Wednesday, February 22, 2017

CAN'T WAIT TO READ: All the Good Things by Clare Fisher

Release date: June 1st 2017
Publisher: Penguin
Pre-order: Amazon

Synopsis via Goodreads:

Twenty-one year old Beth is in prison. The thing she did is so bad she doesn't deserve to ever feel good again.

But her counsellor, Erika, won't give up on her. She asks Beth to make a list of all the good things in her life. So Beth starts to write down her story, from sharing silences with Foster Dad No. 1, to flirting in the Odeon on Orange Wednesdays, to the very first time she sniffed her baby's head.

But at the end of her story, Beth must confront the bad thing.

What is the truth hiding behind her crime? And does anyone-even a 100% bad person-deserve a chance to be good?

About the Author
Clare  FisherClare Sita Fisher was born in Tooting, south London in 1987. After accidentally getting obsessed with writing fiction when she should have been studying for a BA in History at the University of Oxford, Clare completed an MA in Creative and Life Writing at Goldsmiths College, University of London. 

An avid observer of the diverse area of south London in which she grew up, Clare's writing is inspired by her long-standing interest in social exclusion and the particular ways in which it affects vulnerable women and girls. All The Good Things is her first novel. She now lives, writes and works as a bookseller in Leeds.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Review: Stand Up and Sing! Pete Seeger, Folk Music, and the Path to Justice by Susanna Reich

Release date: March 21st 2017
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Pre-order: Amazon

Synopsis via Goodreads:
Inspired by the rhythms of American folk music, this moving account of Pete Seeger's life celebrates his legacy, showing kids of every generation that no cause is too small and no obstacle too large if, together, you stand up and sing!

Pete Seeger was born with music in his bones. Coming of age during the Great Depression, Pete saw poverty and adversity that would forever shape his worldview, but it wasn't until he received his first banjo that he found his way to change the world. It was plucking banjo strings and singing folk songs that showed Pete how music had the incredible power to bring people together.

Using this gift throughout his life, Pete encouraged others to rally behind causes that mattered--fighting for Civil Rights, ending the Vietnam War, or cleaning up the Hudson River. For Pete, no challenge was too great, and what started out as a love for music turned into a lifetime of activism and change. His greatest talent--and greatest passion--would become an unforgettable part of American history.

*Received a finished copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

This was such a great story. I actually had no idea who Pete Seeger was until I read this book. Folk isn't a genre of music I actively seek out, but if someone's performing it somewhere or I happen to stumble upon a video I'll listen if it grabs my attention enough. And it was nice to experience Pete Seeger's journey in music and how he was able to touch hearts and inspire. 

Pete was an admirable man; the kind of person that stuck to his beliefs; always tried to do the right thing and stood up for those who couldn't. Sadly, he had experienced a lot of tough times, which often lasted a while and mainly was from what was going on in America in that period. But I loved how he appreciated the little things and remained humble no matter what. He always sought out ways to uplift and improve the situation, never fearing the consequences, and I think many could learn from him and implement that in their own lives. 

I have to mention the illustrations. Adam Gustavson did a superb job, depicting each significant moment so wonderfully. I think seeing the pictures gave more life to the book and evoked my emotions. They truly moved my heart.   

This short yet insightful book has motivated me to research about Pete Seeger's life, his music, and the many ways he helped to encourage change. And I hope that young readers, the intended target, will feel the same after picking this up. 

Susanna ReichAbout the Author
Susanna Reich is the award-winning author of both fiction and nonfiction books that have received many starred reviews and honors, such as Four Fab Friends: The Boys Who Became the Beatles and Minette's Feast:The Delicious Story of Julia Child and Her Cat. She lives in Ossining, NY, with her husband, children's book author, Gary Golio.

About the Illustrator
Adam Gustavson is the illustrator of over twenty books for children, including the Sydney Taylor Honor winner, The Yankee at the Seder; Rock 'n' Roll Highway, a Bank Street Best Book of the Year and a CBC Children's Choices Award winner; and Amelia Bloomer Award winner, Rough, Tough Charley. Adam holds an MFA from the School of Visual Arts and teaches at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. He lives in New Jersey with his wife and children. 

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Cover Reveal & Giveaway: To Dance With Angels by KC Cullen

Check out the cover reveal for debut author KC Cullen's A Dance With Angels. Organized by Itching for Books.

Release date: February 28th 2017
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Since she was a little girl, Kyra Byrne sacrificed everything for her dream to be a prima ballerina, braving broken toes and scheming rivals. Now the dream is finally within reach: she’s a soloist at a prestigious Boston company, her tumultuous past safely behind her.

But all that is put at risk when the company brings in a new choreographer, the smoldering Damien Delacroix with the sexy accent, rebellious tattoos, rippling abs, and scandalous reputation, a man who’s ruined as many careers as he’s built up. And the moment he walks into the studio, Damien only has eyes for Kyra.

Against the wishes of everyone from Kyra’s boss to the drama-queen prima, he casts Kyra as the lead in his new ballet. This could be the break she needed so badly—or it could be her ruin when her past begins to resurface in unpredictable ways. As Damien and Kyra’s chemistry sizzles on and off the stage, she realizes she’s in too deep. Kyra never dreamed of risking everything she worked so hard for, everything she painstakingly built—all for a man. But with the premiere looming and with the other dancers gunning for her downfall, she could lose more than her heart. 

About the Author
YA author by day, KC Cullen writes romance and romantic suspense by night. Her debut, TO DANCE WITH ANGELS, will be released on February 28, 2017. She lives in northern Ontario with her husband, two teenagers, and hyperactive Dalmatian.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Review: Piecing Me Together by Renée Watson

Release date: February 14th 2017
Publisher: Bloomsburry
Purchase: Amazon

Synopsis via Goodreads:
A timely and powerful story about a teen girl from a poor neighborhood striving for success, from acclaimed author Renée Watson.

Jade believes she must get out of her neighborhood if she’s ever going to succeed. Her mother says she has to take every opportunity. She has. She accepted a scholarship to a mostly-white private school and even Saturday morning test prep opportunities. But some opportunities feel more demeaning than helpful. Like an invitation to join Women to Women, a mentorship program for “at-risk” girls. Except really, it’s for black girls. From “bad” neighborhoods.

But Jade doesn’t need support. And just because her mentor is black doesn’t mean she understands Jade. And maybe there are some things Jade could show these successful women about the real world and finding ways to make a real difference.

Friendships, race, privilege, identity—this compelling and thoughtful story explores the issues young women face.

*Publisher approved request via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I really liked Watson's previous novel, This Side of Home, and was excited to read Piecing Me Together when I spotted it on Goodreads. Well, this novel did not disappoint. I liked how the author kept things real, touching on topics that are still so strongly present in society, while also depicting relatable problems faced by a teen girl. 

Jade wasn't perfect and didn't come from a perfect family. She's raised by a single mother in a far-from-lavish neighborhood and they shared their already tight apartment with Jade's uncle. Regardless, they did their best. The mother worked hella hard so her daughter could have a good life and always encouraged Jade to do the same. I loved how whenever she was tough with Jade, it came from a place of love and hope for nothing but the best. And I admired the respect Jade had in return, not only for her mother but for where she came from. 

Speaking of where she came from. Often times people judge others based on their address and have preconceived notions about their character. But Jade was really smart and focused. She went to a great school that often overlooked her because of the color of her skin, but still, she kept on and looked for opportunities. Many of the things that came up in the story, mainly things that Jade experienced, made me look into my own life and I could remember moments where I had faced something similar. We may come from completely different backgrounds, but I could understand and relate to how she felt and agreed that her perception was justified and dead-on. For instance, that trip would have benefited Jade just as much as any other student, and she truly worked hard and deserved to go. So her feelings about it were acceptable and I wish that Sam was more understanding. 

Sam's character is like many. She was a good friend to Jade, but certain things made her uncomfortable to discuss and she seemed to rather not talk about it. I grew frustrated with her like Jade because, in times where she should have supported and stood up for her friend, she tried to brush it off and explain away the situation. Thankfully she made an effort later on and they were able to hold on to their friendship. 

There were other elements of the story that intensified my interest, including the whole debacle with Jade getting a mentor. The way she was sort of shoved into that program pissed me off, but I again, Jade was going for as many opportunities as she could so it wasn't surprising that she accepted. But that mentor had me rolling my eyes so much. She needed more mentoring than Jade, which brought back the line in the blurb where "just because her mentor is black doesn’t mean she understands Jade," and that was so true. Glad Jade spoke up and her mentor opened her eyes to reality sooner than later. 

My gosh, I could go on and on with reasons as to why I enjoyed this one but I don't want to give too much away. Loved the writing, the raw depictions of emotion toward horrible events, and that poem at the end was a tearjerker. Such a thought-provoking story. Wonderfully done, Renée.  

27ef868543abf9c4e16439c1aeb8f0bd.jpgAbout the Author
RENÉE WATSON is the acclaimed author of the teen novel, This Side of Home, and two picture books: Harlem's Little Blackbird and A Place Where Hurricanes Happen, which was featured on NBC Nightly News. Her middle grade novel, What Momma Left Me debuted as an ABA New Voices Pick. She lives in New York City.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Guest Post & Giveaway: Ethel Rohan on The Weight of Him

Award-winning short story writer Ethel Rohan has released her debut novel, The Weight of Himwhich is described as the perfect feel-good novel to curl up with this winter. And I'm excited to have her on the blog sharing what inspired her to write this story. Check out the guest post and enter to win a copy of the book! 

Release date: February 14th 2017
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Purchase: Amazon

Synopsis via Goodreads:

In The Weight of Him Billy Brennan undergoes an unforgettable journey in a startling attempt to resurrect his family and reignite hearts, his own most of all.

At four hundred pounds, Billy can always count on food. From his earliest memories, he has loved food's colors, textures and tastes. The way flavors go off in his mouth. How food keeps his mind still and his bad feelings quiet. Food has always made everything better, until the day Billy's beloved son Michael takes his own life.

Billy determines to make a difference in Michael's memory and undertakes a public weight-loss campaign, to raise money for suicide prevention--his first step in an ambitious plan to save himself, and to save others. However, Billy's dramatic crusade appalls his family, who want to simply try to go on, quietly, privately.

Despite his crushing detractors, Billy gains welcome allies: his community-at-large; a co-worker who lost his father to suicide; a filmmaker with his own dubious agenda; and a secret, miniature kingdom that Billy populates with the sub-quality dolls and soldiers he saves from disposal at the toy factory where he works. But it is only if Billy can confront the truth of the suffering and brokenness within and around him that he and others will be able to realize the recovery they need.

Told against the picturesque yet haunting backdrop of rural, contemporary Ireland, The Weight of Him is a big-hearted novel about loss and reliance that moves from tragedy to recrimination to what can be achieved when we take the stand of our lives.

The meaning behind The Weight of Him, and why it is a "call for love"?

           While the characters and events in my first novel, The Weight of Him, are fictional, the story’s themes are rooted in reality and have deep personal meaning. For one, some of my earliest memories are around suicide.
When I was a girl, my mentally ill mother repeatedly threatened to kill herself. Every time she left the house I went into a panic, terrified she would end herself and never return. At night I lay awake on my bed, stiff and sweating, listening for sounds from downstairs, her bedroom, the bathroom—frantic that she might attempt to follow through on her threats.
As an adult, I’ve had my own struggles with anxiety and depression, and suicidal thoughts. I lost a dear friend to suicide, distant family members, several in my community, and many more in wider circles. Mental illness, and suicide in particular, is a disease that plagues all too many. Suicide is the number one killer of young men in Ireland, my birthplace, and is also a global epidemic. On average, in the US, there are 121 suicides every day. That’s 121 too many.
In my own journey to recovery, I found the root of my anguish lay in a lack of self-love and a sense of hopelessness—torment that’s common amongst the suicidal. It became impossible to believe that I could ever feel better about myself, and my life. My return to well-being started with gratitude. I began every day giving thanks. Even at my most wretched, with intention, I could always find something for which to be thankful—food, warmth, home, my daughters, my husband, another lifesaving breath. The more gratitude I expressed, the better I began to feel. Slowly. Surely.
My healing deepened with forgiveness—forgiving others and myself for wrongs both real and imagined. I did not find peace(ish), though, until I learned to love myself unconditionally. And getting to that point proved to be long, hard, painful work. I loved my children (and my cat and dog!) without reservation, but I had little empathy or compassion for myself. With counseling, instead of hating on myself, I started to treat myself as lovingly as I did my family and friends (and, yes, my cat and dog). I got to a once unthinkable place: I came to love myself. It’s heartbreaking how many of us cannot declare that with our whole heart: I love me.
That is my rally cry in my novel: Love yourself. Love others. It’s the only way we will survive.

Photo Credit: Justin YeeAbout the Author
Ethel Rohan is the author of two story collections, Goodnight Nobody and Cut Through the Bone, the former longlisted for The Edge Hill Prize and the latter longlisted for The Story Prize.

Her work has appeared in The New York Times, World Literature Today, GUERNICA Magazine, Tin House Online,The Rumpus, and many more. Born and raised in Ireland, she lives in San Francisco.

*Thanks to the publisher for contributing a copy of the book

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