up so much of my life for so many years. While I’m ready to venture off to new realms and meet new characters, these tales are such an integral part of me. At first, I found myself writing some of my new characters with Charlotte’s or David’s voice and I had to unhinge them and revamp myself. I had to get my head in a different space. These new tales, while still YA fantasy riddled with dragons and faeries, the world is so different than Fallhollow. The creatures speak differently and there is no war going on, and there is actually a strong romance element in the new Fae Hunter series. Sometimes it’s difficult to turn off the old voices to create new, unique ones, but it is getting easier as I delve into book 2.

Rage of the Dragon KingI’ve learned so much about myself in the process of writing three books. There was a time I didn’t think I’d ever reach the end. There was so much self doubt. So much procrastination. What if they (readers) don’t like the books? What if I can’t find a publisher? What if, what if, what if? It’s enough to make someone give up. But I couldn’t give up. This story had to be told, for me, my dad. Oh, I still suffer from the what if’s and the whys, especially when I see my books hovering in the 100s in their categories on Amazon and other dragon writers have their books in the top numbers spots with lots of reviews. (Yeah, I’m a stat person, though I shouldn’t be). The reviews are few and there are so many times I wonder why I keep writing if no one will ever find my books, much less like them. But writing to me is essential. It’s like breathing. To not write is insane. It’s unthinkable. Yes, I have dreams of being a best-selling author, to hit the NY Times Bestseller List or USA Today Bestseller list. I’m not sure if my inner me will ever be happy if I don’t accomplish those things, but the writer part of me says ‘Who Cares! Write because you love to write!’

So, that’s what I’ll keep doing.

I’m excited about the books I’m writing right now. I am looking into agents and yes, I want to go the traditional route again. I’ve had a wonderful experience with my publisher, Month9Books, but I want to shoot for Random House, Scholastic … you know, the big houses, and I can’t do it without an agent. It’s still all up in the air.

Bane of the Dragon KingIn the meantime, I can pat myself on the back and say “You did it, Jenny! You wrote three published books!” I no more have to wonder if I can do it. I DID do it, and that in itself is a huge accomplishment, and it will drive me whenever I start to worry about the new books I’m writing. I learned during this whole process that there is nothing I can’t accomplish, that getting out of my own way was the most important step to reaching my goal. I learned that dreams can be reached with perseverance and surrounding myself with positive, like-minded people to encourage me and get me out of my dark funks. Saying goodbye to Fallhollow is bittersweet, but I’m a better person for hanging out there for as long as I did. It made me realize just how big the universe is, and how many worlds are out there, ready to be discovered.

I’m ready to explore. I hope you come along with me.


About the AuthorJ. Keller Ford

J. Keller Ford is a scribbler of speculative fiction and YA tales. As an Army brat, she traveled the world and toured the halls of some of Germany’s most extraordinary castles in hopes of finding snarky dragons, chivalrous knights, and wondrous magic to permeate her imagination. What she found remains etched in her topsy-turvy mind, and oozes out in sweeping tails of courage, sacrifice, honor and everlasting love.

When not torturing her keyboard or trying to silence the voices in her head, Jenny spends time collecting seashells, bowling, screaming on roller coasters, and traveling. She is a mom of four magnificent and noble offspring, and currently lives in paradise on the west coast of Florida with a menagerie of royal pets, and her own quirky knight who was brave enough to marry her.

Jenny is the author of The Chronicles of Fallhollow series. The first two books, IN THE SHADOW OF THE DRAGON KING, and RAGE OF THE DRAGON KING, are currently available. The third and final book, BANE OF THE DRAGON KING, is due to release November 13, 2018. For more information about her books and to sign up for her newsletter, please visit http://www.j-keller-ford.com

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Happy Reading!

+ J.M.J.

~ Kester

“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying Goodbye so hard.” — Winnie the Pooh

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

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The Prophet Calls by Melanie Sumrow Blog Tour: Spotlight Post

Hi guys! I have another blog tour up for you, and this time it’s a MG contemporary novel called The Prophet Calls, which just released a few days ago! I’ve seen Melanie on the Twittersphere quite frequently, so I’m very glad to be helping out with her debut novel’s release! I hope you enjoy!

The Prophet Calls Blog Tour.jpg
(By the way, while The Prophet Calls definitely has a beautiful prose and message, I ask that readers may not use this book to denounce religion. As a Catholic, I believe that there are many dark and twisted cults in the world that idolize men as gods, yet many denominations in not only the Christian faith but in other religions are not cults. I may not agree with other religions but I do respect those who adhere to them. The Prophet Calls is a stark depiction of what life is like in a polygamous apocalyptic-sect community, but I don’t believe that author had the intention to denounce all religions. Personal note over.)


About the BookThe Prophet Calls

Born into a polygamous community in the foothills of New Mexico, Gentry Forrester feels lucky to live among God’s chosen. Here, she lives apart from the outside world and its “evils.”

On her thirteenth birthday, Gentry receives a new violin from her father and, more than anything, she wants to play at the Santa Fe Music Festival with her brother, Tanner. But then the Prophet calls from prison and announces he has outlawed music in their community and now forbids women to leave.

Determined to play, Gentry and Tanner sneak out. But once they return, the Prophet exercises control from prison, and it has devastating consequences for Gentry and her family. Soon, everything Gentry has known is turned upside down. She begins to question the Prophet’s teachings and his revelations, especially when his latest orders put Gentry’s family in danger. Can Gentry find a way to protect herself and her family from the Prophet and escape the only life she’s ever known?

This realistic, powerful story of family, bravery, and following your dreams is a can’t-miss debut novel from Melanie Sumrow.

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About the AuthorMelanie Sumrow

Melanie Sumrow received her undergraduate degree in Religious Studies and has maintained a long-term interest in studying world religions. Before becoming a writer, she worked as a lawyer for more than 16 years, with many of her cases involving children and teens. Melanie lives in Dallas with her husband, her daughter and one very spoiled dog.

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Did Someone Say… Giveaway?

3 winners will receive a finished copy of THE PROPHET CALLS, US Only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Catch up on the Rest of the Tour Here!

Link to Tour Schedule

Week One:

10/29/2018- Oh Hey! Books.– Review

10/30/2018- BookHounds YA– Interview

10/31/2018- Here’s to Happy Endings– Review

11/1/2018- For the Love of KidLit– Interview

11/2/2018- Rhythmicbooktrovert– Review

Week Two:

11/5/2018- mall3tg1rl– Review

11/6/2018- Patriotic Bookaholic– Review

11/7/2018- Margie’s Must Reads– Excerpt

11/8/2018- Cindy’s Love of Books– Review

11/9/2018- LILbooKloversSpotlight Post


Happy Reading!

+ J.M.J.

~ Kester

“Find the good–and praise it.” — Alex Haley

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

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The Color of Lies by C. J. Lyons Blog Tour: An Interview with The New York Times Bestselling Author + GIVEAWAY!

Hi guys! I haven’t had an interview on my blog for quite a bit, so I’m super happy to welcome The New York Times bestselling author C. J. Lyons today to talk about her latest YA thriller with heart The Color of Lies as part of the book’s blog tour! I hope you enjoy!

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About the BookThe Color of Lies

From New York Times and USA Today bestselling author CJ Lyons comes The Color of Lies, a world drenched in color and mystery.

High school senior Ella Cleary has always been good at reading people. Her family has a rare medical condition called synesthesia that scrambles the senses—her Gram Helen sees every sound, and her uncle Joe can literally taste words. Ella’s own synesthesia manifests itself as the ability to see colors that reveal people’s true emotions…until she meets a guy she just can’t read.

Alec is a mystery to Ella, a handsome, enigmatic young journalist who makes her feel normal for the first time in her life. That is, until he reveals the real reason why he sought her out—he wants to learn the truth behind her parents’ deaths, the parents that Ella had always been told died in a fire. Alec turns Ella’s world upside down when he tells her their deaths were definitely not an accident.

After learning her entire life has been a lie, Ella doesn’t know who she can trust or even who she really is. With her adoptive family keeping secrets and the evidence mixing fact and fiction, the only way for Ella to learn the truth about her past is to find a killer.

Perfect for fans of Caroline B. Cooney, Ally Carter, and Jennifer Brown, The Color of Lies blurs the lines between black-and-white facts and the kaleidoscope of reality.

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C. J. Lyons Interview

Your latest YA thriller The Color of Lies follows a teen girl with color synesthesia who finds out that her parents did not die in a fire but were murdered. After learning this shocking revelation, she tries to uncover secrets about her family’s past, but she does not know who to trust or what to believe. What inspired you to incorporate synesthesia into the genetics of Ella’s family? Could you describe to us the research process you used regardless this condition? Have you had any personal experiences encountering synesthesia in you or in other people?

The Color of LiesAs a physician, I’ve long been fascinated by unique medical oddities such as synesthesia. It’s not a disease, but rather the way the brain processes information is mistranslated into other senses. You may see letters as colors or smell words you read.

People with synesthesia experience the world differently, which is not only fascinating, it makes for an intriguing character—especially since we all base our idea of reality on what we see, hear, feel. For people with synesthesia, their reality is already very different than people who don’t have synesthesia, so if we upset that reliance on what is seen, felt, or heard, how do we know what’s real and what isn’t?

Start playing with people’s perception of reality, of their basic, essential truth, and you open up a world of possibilities for a story.

Also, many people with synesthesia don’t even know they have it–it’s simply how they see the world and they think everyone experiences it the same way. These include some famous artists such as Kandinsky, Tori Amos, Duke Ellington, Billy Joel, Franz Liszt, Vincent Van Gogh, and Bob Dylan, among others. About 4% of the population are estimated to have some form of synesthesia (about twice as many as those who have red hair), so it’s actually fairly common.

I have friends who have it—one is a musician who sees the notes she plays as color and light, another hears colors… I myself have what may be a mild form (or maybe it’s just a symptom of my overactive imagination!). I can taste recipes for food I’ve never eaten before just by reading them.

Before you became an author and a New York Times bestseller, you worked as a pediatric ER doctor. How has your career as an ER doctor influenced you as a writer? What moved you to make the jump from medicine to writing?

I’ve been a writer all my life—I wrote my first book, a YA fantasy (it was awful, lol!) when I was fifteen and wrote two SF novels while in med school. Writing has always been my way of understanding the chaos that surrounds us all.

My medical career has had a huge influence on my writing. Not only has it given me the opportunity to see behind the curtain of real life and death situations, it also taught me the discipline necessary to achieve my dream of being published.

When I left medicine to write full time, it was a huge leap of faith—only a very small percentage of writers can make a full time career of it. But at the time I had two book contracts (with all the deadlines and hard work that entails) and realized I couldn’t continue to give both my patients and my writing 120% of my energy.

I saved up enough money to take a sabbatical from medicine to give my writing a chance, telling myself that I could return to medicine if the writing didn’t work out.

That was thirteen years and forty-four books ago and I’ve never regretted my choice. With almost two and a half million books sold, I’ve been able to touch more lives with my writing than I ever could seeing one patient at a time.

As the author of over 40 novels, you’ve called your books “thrillers with heart.” Could you describe to us what that means and how you first coined that term?

As an ER doctor, I’ve been privileged to see people on the best day and the worst day of their lives. My experiences taught me that heroes are born everyday and that everyday, normal people can find the courage to stand up and make a difference.

I want to tell their stories as best I can and this is where the “heart” of my thrillers with heart comes from. Stories not about the black and white of good and evil, but rather about the gray area between where it’s not easy to know the right thing to do or what the cost will be, even if you win your happy ending.

Continue reading “The Color of Lies by C. J. Lyons Blog Tour: An Interview with The New York Times Bestselling Author + GIVEAWAY!”