Lions and Tigers and Boys – $50 gift card GIVEAWAY!!!

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A little magic. A little romance. A little shape-shifting… Tawny Stokes’ Lions and Tigers and Boys has it all!

To start us off, here’s the official description of the book:

The last thing a girl as awkward as Dani Gale should be doing is trying to learn the high wire. Yet that’s exactly where Dani ends up—at OZ, the Oswald Zinzendorf School of Circus Arts. Trying to overcome her shyness is near impossible when her new partner—the hottest guy she’s ever laid eyes on, and whose touch seems to give her poise she thought impossible—also seems to be sabotaging her progress.

The last thing Cai Coppersmith needs is a distraction, especially in the form of the new, cute shy girl. He needs to focus on trying not to shape-shift into a tiger on school grounds, and completing his mission to keep Dani from winning the school’s high-wire competition. In fact, the entire safety of OZ is relying on Dani not succeeding. But there’s something about the girl that draws him in. She has magic, he can feel it. So he’ll do what he can to protect her, even if it means pushing her away.

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This was a sweet romance story told from the perspective of the two main characters, Dani and Cai. Sixteen-year-old Dani has just started attending an obscure circus school in the deep woods of Oregon. Part of her doesn’t want to be there, but she also wants to follow her dreams to be a high-wire walker – a promise she made to her mother on her deathbed.

Cai is the adopted son of Frank Coppersmith, who handles the school’s lion and tiger. We learn in the prologue that Cai is also a shape-shifter, and roams the school’s grounds in the form of a tiger. He is also part of a secret group led by one of the school’s teachers, Professor Marvel. They are practicing a plan to steal a pair of ruby slippers from an art and history museum in Salem.

The alternating perspectives throughout the book was very effective. It allowed me to follow Dani’s and Cai’s growing feelings for each other and to understand why Cai kept pushing Dani away (if the book was just written from Dani’s point of view, it would have meant many more questions throughout the book).

This paragraph may be a spoiler, although I’m trying to write it in a way that does not spoil anything. I got to the end of the book and felt a little unsatisfied with the conclusion. I gather from the ending that Ms. Stokes may anticipate writing a second book about these characters. However, there was so much emphasis on preparing for the matter that was left unresolved, that I expected getting to that point in the story. I simply felt unfinished even though the book was over.

About the Author:

Tawny Stokes has always been a writer. From an early age, she’d spin tales of serial killers in love, vampires taking over the world, and sometimes about fluffy bunnies turned bunnicidal maniacs. An honour student in high school, with a penchant for math and English, you’d never know it by the foot high blue Mohawk and Doc Martens, which often got her into trouble. No longer a Mohawk wearer, Tawny still enjoys old school punk rock, trance, zombie movies, teen horror films, and fluffy bunnies. She lives in Canada with her fantastical daughter, two cats, and spends most of her time creating new stories for teens.

You can find Ms. Stokes on twitter @Vivi_Tawny.

Lions and Tigers and Boys was released last week. I received an advance reader copy of the book as part of this blog tour in exchange for my unbiased review. You can get a copy from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and from your local independent bookstore.

So, you’re probably wondering, WHAT ABOUT THE GIVEAWAY??? You can win a $50 gift card to an e-retailer of your choice. Enter here.

Have you read any great books lately?

White Knights – 2 GIVEAWAYS!!!

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It’s tough being a teenager these days. It’s even tougher being a geek among the “Technologically Gifted and Talented” at a Washington, DC, exclusive school. Sixteen-year-old Angel Sinclair just wants to get through her senior year without being bullied too badly, and to find her long-missing father. But instead, she is drawn into an investigation that involves spies, the latest in medical technology, and good, old-fashioned intrigue!

Here’s the official description…

My name is Angel Sinclair. I’m the youngest senior at Excalibur Academy for the Technologically Gifted and Talented in Washington, DC. I was pushed ahead a year because of my high IQ and considerable prowess behind the keyboard, making me an outcast even among my own peers. I’ve been looking for my dad all my life. A brilliant mathematician and cryptographer, he disappeared under mysterious circumstances when I was eighteen months old. Although my mom tells me I must put him in my past, it only makes me more determined to find out what happened to him. When weird accidents start happening at my school and the vice principal is involved in a deadly incident, I don’t see it as a coincidence. After launching my own investigation, with the aid of an unexpected set of allies calling themselves the White Knights, I discover a threat far greater than I ever could have imagined. I could take my discoveries to the authorities, but my own investigative methods would be at risk. Can anyone say hacking? No, it’s up to me to set things right. My objectives are straightforward: clear the name of the vice principal, learn the truth about my father, and stay alive. In other words, save the day and try not to look too much like a dork while doing it.

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I loved how this book started, and I have to admit, the first sentence had me calculating how many days I have been alive. And wondering if I felt good about that (hey, I’ve had many, many great days!) or bad about it (holy cow, I’m OLD!!!).

I don’t usually include lengthy excerpts in my reviews, but since this one has that awesome first line that had me counting days, here you go:

On the 5,802nd day of my existence, my safe virtual life exploded into reality.

I should have seen it coming—I’m smart enough. My name is Angel Sinclair and I’m a geek. For most of my nearly sixteen years, I’ve lived online, roaming the information highway—hacking, gaming, and manipulating the environment to suit my every whim. The Internet is my world. I control kingdoms and maintain important and critical alliances. I don’t need real-life entanglements, friendships with people who will come and go, or a boyfriend so I don’t feel alone. I’m never lonely online.

I’m not bragging when I say I’m good at what I do. When I was eleven, I broke into my school’s computer system, just to see if I could. At thirteen, I changed the Twitter profile of a well-known gamer to read “Geek Girls Rule” after he posted a particularly sexist and ugly meme about women in the tech field. Later that same year, I hacked into the local police department looking for information on my father. I’ve hacked a lot of places since then, getting better and faster each time. I’m not into cracking—hacking with malicious intent. But I’m not above a hack when I feel it serves the greater good.

My older sister, Gwen, is always getting on my case to go out, hang with people, be social off the computer. Why would I? The girls at my school are always talking about guys or taking selfies to make sure they post the best angle of themselves. Who cares how you look while you’re eating in the cafeteria? I’d rather connect with the people who do matter via my phone or laptop. Online I’ve got constant access to what and who is important, and it is way less stressful than a face-to-face conversation.

So, my plan for my senior year of high school was this—survive by keeping my head down, restricting my social life to online, and not making any waves.

Simple, right?

Wrong.

I desired invisibility but would have accepted peaceful coexistence.

Instead, they brought me war…on the very first day.

This is a fun, fast-paced mystery / spy thriller. It champions the quiet computer geeks, making them the heroes of the story. Angel reluctantly accepts the help and friendship of two other geeks (plus a jock) and discovers that she isn’t always better at doing everything alone. Her friendship with weird Wally, quirky Frankie, and charming Colt grows along with the excitement and tension of the book.

White Knights kept me captivated from start to finish. I couldn’t put it down – it drew me into the world of hacking (NOT cracking – there’s apparently a difference!), espionage, and the occasional high school drama. Add it to your list for 2018!

There are TWO giveaways for this book! First, you can snag an ebook and a magnet HERE! To get a paperback copy of White Knights and a magnet, go to this giveaway! You can enter both giveaways, but do it soon – they end at midnight on January 8!

If you don’t win a copy of the book, you can pick up a copy at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and your local bookstore.

About the Author:

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Julie Moffett is a bestselling author and writes in the genres of mystery, historical romance and paranormal romance. She has won numerous awards, including the 2014 Mystery & Mayhem Award for Best YA/New Adult Mystery, the prestigious 2014 HOLT Award for Best Novel with Romantic Elements, a HOLT Merit Award for Best Novel by a Virginia Author (twice!), the 2016 Award of Excellence, a PRISM Award for Best Romantic Time-Travel AND Best of the Best Paranormal Books of 2002, and the 2011 EPIC Award for Best Action/Adventure Novel. She has also garnered additional nominations for the Bookseller’s Best Award, Daphne du Maurier Award and the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence. Julie is a military brat (Air Force) and has traveled extensively. Her more exciting exploits include attending high school in Okinawa, Japan; backpacking around Europe and Scandinavia for several months; a year-long college graduate study in Warsaw, Poland; and a wonderful trip to Scotland and Ireland where she fell in love with castles, kilts and brogues. Julie has a B.A. in Political Science and Russian Language from Colorado College, a M.A. in International Affairs from The George Washington University in Washington, D.C. and an M.Ed from Liberty University. She has worked as a proposal writer, journalist, teacher, librarian and researcher. Julie speaks Russian and Polish and has two sons. She greatly enjoys interacting with readers at her website: www.juliemoffett.com. You can also follow her by clicking on the following social media sites: FacebookTwitterInstagram.

Don’t forget to enter the giveaways – click HERE and HERE!

Have you read any great books lately?

Family Game Night and Other Catastrophes

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I have a secret. Like Annabelle’s Mom in Family Game Night and Other Catastrophes, I have trouble throwing things away. I frequently worry that we will need or have a use for something that others would typically just toss out. It hurts when my husband insists that we don’t need to keep a shoebox with the other 47 we have stored “just in case” the kids need one for a diorama.

So I’ve been looking forward to Mary Lambert’s Family Game Night with anticipation . . . and a little bit of fear.

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The newspapers fell on my sister at breakfast this morning.

A fabulous first line for a novel. It had me sucked in from that moment on. . .

I just sat there, waiting to see if today would be the day the newspapers finally fell. It was the “highs in the mid to upper 70s” pile that came crashing down. The newspapers are organized by weather report, and since it’s almost June, Mom has been adding to the “highs in the mid to upper 70s” pile every day. Lately she’s had to stand on her tiptoes in order to reach the top, and this morning—before she could even add to it—it was already swaying from side to side, back and forth. It looked like a Jenga tower right before someone loses, and today Leslie was the loser.

Annabelle Balog has just finished Seventh Grade. She flirts with boys, texts with her friends, and tries to ignore the mess at home when she is away. She also has a Five-Mile-Radius Rule—she refuses to let anyone from school come within five miles of her house. Her mother is a hoarder, and none of her friends know.

After the newspapers fall on Annabelle’s sister, their parents have a fight of monumental proportions. Her father storms out, announcing that her mother knows what he expects while he’s gone. With that, the household is turned upside-down.

While dealing with this crisis, Mary Lambert’s novel illuminates various emotions and reactions that can exist in a household where one member hoards. Annabelle is embarrassed by her mother and her home, and has reacted to the condition of the rest of the house by refusing to allow any clutter in her room (on the other extreme). She protects her own space from clutter almost religiously, having discovered that her mother will sneak items into her room while she is not home.

Annabelle’s siblings—poor younger sister Leslie, who started the book covered with mildewy newspapers, and older brother Chad—respond to their mother’s lifestyle in different ways. Leslie has nightmares about people dying in piles of clutter, and Chad spends as little time at home as possible.

Annabelle’s mother, who is faced with her husband’s ultimatum, is the character I sympathized with the most throughout the novel. Ms. Lambert adeptly shows the altered priorities of a hoarder in some of the interactions involving Mrs. Balog.

For example, when Leslie is knocked into her cereal bowl by a stack of newspapers, her mother rushes into the kitchen:

“What happened?” Her voice cut through the sound of the running water. I turned to watch Mom fly into the kitchen. It may not look like it, but Mom can really move when she wants to. “No! No, no, no,” she said, rushing to Leslie’s side. But instead of wrapping Leslie in her arms, she started gathering her newspapers.

“Which pile fell?” she demanded.

Things haven’t gotten as bad at our house as they have at Annabelle’s (there are no leaning towers about to collapse on us). But I still acutely felt Mrs. Balog’s pain and discomfort at the thought of making any changes in response to her husband’s demands. I wanted to reach into the book and hug her and tell her that she would be okay.

Family Game Night and Other Catastrophes is Mary Lambert’s first novel, but hopefully we’ll see many more where this came from! You can find out more about Ms. Lambert (including whether her own mom was a hoarder) at www.maryelambert.com.

Now, I think I’ll go recycle the 14 years’ worth of law magazines I have stored in my back bedroom because I’ve been convinced “I’ll read them someday” . . .

Have you read any great books lately?

Greetings from Witness Protection – GIVEAWAY!!!

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What would it be like to leave everyone and everything you know and begin a brand-new life? Have you ever dreamed about running away and starting all over?

Greetings from Witness Protection

Foster kid Nicki Demere is given this choice when U.S. Marshals show up at her group home. Their offer: she will be placed with a family that cannot send her back. She will leave behind her juvenile record and start anew. The only catch: she has to leave immediately, without saying goodbye to any of her friends, and she will be giving up any hope that her long-lost father will come back for her.

Oh yeah, and the family she is placed with is in Witness Protection because they are hiding from one of the most notorious mob families in the country. If the mob finds them, they will undoubtedly kill them all.

One of Nicki’s biggest tasks is to make sure they remain “under the radar.” She has to stay out of trouble, but not be notable. She has to keep her grades down at a B- average (which means she needs to do her homework twice—once correctly, and then again with enough answers wrong to maintain her average). And, most of all, she has to take care of her new younger brother, who is angry about the Witness Protection situation and resents Nicki’s presence in his family.

This book came to me as part of the YA Reads Debut Authors Bash blog tour. And… it can come to you if you win this GIVEAWAY. I have a signed copy of Greetings from Witness Protection for one lucky winner!!!

Greetings from Witness Protection was so much fun to read! It was such a novel idea to have the main character living in Witness Protection—something I’ve never seen in children’s literature. Nicki still deals with the everyday problems of being in Seventh Grade—peer pressure, mean kids, boys—but then has the Witness Protection excitement layered on top.

I have two avid readers at home, but lately it has been tough to get my ten-year-old to read anything that doesn’t have “Harry Potter” or “Wimpy Kid” in the title. We were on a long drive in the car one night and he had nothing to read, so I nonchalantly said, “you could read my book, I guess,” hoping he’d pick it up. The rest of the drive was filled with comments like “ha! listen to this…” and “I wonder…” Then I had to fight him just to be able to finish the book!

Jake Burt keeps the action high throughout the book, which meant I read well into the nights turning “just one more page” or “one more chapter.” He has included a nice little twist at the end, which you’ll have to read the book to discover!

Jake Burt is a writer and a Fifth Grade teacher living in Connecticut (probably not in Witness Protection!). He can be found online at www.jburtbooks.com. There’s also an interesting discussion between Mr. Burt and Mr. Schu, the Ambassador of School Libraries for Scholastic at this fabulous blog.

DON’T FORGET TO ENTER THE GIVEAWAY!!!

Have you read any great books lately?

Cilla Lee-Jenkins: Future Author Extraordinaire – GIVEAWAY!!!

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This is the second of four posts I’m doing at the end of this year as part of the Debut Authors Bash blog tour! I haven’t had a chance to read this one yet, but it’s definitely on my TBR shelf! Lucky for all of you, I am offering a GIVEAWAY for an Advanced Reader’s Copy of Susan Tan’s upcoming book, as well as an adorable crocheted rainbow unicorn (SO JEALOUS!!!).

Cilla Lee Jenkins

Since I haven’t read Cilla Lee-Jenkins: Future Author Extraordinaire yet, I’m going to share the official description of the book from the Goodreads page:

Cilla Lee-Jenkins is 50% Chinese, 50% Caucasian, and 100% destined for literary greatness! Introducing an irresistible new character who shares stories about a new sibling, being biracial, and her destiny as a future author extraordinaire in this middle grade novel.

Priscilla “Cilla” Lee-Jenkins is on a tight deadline. Her baby sister is about to be born, and Cilla needs to become a bestselling author before her family forgets all about her. So she writes about what she knows best—herself! And Cilla has a lot to write about: How did she deal with being bald until the age of five? How did she overcome her struggles with reading? How do family traditions with Grandma and Grandpa Jenkins differ from family traditions with her Chinese grandparents, Nai Nai and Ye Ye?

Cilla Lee-Jenkins: Future Author Extraordinaire is a novel bursting with love and humor, as told through a bright, irresistible biracial protagonist who will win your heart and make you laugh.

Sounds awesome, right???

Book Two in the Cilla Lee-Jenkins series continues the tale of Cilla’s work as an author, this time as she sets out to write “a Classic.” At the same time, it promises to tell tales of Cilla’s struggles to “be more Chinese” and of learning to share her best friend.

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About the Author:

Susan Tan has worked with children’s books since the age of 14, when she was a Page in the children’s room of the Concord Public Library. She went on to study English at Williams College and earned her PhD at the University of Cambridge in Critical Approaches to Children’s Literature. While in graduate school, she began to write a children’s book of her own which became her debut novel, Cilla Lee-Jenkins: Future Author Extraordinaire.

Cilla is based on Susan’s own experiences growing up in a mixed-race family, and deals with the questions, challenges, and many joys that navigating different racial and cultural identities can bring. A second book in the Cilla series titled Cilla Lee-Jenkins: This Book is A Classic is scheduled for release in 2018. Susan was the 2015 Gish Jen Emerging Writers Fellow at the Writers’ Room of Boston and currently teaches at the University of Massachusetts, Boston.

You can follow her on Twitter (@susansmtan), or on her website, www.susantanbooks.com.

DON’T FORGET TO ENTER THE GIVEAWAY!!! Don’t let me keep that RAINBOW unicorn!

Rainbow Unicorn

Have you read any great books lately?

Braced – GIVEAWAY!!!

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Remember Seventh Grade? Not just the fun stuff, but also the awkwardness, the self-consciousness, all that stuff that came along with puberty? Now imagine all of that with one more layer on top.

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Rachel Brooks is your typical Seventh Grader. She loves soccer, she texts her friends nonstop, she is embarrassed by her parents, and she is starting to get interested in boys. She also has scoliosis.

So far, her scoliosis has simply meant doctor’s appointments twice a year with her spine doctor. Even the appointments have become pretty routine to Rachel. But this time, instead of sending her off to return again in six months, the doctor announces that the curve in her spine has gotten much worse and she will need to wear a back brace. Twenty-three hours a day for six months to a year, until her spine stops growing.

The brace is hard plastic with cushioned padding inside, and spans from Rachel’s armpits to her hips. It hurts where it rubs against her skin and creates blisters that might scar. Rachel can’t fit into any of her old clothes because of the bulk of the brace. Even with bigger clothes, Rachel is certain everyone can see the lumps and bulges of the brace.

My heart broke over and over as I read Rachel’s struggle to find peace with this new reality that she finds herself in. Alyson Gerber captured the middle grader’s self-consciousness with remarkable skill and accuracy.

I do not mean that to suggest that Braced is all about tears and sadness. To the contrary, Rachel shows astounding determination in the face of her challenge. Before her doctor determined that Rachel would need to wear a brace, Rachel was having a promising start to the year on her soccer team. So she decides that even with the brace, she will play soccer, and she and her friends work toward that goal. Her friends help pick clothes that will flatter her, and provide support as she goes to school in the brace each day.

Readers will see themselves in Rachel or gain inspiration from her. While Rachel’s situation is fairly unique, her feelings are not. Kids will recognize the feeling of being different and the certainty that everyone is looking at or talking about them. This might be because they wear a back brace, because they are in a wheelchair, or because they: wear glasses; wear braces; are too short, too tall, too fat, or too thin; or any number of other reasons why they feel insecure. No matter how large or small the reason, at this age, anything can feel insurmountable, and that is why Rachel’s story is so encouraging.

I have no idea how I missed this fabulous debut novel when it came out earlier this year! I am so glad that Ms. Gerber decided to participate in the 2017 Debut Authors Bash so that I could discover Rachel Brooks and Braced.

Ms. Gerber’s website is www.alysongerber.com. Her News page includes a description of how wearing a back brace impacted her growing up and a link to the Barnes & Noble blog, where she discusses her experience at summer camp in a back brace. Ms. Gerber includes links to websites with more information about scoliosis on her website as well as in the Author’s Note in Braced.

I am excited to be participating in this year’s Debut Authors Bash! Over the next two weeks, I will be sharing three more new novels by debut authors (either with full reviews or just some details about the books).

And… most exciting of all… there are giveaways for most of these books! Not just here on 2 Cooks Crafting Books, but at many of the other bloggers’ sites as well! So check out #17DABash on Twitter to find other debut authors featured this month (and maybe snag some of their books!).

Ms. Gerber is giving away a copy of her book, Braced. This giveaway is open to winners from the US and international locations.

DON’T FORGET TO ENTER THE GIVEAWAY!!!

Where I Found You – plus GIVEAWAY!!!

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Let’s travel to the other side of the world for a little YA romance this week…

The images from the tsunami that devastated multiple countries off the Indian Ocean on Boxing Day 2004 are pictures that few can forget. For the people of Indonesia, however, the tsunami was more than mere photographs and videos. It completely swept away entire villages, destroyed homes and businesses, and killed an estimated 220,000 people. Although many of the casualties were children, the tsunami also left many children orphaned.

About now, you’re probably asking what happened to the YA romance I promised. I’m getting there…

Our protagonist, Sienna, is afraid of flying and the ocean, and has no desire to jump on a plane and fly for many hours over the Pacific Ocean to stay at an orphanage (technically, a pesantren, or school) in Indonesia. But her dad really wants to help kids who are suffering from the emotional trauma of the tsunami, so Sienna agrees to swallow her fears (with the help of a sleeping pill) and go along.

What Sienna doesn’t count on (yep, the romance part!) is meeting Deni while she’s at the orphanage. Deni is one of 200 orphans at the pesantren who came from the refugee camps in Aceh province. He’s striking, confident, a leader of the kids. He cares about the other children and stands up when he believes they are not being treated properly, even though he knows it makes the pesantren’s owner dislike him. Sienna is drawn to Deni immediately, and each time she sees him, her attraction grows.

This is a fascinating read. Aside from the adorable and steamy romance, there are a lot of other great aspects to this book. Many YA readers will be too young to remember the tsunami images the way adults do, so this may be their introduction to this devastating moment in history. Ms. Kling has sprinkled just enough detail about what happened, what a tsunami is, and how it impacted Indonesia to educate readers without them feeling that they are being “taught.”

Also, because the book is mainly set in Indonesia, Ms. Kling shares many details about daily life in that country, from wearing hijabs to only using the RIGHT hand for things to different religious and cultural beliefs. Again, Ms. Kling masterfully does this all without the feeling that we’ve moved out of the YA romance genre and into a non-fiction tome.

In case I missed anything really important, here’s the publisher’s synopsis of the book:

After her mother’s plane went missing over the Indian Ocean, seventeen-year-old Sienna Jones gave up everything she loved about living in California. No more surfing. No more swimming. No more ocean, period. Playing it safe, hiding from the world, is the best call.

Until her dad throws down the challenge of a lifetime: spend the summer with his humanitarian team in Indonesia, working with orphans who lost everything in a massive tsunami.

The day they arrive, Sienna meets a mysterious boy named Deni, whose dark, intense eyes make her heart race. Their stolen nights force her to open up and live in a way she thought she couldn’t anymore. When she’s with Deni, she remembers the girl she used to be…and starts to feel like the woman he sees in her.

A woman he wants for his own.

Gulp.

But when Deni’s past comes looking for him, Sienna’s faced with losing another person she loves. She can’t do it. Not again.

Fortunately, this time, she has a plan.

Ms. Kling explains in the Forward to her book that her husband is a cross-cultural psychiatrist who traveled to Indonesia after the 2004 tsunami and met orphans like those at Sienna’s pesantren. Deni was inspired by a boy Ms. Kling’s husband met, named Usul, who outran the tsunami on his moped. Ms. Kling’s website is www.heidirkling.com.

You can win a copy of Where I Found You by entering this GIVEAWAY. If you are too excited to wait until the giveaway ends, the book is also available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and directly from the publisher, Entangled Publishing.

Have you read any great books lately?

DON’T FORGET TO ENTER THE GIVEAWAY!!!

The 57 Bus

WOW! This is a book that will change your life! A teenager falls asleep on the bus and wakes up to find that their skirt has been set on fire. Before the fire can be extinguished, they suffer third degree burns over approximately 22% of their body, primarily on their legs.

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The 57 Bus tells the true story of Sasha and Richard, who both grew up in Oakland, California. Author Dashka Slater skillfully shares their stories in a way that will have you staying up throughout the night to keep reading. Unlike many non-fiction books I’ve read, where there is a distance between the subjects of the book and the reader, it was easy to get lost in the world of 2013 Oakland.

Following a brief preview of what is to come on the 57 Bus, Ms. Slater introduces us to Sasha. In November 2013, Sasha was in their senior year of high school at a small private school. After years of questioning their gender, Sasha had told their parents in the winter of 2012 that they identified as genderqueer. Sasha is agender—neither male nor female—and prefers the use of “they” and “their” as opposed to “he,” “she,” “his,” or “hers.”

Once Sasha had clarified their gender identity, they selected a new name and asked their parents and close friends to call them Sasha instead of Luke. They began wearing a skirt along with their already eclectic outfit of top hat (or other hat), tweeds, vests, bowties, and sometimes even fighter-pilot goggles.

Ms. Slater takes great care to make the readers fall in love with Sasha, then switches to the story of Richard. Richard was with his cousin and a friend when he got on the 57 Bus on November 4, 2013. Richard’s friend gave Richard a lighter, and encouraged him to light Sasha’s skirt on fire. Richard did it.

Knowing what Richard did to Sasha, and having already spent 1/4 of the book growing to love Sasha, it was a shock to meet Richard. I wanted to dislike Richard. But Ms. Slater expertly brings us within Richard’s world.

Richard’s mom was fourteen when she had him. She had big dreams for her son. And he was determined to make them happen. He had been in trouble, but unlike many kids who got in trouble, he wanted to escape trouble and graduate from high school.

Richard attended Oakland High School, which was not the best school in Oakland, but was not the worst either. There was a security guard posted at the front gate. Richard reached out to Oakland High’s attendance compliance officer and asked to join her intervention program to be sure he could complete his goals. Richard was special. He was funny. He made people laugh and played games and practical jokes. This event shocked all who knew him.

Even if you are not typically a non-fiction book reader, I highly recommend this book. It reads like a work of fiction, and a fascinating one at that!

Author Dashka Slater is a journalist, novelist, and children’s book author. She has written six children’s books, including Escargot and The Antlered Ship. Her website, www.dashkaslater.com, has many resources, including teacher’s guides for some of her children’s books, and discussion questions for The 57 Bus.

Have you read any great books lately?

My Rotten Stepbrother . . . Did What???

Anyone who has ever read a fairy tale knows that step-family members are nothing but trouble. Wicked stepmothers, horrible stepsisters, the list just goes on and on.

Fairy-tale-loving Maddie has a stepbrother who is rotten. Horrible. Simply unbearable. Holden does whatever he can to ruin Maddie’s life.

You may remember that Holden ruined Maddie’s Halloween—and the story of Beauty and the Beast—in My Rotten Stepbrother Ruined Beauty and the Beast. I’m delighted to have the chance to review the other books in the My Rotten Stepbrother series!

Cinderella

The series starts with My Rotten Stepbrother Ruined Cinderella. When Maddie gives a class presentation on her favorite fairy tale, Cinderella, Holden points out to the class that Cinderella’s feet would be sore and swollen after walking home from the ball. He also questions whether someone’s foot size is a good way to identify them, demonstrating with a poll of raised hands that half the class wears the same size shoe as Maddie.

That night, Maddie and Holden discover that Holden’s pointed questions did more than ruin Maddie’s presentation. They ruined Cinderella! Maddie and Holden are magically sucked into the story of Cinderella. It’s the day of the wedding, but instead of marrying Cinderella, the prince is marrying one of her stepsisters! Cinderella’s feet were swollen from walking home and wouldn’t fit into the glass slipper—but one of her stepsisters had the same size feet as her. The prince mistakenly believes the stepsister is his true love. Can Maddie and Holden fix Cinderella?

I have to admit that, just like with the question raised by Holden about Beauty and the Beast, Holden’s questions about Cinderella never occurred to me. Holden is one of the most creative (and skeptical) kids I know!

Aladdin

By the time Holden ruins Aladdin (in book three of the series), Maddie and Holden are experts at the ruined fairytale! In fact, this time, Holden deliberately puts himself and his stepsister into the story of Aladdin.

Not only do Maddie and Holden have to share a home now, but they also share a birthday. Maddie is having a great birthday—her stepmother has helped create an Aladdin theme for her sleepover party. Holden, on the other hand, is having the worst birthday ever. To top it off, he doesn’t receive the hoverboard he really wanted for his birthday present.

After pointing out all of the problems in Maddie’s most recent annoying fairytale, Holden storms off to his room. A few hours later, he sees a picture of Aladdin riding a hoverboard. He realizes that if he and Maddie go into the story of Aladdin, he will get to be Aladdin.

Once magically sucked into the story of Aladdin, Maddie and Holden again have to work together to fix the fairytale Holden has broken. I have to say, this is definitely the funniest of the fairytale situations that Maddie and Holden have found themselves in!

Snow White

The fourth book of the series starts a little differently, with Maddie finding the plot holes to Snow White. Could it be that with Holden out of town, she is actually missing her rotten stepbrother?

Snow White gives Maddie and Holden a chance to examine their own family and their relationship, as they watch the way the seven dwarf brothers act together. They also compare the relationship between Snow White and her stepmother and father to the one they have with their parents at home and realize how fortunate they are.

Over the course of the four stories, Maddie and Holden’s relationship grows from intense dislike to grudging acceptance. They begin to recognize that they need each other, and they get better and better at working together to solve the fairytale challenges before them. (Of course, they still have a lot of work to do, leaving the door open for plenty more installments in this series!) Holden also goes through a journey of self-examination and maturation over the four books.

This series is one of my new favorites, and I’m looking forward to seeing many more from author Jerry Mahoney. Thanks to Mr. Mahoney and Capstone for the opportunity to read these books!

Have you read any great books lately?

The Wife Between Us – GIVEAWAY!!!

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A quick jump into the adult fiction world for this fantastic psychological thriller by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen! The publisher’s description of the novel is a superb set-up for a discussion of the book:

When you read this book, you will make many assumptions.
You will assume you are reading about a jealous ex-wife.
You will assume she is obsessed with her replacement – a beautiful, younger woman who is about to marry the man they both love.
You will assume you know the anatomy of this tangled love triangle.
Assume nothing.

Twisted and deliciously chilling, The Wife Between Us exposes the secret complexities of an enviable marriage – and the dangerous truths we ignore in the name of love.

Read between the lies.

Despite the warnings, it is hard not to assume you know what’s happening as you follow along the twists and turns in this tale. It begins with the stereotypical story of a successful wealthy husband throwing aside his middle-aged wife for a younger beauty. The ex-wife has been left with nothing after the divorce. She is pitied by her former friends and has begun working in a low-paying job to make ends meet. But The Wife Between Us brings a far more complex drama than this stereotype.

As she tells her story in first person narrative, it is easy to feel conflicted about ex-wife Vanessa. We see her as predator, stalking her prey—the replacement wife. We see her as betrayed, beaten down, and broken—begging ex-husband Richard not to marry the new woman. She gets ever more desperate as the wedding day approaches.

In chapters that alternate with Vanessa’s story, we also meet Nellie, who is getting ready to marry Richard. Their story is romantic and fairytale-perfect. Nellie is young, sweet, and innocent. She works as a preschool teacher for three-year-olds.

But Nellie is scared. She has been receiving hang-up calls. She jumps at noises and sees people in shadows. Is it Richard’s ex-wife?

The Wife Between Us is Greer Hendricks’s first novel after a career of more than two decades as an editor. Her work as an editor included work by co-author Sarah Pekkanen, an internationally bestselling author. This duo transformed their author-editor relationship into that of co-authors. The resulting novel is a tremendous success! (You can hear more about their partnership in a Meet the Authors video on the St. Martin’s Press website.)

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The Wife Between Us will be released on January 9, 2018.

I have a free copy of The Wife Between Us to giveaway to one lucky reader (thanks St. Martin’s Press!). Or, if you’re nervous about counting on a giveaway to snag your copy, you can place a pre-order at Amazon.com.

Click HERE to enter the giveaway!

Have you read any great books lately?