Tell Me Tuedsay :Author Matt de la Pena and Middle Grade Book Reviews

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Tell Me Tuesday !

TMT is a weekly blog post put on by LaLa in the Library where we discuss what we have read, what we will read, and what we are currently reading.

 

These are the books I am currently reading.

I received this ARC at BookCon in Chicago.

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I made it my goal this summer to read the Outlander series.  I started book one and I am really enjoying it so far.

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I just got The Crown’s Game at the Library today and plan on starting it soon! I have heard great things about it.

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I have been reading some Middle Grade books this week. It was fun to revisit and I look forward to reading more MG in the future.  Reviews of those books are below.

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It was an exciting week because I got to meet….

Author Matt de la Pena!!!

I just got back from meeting Matt de la Pena at my local library.  This is the second time I have met him and I have to say he is one of the nicest authors out there.  Also, he is hilarious.  He has such a great story of how he became a writer.  Matt grew up poor in California near the Mexican border.  He wanted to go to college but couldn’t afford it so he worked really hard at basketball and got a full scholarship to the University of the Pacific.  From there he went to San Diego State University to get a Masters in Fine Arts in creative writing.  In his first couple of books he takes from experiences he had as a child.  I read his second book, Mexican Whiteboy, which I blogged about last week. Click HERE to read my review.  I brought, We Were Here, to be signed and was happy to hear that it is one of his favorite books.  I can’t wait to read it!

Middle Grade Book Reviews

For a change of pace, I read three different Middle Grade books this week and I loved each of them!

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Gertie’s Leap to Greatness by Kate Beasley

5 stars out of 5

I LOVED THIS BOOK! It was so stinking adorable! I grew up with Beverly Cleary’s Ramona series and Judy Blum’s Fudge series so this book totally took me back to my 10 year old self.  Gertie is a determined, adventurous, stubborn, fifth grader.  She lives with her aunt because her dad works on an oil rig and can only come home a few days at a time.  Gertie’s mom left when she was a baby and believes if she is the best fifth grader in the whole class, her mom will have to take her back.  However, on the first day of school, there is a new girl who threatens to become the best fifth grader.  Her name is Mary Sue and she moved from California because her dad is making a movie.  What ensues is a rivalry between the two of them. I love Gertie’s determination to accomplish all of her goals even when it seems the whole fifth grade class is against her.  There are some laugh out loud moments and adorable illustrations in this book as well.  This is Ms. Beasley’s debut novel and it sounds like it will be a series.  I definitely look forward to more of her books. This book will be out October 4, 2016

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Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo

5 starts out of 5

What a fun book with such interesting characters! Raymie meets two girls, Louisiana and Beverly, at her baton twirling lesson. Raymie and Louisiana are learning baton twirling in hope to help them win the Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition. Beverly’s goal is to sabotage the competition which worries Raymie because she wants to win so that her dad will see it in the paper and come back home.
Each of the girls are having a hard time in their lives. Louisiana is poor and lives with her Grandma who drives like a maniac. Louisiana wants to win the competition so that she can buy her cat back from the pound. Beverly is angry a lot and hangs out with the girls to keep from having to go home. The author does a wonderful job of creating such diverse and interesting characters, There are many funny and heart warming moments along with some heart breaking and suspenseful moments. I haven’t read any of Ms. DiCamillo’s other books but I know they have won many literary awards. I may have to check those out soon!  This book is currently in book stores.

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Be Light Like a Bird by Monika Schroder

4.5 stars out of 5

Wren’s father died in a plane crash so her and her mom decide to start over and move to a new part of the country.  In reality, Wren’s mother is running away from her husband’s death.  Wren has to deal with her dad’s death on her own. There was no memorial service or funeral so she copes by finding roadkill and burying it.  (It is a bit morbid but I like the metaphor).  Wren also deals with her pain by visiting a nature reserve, Pete’s Pond, to bird watch like she did with her dad.  A school project at school teams her up with Theo, who has recently lost his mom to cancer.  They discover that Pete’s Pond is in danger of being turned into a landfill and they want to convince the community to save it.  What I loved most about this book is all the adults that help Wren deal with her anger towards her mother and her grief over her dad.  I think this is a great message for kids who are having a hard time dealing with things.  Adults and friends can help. The author does a great job showing how adults deal with grief is so different than how kids deal with grief.  A great book on forgiveness, love, and perseverance. This book comes out September 1, 2016

 

 

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Fun in the Sun Summer Reads and Author Interview

 

Summer has officially begun! Woohoo!

My family and I just got back from a vacation to California.  While I was there, I got to see one of my favorite authors, Bethany Crandell, do a YA panel at Barnes and Noble.  She is the author of Summer on the Short Bus and was gracious enough to let me ask her some questions.  Look for the interview below after a couple quick book reviews.

Since Summer is in full swing,  I thought I would share with you some of my summer reads so far that take place during SUMMER.

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Mexican Whiteboy by Matt de la Pena ( 4 OUT OF 5 STARS)

This was a great book about baseball, summer, friends, and family. Danny goes to visit his Mexican relatives in San Diego. He is a bit self conscience that he is only half Mexican and can’t speak Spanish. His mom is spending the summer in San Francisco and he doesn’t know where his dad is. Danny’s cousin,Sofia, introduces Danny to her friends when they go to the park. There are a bunch of boys playing baseball. Danny loves baseball and played at his old school. The boys in the neighborhood can’t believe how good Danny is. He can hit the ball over the fence every time and pitch 95 mph fast balls. Lots of summer fun ensues with a bit of teen romance mixed in. The author does a great job of capturing the culture of Hispanics in San Diego and capturing the freedom of summer as a kid.  A fun summer read.

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You Know Me Well by Nina LaCour and David Levithan

(4 out of 5 stars)

This story is told from two perspectives, Mark and Kate. They meet one night at a dance club but they are there with other people. They become fast friends because they are each dealing with relationship problems. Mark is in love with his best friend, Ryan, who just met someone at the dance club. Kate, a talented painter, is having anxiety issues about meeting Violet later that night. Through a series of lucky coincidences, Kate and Mark leave the dance club and go to a party at a well known photographer and artist. The next Monday at school, everyone is talking about Kate and how her paintings are in the paper. Kate’s anxiety increases. Mark is heartbroken that Ryan has found a boyfriend and now he feels he has lost his best friend. Kate and Mark help each other through these trials which causes Kate’s best friend to be jealous and resentful of Mark. This is a great book about how friendships change in high school and the pressures of dating, college, growing up, and staying true to yourself. So technically this book doesn’t take place during summer but it takes place during the last week of school which is close enough.

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Yay! You made it to the best part of the Blog Post, the interview with Bethany Crandell!!!

I met Bethany on Twitter about two years ago where I was introduced to her book, Summer on the Short Bus. I had never read anything like it.  I loved this truthful and sometimes brutally honest book about not only kids with special needs but the attitudes of others towards those kids. The main character, Cricket, is basically a rich, spoiled brat. She is forced to help at a special needs camp for teens for 2 weeks. At first, Cricket, is mortified by what she sees and some of the disabilities some of these kids have. To be honest, I cringed at some of the things Cricket said but I also know that this is exactly how SOME, not all, people feel when they are around special needs people. I have witnessed it first hand. With that said, there are a lot of funny and cute moments especially as Cricket starts to realize that these teens, especially the girls, are a lot like her. They just want to be noticed by boys and feel beautiful and do the same things other “normal” teen age girls do.

OK without further adieu here is the Interview!

J: How did Summer on the Short Bus come about?

B: The original concept had nothing to do with exploring special needs kids. It was just the idea of the short bus follies and how could I get a bunch of kids that would be on a short bus to a talent show and it kind of evolved from there.  Going deeper than that, my own daughter is special needs I was trying to figure out how I was going to be true to myself and forge an honest relationship with her even though she has special needs. The world kind of deals with special needs people with kid gloves and you can’t joke with them or make fun of those quirks that make them unique.  It is a free for all at our house.  Everyone gets picked on equally. I wanted to be the most authentic mom I could be to her.

J: Growing up did you always want to be an author?

B: No, but I knew I would do something creative.  I used to write all the time but I didn’t have an idea where that was going. I wrote a lot of poetry in high school.  Really, really, bad poetry. I drew a lot but I am an awful artist. When my youngest was two and because she had this diagnosis now I didn’t want to be the parent who’s job becomes their special need kid.  There are parents who if they have a special needs kids that becomes what they do; they take care of the kid. God bless them but that is not me.  I thought there has got to be more than going to a job everyday and being a mom and a wife and where did Bethany go?  My best friend from high school told me after SOTSB was published that I had always talked about wanting to write and get published but I don’t remember any of that.

J: Where is your favorite place to write?

B: At my little desk in my little office which is in the garage.

J:What is your writing process? Are you a plotter or a pantser (write by the seat of your pants)?

B: I am a little bit of both.  I can’t move forward if I don’t have some kind of a plan.  I really allow myself a wide berth because my brain hamster (his name is Melvin) starts rolling and sometimes I don’t know where he is taking me but if I move too fast he will inevitably stop me dead in my tracks.  This current project I am working on I can’t tell you how many nights I was screaming and crying and punching the pillow because I didn’t know what the next step was and it was because I made a wrong choice ten pages earlier. So there is benefit at being able to write both ways.  I think if you plan too much you are going to do your story a disservice.

J: What are you currently working on?

B: I am working on a book about mental illness. It is about a girl and how she is coping with her best friend’s death.

J: Who is your favorite author?

B: I am a promiscuous reader.  I tend to fall in love with whoever I am reading at the time because I get lost in whatever world they put in front of me.  So  I don’t have a favorite author.

J: Favorite Genre?

B: I love YA. Contempory YA  for sure. Marcy Lyn Curtis wrote a book I just devoured.  It is called The One Thing.  It came out last year; that was a fantastic book.

J: What is The last book you read?

B: The last book I read was Roseblood by A.G. Howard.  It is a fabulous book that is based on the Phantom of the Opera story.

THANKS AGAIN to Bethany for taking time to meet with me.  Even though she hasn’t read the Harry Potter books (I had to throw that in), she is an amazing author and human.  You can check her and her brain hamster, Melvin, out on her webpage HERE or on twitter at @bethanycradell

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Goodreads summary of Summer on the Short Bus

Spoiled, Versace-clad Cricket Montgomery has seventeen years of pampering under her belt. So when her father decides to ship her off to a summer camp for disabled teens to help her learn some accountability, Cricket resigns herself to three weeks of handicapped hell.

Her sentence takes a bearable turn as she discovers the humor and likeability of the campers and grows close to fellow counselors. Now, if she can just convince a certain Zac Efron look-alike with amazing blue eyes that she finally realizes there’s life after Gucci, this summer could turn out to be the best she’s ever had.

Summer on the Short Bus is a very non-P.C., contemporary YA with a lot of attitude, tons of laughs, and a little life lesson along the way.

Book Review: A World Without You by Beth Revis

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Tell Me Tuesday!!! TMT is a weekly blog put on  by LaLa in the Library . It is where we talk about books we have read, are reading, and going to read.

 

Currently Reading

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 Mexican Whiteboy by Matt de la Pena.  This author is coming to my local library later this month so I bought a couple of his more popular books to read.  I am enjoying this one so far.

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Going to read

I picked up You Know Me Well by Nina La Cour and David Levithan at the library.

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I was excited to get an advanced copy of this book by Beth Revis.  I had met the author back in March when I went to SE-YA Fest (south east young adult festival) in Tennessee. Ms. Revis was on an author panel I went to and she was hilarious! I hadn’t read her previous books but I enjoyed how she related to the audience and the other authors on the panel. It definitely made me want to check out her books.  I am thrilled that I loved this book so much.  It comes out July 19th, 2016.

4.5 stars out of 5 for A World Without You by Beth Revis

I devoured this book. Never has a book kept me guessing the whole time at what was going on and I mean that in a good way. The main character, Bo, is seventeen and can go back in time. Because of these special abilities or powers he goes to Berkshire Academy, a school for kids just like him, kids with superpowers. Bo’s friends are, Harold, who talks to ghosts, Gwen, who makes fire with her hands, Sophia, who can turn invisible and, Ryan, who can manipulate minds. Bo’s world gets turned upside down when his classmate and girlfriend, Sophia, goes missing. Bo believes that she got stuck back in 1692 when they time traveled there and he is trying to get back to her and bring her to the present. However, the staff and students at Berkshire tell him that Sophia isn’t stuck back in time but instead she overdosed on her medication and that it was ruled a suicide. This makes Bo more determined to save Sophia. He goes back in time to try and warn her and leave her hints but it isn’t working and to make matters worse, everyone at his school and also his parents keep telling him that he is delusional and doesn’t have the power to go back in time. They tell Bo that the Berkshire Academy isn’t a school for kids with special abilities but for kids that have mental problems. Bo doesn’t believe any of them because he thinks Ryan is manipulating their minds to make the school look normal so it won’t close due to Sophia’s suicide. There is so much more woven into the story that makes you question if Bo is just seeing things in his head or if he does have time travel powers. At one point he even figures out how to go into the future which will really make you question things when you read the last chapter of the book. Like I said, I was still uncertain until the last page of the book and to be honest I am still not sure but I think that is the point. This book touches a bit on mental health issues in teens mostly through comparison and metaphor. The author does a good job explaining the different mental problems that way, for example, Harold’s talking to ghosts is most likely schizophrenia. I think this book is important for people to read to understand the grip that mental problems have on people and what a struggle it can be to face reality.

 

 

Tell Me Tuesday : A a World Without You by Beth Revis and Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin

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Tell Me Tuesday  is a weekly review put on by La La in the Library check out her blog La La in the Library   It is where we talk about books we have read, are reading, and books we are going to read soon! I just got approved to read A World Without You by Beth Revis. I saw her in March in Tennessee and she was hilarious. I am not very far into it since I am on vacation with the family but what I have read so far is very good. It is a time travel book which can sometimes be confusing but so far this one is easy to follow.

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Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin

4.5 stars out of 5

I have never read a book quite like this one before! The book starts with the main character introducing them self as Riley and saying to us that the first thing we will want to know is “Am I a boy or am I a girl?” Guess what? We never find out! Throughout the whole book the author never reveals Riley’s gender because this book is instead about being a human.

Riley is starting school at a new high school looking for a new start. Right away Riley is met with stares and comments about his or her’s appearance. Students whisper to each other wondering if Riley is a chick or a dude. Fortunately, Riley befriends, Solo, a football player who sticks up for Riley to the other football players and,Bec, a girl who mostly keeps to herself. Riley’s dad is running for Congress and Riley is afraid to tell his/her parents that he/she is gender fluid in case it ruins Riley’s dad’s chance at winning the election. I admit I was not familiar with the term gender fluid but the author did a great job describing it through Riley’s inner struggles. Some days Riley wakes up feeling more like a boy than a girl or vice versa. Riley rarely acts on these feelings and just tries to be neutral which is why the bullying starts in the first place. Again back to “Is that a boy or a girl?” Riley decides to start an anonymous blog to help cope with all the stress and anxiety. The blog becomes unexpectedly popular and Riley must now deal with this new responsibility of helping others like him/herself.

This book explores our society’s first impression judgement about others. Does it really matter if the person you are talking to is male or female? Or is it more important that they are a human just like you trying to make it in this world?

Review: 5 out of 5 stars for Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow

TELL ME TUESDAY!

TMT IS A WEEKLY POST HOSTED BY LALA IN THE LIBRARY! IT IS WHERE WE TALK ABOUT WHAT WE ARE READING, WHAT WE HAVE READ, AND WHAT WE ARE READING NEXT. PLEASE CHECK OUT HER BLOG. click here!

I just read the most amazing book!

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5 out of 5 stars for Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow

“The security guard who found me was bathed in menthol cigarettes and the flat stink of machine coffee.  There was a curly forest of white hair inside his nostrils.  He said, “Holy Mother of God, girl, what’s been done to you?” My mother didn’t come to claim me.  But I remember the stars that night.  They were like salt against the sky, like someone spilled the shaker against very dark cloth.  That mattered to me. Their accidental beauty. The last thing I thought I might see before I died on the cold, wet grass.”
That is part of the first page of the book Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow.  If that doesn’t want to keep you reading, I don’t know what will.  I LOVED THIS BOOK!!! This book was hauntingly beautiful from page 1 to page 400.  In fact, this book was so good that I am afraid this review will not do it justice.
 Charlotte who goes by Charlie is a seventeen year old girl who has had a rough start.  She has seen and experienced a lot of bad stuff in her short life and the only way she feels she can escape from that pain is to create a different sort of pain through cutting herself.  Charlie ends up in a group psychiatric hospital ward where she finally feels safe from the people she was hiding from.  There are some interesting nurses, doctors and patients she interacts with that help her realize that she is worth saving.  When she is discharged, Charlie moves from Minnesota to Arizona to start a new life but when she gets there it is not as easy as she thought to stay away from old habits.  Charlie meets Riley West, a musician , fighting his own demons.  They hit it off right away because of their shared painful pasts.  However, Charlie realizes that maybe becoming Riley’s friend isn’t the best thing for her recovery.
The author weaves Charlie’s story together beautifully through out the book.  We get bits and pieces of her past to help us understand her hurt and anxiety.  The descriptions of Charlie’s struggles are sometimes so heartbreaking it is hard to read. For example, “When the door closes, I turn off all the lights and curl up in the bathtub in a very tight ball.  I imagine myself inside an egg, a metal egg, impenetrable, locked on the outside, ANYTHING to keep myself from crawling to my kit…” (Charlie’s kit contains glass to cut herself with).   Though it may seem Charlie is weak, she is actually a very strong character.  She is only 17 throughout most of the book and has to survive on her own in a strange city.  Charlie works hard to transform herself and to try and put the pieces of her life back together.
Working with teens everyday, I know cutting is a problem. It is called NSSI (Non-Suicidal Self-Injury).  It can be triggered by a variety of reasons, stress, anxiety, bullying, abuse, feelings of worthlessness.
does an amazing job showing us how sad and lonely self-harming can be.  The author writes from her own experience which she talks about at the end of the book.  Ms. Glasgow says, “Self-harm is not a grab for attention. It doesn’t mean you are suicidal.  It means you are struggling to get out of a very dangerous mess in your mind and heart and this is your coping mechanism.  It means that you occupy a small space in the very real and very large canyon of people who suffer from depression and mental illness.”
This book will be released August 30, 2016. I received an advanced ebook copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Rose and The Dagger by Renee Ahdieh

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Book Review: The Rose and The Dagger by Renee Ahdieh

4 out of 5 stars

The Rose and the Dagger was the sequel to The Wrath and the Dawn. In the first book, The Wrath and the Dawn, we learn that the king, Khalid, takes a new bride every night only to kill her in the morning. When Shahrzad’s (Shazi’s) friend becomes one of his victims, Shazi decides to volunteer as the next bride so she can get revenge on the monstrous king. Shazi escapes death by telling the king an enchanting story which leaves him wanting more the next night. To everyone’s amazement Shazi survives not only the first night, but many nights after. She learns that the king doesn’t want to kill his brides but is forced to because of a curse put upon him. Because he didn’t kill Shazi, the curse has started which means war among the kingdoms. The first book ends with Shazi and Khalid falling in love but Shazi flees the palace to warn her family about the upcoming war.

The Rose and the Dagger starts with Shazi returning to her village and to her family but they are furious with her for siding with the king. She tries to explain Khalid’s curse and that he had no choice until he fell in love with her. War breaks out and Shazi is torn between her family and Khalid. As in the first book, the author’s descriptions of the culture in this world is fantastic. She weaves so much of it into the story you can’t help but think you are there. The descriptions of the food, clothing, and the palace are amazing. Khalid and Shazi are looking for a way to break the curse. At the same time, Shazi realizes she has magic in her blood. Her father has the book that could help break Khalid’s curse but he still holds bitterness for Khalid.

I love that this series is only two books. Sometimes it is frustrating to keep having to wait for the next book in a series but with that said I would love to read more about these characters. There were some free short novella’s released in ebook form before the second book came out. These books are beautifully written and I love the premise behind it. I feel there could have been more done with the magic Shazi discovers in herself. In fact, I am not sure why it was included since it didn’t affect the story line much.  Shazi is a strong female character who takes control of her fate fearlessly. The covers for these books are gorgeous and I recommend this duo-logy if you love romance and fantasy.