ARC Review: The High Climber of Dark Water Bay by Caroline Arden — An MG Historical Fiction Novel Personally Not for Me, but May Inspire Others

Hi guys! If you’ve been following my blog, you would probably know that my favorite genre is historical fiction. (I know, I read so much fantasy and love the genre so much, but my heart will lean towards historical fiction.) Today’s review is The High Climber of Dark Water Bay by Caroline Arden, which is a Middle Grade novel set in the Great Depression (a time period not really seen much in fiction). I hope you enjoy!


About the BookThe High Climber of Dark Water Bay

Twelve-year-old Lizzie Parker lived a comfortable life with her loving father until the stock market crashed and he took his own life. Now she lives with her older sister and money is tight. Lizzie is expected to help out, but she can’t even cook breakfast without burning something. How is she supposed to help pay the bills? With little money coming in, Lizzie’s sister decides it may be best to send her to Seattle to live with an aunt, whom Lizzie never met. Then a letter arrives from Lizzie’s uncle in British Columbia. He and his family are living in a logging camp, and he’s willing to pay Lizzie to be a summer governess for his two sons. Lizzie has never spent a night away from home, let alone in the woods. With few options left to her, Lizzie accepts the offer, but when she shows up at camp, her uncle and his family are gone. Without money for a return trip, she must fend for herself amid rough-talking loggers and a perilous wilderness. As Lizzie adjusts to this new life, she tries to find out what happened to her uncle, but if she’s not careful something bad may happen to her out in the woods.

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2 Stars

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

Historical fiction is my favorite genre, so when I first heard of The High Climber of Dark Water Bay, I wanted to read it. It’s a Middle Grade historical fiction set in the Great Depression, a time period that is often overlooked in modern historical fiction, especially with World War II overshadowing the early 20th century. When I started Arden’s debut novel, I was expecting a lot of action and adventure and even a bit of suspense. Unfortunately, The High Climber of Dark Water Bay didn’t rise up to my expectations–it fell a bit short for me. Although the story became enjoyable in sections towards the end, overall it just did not click for me. The story was not bad, but it wasn’t the best historical fiction book I’ve read.
Continue reading “ARC Review: The High Climber of Dark Water Bay by Caroline Arden — An MG Historical Fiction Novel Personally Not for Me, but May Inspire Others”

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October Reading Recap

Hi guys! October has been a very crazy month for me, and November is going to be even busier! I have a choral festival, scholarship applications, auditions, and a whole bunch of other things to prepare and complete. Somehow, in the midst of my senior year craziness, I’ve managed to read quite a few books–averaging a book or two a week! However, the books I’ve read this past month are sorted into two main categories: those I really enjoyed and those that failed to astound me. I hope you enjoy!

By the way, I’ve recently updated the way I rate and review books. Now, four stars means that I enjoyed a book while three stars is reserved for books that “are not bad but they’re not good.” If I did not like a book, I would rate it two stars. It sounds very similar to my past review scale, but I’m not judging books a bit more harshly since I have been too lenient regarding books that don’t impress me. I would instantly recommend books four stars and above. Three star books I’m more hesitant with. This new system helps me distinguish books that were “okay” versus books that I truly enjoyed and thus books that blew me away.


5 Stars

Earth Force Rising by Monica Tesler (Yes, I Re-Read This a Month after I Finished It!)

Earth Force Rising
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The Dollmaker of Krakow by R. M. Romero

The Dollmaker of Kraków

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Continue reading “October Reading Recap”

ARC Review: Mammoth by Jill Baguchinsky — A Powerful Testimony to the Ever-Growing Need of Women in STEM

Hi guys! Happy November! I am starting to really catch up on reviews and review copies. As I’m writing this, I’m down to five books excluding galleys that are to be read next year. It’s so great not being behind! Today’s review is Mammoth by Jill Baguchinsky, a YA contemporary novel featuring archaeology, women in STEM, backstabbing, betrayal, fashion, and fun. I hope you enjoy!


About the BookMammoth

The summer before her junior year, paleontology geek Natalie Page lands a coveted internship at an Ice Age dig site near Austin. Natalie, who’s also a plus-size fashion blogger, depends on the retro style she developed to shield herself from her former bullies, but vintage dresses and perfect lipstick aren’t compatible with prospecting for fossils in the Texas heat. But nothing is going to dampen Natalie’s spirit — she’s exactly where she wants to be, and she gets to work with her hero, a rock-star paleontologist who hosts the most popular paleo podcast in the world. And then there’s Chase the intern, who’s seriously cute, and Cody, a local boy who’d be even cuter if he were less of a grouch.

It’s a summer that promises to be about more than just mammoths.

Until it isn’t.

When Natalie’s hero turns out to be anything but, and steals the credit for one of her accomplishments, Nat has to unearth the confidence she needs to stand out in a field dominated by dudes. To do this, she’ll have to let her true self shine, even if that means defying all the rules for the sake of a major discovery.

Mammoth will release from Turner Publishing on November 6th. Pre-order today!

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3 Stars

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.

To be honest, Mammoth is one of those books for me that I liked but not loved, if you know what I mean. When I first started this story, I knew I was in for a special treat–the writing style automatically clicked and the next thing I knew I just wanted to keep on reading. There were many times when I could not put it down, and there were many times where I could feel the anger or betrayal that Natalie felt. Certainly, Mammoth will transport you to a summer of internships and archaeology as Natalie tries to manage her feelings regarding her weight, her relationships, and her dreams. Mammoth is definitely a powerful testimony to the ever-growing need for women in STEM. 

Continue reading “ARC Review: Mammoth by Jill Baguchinsky — A Powerful Testimony to the Ever-Growing Need of Women in STEM”

ARC Review: The Disappearance of Sloane Sullivan by Gia Cribbs — Will Be Remembered as One of the Best and Most Brilliant YA Thrillers I’ve Ever Read

Hi guys! Over the past few months, I got really behind on my review copies–and I mean, really behind. Because I had to go out of the country and I had so much going on in the month of May, I was not able to read the physical ARCs of May and June releases before I left. But I am slowly catching up, and I was able to fit in The Disappearance of Sloane Sullivan into my schedule a few weeks ago. It definitely was worth it. If you have missed it, Gia Cribbs was on my blog to talk about “Plotting, Pantsing, and the Art of Surprise” in her debut novel. Certainly she did surprise me in this wild and crazy story. I hope you enjoy!


About the BookThe Disappearance of Sloane Sullivan

No one wants me to tell you about the disappearance of Sloane Sullivan.

Not the lawyers or the cops. Not her friends or family. Not even the boy who loved her more than anyone. And most certainly not the United States Marshals Service. You know, the people who run the witness protection program or, as it’s officially called, the Witness Security Program? Yeah, the WITSEC folks definitely don’t want me talking to you.

But I don’t care. I have to tell someone.

If I don’t, you’ll never know how completely wrong things can go. How a single decision can change everything. How, when it really comes down to it, you can’t trust anyone. Not even yourself. You have to understand, so it won’t happen to you next. Because you never know when the person sitting next to you isn’t who they claim to be…and because there are worse things than disappearing.

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The Disappearance of Sloane Sullivan Review

Disclaimer: I received a free signed ARC of this book for review consideration. This will not affect my review in any way.

I love YA thrillers for the sole reason of being sucked into the story. I enjoy the rush of adrenaline, the feeling of not being able to set down the book, and the shocks from being kicked with a plot twist. I didn’t know what to expect when I first started The Disappearance of Sloane Sullivan, but once I started, I literally could not stop. I finished virtually 90% of it in a single day because I just wanted to know what happens next. I came into this story without any expectations of how it would pan out, and if I did, certainly would Gia Cribbs exceed them. As Sloane tries to survive the last four weeks of high school but encounters many major setbacks along the way, The Disappearance of Sloane Sullivan is a sinister story full of secrets and betrayal masked by an innocent façade of comfort and hope.

Continue reading “ARC Review: The Disappearance of Sloane Sullivan by Gia Cribbs — Will Be Remembered as One of the Best and Most Brilliant YA Thrillers I’ve Ever Read”

Book Review: The Changelings by Christina Soontornvat — An Imaginative Fantasy Retelling That Provided Me a Refuge from the Harshness of Life

Hi guys! Last semester, I met the amazing Christina Soontornvat at the Southeastern Young Adult Book Festival when I asked David Arnold (who I met for the second time) for a picture! We talked a bit and she was so kind and even gave me a copy of her debut novel The Changelings to read. If you haven’t seen it in the #kidlit world, Christina is going to write a nonfiction book depicting the cave rescue of the Thai cave rescue, using her knowledge of STEM from her background in the field and her knowledge of Thai culture and geography since she is Thai herself. I am so happy and excited for her, and today I am reviewing her debut novel The Changelings, an MG fantasy! Hope you enjoy!

And if you want to check out my LILbooKtalk with Christina Soontornvat and K. E. Ormsbee on “Finding Your Narnia: Transporting Readers to Fantasy Worlds,” check it out here!


About the BookThe Changelings

Izzy’s family has just moved to the most boring town in the country. But as time goes on, strange things start to happen; odd piles of stones appear around Izzy’s house, and her little sister Hen comes home full of stories about the witch next door.

Then, Hen disappears into the woods. She’s been whisked away to the land of Faerie, and it’s up to Izzy to save her. Joined there by a band of outlaw Changelings, Izzy and her new friends set out on a joint search-and-rescue mission across this foreign land which is at turns alluringly magical and utterly terrifying.

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4 Stars

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

A great fantasy novel will provide me a special refuge from the outside world. I want to become immersed in the magic, the adventure, the characters, and the world-building to the point where I do not want to leave. Once I picked up The Changelings, I became dazzled and awestruck by the fantastical world of Faerie; and the story was brimming with action, adventure, magic, creatures, family, and friendship! The Changelings is an imaginative retelling based on a classic tale that will enchant and warm the welcome hearts of readers regardless of age. Faerie is a world that I didn’t want to leave, and I really want to revisit it in the sequel.

Continue reading “Book Review: The Changelings by Christina Soontornvat — An Imaginative Fantasy Retelling That Provided Me a Refuge from the Harshness of Life”

October LILbooKtalk: “Using the Power of Storytelling to Promote STEM to Students” with Jarrett Lerner and Mary Fan

Hi guys! I am really excited to share with y’all this month’s LILbooKtalk! I have two of my favorite authors ever–Jarrett Lerner and Mary Fan–back on the blog to discuss “Using the Power of Storytelling to Promote STEM to Students.” Since personally I am very STEM-mind and will be pursuing computer engineering in college, this is definitely a topic that I had a lot of fun learning more about. I hope you enjoy!


About EngiNerdsEnginerds

The battle between boys and bots is on in this funny, fast-paced novel.

Ken is an EngiNerd: one of a super-smart group of friends—all nerds—who have been close since kindergarten.

They may be brainiacs, but they’re just like everyone else: they fight with one another, watch too much TV, eat Chinese food, and hate walking their dogs. Well, maybe not just like everyone because Ken’s best friend Dan has been building robots. He then secretly sent one to each of the EngiNerds, never letting them know he’s the mastermind.

At first Ken is awed and delighted: what kid hasn’t dreamed of having a robot all their own? Someone who can be their friend, clean their room, walk the dog, answer homework questions…how amazing is that?

But be careful what you wish for: Dan’s robot, Greeeg, may look innocent, but his ravenous consumption of food—comestibles—turns him into a butt-blasting bot. And once the other robots ‘come alive’ it’s up to the motley crew of EngiNerds to not only save the day, but save the planet!

Goodreads

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About Brave New Girls: Tales of Heroines who HackBrave New Girls 3

Welcome to the sci-fi worlds of brainy teen heroines who hack not just computers, but whatever puzzles come their way. A scrappy mechanic on an oppressed planet builds a device she hopes will be her ticket to a better future. A fledgling chemist uses her skills to catch a murderer. A teen inventor creates a weapon to battle the mysterious beasts attacking her city. A superhero-in-training puts her skills to the test when attackers strike her compound. A self-styled detective hacks an augmented reality game to solve a dastardly crime. Girls who code, explore, fix robots, pilot starships, invent gadgets, build high-tech treehouses, and more. With tales ranging from space adventures to steampunk to cyberpunk and more this 23-story collection will delight, thrill, and enthrall.

Proceeds from sales of this anthology will be donated to a scholarship fund through the Society of Women Engineers. Let’s show today’s girls that they, too, can be tomorrow’s inventors, programmers, scientists, and more.

STORIES BY: Lyssa Chiavari, Jennifer Chow, Russ and Abby Colchamiro, MLD Curelas, Paige Daniels, Kay Dominguez, Mary Fan, Halli Gomez, Valerie Hunter, AA Jankiewicz, Nicholas Jennings, Jamie Krakover, Tash McAdam, MJ Moores, Jelani Akin Parham, Selenia Paz, Josh Pritchett, Jeremy Rodden, Aaron Rosenberg, Jenifer Purcell Rosenberg, Jennifer Lee Rossman, JR Rustrian, and Joanna Schnurman.

Featuring illustrations by Jacob Atom, Brandon Bell, Jo Belle, Lyssa Chiavari, Sharon Emmitt, Ben Falco, Fauzy Zulvikar Firmansyah, Christopher Godsoe, Liana Kangas, John Kovalic, MunkyWrench, Josh Pritchett, Emily Smith, Jennifer Stolzer, and Ronald Suh.

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LILbooKtalk September 2018.png

(Questions are in bold.)

Kester:The first author we have today is Jarrett Lerner, author of the EngiNerds series and an advocate for children’s literature with #KidsNeedBooks, #KidsNeedMentors, and the MG Book Village. Could you describe to us a little bit about yourself and your novels?

EnginerdsJarrett: Sure! I write stories that I hope all kids (and kids at heart) can enjoy, but often write with the so-called “reluctant” or “striving” or “undiscovered” reader in mind — educators have all sorts of terms for these kids who have yet to find books they love. Reading and books changed my life, and continue to improve my life every day. I want every kid to have that experience, and seek to make that happen through my writing, my outreach, and the various projects I work on.

Kester: Thank you so much for everything you do in the kidlit community, Jarrett! Certainly you and your books have changed the lives of readers across the nation. 🙂

Jarrett: That’s very kind of you to say, Kester!

Kester: Thank you! The second author we have today is Mary Fan, co-editor of the Brave New Girls anthologies, in which all proceeds are donated to the Society of Women Engineers scholarship fund. Would you also like to tell us a little about you and your books?

Brave New Girls 3Mary: Absolutely! I’ve been a nerd for as long as I can remember, and so naturally, I ended up writing nerdy stories :-). Pretty much all of them are about intrepid heroines in far-off worlds. With the Brave New Girls anthologies, fellow sci-fi author Paige Daniels and I are hoping to encourage more girls to explore STEM careers. Women are still woefully underrepresented in STEM, and even though there’s definitely been more of a push to show girls that they can do anything, we still have a long way to go. Thing is, it’s all cultural. There’s no reason why girls shouldn’t end up choosing math or science or engineering if they want, but years of cultural expectations have created this notion that girls in tech are uncool sidekicks. We’re hoping to change that by releasing these books full of stories about girls who are both into the geeky stuff and the heroines of their own stories.

Jarrett: Hear, hear! And can I just say, Mary, that if you haven’t read the books of Katie Slivensky, you MUST! The Countdown Conspiracy and The Seismic Seven–you would LOVE!

Mary: Thank you! Will definitely check them out! 😀

Kester: I know I need to check out Katie’s books, too! Here’s my first question: In today’s increasingly technological world, there is a huge need for students pursuing careers in the sciences, mathematics, engineering, and technology. Why do you believe it is important to use the power of storytelling to instill a passion for STEM in young students? How do your books accomplish this task?

Brave New Girls 2Mary: Much of who we become is influenced by what the world around us tells us we can be – whether we realize it or not. If every book you read shows people in science and tech as uncool, it’s easy to start believing that’s true in real life too. That’s why it’s important to tell stories where the geeky kid gets to save the day and be the main character. With Brave New Girls, we aim to publish a variety of these kinds of stories so girls (and really, everyone — just because the protagonists are girls doesn’t mean the readers have to be!) can imagine that it’s possible. And once you imagine it, it starts to feel normal in real life too.

Jarrett: I think school tends to instill this idea in kids’ minds (I know it did in mine) that there are these rigid boundaries between subjects–that science is separate from art, which is separate from history, etc., etc. Skills that are used in the STEM fields are directly applicable in the “humanities.” The lessons and truths I rely on as a writer and illustrator are the same ones that guide scientists and mathematicians and engineers. These things are much more linked than we are regularly taught, and by using, say, fiction to explore and celebrate engineering (or “tinkering,” which is the term I use most when discussing my EngiNerds), I am, I hope, breaking down those artificial and unhelpful barriers a bit.

Scientists and engineers are some of the most creative people ever, and there is an art to their work. Plenty of artists approach their work with the mind of a mathematician. The more we break down these barriers and explore these other sides of these subjects, the easier it will be for kids to find their “place” and express their passions in these fields.

Mary: Jarrett–that is so true! There’s this false dichotomy between art and science that we need to break down.

Jarrett: Yes! And I think the more it’s done, the more kids will maybe say, “I’m super creative–I could be an engineer!” (Instead of assuming they have to be, I don’t know, a painter!)

Kester: And you can still do both!! I’m hoping to study computer engineering in college but I still plan on doing as much music, both orchestral and choral, as I can!

Jarrett: There you go! Exactly! I was just at a book launch for Josh Funk, who’s a programmer and a brilliant, brilliant picture book writer!

Mary: That’s awesome, Kester!! One of my best friends is currently a physics post doc… and a classically trained soprano in her local choir. 🙂

Continue reading “October LILbooKtalk: “Using the Power of Storytelling to Promote STEM to Students” with Jarrett Lerner and Mary Fan”

Finchosaurus by Gail Donovan Blog Tour: Author Guest Post on “Getting Inside the Mind and Heart of a Fifth Grader” + GIVEAWAY

Hi guys!! I remember as a kid my favorite picture book was Rainbow Fish & Friends: The Great Treasure Hunt. I still have it on my book shelf today, even though it’s very worn out and many of the flaps are missing. It was the only book that I saved when I donated a whole box of children’s picture books to my FBLA chapter’s book drive, and I’m happy I did. It’s a little treasure from my childhood. Today, I am very glad to have the author of the Rainbow Fish and Friends series Gail Donovan on the blog today to talk about her latest MG contemporary novel Finchosaurus. I hope you enjoy!

Finchosaurus Blog Tour


About the BookFinchosaurus

How do you help others if you can’t help yourself?

Finch has trouble paying attention in school. He’s just too busy dreaming about uncovering a dinosaur fossil and naming a new species after himself—until he digs up a note in the fifth-grade class garden with the word HELP on it. He is determined to come to the aid of the mystery note-writer. But when the quest turns out to be harder than expected, Finch risks losing two things that he really wants —his best friend Noah, and a field trip to Dinosaur State Park. Acclaimed author Gail Donovan gets inside the hearts and minds of fifth graders on this journey told with unexpected humor and impressive insight.

Finchosaurus releases from Islandport Press on October 23rd! Pre-order it today!

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Gail Donovan Guest Post

Getting Inside the Mind and Heart of a Fifth Grader

I have a confession: I’m a children’s writer who doesn’t remember my childhood in great detail. So how do I get inside the heart and mind of a fifth grader?

I once heard Lincoln Peirce give a wonderful answer to the question of how he gets inside the head of somebody like Big Nate, with his big, irrepressible ego. Peirce said, “I’m already there!” He said there was a part of him that goes to bed at night thinking, I bet tomorrow the Red Sox are gonna call me up!

When it comes to fifth graders, “I’m already there,” too.

Fifth grade is an in-between place. You’re not a baby. You’re not a grown-up. You’re in-between.

Picture a toddler, crying at the top of their lungs. If they aren’t happy they will let you know it! Now try to picture a grown-up doing that. It’s hard to imagine. It’s not something we see in real life, for two reasons. One, grown-ups have (hopefully) learned how to navigate their world so that it doesn’t hurt so much. And two, even when it does hurt, they’ve learned not to show their feelings so much.

What do you do in that in-between place, when you still feel things deeply but don’t yet have the ability to control your world? Instead, you have teachers and parents and grown-ups all telling you what to do. But you need to figure it out yourself. Fifth graders trying to figure things out—how to live in the world and still be true to themselves—is what I write about, because I remember how that feels.

But to write for children, is it enough to remember how it feels to be a child, without recalling historical details of your own childhood? I think so. And I take solace in knowing Maurice Sendak thought so, too. In World of Childhood, The Art and Craft of Writing for Children, Sendak said, “People think I have some magic link to my childhood. If there is such a link, it’s a process that bypasses my conscious mind, because I have very little real recollection. I couldn’t stop and tell you why I’m writing and drawing certain episodes; they’re coming from some inner source that does recollect.”

Me, too! So, thank you, Maurice Sendak. Thanks, Lincoln Peirce. And thanks to fifth graders everywhere.


About the Author

Gail Donovan
Photo by Tom Bell

Gail Donovan is the author of the middle-grade novels The Waffler, What’s Bugging Bailey Blecker?, and In Memory of Gorfman T. Frog, which was named a New York Public Library Best Books for Children. She is also an author for the Rainbow Fish & Friends picture book series based on the bestselling books of Marcus Pfister. Donovan, who was born and raised in Connecticut, lives in Maine with her husband and two daughters, where, in addition to writing children’s books, she is a library assistant at the Portland Public Library.


Did Someone Say… Giveaway?

Finchosaurus Giveaway10 Winners will receive a copy of Finchosaurus by Gail Donovan

Ends November 5th, 2018

Open to International.

Must be 13+ to enter

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Follow the Rest of the Tour Here!

Link to Tour Schedule

WEEK ONE
OCTOBER 15th MONDAY JeanBookNerd INTERVIEW
OCTOBER 15th MONDAY Movies, Shows, & Books TENS LIST & EXCERPT
OCTOBER 16th TUESDAY Casia’s Corner REVIEW
OCTOBER 17th WEDNESDAY BookHounds YA REVIEW & INTERVIEW
OCTOBER 18th THURSDAY J.R.’s Book Reviews REVIEW
OCTOBER 19th FRIDAY LILbooKlovers GUEST POST
WEEK TWO
OCTOBER 22nd MONDAY A Dream Within a Dream TENS LIST & EXCERPT
OCTOBER 23rd TUESDAY RhythmicBooktrovert REVIEW
OCTOBER 24th WEDNESDAY Cover2CoverBlog REVIEW
OCTOBER 24th WEDNESDAY Crossroad Reviews REVIEW
OCTOBER 25th THURSDAY Sabrina’s Paranormal Palace REVIEW & EXCERPT
OCTOBER 26th FRIDAY Wishful Endings REVIEW & INTERVIEW

Happy Reading!

+ J.M.J.

~ Kester

“For it is in giving that we receive.” — St. Francis of Assisi

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

Email | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Instagram | Bloglovin

Author Interview with Kathleen Burkinshaw, MG Historical Fiction Author of The Last Cherry Blossom

Hi guys! As a nerd who loves to learn more about the history (particularly the stories) behind the world, World War II has to be the time period that captivates me the most. It horrifies me to think how war-torn countries became and how much persecution was rampant, yet I get inspired by the stories of hope, survival, and perseverance that arose from the fight against evil. World War II is something I wish would never ever happen again, but I find myself fascinated by stories set during this period, from the Holocaust to the Pacific Front. However, there aren’t very many fictional stories that explore the viewpoints of civilians from Asian countries such as China, Japan, and the Philippines; yet I was able to meet online Kathleen Burkinshaw, author of The Last Cherry Blossom, an MG novel set in Hiroshima when the atomic bomb landed in the heart of the city. I am super excited to read this book, and I’m very honored to share this story with y’all by having Kathleen here on the blog to talk about it.


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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Kathleen Burkinshaw Interview.png

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

Kester, thank you so very much for interviewing me for your blog! It’s an honor to be asked. 

I loved to read any kind of book as a child. As an introvert, I loved writing because it took me to a different world where I participated in the story instead of being too shy. I especially love it now because it helps me to escape from my pain -at least lessen it for a little while. I started writing poems for birthday cards from the moment I could hold a pencil. Then as I got older, I loved doing book reports (I think I was in the minority at school). After I was asked to write a high school honor speech, I thought I could really enjoy doing this for a living. But life after college led me to writing business contracts instead. After being ill for a while, I happily rediscovered my love for creative writing.

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

I love reading historical fiction, and mysteries. As a child I loved reading Nancy Drew Mysteries, and anything by Judy Blume. I was an adult when I read WEEDFLOWER by Cynthia Kadohata and it was the first time I read about a Japanese-American as a main character. So, she influenced me greatly. Also, local NC authors (state I live in): Joyce Moyer Hostetter (historical fiction), as well as Lisa Williams Kline (historical fiction and fiction).

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

Well, 17 years ago I was diagnosed with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, a debilitating chronic pain condition. I had to give up my health care administration career. So, I guess you could say, writing is probably less than part time. It depends on the daily pain. I do try to write in the morning if I can. I like to read or listen to audio books when I’m not able to write. I enjoy visiting schools and meeting students!

4. Your debut novel The Last Cherry Blossom follows a young girl who witnesses and survives the atomic bombing at Hiroshima during World War II, and the story is loosely based on your mother’s accounts of the tragedy. Would you like to share with us a bit about your mother’s experiences before, during, and after the bombing and how they shaped your story?

The Last Cherry BlossomIt’s interesting that my mother’s life events that I based the book on stalled my writing for a bit. I had to get past the actual timeline of events in her life since the book only took place during the last year of WWII. My mom was born in 1932, so she grew up with war in the background (the Japanese invaded Manchuria in 1931). She was very well off, but she saw the giving heart of her Papa. When she was five, she and her friend Machiko used to put on shows for the injured soldiers. She hated all the air raid drills, black out curtains, and being in the bomb shelter. However, she felt with her Papa she could endure anything. The chapters that deal with the day of the bombing-were exactly as she told me. These were the most difficult chapters to write, because I could see the tears in her eyes and hear the pain in her voice when she told me about that time. I can still hear her voice whenever I read these sections to students. In the months following the atomic bombing, her feelings of loneliness, guilt, and anger consumed her. It took her a long time to not feel guilty for surviving and feel that she was worth having happiness again. I’m so grateful that she did.

Continue reading “Author Interview with Kathleen Burkinshaw, MG Historical Fiction Author of The Last Cherry Blossom”

September Reading Recap

Hi guys! I usually post my reading recap on the first Sunday of the month, but because I was so busy the week Fall Break ended, I didn’t have time to get this post up before I left for San Francisco for my vacation. I’ve finished 12 books this past month–yes, TWELVE! I’ve had such a busy and crazy month yet somehow I’ve squeezed in 12 stories from YA post-apocalyptic to MG contemporary. And it has been a great month for books for me–I’ve read 5 books that are 5 stars for me (though 2 are re-reads of my favorite books). I hope you enjoy!


5 Stars

Return of the Continuums by Jennifer Brody (Re-read)

Return of the Continuums

Goodreads

The United Continuums by Jennifer Brody (Re-read)

The United Continuums

Goodreads

Earth Force Rising by Monica Tesler

Earth Force Rising

Goodreads

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

The One and Only Ivan

Goodreads

The Tundra Trials by Monica Tesler

The Tundra Trials

Goodreads


4 Stars

A Stitch in Time by Daphne Kalmar

A Stitch in Time

Goodreads

The Right Hook of Devin Velma by Jake Burt

The Right Hook of Devin Velma

Goodreads

Orphan Island by Laurel Snyder

Orphan Island

Goodreads

The Disappearance of Sloane Sullivan by Gia Cribbs

The Disappearance of Sloane Sullivan

Goodreads


3 Stars

Finchosaurus by Gail Donovan

Finchosaurus

 

Goodreads

Night Witches by Kathryn Lasky

Night Witches

Goodreads


2 Stars

The High Climber of Dark Water Bay by Caroline Arden

The High Climber of Dark Water Bay
Goodreads


In Case You Missed It: This Month’s Posts

Author Interviews

Ann Braden, author of The Benefits of Being an Octopus

Kendare Blake, author of Two Dark Reigns

Lauren Gibaldi, author of Autofocus

Author Guest Posts

Katya de Becerra, author of What the Woods Keep, on “Exploring the Subconscious with What the Woods Keep”

LILbooKtalks

“One Series, Two Authors: Collaborating on Legends of the Lost Causes” with Brad McLelland and Louis Sylvester

Book Reviews

Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop by Alice Faye Duncan (5)

The Eleventh Trade by Alyssa Hollingsworth (4)

The House in Poplar Wood by K. E. Ormsbee (3)

The Right Hook of Devin Velma by Jake Burt (4)

Blog Tours

Two Dark Reigns by Kendare Blake: Author Interview

What the Woods Keep by Katya de Becerra: Author Guest Post on “Exploring the Subconscious with What the Woods Keep

Cover Reveals

Romanov by Nadine Brandes

Reading Recaps

August Reading Recap


Happy Reading!

+ J.M.J.

~ Kester

“Cast all your worries upon Him because He cares for you.” — 1 Peter 5:7 (NAB)

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

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Book Review: Earth Force Rising by Monica Tesler — My New “Forever Book” that Makes Me Feel I Truly Belong

Hi guys! Whenever I go to events that have made such a deep impression on me, I get a really deep yearning to go back. I miss them so much that my heart aches. I miss my HITES11 Engineering Camp, Boys’ State, All State, and many other events where I made so many great memories and lifelong friends. I’ve never thought I’d have those same exact feelings with a book, but I did! I met Monica back at the SE-YA Book Festival in March, and she was so kind to send me a signed copy of her first book, and I loved it so much. Read my review and you’ll see why I miss it so much already.


About the BookEarth 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.

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Buy a signed & personalized copy at Buttonwood Books & Toys


5 Stars

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

Earth Force Rising now has a special place in my heart; I’m already tearing up just by thinking about it. Seriously, it is one of the best sci-fi novels I have read—both this year and of all-time. From the first few pages, I was sucked into this world full of dazzling science, unique characters, government secrets, and fascinating technology. I honestly did not want this book to end… ever! Knowing that there is a book five in the works, I’m already dreading the end of the series, and I haven’t read book two yet! As Earth Force Rising celebrates neurodiversity and the differences that makes each one of us unique, it bounds readers throughout space and takes them on the adventure of a lifetime. It evokes so many memories and emotions that I feel like I’ve been bonded to the book for such a long time. I’m missing the Bounders series as if I had actually lived it out.

I have never connected so deeply with such a cast of characters until I met Jasper, Cole, Lucy, Marco, and Myra. I seriously just want to jump into this world and become their friend. (Cole is my favorite character—he’s so great that I wish he was my best guy friend in real life.) Just like many of these characters, I know it feels to be outcasted and not fit in with everybody else. Although I’m not neurodiverse, I went through similar struggles that these kids had to endure (see the next paragraph for more on this). I’ve realized so much about my friendships as a Bounder–how great it is to have at least just one true friend in real life who I can trust and how great it is to have support from many others from all around the state. Earth Force Rising took me back to events such as HITES11 and Boys’ State, events that I miss constantly since I made so many great memories and so many lifelong friends. This book brought back so many memories and emotions from these experiences. It reminded me of the times when I felt like I belonged for who I was and the times when I knew I had an entire group that had my back. (My HITES11 family and my Boys’ State city are the best.) It also made me more grateful for not only those friendships but the few ones I have at home. High school is a very rough time, especially socially. I really don’t click with most of the people at my school, and I’ve endured so many changes and challenges regarding my social life in the past few years that I’ve been hurt so many times. Earth Force Rising moved me to remember that I have three best friends who make me feel accepted, and particularly one friend who I can always trust. It also reminded me that God will guide us to meet the friends that we are meant to meet and become close with, just as Jasper found the four best friends that he needed the most. For me, I’ve made five new best friends that I can visit any time I want to when I open up this series. (I know this review is very personal right now, but Earth Force Rising struck a really really really deep chord in my heart.)

One scene that I have to particularly talk about is the scene where Jasper, Cole, and Marco were choosing their bunks. This is such a minor scene, but I related to it so much. I’ve endured it in my own life as I figured out–and am still figuring out–who are my true friends. Cole (who was Jasper’s first ever Bounder friend) wanted him and Jasper to have the front bunks, but Marco (at this point, Cole still does not trust Marco) wanted Jasper to sleep in the back bunks. Knowing that it was a true test of friendship for Cole, Jasper decided to stay with him and sleep in the front bunks. This scene right here made the whole book for me, and it is why Cole is my favorite character. For me, the small details in my fellow peers’ behavior during our interactions tell me if they truly think of me as a friend. That’s why I am just like Cole–we are both very sensitive to this and know when someone is truly treating us as a friend. I’ve had classmates who I thought of as friends treat me as if I’m invisible when they’re around closer friends. Some don’t acknowledge my existence when they are with others. Many others treat me as an “answer key” in school and only talk to me when they need something. I’ve lost many old friends from this and realized I needed to cut off certain people from my life. It hurts. It still hurts. And it hurts a lot. Yet to be able to see this same thing happen to Cole gave me comfort. It showed me that I’m not alone. That scene alone gave me strength, and it reminded me that I don’t want to do what my peers did to me. I need to treat others how I want to be treated–as a friend. This is one of the first times I have been able to relate to a character on this deep of a level. I seriously wish Cole and I were friends in real life; he and I could get along really well.

Earth Force Rising helped me further embrace the person I am. I saw myself in every single character: my talkative and extroverted personality in Lucy, my tendency to know-it-all and nerd out in Cole, my sometimes-reckless curiosity in Marco, my awkwardness and desire to do the right thing in Jasper, and my conflicted courage and timidity in Mira. I truly felt like I fitted in with everybody at the Earthbound Academy, and I miss it so much. Almost every day, I have a nostalgic yearn to jump back into Earth Force Rising. I’ve already devoured book two because I wanted to continue this journey with everybody. I’ve had the same exact emotions as I did when I left Boys’ State and HITES11–the deep desire to just want to go back. Earth Force Rising gave me the epiphany that the world doesn’t need more of everyone else; it needs one of us, one version of our unique selves to stand out and bring more color to the lives of others. It needs one of me, and it needs one of you.

I could have talked about the world-building or the plot (which both were immersive with imagination and intrigue), but almost every good sci-fi and fantasy novel has both of them. But what makes a story go from great to extraordinary is how it impacts you. The feelings for the book does not end when you finish it; it stays with you for a very long. I know I throw around that phrase a lot in my reviews, but Earth Force Rising is the first book I’ve ever constantly thought about and missed for days on end. It is what the amazing Mr. Schu calls a “forever book,” one that will stay with you for the rest of your life. After reading Earth Force Rising and The Tundra Trials, I already know that the Bounders series are my forever books! I don’t think I’m ever going to forget how much Earth Force Rising has made me feel like I am truly home.


About the AuthorMonica Tesler

Monica Tesler is the author of the Bounders series, a middle grade science fiction adventure series about the first class of cadets at the EarthBound Academy for quantum space travel. The Heroes Return, the fourth title in the five book series, is due out in December. Monica lives outside of Boston with her family. For more information, you can visit her website, monicatesler.com.

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Happy Reading!

+ J.M.J.

~ Kester

“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” — Mother Teresa

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

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