November and December 2018 Reading Recap

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


5 Stars

The Last Cherry Blossom by Kathleen Burkinshaw

The Last Cherry Blossom

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The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (Reread)

the book thief

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Everlasting Nora by Marie Miranda Cruz

Everlasting Nora

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The Rat Prince by Bridget Hodder

The Rat Prince

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A Time to Die by Nadine Brandes

A Time to Die

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A Time to Speak by Nadine Brandes

A Time to Speak

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A Time to Rise by Nadine Brandes

A Time to Rise

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Top 10 Books of 2018 — The Year of Middle Grade

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


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10. Kat Greene Comes Clean by Melissa Roske

Kat Greene Comes Clean

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

9. Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

Fish in a Tree

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

8. Open If You Dare by Dana Middleton

Open If You Dare

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

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

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

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

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About the BookThe Royal Order of Fighting Dragons

Born to… Fight?

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

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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.

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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 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.

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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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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”

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

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


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.

Goodreads

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


 

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”

Author Interview with Mark Falkin, Literary Agent and YA Apocalyptic Author of The Late Bloomer

Hi guys! Today, I’m celebrating my school’s homecoming! Roll Red Roll! Man, it’s pretty sad that this is my senior year homecoming–and my last homecoming as a high school student. I’m going to be celebrating as I cheer on my school at tonight’s football game. Roll Red Roll! Mark Falkin is here on the blog to talk about his latest book The Late Bloomer, which releases on October 16th from California Coldblood. It sounds really chilling and intriguing, so I hope you enjoy this interview and check out Mark’s book!


About the BookThe Late Bloomer

Imagine THE STAND told with the intimacy of THIRTEEN REASONS WHY.

A keening wail heralded the end of the world.

It came from everywhere. After it passed, most of the world’s population was gone—either taken by a bizarre affliction or their own hand—leaving behind a stunned and altered race controlled by a shadowy superintelligence.

Opposing this threat are the late bloomers—teens for whom puberty was delayed.

Within these pages lies the transcript of a recording made by one of those late bloomers. His name’s Kevin March. When the apocalypse hit, he was about to get kicked out of his high school marching band for smoking pot. Kevin’s bright, wise beyond his years, and he just might be meant for something big in the new world order—if he can survive it.

Going on the run to find his little brother, Kevin teams up with his biggest crush, Kodie, and his best friend, Bass. The trio strike out across Texas in search of food, shelter, and answers.

Mark Falkin, bestselling author of Contract City, returns with a young adult thriller that combines shades of Lovecraft, Salinger, and Twain, all of it told in Kevin’s unforgettable voice.

The Late Bloomer releases from California Coldblood on October 16th. Pre-order it today!

Goodreads

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


Mark Falkin Interview.png

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

What Bernard Malamud said: I’d be too moved to say. But to try to say: It’s a compulsion. Naively, I think maybe it’s an attempt to explain life to myself. I don’t get any real solid answers, but sometimes I feel maybe I’ve got it cornered, this explanation.

In third and fourth grade I would make these holiday themed puzzle books for my classmates. I’d create this hand drawn book and ask my Dad to run off copies at work which he dutifully did, having his secretary do it. She stapled them too. The teacher was flummoxed and thrilled at my self-aggrandizing precociousness, helping me hand them out at home room around Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and Easter. They were mini versions of those Highlights kids’ magazines and they uniformly contained a word search, a crossword, a maze you solved with your finger or pencil, hidden pictures, and flash fiction. Really flash—“I saw Santa in my living room on Christmas Eve and he’s sure fat alright.” The looks on my classmates’ faces trying to solve my puzzles, read my little story… oh, I was hooked then. Orwell wrote of the sheer egoism of the writer. I felt that glory in Third Grade.

Skip to high school and I found myself doodling epigrams in the margins of whatever we were doing in AP English class. These later bloomed into bad poetry. I did the bad poetry thing off and on through college and law school. In law school I thought I could do what Grisham did and write a novel my first year, that blistering 1L year. Um, no, I didn’t pull that off, but I did start a novel that I published ten years later.

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

I can longlist some writers who combined form my lodestar: Stewart O’Nan, Daniel Woodrell, Douglas Coupland, Stephen King, Karen Russell, Barker, Palahniuk, Lethem, DFW, Ellis, Proulx, McCarthy, McGuane, William Gibson, Bradbury, Updike, Capote, Oates, TC Boyle, Sedaris. Steve Martin’s Cruel Shoes. Oh and Vonnegut, Kerouac, and the insufferable personality that is Hunter S. Thompson.

I cannot say who’s the most impactful, per se. I just know that these writers formed me.

Lately: Tommy Orange inspires me. Merritt Tierce inspires me. Emil Ferris inspires me. Billy Collins inspires me. Joan Didion inspires me. Kate Tempest inspires me.

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

I’m a literary agent and erstwhile/recovering music and IP attorney. I wish writing was full-time, but then I’d miss out on my clients’, and clients-to-be, exciting new work.

4. Your upcoming YA dystopian novel The Late Bloomer chronicles one teen’s journey when a cataclysm strikes Earth, but it’s unlike any apocalypse seen in fiction. What inspired this end-of-the-world scenario? In your opinion, how does your novel stand out from other books in the apocalyptic/dystopian genre?

The Late BloomerIt’s an apocalyptic/postapocalyptic novel, not dystopian, and it’s not straight YA either. It’s a crossover novel. That’s not me saying that; that’s pro readers and other writers saying that, so.

Ultimately, I love the genre. What inspired me was that I wanted to write a horror novel that was unlike anything else out there and that was the scariest thing I could think of and what makes it scary isn’t just a set piece here, a set piece there, but something that holistically makes you shudder, making you feel something deeper than just simple fear but rather a resonating poignancy through the pathos. What makes this story unique is that it avoids the well-worn tropes. There are no zombies, viruses or virals, no doomsday asteroid, no aliens, no environmental cataclysm, no nuclear holocaust.

As far as direct inspiration, the three simultaneous sparks were these: There’s a line in Lord of the Flies that goes You knew, didn’t you? I’m part of you? Close, close, close! I’m the reason why it’s no go? Why things are what they are? and a little supernova exploded in my mind and I probably said behind clenched teeth in public “that’s it!” The book’s working title was No Go for a long time and was even initially pitched with that title. There’s that and there’s a certain work of fiction that I can’t disclose for spoilage reasons; the way it made, still makes, me feel . . . I approached this book at the outset from the standpoint of wanting to make the reader feel like I did reading that work. And then there’s this: a few people reading might remember these emails I used to send out during October years ago, I think 1998 through 2003. They were these epistolary little stories that came in bi-weekly installments that I called the Chronicles of Spooky Month which over the years got longer, less funny and more scary. In maybe 2012 I attempted to take a run at it again for fun and as a palette cleanser. I wrote a couple thousand words and put it away, never sending anything out. This was the impetus for The Late Bloomer. This book really is an all-grows-up, exploded version of that. Pure fun. Labor of love.

Continue reading “Author Interview with Mark Falkin, Literary Agent and YA Apocalyptic Author of The Late Bloomer”

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.

Goodreads

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


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”