Thursday, April 27, 2017

Review: Saint Death by Marcus Sedgwick

Title: Saint Death 
Author: Marcus Sedgwick 
Publisher: Roaring Book Press 
Source: Publisher 
Published: April 25th, 2017 
Purchase: Amazon | B&N 

Summary: On the outskirts of Juarez, Arturo scrapes together a living working odd jobs and staying out of sight. But his friend Faustino is in trouble: he's stolen money from the narcos to smuggle his girlfriend and her baby into the US, and needs Arturo's help to get it back. To help his friend, Arturo must face the remorseless world of drug and human traffickers that surrounds him, and contend with a murky past.

Hovering over his story is the unsparing divinity Santa Muerte, Saint Death--and the relentless economic and social inequalities that haunt the border between Mexico and its rich northern neighbor. Crafted with poetry and cinematic pace and narrated with cold fury, Saint Death is a provocative tour de force from three-time Printz Award honoree Marcus Sedgwick.

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“Don’t worry where you’re going; you will die where you have to.” 

This is a book that took me not only out of my reading comfort zone but far from my comfortable home with its central air and cozy reading chair. It took me to the border city of Juarez, a place where drugs and human trafficking are everyday life for its residents. This is a story of poverty, desperation... and selflessness. It’s where I met Arturo, and it’s where I’ll never forget him.

Arturo and Faustino grew up as close as brothers, but Faustino disappeared one day without a word to Arturo. Now, nearly a year later, he’s back; and he needs Arturo’s help. Faustino is now a part of the city’s most violent drug gang, and he has stolen $1,000 from the narcos in hopes of smuggling his girlfriend and their baby into the United States. Arturo is an expert at the game Calavera, and Faustino’s plan is to have Arturo win back his money for him.

Though it took a couple of chapters for me to really get into this story, I quickly became invested in Arturo and completely riveted by what transpires for him over the course of a day as he risks everything to help his friend. The scariest, most heart-pounding moment was when he was playing with the small amount of money he had to his name... and he began to win. What happens next is for readers to discover.

This is not a pleasant comfort read that will leave you in high spirits; but it is a timely, eye-opening, and unique young adult novel that will stay with you long after you put it down. Filled with cultural references and Mexican folk religion, Saint Death is both educational and thought-provoking. This is the kind of story that raises both awareness and empathy, and I’m very glad to have read it.

“This book is about other stories that occur over there, 
across the river. 
The comfortable way to deal with these stories is to say 
they are about them. 
The way to understand these stories is to say 
they are about us.” 
                                                                            – Charles Bowden 

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

  

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday #65: In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan


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


Title: In Other Lands  
Author: Sarah Rees Brennan 
Publisher: Big Mouth House 
Expected Publication: August 15th, 2017 
Pre-order: Amazon | B&N 

Summary: Sometimes it’s not the kid you expect who falls through to magicland, sometimes it’s . . . Elliott. He’s grumpy, nerdy, and appalled by both the dearth of technology and the levels of fitness involved in swinging swords around. He’s a little enchanted by the elves and mermaids. Despite his aversion to war, work, and most people (human or otherwise) he finds that two unlikely ideas, friendship and world peace, may actually be possible. 








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We adore Sarah Rees Brennan's writing, and we can hardly wait to meet Elliott and have this book on our shelf!

What book are you waiting to get your hands on?

© at A Belle's Tales

  

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Release Day Review: I Found You by Lisa Jewell

Title: I Found You 
Author: Lisa Jewell 
Publisher: Atria Books 
Source: Publisher 
Published: April 25th, 2017 
Purchase: Amazon | B&N 

Summary: A young bride, a lonely single mother, and an amnesiac man of dubious origin lie at the heart of New York Times bestselling author Lisa Jewell’s next suspenseful drama that will appeal to fans of Liane Moriarty and Paula Hawkins.

In a windswept British seaside town, single mom Alice Lake finds a man sitting on the beach outside her house. He has no name, no jacket, and no idea how he got there. Against her better judgment, she invites him inside.

Meanwhile, in a suburb of London, twenty-one-year-old Lily Monrose has only been married for three weeks. When her new husband fails to come home from work one night she is left stranded in a new country where she knows no one. Then the police tell her that her husband never existed.

Twenty-three years earlier, Gray and Kirsty are teenagers on a summer holiday with their parents. Their annual trip to the quaint seaside town is passing by uneventfully, until an enigmatic young man starts paying extra attention to Kirsty. Something about him makes Gray uncomfortable—and it’s not just that he’s playing the role of protective older brother.

Two decades of secrets, a missing husband, and a man with no memory are at the heart of this brilliant new novel, filled with the “beautiful writing, believable characters, pacey narrative, and dark secrets” (London Daily Mail) that make Lisa Jewell so beloved by audiences on both sides of the Atlantic.

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This was my first Lisa Jewell book; and after reading this incredibly engrossing story, I will most assuredly be picking up more of this author’s work. I Found You is told skillfully in four parts with three narratives. The first is from Alice, whom I very much liked. Alice is a single mother of three who has made some not-so-great decisions in the not-so-distant past and is doing her best to not make any more. She supports her family by creating these brilliant art pieces that she makes out of old maps specific to places her customers request. One morning, she sees a man sitting alone on the cold, damp sand in front of her seaside home in the British town of Ridinghouse Bay; he doesn’t remember who he is or how he arrived there. And against her friend’s advice and the better judgement she wishes she possessed, Alice takes him in. The second story is of new bride Lily, whom… well, unlike Alice, I didn’t like much at all. Lily’s beloved new husband doesn’t come home from work one night; and after several interactions with the police, they discover her new groom is not who he says he is. And last but certainly not least is the account from the past. One that tells the story of teenage Gray and his sister Kirsty as they vacation with their parents in Ridinghouse Bay in 1993. When Kirsty meets a young man who is attracted to her, Gray gets a bad vibe from the guy and immediately disapproves. All three of these stories are very interesting, but when all three intersect… they are fascinating.

This is one of those books I couldn’t put down; and though I anticipated certain things, it was the details of how it all played out that had me captivated. Told in a measured pace, this mystery is exciting without being rushed. It is a standalone with an ending that may divide readers, but it worked for this reader and I appreciated that it didn’t try to follow the formula that has everyone comparing every British mystery to the certain must-read-but-will-not-be-named-here thriller that took everyone by storm. I Found You doesn’t try to be something that it’s not because it doesn’t need to be. It’s suspenseful and absorbing and manages to be both heartbreaking at times and heartwarming at others. With converging storylines that are done brilliantly and flawlessly, this is a book that will appeal to fans of both the genre and the author.

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

  

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