Featured

Blog Tour: Foreshadow

fore·shad·ow
/fôrˈSHadō/
verb
to predict something or to give a hint of what is to come.

Foreshadow was originally an online literary project that featured new and emerging authors from marginalized groups. Each of their stories is introduced here by some of the most highly recognized and beloved voices in YA today. Following each tale is a brief glimpse into the writer’s mind:

  • What myths are incorporated into their stories and why?
  • Why the story is narrated in first person or second person voice and how does this change how the audience views the characters?
  • The importance of humor in driving the story.

At the end of each tale editors Emily X. R. Pan and Nova Ren Suma add their analysis. This look into the writing process and how it informs the writing style is eye-opening and adds another depth of understanding to the work. Foreshadow goes further to include writing prompts for the audience based on some of the stories.

This anthology had a vast array of genres and facets of life. Overall Foreshadow was clever and magical and uplifting. I personally found it refreshing to see girls and women given so much freedom to be who they are and exercise their power and gifts. I can see and would hope that high school teachers would include this book as part of their curriculum. I hope that the authors and editors realize their goal of “foreshadowing” where the landscape of YA fiction is going. We certainly need more of these new voices and their stories.


Meet the Editors

Nova Ren Suma is the author of the #1 New York Times bestselling The Walls Around Us, which was an Edgar Award finalist. She also wrote Imaginary Girls and 17 & Gone and is co-creator of FORESHADOW: A Serial YA Anthology. She has an MFA in fiction from Columbia University and teaches writing at Vermont College of Fine Arts and the University of Pennsylvania. Originally from the Hudson Valley, she spent most of her adult life in New York City and now lives in Philadelphia.

Emily X.R. Pan is the New York Times bestselling author of The Astonishing Color of After, which won the APALA Honor Award and the Walter Honor Award, received six starred reviews, was an LA Times Book Prize finalist, and was longlisted for the Carnegie Medal. She lives in Brooklyn, New York. Visit Emily online at exrpan.com, and find her on Twitter and Instagram: @exrpan.

Featured

Blog Tour: Confessions on the 7:45

Synopsis

Bestselling and award-winning author Lisa Unger returns with her best novel yet. Reminiscent of the classic Strangers on a Train, Confessions on the 7:45 is a riveting psychological thriller that begins with a chance encounter on a commuter train and shows why you should never, ever make conversation with strangers.

Be careful who you tell your darkest secrets…

Selena Murphy is commuting home from her job in the city when the train stalls out on the tracks. She strikes up a conversation with a beautiful stranger in the next seat, and their connection is fast and easy. The woman introduces herself as Martha and confesses that she’s been stuck in an affair with her boss. Selena, in turn, confesses that she suspects her husband is sleeping with the nanny. When the train arrives at Selena’s station, the two women part ways, presumably never to meet again.

But days later, Selena’s nanny disappears.

Soon Selena finds her once-perfect life upended. As she is pulled into the mystery of the missing nanny, and as the fractures in her marriage grow deeper, Selena begins to wonder, who was Martha really? But she is hardly prepared for what she’ll discover.

Expertly plotted and reminiscent of the timeless classic Strangers on a Train, Confessions on the 7:45 is a stunning web of lies and deceit, and a gripping thriller about the delicate facades we create around our lives.


Review

“Sometimes a stranger was the safest place in your life.”  

And sometimes there is danger lurking in the unknown.  


When working mom Selena confides her suspicions with a stranger on the train she feels a momentary release from the burden of her secret.  Oddly, she feels a connection to this woman even though she she doesn’t quite understand why.  Her brief meeting leaves her feeling uneasy especially after the woman starts texting her.  But Selena has bigger problems to deal with.  Her nanny has gone missing and the police are asking questions.  Questions that if answered truthfully could put her and her husband in hot water.


The twists in Confessions on the 7:45 come early and hit hard.  For a moment you are both intrigued and unsettled.  You may not yet have a clue as to where the novel is headed, but you are certainly anxious to find out.  Loosely based on Highsmith’s Strangers on a Train, Confessions reminds us how much of our lives are on display for the world to see and how this technology may be used against us. 


In Confessions on the 7:45 Unger delves into those liminal spaces where things are neither black or white.  People are not all good or all bad.


The found family trope takes on new meaning when you have a psychopath at its center.  For each character Unger shows how they were shaped by their childhood experiences.  Family secrets are not just burdens for those who hold them; their price can be meted out upon the heads of those kept in the dark.

Adding to this mystery are the layers of metaphor Lisa Unger weaves into her writing.  People are like pine seedlings on a forest floor.  They appear to be refuse, litter to be consumed by fire. But instead that pressure and heat is the spark they need to blossom and flourish and start on their path in life.  This sentiment is repeated with the myth of the phoenix rising out of the ashes to fly unburdened into the sky.

Confessions on the 7:45 is my third Lisa Unger book. I find her work to be intelligently written with much thought given to the development of her characters. Readers are pulled in to the stories because her characters are relatable. They can be you or me or someone we know. Their past lives are given enough attention that you understand what makes them tick.

The plot is full of twists and turns and plenty of salacious details. I was riveted to my seat all day long.

Highly recommended for thriller and mystery fans.


Meet the Author

Lisa Unger is the New York Times and internationally bestselling author of eighteen novels, including CONFESSIONS ON THE 7:45 (Oct. 2020). With millions of readers worldwide and books published in twenty-six languages, Unger is widely regarded as a master of suspense. Her critically acclaimed books have been voted “Best of the Year” or top picks by the Today showGood Morning AmericaEntertainment WeeklyAmazonIndieBound and others. Her essays have appeared in The New York TimesWall Street JournalNPR, and Travel+Leisure. She lives on the west coast of Florida with her family.


Buy Links

Featured

Series Saturdays: Myrtle Hardcastle Mysteries Blog Tour

Who is Myrtle Hardcastle?

Our Myrtle does not fit into the mold that English society believes is becoming of a little lady. She is precocious and asks a lot of questions. With an interest in both her late mother’s science background and her father’s legal background, Myrtle has what some feel is a morbid curiosity with death and murder. This passion for forensics however makes Myrtle one hell of a sleuth. The problem is that at 12 years old none of the adults in her life, save for her governess Miss Judson, bother to listen to her.


Book 1: Premeditated Myrtle

When her next-door neighbor, a wealthy spinster and eccentric breeder of rare flowers, dies under Mysterious Circumstances, Myrtle seizes her chance. With her unflappable governess, Miss Ada Judson, by her side, Myrtle takes it upon herself to prove Miss Wodehouse was murdered and find the killer, even if nobody else believes her — not even her father, the town prosecutor.

Book 2: How to Get Away With Myrtle

This second book in the series finds Myrtle Hardcastle and her beloved Miss Judson on a train ride along the English countryside. It’s supposed to be a relaxing holiday. Perhaps one that Myrtle was dreading because she would be under the watchful eye of her stern Aunt Helen. But not before long Myrtle finds herself thrust into another mystery. A priceless tiara is stolen and one of the passengers is murdered — with her Aunt Helen’s sewing shears! Our plucky young protagonist must race against time to prove her aunt is innocent. But can she get the local authorities to listen to her?


My Thoughts on the Series

I was excited to read these books because I grew up reading Nancy Drew. I was hoping that I could find a series featuring a strong female character that my daughter could be inspired by. Like Nancy Drew, Myrtle Hardcastle is quite the detective. But Myrtle has more obstacles to overcome. Her mother is deceased having succumbed to a disease. As the local prosecutor, her father’s job demands much of his time. Living in the late 19th century England she is expected to be a charming little lady honing her domestic skills. Because she is younger any pleas that she may have to discuss a case are often thwarted.

As I read the series I couldn’t help but be reminded of Harper Lee’s Scout. Both of these characters defied convention. Both have special relationships with their fathers where they know and love their daughter’s differences, even if at times their natures get them into trouble.

The Myrtle Hardcastle series is cleverly formatted. Myrtle is not just the narrator, but the writer of the story often taking time to address her dear readers personally. Throughout both books Bunce treats us to footnotes that serve as cute anecdotes and tidbits of trivia. Many of the chapters in this series also begin with blurbs from Myrtle’s books that sets the stage for that chapter. I feel that this format will make the Myrtle Hardcastle series more appealing to its target audience – middle grade readers. But I do feel that this cozy mystery series has something for adults too. Besides good characterization and an engaging style of writing each novel deals with issues of feminism and racial representation. The mysteries in and of themselves are craftily devised and have enough meat to sustain an adult’s attention.


Mom’s Verdict

I enjoyed the Myrtle Hardcastle series a lot but at 8 years old my daughter may not be quite ready for this series. I would say that 12 may be the ideal age to introduce her Myrtle Hardcastle. But I look forward to when that time comes and hope that my daughter is as excited to read about this plucky heroine’s adventures as I was. In the meantime she’ll have to settle on relishing eating the famous Stansberry pie from Premeditated Myrtle.


Meet the Author

From the Elizabeth Bunce’s website: “I am a fan of all things fantastical, mysterious, spooky, and old. I write historical fantasy, mysteries, and ghost stories for young readers, and discerning not-so-young readers. My books are inspired by real places and cultures of the past, often with otherworldly or magical elements.”

“I’m a native Midwesterner, living in the tall grass prairie near Kansas City with my husband and our feline supervisory staff. When I’m not writing, you’ll usually find me Making something—cosplay, needlework, historical costuming, quilting… but not cooking.”

From Goodreads: “Her first novel, A Curse Dark as Gold, won the inaugural William C. Morris Award for a young adult debut novel and was named a Smithsonian Notable Book. Her high fantasy Thief Errant series includes the novels StarCrossed, A Chicago Public Library Best of the Best book for 2010, and Liar’s Moon, one of Kirkus Blog’s Favorite YA Novels of 2011. StarCrossed and A Curse Dark as Gold have appeared on Oprah’s Kid’s Reading List. Her novels have been named to the ALA’s Best Fiction for Young Adults list, and she is a three-time Kansas Notable Book winner. An accomplished needlewoman and historical costumer, Elizabeth lives in the Midwest with her husband, her cats, and a boggart who steals books.”

Featured

Blog Tour: The Orphan of Cemetery Hill

Buy Links

Synopsis

The dead won’t bother you if you don’t give them permission.

Boston, 1844.


Tabby has a peculiar gift: she can communicate with the recently departed. It makes her special, but it also makes her dangerous.

As an orphaned child, she fled with her sister, Alice, from their charlatan aunt Bellefonte, who wanted only to exploit Tabby’s gift so she could profit from the recent craze for seances.

Now a young woman and tragically separated from Alice, Tabby works with her adopted father, Eli, the kind caretaker of a large Boston cemetery. When a series of macabre grave robberies begins to plague the city, Tabby is ensnared in a deadly plot by the perpetrators, known only as the “Resurrection Men.”

In the end, Tabby’s gift will either save both her and the cemetery—or bring about her own destruction.


My Thoughts

The Orphan of Cemetery Hill is my first Hester Fox novel. I found her writing to be very atmospheric. I was easily transported back in time. Tabby’s character resonated with me. I was scared for the child abandoned and happy for the girl who found a home. She was resilient and despite the trauma she endured she still was a compassionate and loving person. Despite the fact that I usually gravitate towards kick a$$ females I could appreciate the fact that Hester Fox’s characterization of Tabby as a “little woman waiting to be rescued by her knight in shining armor” was true to the way women in that era were treated. I still don’t like Caleb though and was a bit skeptical about his professions of love. But I digress.

Overall, The Orphan of Cemetery Hill was an enjoyable and engaging read. I was taken in by the mystery and loved that the book was loaded with history. I also enjoyed how Hester Fox handled both Tabby’s and Alice’s supernatural gifts. It was just the right amount of the paranormal: enough to keep me intrigued and not too much where the story would be unbelievable. Definitely picking up Hester Fox to read again.

Historical Perspective

The Orphan of Cemetery Hill takes place in Boston before the abolition of slavery and the establishment of equal women’s rights. Set in 1844, many slaves had escaped to the North for freedom but did not have much protection under the law. The Seneca Falls Convention has yet to happen but the Suffragettes are organizing and increasing their numbers.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers

Harvard was a burgeoning medical center and its numbers of medical students were rapidly increasing. The one or two cadavers that the school would obtain each year meant that the entire class would be sharing and dissecting a specimen for the full year. With the Paris Method of teaching hands on being the definitive instruction method this meant that there were simply not enough cadavers to meet the needs of the anatomy classes.

Legally, medical schools would be given the bodies of the indigent and executed criminals. Bodies of slaves were also sold, stolen and given over to the schools for experimentation. At Harvard Medical School a secret student society called the Spunkers formed to meet the rising demand for bodies.

Their means of procuring cadavers – grave robbing. In some cases they were quite clever. Some members would go to funerals and blend in with the mourners so that they knew where the fresh graves were. They would pull up the casket by the head slipping the body out through a small opening and returning the casket to the grave. If anyone were to stumble across the grave it would appear undisturbed. They also were quite deliberate about whose grave they would rob. If they disinterred bodies from slave burial grounds they knew there would be no legal ramifications.

Body snatching was so widespread that people started to take extra precautions when burying their loved ones. Family members would vigilantly guard the grave for weeks. Special cages were erected around the grave. The most extreme measures were perhaps the grave guns and coffin torpedoes that were attached to caskets, primed and at the ready.


Meet the Author

Hester Fox is a full-time writer and mother, with a background in museum work and historical archaeology. Most weekends you can find Hester exploring one of the many historic cemeteries in the area, browsing bookshops, or enjoying a seasonal latte while writing at a café. She lives outside of Boston with her husband and their son.


Where You Can Find Hester Fox

Featured

Blog Tour: Skunk and Badger

Synopsis

Wallace and Gromit meets Winnie-the-Pooh in a fresh take on a classic odd-couple friendship, from Newbery Honor author Amy Timberlake with full-color and black-and-white illustrations throughout by Caldecott Medalist Jon Klassen.
 
No one wants a skunk.
 
They are unwelcome on front stoops. They should not linger in Important Rock Rooms. Skunks should never, ever be allowed to move in. But Skunk is Badger’s new roommate, and there is nothing Badger can do about it.
 
When Skunk plows into Badger’s life, everything Badger knows is upended. Tails are flipped. The wrong animal is sprayed. And why-oh-why are there so many chickens?
 
Nooooooooooooooooooooo!”
 
Newbery Honor author Amy Timberlake spins the first tale in a series about two opposites who need to be friends.
 
New York Times bestselling author/illustrator and Caldecott Medalist Jon Klassen completes the book with his signature lushly textured art. This beautifully bound edition contains both full-color plates and numerous black-and-white illustrations.
 
Skunk and Badger is a book you’ll want to read, reread, and read out loud . . . again and again.


My Take

“Adventure and Science made the best stories.”

Skunk and Badger represent these two opposites but show that joy is to be had by embracing both of these principles. Adventure is fun but things get messy. (Beware of rocket potatoes!) Science has structure and discipline but its very essence is magic. Timberlake captures this very well in her story of Chicken Little the Mighty.


What Geralyn Liked Best

My daughter’s favorite character was Skunk. She liked him because he seemed like a lot of fun. She used his jumping on beds as her example. Most importantly for her was that he could COOK. Yes! With a capital C! And Lord knows my girl likes to eat. It may be her favorite pastime. LOL I mean no harm. I am a foodie too 🙂 But my girl was coming up with ideas. Skunk is putting this Momma to work! I have to be honest and say that those strawberry cinnamon muffins sounded delish. We’ll be savoring all of their goodness this weekend. Here’s the recipe in case you guys would like to share it with your kiddos as well.

Strawberry Cinnamon Muffins


For my part I have to admit that I sound a lot like Badger these days. Working from home is challenging and it’s hard to find a quiet place to work without interruption. Oh how I envy Skunk though. That moon room sounds like the ultimate reading nook.

Artwork by Jon Klassen

What We Learned As a Family

  • Everyone must contribute. “It’s a Law of Nature.”
  • “The fastest way to win a kingdom is by being kind and gentle instead of using violence and cruelty.”
  • It’s easier to make friends when you show a genuine interest in getting to know them, their likes and dislikes.
  • Sincere Sorrys do not come with “Buts”. (But this . . . But that)
  • You should get to know someone first before making judgments about them. It is wrong to lump groups of animals (or people) together and assume they all act the same way.

Family Fun Ideas

  • Go rock hunting! Explore some of our local national parks to see how many different types of rocks we can find.
  • Learn more about rock properties using a rock testing kit.
  • Make our own gem bracelets.
  • Grow a potato at home.
  • Make PEEP kebobs.
  • Write and illustrate our own retellings of Chicken Little.

Meet the Author

From her website: “Amy Timberlake grew up in Hudson, Wisconsin. She attended Mount Holyoke College and majored in History. She also holds an M.A. in English/Creative Writing. Most of the time, she can be found in Chicago, where she lives with her husband. But on especially good days she can be found walking on a long, long trail.”


Meet the Illustrator

From Goodreads: “Jon Klassen received the 2010 Canadian Governor General’s Award for his illustrations in Caroline Stutson’s CAT’S NIGHT OUT. He also created illustrations for the popular series THE INCORRIGIBLE CHILDREN OF ASHTON PLACE and served as an illustrator on the animated feature film Coraline. I WANT MY HAT BACK is the first book he has both written and illustrated. Originally from Niagara Falls, Canada, he lives in Los Angeles.”

Featured

Tour the World in 30 Books Blog Tour: Sharks in the Time of Saviors

Hello Everyone and Welcome to my stop on Tour the World in 30 Books.

This blog tour is hosted by Sammie @ The Bookwyrm’s Den in support of increasing access to more diverse books. The CCPL—a small, rural library in an area with a high poverty rate and a very homogeneous population, where people rarely have the means to travel or experience new perspectives. However, the library doesn’t believe that should stop people from learning more about the world around them, so they’re running a Diverse Book Drive through the month of September in an attempt to bring the rest of the world to the county instead. With a focus on MG and YA books, the CCPL aims to expose especially its young patrons to new and diverse perspectives and cultures.


Sharks in the Time of Saviors

Kawaii Strong Washburn

Sharks in the Time of Saviors is so far my favorite book of 2020. The story was moving, the characters memorable and the language was oh so beautiful. This is a book that will stay with me a long time and I will return to many times over.

Here are the top 5 reasons why you should read this soul stirring book.

Importance of Place

The Hawaii in Sharks in the Time of Saviors is not a place filled with tourists but one of a family with roots extending through the generations. It is beautiful and lush but Washburn focuses on the value of tradition and the price paid for modernity.

Legend

Hawaiian Legend of the Night Marchers

Legend in Sharks in the Time of Saviors is both mystical and miraculous. It is part of the family’s heritage as well as their future. The book opens up on the night of Noa’s conception with a sighting of Hawaii’s Night Marchers. By the end of the first chapter Noa becomes a living legend when he falls into the sea and is delivered back to safety in the mouth of a shark. He goes on to perform miracles.

As the family hero Noa struggles to save the world without losing himself, while his siblings try to assert themselves to remind others that they still exist.

Family

Family plays an important role in the book. Washburn spends a lot of time with the siblings and how they adjust to their new familial roles after the tragedy. Throughout the book he uses rotating perspectives to amplify their different voices. The characters are drawn with such depth that even through their flaws each of them has the power to carve out the family’s existence and save the others.

Beautiful imagery

Pele, Hawaiian Goddess of Volcanoes

“I’d dream of what must have been Hawaiian gods. Women as large and distant as volcanoes, their skin dark like pregnant soil, dolphin-kind bodies thick and slick and full of joyful muscle. Their hair tangled and tumbled down into the trees until I couldn’t tell the vines from their locks and their eyes golden or blue or green without white and smoldering. Everywhere they touched the land, the land grew into them, skin blending with earth, until you couldn’t find where one ended and the other began.”

Faith

Hina, Hawaiian Goddess of the Moon

We can put our faith in the supernatural or in each other. Here, faith extends from the gods to family and to our connection to the land. Salvation comes in the form of returning home and melding the present with the traditions of the past.


My Favorite Quote

“If a god is a thing that has absolute power over us, then in this world there are many. There are gods that we choose and gods that we can’t avoid; there are gods that we pray to and gods that prey on us; there are dreams that become gods and pasts that become gods and nightmares that do, as well. As I age I learn that there are more gods than I’ll ever know, and yet I have to watch for all of them, or else they can use me or I can lose them without even realizing it.”


How Can You Help?

Casey County Public Library Wishlists

You may also purchase one of the books featured on this tour from the wishlists below. Hardbacks are preferred but not required.

(If you order something from the Book Shop wishlist, please DM @srbetler on Twitter or email sammie@thebookwyrmsden.com, because I don’t believe that site automatically removes books from the wish list.)

Need more ideas? The library has a general Amazon wish list with suggestions too.


Blog Tour Schedule

Please take the time to visit these other stops on the tour. It’s a great way to show your support for this great cause and who knows you might just find your next great book love in the pages of these awesome books.

✦ September 1 ✦
Sammie @ The Bookwyrm’s Den – Introduction, Paola Santiago and the River of Tears
Leelynn @ Sometimes Leelynn Reads – Dating Makes Perfect

✦ September 2 ✦
Lauren @ Always Me – The Epic Crush of Genie Lo

✦ September 3 ✦
Toya @ The Reading Chemist – Felix Ever After

✦ September 4 ✦
Michelle @ Carry A Big Book – Sharks in the Time of Saviors

✦ September 5 ✦
Shenwei @ READING (AS)(I)AN (AM)ERICA – The Astonishing Color of After

✦ September 6 ✦
Maria @ A Daughter of Parchment and Paper – Patron Saints of Nothing

✦ September 7 ✦
Bri @ Bri’s Book Nook – True Friends (Carmen Browne)

✦ September 8 ✦
Bec @ bec&books – Lobizona
Jorie @ Jorie Loves A Story – diverse TTT

✦ September 9 ✦
Sienna @ Daydreaming Book Lover – Loveless

✦ September 10 ✦
Kerri @ Kerri McBookNerd – Raybearer

✦ September 11 ✦
Noly @ The Artsy Reader – The Name Jar

✦ September 12 ✦
Jacob @ The Writer’s Alley – Forest of Souls

 September 13 ✦
Keri @ Are You My Book – The Tea Dragon Society

✦ September 14 ✦
Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight – The Space Between Worlds

✦ September 15 ✦
Melissa @ Ramblings of a Jedi Librarian – Girl in Translation

✦ September 16 ✦
Livy @ Shelves of Starlight – Clap When You Land

✦ September 17 ✦
Crystal @ Lost in Storyland – American Born Chinese

✦ September 18 ✦
Lili @ Lili’s Blissful Pages – A Wish in the Dark

✦ September 19 ✦
Leslie @ Books Are The New Black – The Poppy War

✦ September 20 ✦
Noura @ The Perks of Being Noura – Love From A to Z

✦ September 21 ✦
Crini @ Crini’s – A Pale Light in the Black

✦ September 22 ✦
Rachelle @ Rae’s Reads and Reviews – Dear Haiti, Love Alaine

✦ September 23 ✦
Dini @ DiniPandaReads – Wicked As You Wish

✦ September 24 ✦
Madeline @ Mad’s Books – Spin the Dawn

✦ September 25 ✦
Tessa @ Narratess – Brace Yourself

✦ September 26 ✦
Kimberly @ My Bookish Bliss – Truly Madly Royally

✦ September 27 ✦
Rena @ Bookflirting 101 – Anna K: A Love Story

✦ September 28 ✦
Susan @ Novel Lives – Burn the Dark

✦ September 29 ✦
Arina @ The Bookwyrm’s Guide to the Galaxy – A Song of Wraiths and Ruin

✦ September 30 ✦
Maya @ Awesome Reads – Jackpot

Featured

Blog Tour: Punching the Air

Synopsis

From award-winning, bestselling author Ibi Zoboi and prison reform activist Yusef Salaam of the Exonerated Five comes a powerful YA novel in verse about a boy who is wrongfully incarcerated. Perfect for fans of Jason Reynolds, Walter Dean Myers, and Elizabeth Acevedo.

The story that I thought

was my life

didn’t start on the day

I was born

Amal Shahid has always been an artist and a poet. But even in a diverse art school, he’s seen as disruptive and unmotivated by a biased system. Then one fateful night, an altercation in a gentrifying neighborhood escalates into tragedy. “Boys just being boys” turns out to be true only when those boys are white.

The story that I think

will be my life

starts today

Suddenly, at just sixteen years old, Amal’s bright future is upended: he is convicted of a crime he didn’t commit and sent to prison. Despair and rage almost sink him until he turns to the refuge of his words, his art. This never should have been his story. But can he change it?

With spellbinding lyricism, award-winning author Ibi Zoboi and prison reform activist Yusef Salaam tell a moving and deeply profound story about how one boy is able to maintain his humanity and fight for the truth, in a system designed to strip him of both.


Review

I can remember vividly the days surrounding the Central Park jogger case. I remember the collective fear that held New York City in a vice. The way the press preyed on our emotions with descriptions of roving gangs of teens “wilding out”. Five teens — black and brown — were accused of this depraved act. They were villainized. Trump took out a full page ad in the New York Times demanding the death penalty in their case. In the days the followed one person stood out for me. Yusef Salaam’s mother. Because of her stoicism. She never faltered. In the heat of the frenzy she boldly proclaimed her son’s innocence across her chest.

In the end the five would spend 6-13 years behind bars for a crime they did not commit.

Punching the Air is a collaboration between award winning author Ibi Zoboi and Exonerated Five member Yusef Salaam. It tells the story of a teenage boy Amal who has been wrongfully convicted of a crime. The book is a beautifully rendered piece that delves into the disenfranchisement of young black men.

“Locking you up isn’t enough
for them They will try to crush your spirit until
you’re nothing but —

Dust
we both say
together”

Written in verse, Punching the Air shows Amal whose name means hope draw strength through creativity. His poems and art are glimpses of freedom that give him hope to carry on.

” And what does dust do, Amal?
What did Maya Angelou say about dust?
Umi asks
It rises, I whisper”


“It was this one dude
who said that’s why we’re always
fucking up, we’re always making
mistakes
because ain’t no butterflies in the hood

See, if there were butterflies
we would have what’s called
the butterfly effect

A butterfly’s wings can
change the path of a storm

Something so small
can change
one big thing in the world
one big thing in the universe

If there are no butterflies here
no pretty little wings flapping in the
hood
then we can’t change a thing, he said

We’re the butterflies, I said
and the things we do are like wings”


Meet the Authors

Ibi Zoboi

Ibi Zoboi was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and holds an MFA in writing for children and young adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her novel American Street was a National Book Award finalist and a New York Times Notable Book. She is also the author of Pride and My Life as an Ice Cream Sandwich, a New York Times bestseller. She is the editor of the anthology Black Enough: Stories of Being Young & Black in America. Raised in New York City, she now lives in New Jersey with her husband and their three children.


Dr. Yusef Salaam

Dr. Yusef Salaam was just fifteen years old when his life was upended after being wrongly convicted in the “Central Park Jogger” case, along with four other boys who are now known as the Exonerated Five. Their story has been documented in the award winning film The Central Park Five by documentarians Ken Burns, Sarah Burns, and David McMahon and in Ava DuVernay’s highly acclaimed series When They See Us, one of Netflix’s most-watched original series of all time. Yusef is now a poet, activist, and inspirational speaker who lives in Atlanta, Georgia. He is the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from President Barack Obama.

Featured

Blog Tour: Impersonation

Synopsis

Allie Lang is a professional ghostwriter and a perpetually broke single mother to a young boy. Years of navigating her own and America’s cultural definition of motherhood have left her a lapsed idealist. Lana Breban is a high-profile lawyer, economist, and advocate for women’s rights with designs on elected office. She also has a son. Lana and her staff have decided she needs help softening her image in the eyes of the public and that a memoir about her life as a mother will help.

Allie struggles to write Lana’s book as obstacles pile up: not enough childcare, looming deadlines, an unresponsive subject, an ill-defined romantic relationship on the verge of slipping away. Eventually, Lana comes to require far too much of Allie and even her son. Allie’s ability to stand up for herself and ask for all that she deserves will ultimately determine the power that she can wield over her own life.

With the satirical eye of Tom Perrotta’s Mrs. Fletcher and the incisiveness of Meg Wolitzer’s The Female Persuasion, acclaimed writer Heidi Pitlor tells a timely, bitingly funny, and insightful story of ambition, motherhood, and class. 


Review

Ghostwriter Allie is used to stepping into someone else’s shoes and wearing their identities for months at a time. This level of method acting or getting into her subject’s head is required for pulling off a convincing read in someone else’s voice. Unlike actresses however, Allie never gets to take the credit for her work. Some charismatic headliner or successful business woman gets to put their pretty picture on the cover of her books and watch their faces climb the best seller lists. But Allie does not care for the accolades. She just wants to make a good enough living to support her son Cass.

Writing for condescending and sometimes sexist stars can make her job frustrating at times, but Lana Breban, feminist advocate, might be her most challenging client yet. Known for her blue cropped hair and no-nonsense style, Lana is an immigrant who has made her place in the world and has fought for the rights of other women. Allie looks up to her but as she tries to gather personal information for her book, Lana is not very forthcoming. Now that Lana is running for Senate she is not sure if her brand of motherhood appeals to the masses. As she tries to soften her public image Allie’s humble life and experiences seem more of the stuff that voters would like.

Impersonation asks a lot of questions not just about politics, but how we view women and how we judge mothers. Pitlor does start the conversation about modeling feminism for our younger generation in the hope to raise more compassionate and loving men for tomorrow. In the book, Allie tackles with the limits imposed on children by the genderization of babies. She strives to raise Cass in a gender-neutral setting offering him traditionally “feminine” toys like dolls to play with alongside trucks and cars. She also allows Cass to wear clothing of different types and colors but recognizes that other parents are not so open to little boys in pink. Nor will these parents chastise their children for being cruel. Bad behavior is usually explained away as “boys will be boys”.

Although I do not not think everything about motherhood is a feminist discussion, I do feel that oftentimes people feel they have the right to assert themselves in personal matters that are none of their business.

To breast feed or bottle feed? Which is right is a decision made between that mother and that child. I’ve breastfed four children. One I was able to feed on demand. With another we only lasted two months before switching to formula only. A third child was nibbling on chicken bones by 4 months old. The last took to bottle and breast equally. It made him no nevermind how he was eating as long as he had some type of food in his mouth.

What is the right way to disciple your child? Do you give them time out, take away privileges or use rewards as incentive for good behavior? What works with one child does not always work with the next. Nor does it work with the same child day in and day out. Whether she has one child or five, every mom needs to be quick witted and carry many tools in her arsenal.

Impersonation is in part an ode to the many hats that women wear as we make our way through American society. Daughter. Wife. Single mother. Career woman. Sometimes we wear a multitude of titles and they all carry a heavy weight loaded with the expectations of others. Ultimately, it is up to us to decide what works best for our own happiness and learn to advocate for what we want. Don’t apologize for who you are just because it does not fit the definition of who someone else wants you to be.


Meet the Author

Heidi Pitlor is the author of the novels The Birthdays and The Daylight Marriage. She has been the series editor of The Best American Short Stories since 2007 and the editorial director of Plympton, a literary studio. Her writing has been published in the New York Times, the Boston Globe, the Huffington PostPloughshares, and the anthologies It Occurs to Me That I Am America: New Stories and Art and Labor Day: True Birth Stories by Today’s Best Women Writers. She lives outside Boston.


Buy Links

Featured

Blog Tour: A House is a Body

Synopsis

INTRODUCING A DAZZLING NEW LITERARY VOICE

In two-time O. Henry-prize winner Swamy’s debut collection of stories, dreams collide with reality, modernity collides with antiquity, myth with true identity, and women grapple with desire, with ego, with motherhood and mortality. In “Earthly Pleasures,” Radika, a young painter living alone in San Francisco, begins a secret romance with one of India’s biggest celebrities. In “A Simple Composition,” a husband’s moment of crisis leads to his wife’s discovery of a dark, ecstatic joy and the sense of a new beginning. In the title story, an exhausted mother watches, distracted and paralyzed, as a California wildfire approaches her home. With a knife blade’s edge and precision, the stories of A House Is a Body travel from India to America and back again to reveal the small moments of beauty, pain, and power that contain the world.

Review

A House is a Body is an intimate collection of stories that explores a range of human emotions, conditions and relationships. It is tender and riveting. The prose is simple yet searing. Even though each story embodied a different soul, together these stories came together to reveal a humanity that is full of beauty, hope and pain.

“She was like hearing your own heartbeat. If you stop for a minute and are entirely still you can hear it. All along she’s with you, but you never notice until you think to notice.”

In this passage Swamy is talking of mothers but in her intuitive way her female characters call to attention many nuanced perspectives of looking at the world.

“When he lifted his eyes to me for a moment I felt the wind knocked out: I was a bell, and he’d rung me.”

A House is a Body using electric prose and imagery to bring both the realistic and surreal alive. It is definitely worth your time to pick this book up and steep in its well of emotions.

Meet the Author

From the author’s website: “The winner of two O. Henry Awards, Shruti Swamy’s work has appeared in The Paris Review, the Kenyon Review Online, Prairie Schooner, and elsewhere. In 2012, she was Vassar College’s 50th W.K. Rose Fellow, and has been awarded residencies at the Millay Colony for the Arts, Blue Mountain Center, and Hedgebrook.

She is a Kundiman fiction fellow, a 2017 – 2018 Steinbeck Fellow at San Jose State University, and a recipient of a 2018 grant from the Elizabeth George Foundation.”

Buy Links

Featured

Blog Tour: Paris Never Leaves You

First, I would like to thank Clare Maurer and Maria Vitale at St.Martin’s Press for thinking of me when organizing this blog tour.

Synopsis

The war is over, but the past is never past …
 
Paris, 1944. Charlotte Foret is working in a tiny bookstore in Nazi-occupied Paris struggling to stay alive and keep her baby Vivi safe as the world around them is being torn apart. Every day they live through is a miracle until Vivi becomes gravely ill.  In desperation, Charlotte accepts help from an unlikely saviour – and her life is changed forever.
 
Charlotte is no victim – she is a survivor. But the truth of what happened in Paris is something she can never share with anyone, including her daughter. But can she ever really leave Paris behind – and survive the next chapter of her life?
 
Seamlessly interweaving Charlotte’s past in wartime Paris and her present in the 1950s world of New York publishing, Paris Never Leaves You is a heartbreakingly moving and unforgettable story of resilience, love – and impossible choices.

Review

Paris Never Leaves You is an historical novel about the German occupation of Paris during World War II. What stood out for me was that it showed the impact on civilians during a time of war. We see their daily struggle to get food and essentials. We understand their fears as their houses are no longer their homes, but instead commodities of war. Families are divided and move nightly to evade the German soldiers.

The effect of the war is palpable. Charlotte has lost a considerable amount of weight. Her father has fled the country. Her closest friend Simone has been arrested and her daughter Vivi is starving. And through all this a German soldier comes to her bookstore proffering food. At first she tells herself that she accepts his kindness out of necessity. Then she realizes that she has feelings for him that run deeper. She cannot admit or express how she truly feels. It seems like a betrayal. To her dead husband and to the people of Paris.

At the end of the war Charlotte and Vivi have both made it through. Their new lives in America are strained by the secrets of the past. Not only does survivor’s guilt weigh down heavily on Charlotte, but she also is ashamed of how she came to secure the life that she and Vivi now live.

I found the book slow going at first and had a hard time getting into it. When I read the blurb I thought it was going to be more about books because of the bookstore and publishing angles. However, I did appreciate learning another aspect of World War II that is rarely depicted in books. I never thought of a Jew serving in the German army or others using Jewish classification to escape war. I found this whole concept of “hiding in plain sight” intriguing and was touched by both Julian’s and Charlotte’s stories.

Meet the Author

Ellen Feldman, a 2009 Guggenheim fellow, is the author of Terrible Virtue, The Unwitting, Next to Love, Scottsboro (shortlisted for the Orange Prize), The Boy Who Loved Anne Frank (translated into nine languages), and Lucy. Her last novel, Terrible Virtue, was optioned by Black Bicycle for a feature film.

Ellen has lectured extensively around the country and in Germany and England, and enjoys talking to book groups in person, on the phone, or via the web.

She grew up in northern New Jersey and attended Bryn Mawr College, from which she holds a B.A. and an M.A. in modern history. After further graduate studies at Columbia University, she worked for a New York publishing house.

Ellen lives in New York City and East Hampton, New York, with her husband and a terrier named Charlie.

Where You Can Find Ellen

Buy Links