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!

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Beatrice Zinker, Upside Down Thinker: Incognito by Shelley Johannes Blog Tour — Spotlight Post

Hi guys! Happy October!! Today is the first day of October, and that means Fall is in the air! Woo hoo! Today I am kicking off the blog tour for Beatrice Zinker, Upside Down Thinker: Incognito, an MG contemporary novel about a 3rd grader who loves all things spy-related. I’ve seen a lot of great things about it in the MG community, so I am very excited to share with y’all this a little more about the book!

Beatrice Zinker Incognito Blog Tour.jpg


About the BookBeatrice Zinker Incognito

Title: Beatrice Zinker, Upside Down Thinker: Incognito

Author: Shelley Johannes

Pub. Date: September 18, 2018

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Formats: Hardcover, Paperback, eBook, audiobook

Pages: 224

Synopsis: In book two of the Beatrice Zinker series, Operation Upside is finally in full swing! But when Beatrice’s over-enthusiasm lands Mrs. Tamarack with a Strictest Certificate, the team has to scale back a bit.

Lying low is not exactly Beatrice’s strong suit, especially when she sees someone who desperately needs to be recognized. But when the certificate meant for him falls into the wrong hands, Beatrice and Lenny have to find a way to widen their circle once again to save Operation Upside, and themselves, from trouble.

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About the AuthorShelley Johannes

Before becoming an author-illustrator, Shelley began her creative career with ten years in architecture—where she fell in love with felt-tip pens, tracing paper, and the greatness of black turtlenecks. She currently lives in Metro Detroit, Michigan with her husband and two sons.

Beatrice Zinker, Upside Down Thinker is the first book she’s written. She looks forward to more upside down adventures with Beatrice.

Website |  Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Goodreads


Did Someone Say… Giveaway?

3 winners will win a finished copy of BEATRICE ZINKER, UPSIDE DOWN THINKER: INCOGNITO, US Only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Follow the Rest of the Tour Here!

Link to Tour Schedule

Week One:

10/1/2018- LILbooKloversSpotlight Post (Excerpt will be added once I receive it)

10/2/2018- A Fictional Bookworm– Review

10/3/2018- Beagles & Books– Review

10/4/2018- Oh Hey! Books.– Excerpt

10/5/2018- Patriotic Bookaholic– Review

Week Two:

10/8/2018- Rhythmicbooktrovert– Review

10/9/2018- Christen Krumm Review

10/10/2018- For the Love of KidLit– Spotlight

10/11/2018- BookHounds YA– Review

10/12/2018- Two Points of Interest– Review


Happy Reading!

+ J.M.J.

~ Kester

“Our Lord does not look so much at the greatness of our actions, or even at their difficulty, as at the love with which we do them.” — St. Thérèse of Lisieux

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

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ARC Review: The Right Hook of Devin Velma by Jake Burt — A Charming Story about Fame and Friendship that Felt Real and Relatable

Hi guys! Today’s review is on The Right Hook of Devin Velma, the long-awaited sophomore standalone novel of Jake Burt, who wrote the heartwarming debut Greetings from Witness Protection! I definitely enjoyed his first novel, so I was really excited to be able to have the opportunity to read his next one! If you had missed it, Jake was recently on my blog with Rebecca Donnelly in August’s LILbooKtalk on “Back to School: Instilling a Love of Reading in Students.” Don’t miss it–it was an amazing discussion! I hope you enjoy this review!


About The Right Hook of Devin VelmaThe Right Hook of Devin Velma

From the author of Greetings from Witness Protection! comes another unforgettable middle-grade novel about friendship and family.

Devin wants to hit it big on the internet by pulling a stunt at an NBA game–one the entire nation will be watching. Addison can’t turn Devin down, but he can barely manage talking to his teachers without freezing up. How’s he supposed to handle the possibility of being a viral sensation?

Addi’s not sure why Devin is bent on pulling off this almost-impossible feat. Maybe it has something to do with Devin’s dad’s hospital bills. Maybe it all goes back to the Double-Barreled Monkey Bar Backflip of Doom. Or maybe it’s something else entirely. No matter what, though, it’s risky for both of them, and when the big day finally comes, Devin’s plan threatens more than just their friendship.

With memorable protagonists and a wonderful supporting cast, The Right Hook of Devin Velma is a one-of-kind knockout in middle-grade fiction.

The Right Hook of Devin Velma releases from Feiwel & Friends on October 2nd! Pre-order it today!

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4 Stars

Disclaimer: I received a free ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This will not affect my review in any way. Please note that this review is based off an uncorrected galley, so changes could have been made in the published draft.

When I first started The Right Hook of Devin Velma, the story did not click with me at first, and I had to set it down since I wanted to read another book at the time. Weeks later, I decided to restart and pick it back up, and I did not ever want to put it down. I finished most of it in one sitting. The Right Hook of Devin Velma is a charming story about two young boys attempting to preserve their friendship and their families as they formulate a plan to gain fame and fortune. Throughout the story, I laughed and I cried. I cringed and I celebrated. I loved and I understood. Ultimately, it made me feel grateful that I have a tremendous outpouring of support from my three best friends and my caring family.

Continue reading “ARC Review: The Right Hook of Devin Velma by Jake Burt — A Charming Story about Fame and Friendship that Felt Real and Relatable”

Exclusive Interview with Lauren Gibaldi, YA Contemporary Author of Autofocus

Hi guys! Today, Lauren Gibaldi is here to talk about Autofocus, a book that I won in a giveaway and really enjoyed. I met Lauren back at the SE-YA Book Festival in March, and she was super nice and sweet! I’m so glad to have her on the blog, and I hope you enjoy this interview!


About the BookAutofocus

From the author of The Night We Said Yes comes a fun and heartfelt YA contemporary tale. When Maude decides to search for information about her birth mother, she finds out more than she expected. Perfect for fans of Stephanie Perkins and Susane Colasanti.

Family. It’s always been a loaded word for Maude, whose birth mother died after giving her up for adoption. With her best friend, Treena, in college in the same town where her birth mother grew up, Maude decides to visit and explore her past. But when Maude arrives, she quickly discovers that Treena doesn’t seem to have time for her—or for helping with her search. Enter Bennett, a cute guy who lives in Treena’s dorm. He understands Maude’s need to find her mother. And as Bennett helps Maude, she starts to realize that her mother’s past doesn’t have to define her own future.

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Lauren Gibaldi Interview.png

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

I love writing because it transports me. It’s the same reason I love reading, too. It’s an experience, even when it’s hard. I started writing young, in a diary, with zero pressure. And I think that’s what made it great for me- those early years when I was just given a dairy and able to write whatever I wanted without fear of it being bad.

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

Along with being an author, I’m a librarian, so it’s pretty impossible for me to choose favorites! I read a lot of YA, obviously, and a lot of picture books due to having young children. I listen to adult fiction audio books because I like being inspired on my way to work. And I mostly read graphic novels whenever I’m writing. (I don’t like reading novels when writing.) I think three books influenced my writing the most – Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares, and The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. I read them all in college, and they helped me understand what I wanted to write.

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

I’m a full-time librarian!

Autofocus4. I really enjoyed your sophomore YA romance novel Autofocus, which follows high school senior Maude, who was adopted as a child, as she explores deeper into her mother’s past and discovers the true meaning of family. How do you explore adoption throughout your novel? For readers were or are adopted, how do you want them to be impacted as they read Autofocus?

Thank you! The main idea behind Autofocus is wondering if who we are is determined by birth (nature), or if we can change as we grow (nurture). Maude has no clue who her mother was, so she’s not sure if this person she’s becoming as she finishes up high school is inspired by her birth mother, or by her mom/dad/friends. (She differentiates mother vs. mom.) I think, even though it’s an experience very specific to adopted teens, the feeling is pretty common for any teen–figuring out who you are, apart from influences. As for readers, I’m just happy they’re seeing themselves in a book. To see that their experience, though unique, can also be universal.

Continue reading “Exclusive Interview with Lauren Gibaldi, YA Contemporary Author of Autofocus”

ARC Review: The Eleventh Trade by Alyssa Hollingsworth — A Highly Relevant Story that Will Melt, Break, and Re-Piece Your Heart Over and Over Again

Hi guys! One of the biggest reasons I love Middle Grade is that it tackles such big issues in such simple yet beautiful ways. The Eleventh Trade by Alyssa Hollingsworth is one of the books. I had the awesome pleasure to host Alyssa on the blog a few months ago as part of the June LILbooKtalk on “Never Losing Hope in a Future of Uncertainty,” and I was able to get an ARC of her debut novel and read it. It definitely did not disappoint! The Eleventh Trade just released a few days, and you definitely need to go get it!


About The Eleventh TradeThe Eleventh Trade

From debut author Alyssa Hollingsworth comes a story about living with fear, being a friend, and finding a new place to call home.

They say you can’t get something for nothing, but nothing is all Sami has. When his grandfather’s most-prized possession―a traditional Afghan instrument called a rebab―is stolen, Sami resolves to get it back. He finds it at a music store, but it costs $700, and Sami doesn’t have even one penny. What he does have is a keychain that has caught the eye of his classmate. If he trades the keychain for something more valuable, could he keep trading until he has $700? Sami is about to find out.

The Eleventh Trade is both a classic middle school story and a story about being a refugee. Like Katherine Applegate, author of Wishtree, Alyssa Hollingsworth tackles a big issue with a light touch.

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4 Stars

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

From the very first chapter—in fact, page—of The Eleventh Trade, I knew I was in for something very special. It’s very rare for me to have that feeling super early on in the story, and my hunch was right. The Eleventh Trade is one of the most heart-warming and inspirational books I have ever read. The ending made me tear up, and I have not cried from reading a story in such a long time. I can’t even remember the last time I ever did that from a book. The Eleventh Trade will break and re-piece your heart over and over again. Readers will rejoice with Sami during his triumphs and become saddened by his failures.

Alyssa Hollingsworth’s debut novel helped changed my perspective on the refugee crisis today. It is a vivid and real portrayal of the struggles that Afghan refugees endure as they adjust to life in the United States. Sami had to face so many trials during his quest to gain back his grandfather’s rebab, such as raising money from virtually nothing, dealing with an impending deadline, being forced to lie to his only remaining relative, enduring vile racism from one of his classmates, and coping with trauma from a horrific experience in Afghanistan. You don’t really think about the struggles that these people have and had to go through during their search for a better life. It’s shocking to think how many refugees such as Sami are being labeled as terrorists out of racism and prejudice in their new countries while terrorist groups oppressed them and their family members out of pure evil in their home countries. It’s very rattling to think about this. This is the reason why I love contemporary Middle Grade so much—novels such as The Eleventh Trade cover such important issues in a way that wrenches your heart, changes your viewpoint, and makes you love the goodness in humanity even more.

Sami’s story of perseverance is truly inspiring. His quest to raise $700 to buy back his grandfather’s rebab is full of new friends, moments of triumph, bouts of trouble, and ultimately love and sacrifice. I fell in love with Sami from the very first page, and I rooted for him to succeed every step of the way. His deep affection for his grandfather and for the music of his mother nation is very contagious—I truly could feel the passion he had for soccer, for his family and friends, and for the rebab. I loved how this tragedy turned out to be a blessing in disguise: He not only found new friends but also a newfound hope for a better future.

The Eleventh Trade is truly one of the most memorable and touching novels I have ever read. From having his grandfather’s rebab stolen to dealing with trauma and racism on his quest to regain it back, Sami is a character that readers will fall in love with and cheer on. Alyssa Hollingsworth’s debut will melt, break, and wrench your heart over and over and over again. Her writing truly emanates the pains, joys, sufferings, and trials of being a refugee from a war-torn nation. I would definitely recommend this book to students, teachers, parents—virtually everyone—in a heartbeat. The Eleventh Trade is a much needed and relevant story in today’s world full of uncertainty, grief, hate, and hope.


About AlyssaAlyssa Hollingsworth

Alyssa was born in small-town Milton, Florida, but life as a roving military kid soon mellowed her (unintelligibly strong) Southern accent. Wanderlust is in her blood, and she’s always waiting for the wind to change. Stories remain her constant. Alyssa received her BA in English with an emphasis in Creative Writing from Berry College and her MA with honors in Writing for Young People at Bath Spa University. In 2013, she won a prize from the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity for her creative non-fiction essay, Naan in the Afghan Village. She is represented by Amber Caraveo at Skylark Literary. Her debut THE ELEVENTH TRADE will launch Fall 2018 with Macmillan (U.S.) and HotKey (U.K.).

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Happy Reading!

+ J.M.J.

~ Kester

Are you excited for The Eleventh Trade? What are some of your favorite books that tackle the refugee crisis?

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

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Author Interview: Ann Braden, MG Contemporary Author of The Benefits of Being an Octopus

Hi guys! Tomorrow, one of the BEST books I’ve read this year–The Benefits of Being an Octopus by Ann Braden–is releasing from Sky Pony Press, and to celebrate, I have Ann, the author of this wonderful novel, here on the blog to talk about her latest novel. A few weeks ago I shared my really really personal review of The Benefits of Being an Octopus. You definitely NEED to read this book. I urge you to pick it up. If I could buy a whole shipment of copies to just hand out to kids and random people, I would do it. This is a book that you do NOT want to miss.


About the BookThe Benefits of Being an Octopus

Some people can do their homework. Some people get to have crushes on boys. Some people have other things they’ve got to do.

Seventh-grader Zoey has her hands full as she takes care of her much younger siblings after school every day while her mom works her shift at the pizza parlor. Not that her mom seems to appreciate it. At least there’s Lenny, her mom’s boyfriend—they all get to live in his nice, clean trailer.

At school, Zoey tries to stay under the radar. Her only friend Fuchsia has her own issues, and since they’re in an entirely different world than the rich kids, it’s best if no one notices them.

Zoey thinks how much easier everything would be if she were an octopus: eight arms to do eight things at once. Incredible camouflage ability and steady, unblinking vision. Powerful protective defenses.

Unfortunately, she’s not totally invisible, and one of her teachers forces her to join the debate club. Even though Zoey resists participating, debate ultimately leads her to see things in a new way: her mom’s relationship with Lenny, Fuchsia’s situation, and her own place in this town of people who think they’re better than her. Can Zoey find the courage to speak up, even if it means risking the most stable home she’s ever had?

This moving debut novel explores the cultural divides around class and the gun debate through the eyes of one girl, living on the edges of society, trying to find her way forward.

The Benefits of Being an Octopus will release from Sky Pony tomorrow! Pre-order it today!

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Ann Braden Interview.png

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

I love writing because stories shape us and change us in inexorable ways (both as the author and as the reader) AND because of the way it uses all parts of my brain!

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

I love realistic fiction. My favorite authors are the ones who make me feel like it’s all real. I still remember reading Sara Zarr’s HOW TO SAVE A LIFE and being so struck by one simple scene where the girl and her mom are in the kitchen making peanut butter toast because it was so incredibly real. And I thought: How did she do that? I want to write like that! Sara Zarr, along with authors like Gary Schmidt and Jason Reynolds showed me that page-turners can be created with emotional arcs instead of snazzy plots. They freed me up to approach this book, not by trying to tell a great story, but simply trying to be as honest as possible.

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

At the moment I’m a part-time writer and a part-time stay-at-home mom. In the past I’ve juggled a variety of different kinds of community organizing work along with my writing. I seem to find the kind of work that takes huge amounts of time, (while paying very little money) – but that feeds my soul and that hopefully helps to get more voices to the table and helps those new voices feel supported.

4. Your MG debut novel The Benefits of Being an Octopus, set to release on September 4th from Sky Pony Press, follows seventh-grader Zoey as she attempts to find her voice while navigating through poverty, loved ones in abusive relationships, and acceptance among her fellow peers. How do you desire for your book to be a bridge between the cultural divides in school? How do you want readers, regardless of financial situation, to be impacted by Zoey’s story?

The Benefits of Being an OctopusI think that too often in our society we discount those who live differently than we do, whether its how much money someone has, what kind of job someone has, or what kind of political views they have. When I was in middle school, I remember being so struck that every person in every car on the road had their own story. And as I got older and got to meet a wide variety of people, I came to believe more strongly that not only do they have their own story, but that nearly every person is trying to do their very best given the circumstances they’re faced with. I hope that readers come away seeing that many of the characters, even the ones they don’t necessarily agree with, are doing the best they can – and that maybe the people around them in real life aren’t so different.

Continue reading “Author Interview: Ann Braden, MG Contemporary Author of The Benefits of Being an Octopus”

Exclusive Interview with Kelly deVos, YA Contemporary Author of Fat Girl on a Plane

Hi guys! Today starts the first full week of school for me, and I am very excited! Senior year is going to be full of some amazing experiences, achievements, friends, and books! High school is coming *quickly* to an end, and I know I need to enjoy each and every day while it lasts. Right now, Kelly deVos is here with me to talk about her debut novel Fat Girl on a Plane, which looks amazing! I hope you enjoy this interview and check out her book!


About the BookFat Girl on a Plane

Fat.

High school senior Cookie Vonn’s post-graduation dreams include getting out of Phoenix, attending Parsons and becoming the next great fashion designer. But in the world of fashion, being fat is a cardinal sin. It doesn’t help that she’s constantly compared to her supermodel mother—and named after a dessert.

Thanks to her job at a fashion blog, Cookie scores a trip to New York to pitch her portfolio and appeal for a scholarship, but her plans are put on standby when she’s declared too fat to fly. Forced to turn to her BFF for cash, Cookie buys a second seat on the plane. She arrives in the city to find that she’s been replaced by the boss’s daughter, a girl who’s everything she’s not—ultrathin and superrich. Bowing to society’s pressure, she vows to lose weight, get out of the friend zone with her crush, and put her life on track.

Skinny.

Cookie expected sunshine and rainbows, but nothing about her new life is turning out like she planned. When the fashion designer of the moment offers her what she’s always wanted—an opportunity to live and study in New York—she finds herself in a world full of people more interested in putting women down than dressing them up. Her designs make waves, but her real dream of creating great clothes for people of all sizes seems to grow more distant by the day.

Will she realize that she’s always had the power to make her own dreams come true?

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Kelly deVos Interview

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

Like a lot of writers, I fell I love first with reading. Around the fifth grade, I became obsessed with Trixie Belden, which is a series of Middle Grade detective novels, similar to Nancy Drew. So I started writing my own Trixie Belden stories, sort of like fan fiction, and this is what made me want to be a writer.

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

At the moment, I tend to read mostly YA. Some recent faves have been have been HOLE IN THE MIDDLE by Kendra Fortmeyer, AMERICAN PANDA by Gloria Chao and THE UNIVERSE IS EXPANDING AND SO AM I by Carolyn Mackler. I guess, in general, I’m attracted to personal, character-driven stories. On the adult side of things, I’m reading SHARP OBJECTS by Gillian Flynn as I am watching the show and I read The Southern Reach Trilogy by Jeff VanderMeer

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

I write 20-30 hours a week so I guess I’d call it my part time job. I’m a graphic designer for a company that sells professional beauty products to salons and stylists. I also enjoy knitting and I collect stickers.

4. Your debut novel Fat Girl on a Plane, which recently released from Harlequin Teen, follows Cookie as she deals with her body image and weight while trying to achieve her dream of becoming a fashion designer. As an advocate for body positivity and fat acceptance, how do you explore these two issues—especially in the fashion industry—throughout your book? Why is it important to address these in Young Adult fiction?

Fat Girl on a PlaneFirst of all, I think it’s vitally important for there to be more fat stories out there. Fat people make up 30-40% of society but are very rarely main characters in fiction and film. I also think young people have a lot of questions when it comes to body images issues, weight loss and diet culture and I wanted to write something that sparked conversations about those topics.

5. What inspired you to write Fat Girl on a Plane, and how have your personal experiences, including your time working in the fashion and beauty industries, shaped and impacted your book?

The novel begins with my character, Cookie Vonn, being declared “too fat to fly.” This was inspired by a real experience I had where I was on a business trip to Salt Lake City and was asked to buy a second seat on the plane. The experience was incredibly humiliating. Afterwards, I started doing research. I went on a lot of travel blogs. There seemed to be two perspectives. Fat people were asking, “How is it okay to treat people like this?” Thin people were asking, “Well, why can’t you just lose weight?” That was the inspiration. I wanted a narrative that spoke to those two questions.

Continue reading “Exclusive Interview with Kelly deVos, YA Contemporary Author of Fat Girl on a Plane”

Exclusive Interview with Jake Burt, MG Author of Greetings from Witness Protection!

Hi guys! In exactly one month, I am going to be off to Washington, D.C., with my choir, and I am super stoked about it! I have always wanted to visit our nation’s capital, and I am super blessed that I have this opportunity to go there along with my fantastic choir that I have definitely bonded so much with over the last few months. Speaking of the government (haha, Kester, good/cheesy segue), today I am having Jake Burt, author of Greetings from Witness Protection! on the blog in this exclusive interview, and I am so excited to have him because if you had read my review of his debut, you’ll know why I loved it so much. I hope you enjoy this interview!


About Greetings from Witness Protection!Greetings from Witness Protection!

Nicki Demere is an orphan and a pickpocket. She also happens to be the U.S. Marshals’ best bet to keep a family alive. . . .

The marshals are looking for the perfect girl to join a mother, father, and son on the run from the nation’s most notorious criminals. After all, the bad guys are searching for a family with one kid, not two, and adding a streetwise girl who knows a little something about hiding things may be just what the marshals need.

Nicki swears she can keep the Trevor family safe, but to do so she’ll have to dodge hitmen, cyberbullies, and the specter of standardized testing, all while maintaining her marshal-mandated B-minus average. As she barely balances the responsibilities of her new identity, Nicki learns that the biggest threats to her family’s security might not lurk on the road from New York to North Carolina, but rather in her own past.

Goodreads


 

Jake Burt Interview

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

First off, thanks for hosting me, Kester, and for all you do to support MG and YA literature! To answer your question, I fell in love with stories first. My dad used to read aloud to my brothers and me every night – stuff like The Hobbit and excerpts from Mark Twain’s Roughing It. It was easily the highlight of my day. Then, when I was in grade school, I discovered that I could create my own stories. I had a string of really good teachers who encouraged me (or, rather, at least tolerated my nascent attempts at authorship), and that allowed me to develop a love for the written word.

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

Books: The Hobbit. Le Morte D’Arthur. James and the Giant Peach. The Last Unicorn. Charlotte’s Web. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. Snow Crash. Are You My Mother? The Golden Compass. Faeries. Tuck Everlasting.

Genres: Fantasy. Sci-Fi. Choose-Your-Own-Adventure.

Authors: Tolkien. Malory. Dahl. Pullman. Basically anyone who wrote one of the above books. I’ve also got a special place in my heart for the authors of the books I devoured when I was a kid – sprawling Dungeons and Dragons fantasy novels by R.A. Salvatore; Lone Wolf game books by Joe Dever; sci-fi short stories by Bradbury, Vonnegut, et al. Given all that, you’d think I’d be churning out middle grade fantasy novels, right? I thought so, too. And yet, here I am with MG contemporary…and I couldn’t be happier with the stories I’m telling so far. As far as the writers who had the greatest impact on me and my writing style, though? If I’m being honest with myself, it’s probably TV writers – those behind-the-scenes authors of dialogue I’ve found particularly memorable, of scenes that have stuck with me long after the show is done. It’s often teams of people, so I don’t know precisely who to credit, but I can name characters on shows about whom I think, “I want my MC to talk like that,” far more than passages in books about which I think, “I want to write like that!” (not that I’d turn down having my descriptions compared to E.B. White’s, or anything…)

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

I’m not sure if I’d describe writing as a job. It’s more like a passion. And lest that come across too tritely, I’m talking about the “If I don’t write this story down and get it out of my head, I’m never going to stop obsessing about it” kind of passion, rather than the “The heavens are my muse, inspiring me to the glory that is” sort. Writing IS work, of course, and often times it’s hard work. It just never feels that way to me, because it’s never monotonous. The same goes for my day job – teaching 5th grade. I love both of them, and for similar reasons: they’re nothing like the hardest job I’ve ever had. That dubious honor goes to working a hydraulic press in a gasket factory one summer in Cincinnati, Ohio. It was hard for me because it was repetition. The sameness of it about drove me mad; I have incredible respect for people who can manage it. I couldn’t, so I’ve spent most of my life engaged with careers that allow me to be as intensely creative as I can be. Writing and teaching provide those opportunities.Greetings from Witness Protection!

4. Your debut novel Greetings from Witness Protection!, which released last year, follows Nicki Demere as she joins the Witness Protection Program’s Project Family and adopts a new identity to help protect the Trevor family from those seeking to kill them. How did you research and learn more about WITSEC as you conceived your story? How did you figure out how to portray WITSEC for middle grade readers without sacrificing a thrilling story to avoid anything too “graphic” or “adult?”

I did what research I could on WITSEC, but as you can imagine, there’s not much to go on. It’s not like people in witness protection are lining up to let an author of middle grade fiction interview them about their experiences. I did access the US Marshalls’ website, Google Earth’ed the facility in Glynco, and read whatever accounts I could get my hands on, but much of what I did in portraying WITSEC and the witness protection program was fashioned after how it has been portrayed in other books, movies, and television shows. I figured if I couldn’t get at the truth about WITSEC (and that I couldn’t is decidedly a good thing!), then I could at least portray a version of it that was consistent with the rest of the body of fiction. As far as keeping it kid-friendly? I don’t necessarily know that I did. I hoped that my readers would be able to handle what I put my characters through, and as long as I was honest about the emotions behind it – Nicki’s desire to be part of something, Jackson’s anger, Brit’s trepidation – then it would read true for them. Those are real for kids, and I trusted that they’d relate. This sentiment was explored beautifully by Matt de la Pena in TIME recently, and both his essay and Kate DiCamillo’s response are modern-day required reading for MG authors, as far as I’m concerned. Check them out here: http://time.com/5093669/why-we-shouldnt-shield-children-from-darkness/

Continue reading “Exclusive Interview with Jake Burt, MG Author of Greetings from Witness Protection!”

Review: Lucky Few by Kathryn Ormsbee

Hi guys! Back in March, I had the lovely opportunity to meet Kathryn Ormsbee at the SE-YA Book Festival, and she is also a local Tennessee author living in Nashville (one of my favorite cities in the world). I was able to interview her here on the blog (which you can find here), and today I have the chance to review her debut YA novel Lucky Few! I hope you enjoy!


About the Book-2

Stevie, Max, and Sanger: keeping Austin weird.

Stevie Hart is homeschooled, but don’t hold that against her. Sure, she and her best (okay, only) friend, Sanger, will never be prom queens, but that’s just because the Central Austin Homeschool Cooperative doesn’t believe in proms. Or dancing. Still, Stevie and Sanger know how to create their own brand of fun.

Enter Max Garza, the new boy next door. After a near-fatal accident, Max is determined to defy mortality with a checklist: 23 Ways to Fake My Death Without Dying. Dead set on carrying out fabricated demises ranging from impalement to spontaneous combustion, Max charms Stevie and Sanger into helping him with this two-month macabre mission. But as Stevie finds herself falling for Max, it becomes increasingly difficult to draw a line between his make-believe deaths and her real life.

Goodreads


4 Stars

Disclaimer: I received a free signed copy of this book and some swag from the author. This will not affect my review.

I was really excited when Kathryn sent me signed copies of both her YA contemporaries Lucky Few and Tash Hearts Tolstoy! Lucky Few has been on my to-be-read list for a long time, partly because she was a SE-YA 2017 author and the cover is so cute. This book did not disappoint! I had such a fun, exciting adventure with Stevie, Sanger, and Max. Lucky Few is one of those novels that you could laugh and cry in one sitting. Just like your closest friendships (it definitely reminds me of mine), you don’t want this book to end–you just want it to go on and let the good times continue!

One of my favorite aspects of this book was Stevie’s narration. Kathryn Ormsbee has an amazing gift for making first-person narrators so unique and entertaining. She conveyed the homeschooled experience very authentically, and I really enjoyed reading about how the homeschooling process works. Stevie also is one of the most memorable narrators I’ve ever read–her voice stands out from the other first-person accounts I have read in past books. From page one, I fell in love with Stevie’s character and how she told her story, and that’s an uncommon thing you see in stories. However, Ormsbee managed to accomplish for me a love of the main character at first sight.

I also loved the friendship between Stevie, Sanger, and Max! The author transported me so much into the story that I both laughed and cried (internally for the latter) as if I was part of their group. Their escapades were so fun and entertaining, yet you could feel the bonds of their friendship really strongly on a different level. Each character was also so unique yet likeable too. From Sanger’s eccentric personality to Max’s desire to fake his own death 23 times, you’ll just fall in love with them. The evolution of their relationships (both friendly and romantic) definitely drove the story really well, showing both their good times and bad times. I wish I was actually able to meet them in person!

Lucky Few is one of the most entertaining and huggable YA contemporary novels I have ever read! You will definitely fall in love with it from page one! From the author’s mastering of making the narrator’s voice unique (which Ormsbee also does in her newest book Tash Hearts Tolstoy) to the main characters’ fun friendship, Lucky Few infuses both the light and dark moments all friendships go through as Stevie, Sanger, and Max not only get closer to each other but also discover more about their identities. I will definitely be looking forward to more of Kathryn Ormsbee’s works! Her writing style is entertaining, unique, and amazing–which also describes her books.


About the Author17757389_1897609900518878_42671521515359918_n

Kathryn Ormsbee writes books & songs in Nashville, TN. Her debut YA, LUCKY FEW, published June 2016 with Simon & Schuster. Her next YA, TASH HEARTS TOLSTOY, comes out June 6, 2017.

Kathryn also writes Middle Grade fantasy novels as K.E. Ormsbee. She is the author of THE WATER AND THE WILD series and the upcoming standalone THE HOUSE IN POPLAR WOOD (Chronicle Books, 2018).

In her wild, early years, Kathryn taught English as a Foreign Language, interned with a film society, and did a lot of irresponsible road tripping. Nowadays, she teaches piano lessons, records a weekly true crime podcast with her sister, and runs races she never wins. She likes clothes from the 60s, music from the 70s, and movies from the 80s. She is from the 90s. You can visit her online at keormsbee.com or follow her on Twitter & Instagram @kathsby.

WebsiteTwitter | Instagram | Goodreads


Happy Reading!

+ J.M.J.

~ Kester

Have you read Lucky Few or any of Kathryn’s books? Do you love YA contemporary?

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

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Exclusive Interview with Monika Schröder

Guten tag! (“Good day!” in German) It’s Kester again with another interview with another amazing author. A few weeks ago, I finished a book that has a special place in my heart: Be Light Like a Bird by Monika Schröder. I had the great honor of meeting her at the SE-YA Book Festival earlier in March, and I had so much fun talking to her! I am so glad I got to interview her, and I hope you enjoy!

Monika

1. How would you describe your book Be Light Like a Bird in your own words? 

BE LIGHT LIKE A BIRD is the story of 12-year old Wren who looses her father in a planecrash. It is a story of a girl who learns to trust who she is and, while coping with her grief, also bonds in a new and unexpected way with her mother.

2. How did the story come about?BeLightLikeaBird

I often start a book with setting. The ‘seed idea’ for Be Light Like a Bird came to me the first time I saw a landfill. My husband and I had cleaned out the cabin my husband inherited from his father in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. I couldn’t believe it when he drove all the stuff to a landfill nearby, a big hole where people bury unwanted items. In Germany we recycle or incinerate most of our garbage, so it left an impression on me when I saw a guy dropping a vacuum cleaner, a book shelf and an entire carpet into the landfill…a cemetery for junk. I learned more about this landfill and read about the people in the community who had fought its expansion. Then I asked myself a “What if…?” question: What if there were a girl who loved birds and whose bird watching was threatened by the expansion of the landfill? Once I had that girl in my mind, I found myself asking more and more about her life. How did she get to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula? And why was birding so important to her? I learned that her father had recently died and that her mother had more or less dragged her up north. She was grieving and lonely and once she arrived in Upper Michigan she came up with a plan to make her mother stay. From there the story of Wren developed.

Continue reading “Exclusive Interview with Monika Schröder”