Thursday, April 20, 2017

Mother-Daughter Review: What Happened to Ivy by Kathy Stinson

Title: What Happened to Ivy 
Author: Kathy Stinson 
Publisher: Second Story Press 
Source: Publisher 
Published: September 1st, 2012 
Purchase: Amazon | B&N 

Summary: What if your severely disabled sister were to suddenly die and you suspected that your father had played a role in her death? What if your best friend, a girl you've started to like as more than a friend, thinks your dad can do no wrong? Could she be right? What if she's not? That's life for fifteen-year-old David Burke after his sister, Ivy, dies in a suspicious drowning. David is forced to wrestle with moral questions and the definition of what is right, what is merciful and what can be forgiven. Readers will be pondering the questions this story raises long after they have found out what did happen to Ivy. 





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Michele's thoughts: 

Measuring only 5x7 and at 146 pages, What Happened to Ivy is a small book; but it has a big story with an even bigger message. David is a somewhat awkward teenager who loves gardening and studying the varieties of flowers and trees, he has an enormous crush on his neighbor Hannah, and he believes the only time his parents are reminded of his existence is when they need his help with his little sister, Ivy.   Ivy is 11 years old; and her cerebral palsy, surgeries, and seizures have confined her to a wheelchair.  She is in diapers, and her speech can be hard for some to understand. At times, she has been a source of embarrassment to David in front of his friends – which is why he no longer has any – but Ivy absolutely adores her big brother. And despite his complaints, David adores her, too.  Even when he has his moments of wondering what life might be like without her, he truly does love his sister and is often amazed by the things she says and the way she sees the world.  But everything is always about Ivy.  Her needs come first.  She’s always there, disrupting his life... and then she isn’t.  When Ivy drowns, David’s world is torn apart by the sudden loss.

His thought process through this tragedy and his grief are very realistic. Whether its things he feels he shouldn’t be thinking or remembering times with Ivy he wishes he wouldn’t, one thing is for certain… he loved his little sister, and life without her is not a life he wants at all. But then suspicions arise and fingers are pointed at a member of his family, and David finds himself wrestling with the truth about his sister’s death.

This is such an important book – one that belongs in school libraries and classrooms. It is an intense subject matter but written in a comfortable, pleasantly simplistic style that makes it perfectly suitable for middle graders and younger teens.  There are things in this book that can be applied to more than a sibling with disabilities…  they demonstrate how important the roles of patience and compassion are for anyone who helps with caregiving or loves someone who requires support and is dependent on others. This book does have an open ending, but for this particular story, it really works. An admirable book that tackles love, loss, and surviving heartbreak from the perspective of a young person.

Mckenzie's thoughts: 

This book is intended for ages eleven and up, but I feel this is one of those stories that readers of all ages could appreciate and learn from. The writing style is unique from what I normally read but fit the story and the main character very well. I found this story so compelling. I adored Ivy; she was such a bright character and brought so much happiness to the story, but her bad days and the aftermath of her death were heart-breaking to read about. I really felt for David. He has a lot more responsibility than most kids his age. I felt that his thoughts and actions were very realistic for a teenage boy, especially one dealing with so much. But he honestly did love his sister; that was clear, even if he felt she made his life difficult at times. Another thing I did like about David was his love of gardening. That is something I can relate to – and yes, not a lot of teens enjoy it, but I loved reading about one who did, even if he was fictional.

There were a lot of other aspects of this book that drew me in, as well, such as David’s parents and Hannah. They all had their own stories; and while I would have really liked to get to know them all better (especially Hannah), I liked that the focus was not on them. This is David’s story, and these are David’s thoughts. Because David’s feelings are so raw and conflicting, when it comes to his descriptions of those around him and their actions, I wonder if he is a bit of an unreliable narrator. But that’s another thing that makes it realistic; the reader really gets to experience the story through the eyes of this teenage boy.

What Happened to Ivy is a very fast read but one that moves at a perfect pace. It’s such an important story about patience, understanding, and healing; and I’m grateful to have read it.

Thank you to the publisher for providing us with a copy of this book in exchange for our honest reviews.

© at A Belle's Tales

  

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday #64: Ash and Quill (The Great Library, #3) by Rachel Caine


Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine,
that showcases our most anticipated upcoming releases.


Title: Ash and Quill (The Great Library, #3) 
Author: Rachel Caine 
Publisher: Berkley 
Expected Publication: July 11th, 2017 
Pre-order: Amazon | B&N 

Summary: The unforgettable characters from Ink and Bone and Paper and Fire unite to save the Great Library of Alexandria from itself in this electrifying adventure in the New York Times bestselling series.

Hoarding all the knowledge of the world, the Great Library jealousy guards its secrets. But now a group of rebels poses a dangerous threat to its tyranny....

Jess Brightwell and his band of exiles have fled London, only to find themselves imprisoned in Philadelphia, a city led by those who would rather burn books than submit. But Jess and his friends have a bargaining chip: the knowledge to build a machine that will break the Library’s rule.

Their time is running out. To survive, they’ll have to choose to live or die as one, to take the fight to their enemies—and to save the very soul of the Great Library....

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We're so excited to start this series! We have the first two books on our shelf; and with the descriptions and those gorgeous covers, they're just begging to be read. We can't wait to add book three to our collection when it releases this July!

      

What book are you waiting to get your hands on?

© at A Belle's Tales

  

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Happy Spring Break!




Hi, everybody! It's time for spring break where we live, and we will be totally unplugged and away from civilization. We haven't been around much in the last week due to school and illness.  A huge thank-you for everyone's emails and sweet well wishes to Mom. She's doing better now and looking forward to reconnecting with everyone! We'll be back on the 18th with reviews and a special new feature that we can't wait to share with you all!

Have a great week and happy reading!


© at A Belle's Tales 

  

Monday, April 3, 2017

Early Review: Geekerella by Ashley Poston

Title: Geekerella 
Author: Ashley Poston 
Publisher: Quirk Books 
Source: Publisher 
Expected Publication Date: April 4th, 2017 
Pre-order: Amazon | B&N 

Summary: Geek girl Elle Wittimer lives and breathes Starfield, the classic sci-fi series she grew up watching with her late father. So when she sees a cosplay contest for a new Starfield movie, she has to enter. The prize? An invitation to the ExcelsiCon Cosplay Ball, and a meet-and-greet with the actor slated to play Federation Prince Carmindor in the reboot. With savings from her gig at the Magic Pumpkin food truck (and her dad’s old costume), Elle’s determined to win…unless her stepsisters get there first.

Teen actor Darien Freeman used to live for cons—before he was famous. Now they’re nothing but autographs and awkward meet-and-greets. Playing Carmindor is all he’s ever wanted, but Starfield fandom has written him off as just another dumb heartthrob. As ExcelsiCon draws near, Darien feels more and more like a fake—until he meets a girl who shows him otherwise. But when she disappears at midnight, will he ever be able to find her again?

Part romance, part love letter to nerd culture, and all totally adorbs, Geekerella is a fairy tale for anyone who believes in the magic of fandom.

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"Look to the stars. Aim. Ignite." 

Elle Wittimer grew up surrounded by Starfield, the old sci-fi show she adored and watched re-runs of alongside her dad. The show was the reason her parents met, the thing that bonded her and her dad so closely, the origin of the most important memories Elle has since her father died. Starfield truly is all she has left of him. Especially considering her real-life wicked stepmother is determined to sell their house -- the house Elle's dad left to her. It seems like Catherine has taken everything from Elle, and Elle feels powerless to stop her from taking more. If only she can win the cosplay contest at ExcelsiCon -- the convention her dad helped found so many years ago -- and take home enough money to finally get away from her stepmother and stepsisters and heal. And it's just icing on the cake if she gets a chance to confront Darien Freeman while she's at it.

Darien Freeman also grew up surrounded by Starfield. As a kid, he found a place to belong within the storylines and characters, found solace in a world without deadbeat parents and nonexistent friends. Starfield was his second home. He knew every episode by heart, went to the conventions, imagined what it would be like to truly be in Federation Prince Carmindor's shoes. Now, years later, he has the chance. He's landed the spot of none other than Carmindor in the new movie reboot of the old show, and he can't believe he's really getting to do this. But the fandom of the show he's loved all these years... does not love him. His previous role on the teen soap Seaside Cove may have damaged his street cred, because none of the Stargunners seem to take him seriously; and one blogger in particular seems to downright despise him for taking the role. Between the less-than-thrilled fanbase and his less-than-caring manager/father Mark constantly standing in the way of his freedom and overall happiness, Darien isn't quite sure this experience is going to be everything he ever imagined after all.

Despite the fact that it's all she wants, Elle's goal still feels out of her reach; and despite his love for the role he's finally claimed, Darien wonders if he should even be here at all. Their lives seem completely out of their hands. But when Darien texts the creator of ExcelsiCon to sort out a meet-and-greet issue, and Elle receives an anonymous text meant for her dad, they each find the one thing they've so desperately needed: a friend. And through this accidental friendship, maybe they can both find the confidence to stop being powerless.

There were so many aspects of Geekerella that I absolutely adored. For one, the characters. Elle had to grow on me a little, and I wasn't always on board with her decisions; but she was likable and easy to root for. I felt for her and wanted nothing more than to see her win for once. I connected a little more with Darien; he was similar to Elle in that he was also likable and easy to root for, and his POV was also infused with plenty of humor and snark that made his chapters especially enjoyable. But another thing our main characters have in common is that they both put up with villains of sorts, and that brings me to my second beloved aspect. I absolutely loved how the characters in this book tied in with those in the actual Cinderella story. The wicked stepmother and stepsisters, the fairy godmother, the Cosplay Ball, the quest to find a mystery girl -- and so much more. I was so impressed with how beautifully the author intertwined fairytale with fandom.

Speaking of fandom, this may be my favorite aspect of Geekerella. Being a fangirl myself of books, bands, TV shows, and a few other things, I related to Elle and Darien's love for Starfield. Hard. I really appreciated fandoms being cast in a positive light; it's not about obsession or not having a life. It's about finding a place to belong in a group of people just like you; it's about the happiness that one thing brings you, the lessons you take from it. The author's note at the end especially made me tear up; but the book as a whole stresses the idea that fandoms are not a bad thing and that there's no reason to look down at anything that brings someone joy, and that is such an important message.

With its lovable characters, brilliant symbolism, and unabashed nerdiness, Geekerella is the perfect book for anyone who's ever found their home in a fanbase. Anyone who's ever found understanding in a book, a TV show, a band -- anything that brought them happiness and made them feel less alone. But even if fandoms aren't your thing, I believe there's something in Geekerella for everyone. There's heart and humor and captivating writing... and hope. Hope that maybe, even if it's through a TV show or a convention or an unknown number, things do get better. I'm incredibly grateful to Ashley Poston for giving this generation a book with so many important messages and morals and for helping to spread acceptance of fandoms and those in them. I can't wait to put Geekerella in the hands of all my friends (especially my fandom internet friends) and share even more of my love for this story.

"We might all be different -- we may ship different things or be in different fandoms -- but if I learned anything from twenty-three days in a too-blue uniform playing a character I thought I could never be, it's that when we become those characters, pieces of ourselves light up like glow sticks in the night. They shine. We shine. Together. And even when some of us fall to different universes, those lights never go out... 'We're all geeks here.'" 

A huge thank-you to the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. 

© at A Belle's Tales

  

Friday, March 31, 2017

On My Shelf: Hurt by Tabitha Suzuma


On My Shelf is an awesome feature hosted by Teresa at Readers Live A Thousand Lives that anyone can join. The idea is to spotlight a book from your TBR shelf; it's a fun way to discuss books with fellow bloggers and, with their help, decide which books are must-reads... and which ones can wait a while longer.
    

Mckenzie here! I've got the day off school, and I thought I would do our Friday feature this week while poor Mom is still dealing with kidney stones. I thought it was appropriate that I pick the book Hurt. Lol. Seriously, though, this is a book that I've had on my shelf for a few years; it sounds like an amazing concept but also really sad. I wonder if this is going to destroy me, or if I need to hurry up and get to it. 

Have you read Hurt? What are your thoughts? 
Do I drop everything and start reading -- or put it back on my shelf for later?

Hope everyone has a great weekend! See you next week! 

© at A Belle's Tales

  

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Release Day Review: Blood Rose Rebellion (Blood Rose Rebellion, #1) by Rosalyn Eves

Title: Blood Rose Rebellion (Blood Rose Rebellion, #1) 
Author: Rosalyn Eves 
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers 
Source: Publisher 
Published: March 28th, 2017 
Purchase: Amazon | B&N 

Summary: Sixteen-year-old Anna Arden is barred from society by a defect of blood. Though her family is part of the Luminate, powerful users of magic, she is Barren, unable to perform the simplest spells. Anna would do anything to belong. But her fate takes another course when, after inadvertently breaking her sister’s debutante spell—an important chance for a highborn young woman to show her prowess with magic—Anna finds herself exiled to her family’s once powerful but now crumbling native Hungary.

Her life might well be over.

In Hungary, Anna discovers that nothing is quite as it seems. Not the people around her, from her aloof cousin Noémi to the fierce and handsome Romani Gábor. Not the society she’s known all her life, for discontent with the Luminate is sweeping the land. And not her lack of magic. Isolated from the only world she cares about, Anna still can’t seem to stop herself from breaking spells.

As rebellion spreads across the region, Anna’s unique ability becomes the catalyst everyone is seeking. In the company of nobles, revolutionaries, and Romanies, Anna must choose: deny her unique power and cling to the life she’s always wanted, or embrace her ability and change that world forever.

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Born into a powerful class of magicians called the Luminate, Anna Arden has been surrounded by magic her whole life. But she’s only been just that – surrounded by it. Anna was deemed Barren by the Luminate government known as the Circle when she was a child, never to practice magic or cast spells as the rest of her family. When Anna unintentionally breaks her sister’s spells at Catherine’s debut before the Circle, she begins to draw unwanted attention from its members. They make plans to study her, to take her to a more private location where they can learn more about what causes her to break spells; but Anna’s family decides that the only way to protect Anna (and their reputations) is to send her with her grandmother to Hungary, where they will stay with her grandmother’s cousin in their home country until the Circle loses interest in studying her ability. Though Anna is at first less than thrilled about her arrangement, she too knows it is for the best and may very well be the only way to protect herself and her loved ones; the last thing any of them needs right now is to appear as a threat to the Binding, the powerful spell put in place by the Circle that serves as a reservoir of magic, available only to those born into the Luminate. Those outside the upper class of magicians are forbidden from using it – though there have been murmurs of rebellion; and try as the Circle and Anna’s family might to ignore them, they are steadily growing louder, and Anna may soon find herself at the center of them all.

A few of my reading friends struggled with some aspects of this book, but I completely adored it. From the first page, I could feel that it was something new and special; the plot moved at a perfect pace for everything that needed to be revealed and explained, and the beautiful but not overly descriptive writing held me utterly captivated until the last page. I fell fast and hard for these characters. Anna is a likable, passionate main character who, when we met, did not yet realize her own strength; she had much to learn both about herself and the world outside her comfy Luminate life. I loved her from the start for her spirit and determination, and my heart broke for her because of how her family treated her; but she still had a long way to go as far as breaking the pretentious molds her mother had raised her in. I was so proud of Anna; she showed astonishing character growth and proved to so many – including herself – that a young, wealthy, sheltered girl from England could indeed make a difference.

There were also several supporting characters that easily won my heart – Anna’s cousins, Noémi and Mátyás; her papa, grandmother, and brother, perhaps the only immediate family that were truly good to her; Ginny; Lady Berri; Karolina; Izidóra; and of course, Gábor. I love the way their relationship developed and grew into something beautiful. Gábor is such a strong, genuinely good character; it’s possible I may have fallen for him faster than Anna did. Let me assure you, though, that there was no insta-love; they definitely had their differences to overcome before they became… better acquainted. Overall, this story provides the reader with a vivid, unique world full of characters to love (and to hate). The world-building and imagery in this book were beautiful, and I felt as though I were truly living in it alongside my new companions. One aspect of this world I particularly loved was the way the author tied in the magic with real history; my favorite was the mention of the colonies and how they used magic freely due to the Circle’s inability to implement the Binding overseas. This story is crafted so brilliantly and creatively; this is such an impressive debut.

Another thing I loved about Blood Rose Rebellion was the uncertainty: Anna’s, Gábor’s, even my own. I couldn’t stop flipping back and forth on what I believed – one second I was sure that what was asked of Anna was a terrible idea and that Gábor was right to oppose it; the next, I was convinced Anna knew what she was doing and that this was the only real solution. I love it when a story can make you second-guess even yourself and make it so difficult to decide what you would do in that situation. This book was a roller-coaster; but goodness, was it ever worth it.

The story ended beautifully, with no cliffhanger or major unanswered questions; so I was surprised and thrilled to find that this is the first book in a trilogy! I can’t wait to return to Rosalyn Eves’s beautiful writing and to these wonderful characters that have found such a special place in my heart.

Thank you to the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

© at A Belle's Tales

  

Friday, March 24, 2017

On My Shelf: The Dark Secrets Series by Elizabeth Chandler


On My Shelf is an awesome feature hosted by Teresa at Readers Live A Thousand Lives that anyone can join. The idea is to spotlight a book from your TBR shelf; it's a fun way to discuss books with fellow bloggers and, with their help, decide which books are must-reads... and which ones can wait a while longer.

    

"Two girls haunted by the past... and destined to relive it." 

The Dark Secrets series is another series that I grabbed from BookOutlet. Shocker. I think I should change the intro above to say "hosted by Teresa, powered by BookOutlet." These covers are so pretty, and I like that there are two books in both the first and second volumes.

Have you read the Dark Secrets series? What are your thoughts? 
Do I drop everything and start reading -- or put it back on my shelf for later?

Hope everyone has a great weekend! See you next week! 

© at A Belle's Tales