Confessions of a Teenage Leper — Blog Tour

17 Sep

 

Publisher: Penguin Teen Canada
Released: Sept 25th,  2018
Genre: YA contemp
Source: ARC from publisher

 

Abby Furlowe has plans. Big plans. She’s hot, she’s popular, she’s a cheerleader and she’s going to break out of her small Texas town and make it big. Fame and fortune, adoration and accolades. It’ll all be hers. 

But then she notices some spots on her skin. She writes them off as a rash, but things only get worse. She’s tired all the time, her hands and feet are numb and her face starts to look like day-old pizza. By the time her seventeenth birthday rolls around, she’s tried every cream and medication the doctors have thrown at her, but nothing works. When she falls doing a routine cheerleading stunt and slips into a coma, her mystery illness goes into overdrive and finally gets diagnosed: Hansen’s Disease, aka leprosy. 

Abby is sent to a facility to recover and deal with this new reality. Her many misdiagnoses mean that some permanent damage has been done, and all of her plans suddenly come tumbling down. If she can’t even wear high heels anymore, what is the point of living? Cheerleading is out the window, and she might not even make it to prom. PROM!

But it’s during this recovery that Abby has to learn to live with something even more difficult than Hansen’s Disease. She’s becoming aware of who she really was before and what her behavior was doing to others; now she’s on the other side of the fence looking in, and she doesn’t like what she sees. . .

From Goodreads

 

I love when books take cliches and topes and approach them in a completely new way, making them something original again. “Mean girl has something happen that takes her down a notch and she redeems herself” has been done quite a lot in YA, but man, Confessions of a Teenage Leper, adds such a unique twist on it.

I had a feeling this was going to be a very different book, and it was. I loved finding out more about Hansen’s Disease and its history and I loved the coming of age aspect to the story, but what I absolutely adored was watching Abby’s relationships develop and deepen, especially the one she had with her brother.

This was a very addictive read and once I got into it, it was nearly impossible to put down.

I had a chance to ask Ashely a couple of questions and I am so glad that I did!

What made you decide to write about Hansen’s disease?

Kind of a long story, but while I was doing my undergraduate degree in creative writing, a prof assigned our class a historical fiction piece. So we had to find something in British Columbia’s history that interested us and then research it using three different sources (microfiche, interviews, encyclopedias, maps, etc. i.e. not the Internet) and then write a short story about it. I found out about a place called D’Arcy Island; a leper colony on a tiny island off the southern tip of Vancouver Island, not far from where I was going to university, in Victoria; it ran from 1891-1924. I did my research and wrote a short story from the perspectives of four men and one woman that had lived there. The idea had always stayed with me because it was so haunting, and the people sent there lived in really poor conditions and were basically sent there to die, not get better. So, about ten years later, I decided it was time to write a novel about D’Arcy Island; I went to the island and stayed three nights and visited the orchard they had kept and saw the foundations of the buildings that had housed them. I did about six months of research towards a historical fiction novel and sometime in the spring of 2015, June, I think, my friend sent me this article because he knew I was researching leprosy/HD, and it basically said that leprosy/HD is alive and well in the United States today in states like Texas, Florida, and Louisiana, because these states have high populations of armadillos and armadillos can transmit leprosy/Hansen’s Disease to humans and vice versa.

And that, just that one line about it still being a disease in these modern times — gave me the idea to do a young adult novel set in present day about a character who is very concerned with appearances and ends up contracting Hansen’s Disease. The whole novel shot into my mind like a single, focused, beam of light after reading that short article. And the next day, or maybe a few days later, Abby started talking to me and after that, there was no shutting her up.

What kind of research did you do for the novel?

Well, I mentioned that I stayed on D’Arcy Island; a former lazaretto. I went to the BC Archives and saw photos of the people who had lived on D’Arcy Island as well as some old newspaper articles about it and –fascinatingly– a letter from a concerned citizen to a doctor, pleading with the doctor to let a woman friend of his go to D’Arcy Island to care for these people (they had no nurses or medical care).

I also did a lot of secondary research through books and film. I read quite a few memoirs from people who had lived at Carville (the centre in Louisiana where Abby goes for treatment in the novel) and an excellent ethnography of Carville as well, which helped me get a lot of the small details right; the fact that Carville does their own Mardi Gras parade for example, and has special gold doubloons pressed for the occasion, featuring an armadillo on both sides. I liked that so I used it in the novel. I read a non-fiction book by a doctor who had worked with Hansen’s Disease sufferers in India for forty years. I read a great novel called Molokai about a young woman with Hansen’s Disease who is banished to Hawaii’s island of lepers, and the films, Molokai: The Story of Father Damien, The Motorcycle Diaries, and a handful of documentaries. I called the Hansen’s Disease Treatment Center in Baton Rouge, the same one Abby goes to, and I told them I was writing a novel about this young woman who contracts HD, etc. and was it okay if I asked a few questions. They said sure and were glad to help me. So that’s how I confirmed a few final details that I needed to know for the novel.

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Helium — Rudy Francisco

28 Aug

Publisher: Button Poetry
Released: November 28th,  2017
Genre: Poetry
Source: ARC from Netgalley

 

Helium is the debut poetry collection by internet phenom Rudy Francisco, whose work has defined poetry for a generation of new readers. Rudy’s poems and quotes have been viewed and shared millions of times as he has traveled the country and the world performing for sell-out crowds. Helium is filled with work that is simultaneously personal and political, blending love poems, self-reflection, and biting cultural critique on class, race and gender into an unforgettable whole. Ultimately, Rudy’s work rises above the chaos to offer a fresh and positive perspective of shared humanity and beauty.

From Goodreads

 

I have to thank Button Poetry for reintroducing me to poetry. I have discovered all of my current favorite poets through them. If you like spoken word poetry that hits hard, you HAVE to check them out.

Ah, this collection. OMG ALL THE FEELZ. It’s hard to put into words what I loved about this collection or even how it made me feel, and I think that’s the thing that I loved about it the most. I just really connected with the feeling of the poems and please don’t ask me for my favorite, because I would be hard pressed to choose.

I connected so much with his poems and found myself nodding and smiling, or nodding and crying depending on the poem. There is just something about hearing someone put into beautiful words exactly how I feel. It makes me feel both understood and not alone. And hopeful. OMG the hopefullness in his words.

If you already love poetry then you will loved this collection. If you think poetry isn’t your thing? I think you will still fall in love with Rudy’s words.

 

Blood Will Out Blog Tour

27 Jun

 

Publisher: Penguin Teen
Released: June 6th,  2018
Genre: YA thriller
Source: ARC from publisher

 

 

Okay, first off the fact that I got to read a book by Jo? The highlight of my month, for real. I loved Jo’s books Ashes, Ashes. And I’ve (im)patiently been waiting for a new book from here.

Blood Will Out had me all goosebumpy and wigged out and OMG.

The tone of the book and the writing were very calm and deliberate which gave me a sense of foreboding dread through the whole book. Don’t think intense music, movie hero about to open the closet door on the killer tension. Think everything is calm but you still brace yourself and yet you are still caught off guard tension. And it worked so, so well for the story.

This is definitely a book you don’t want to read while eating. There are some very detailed, very graphic scenes but they weren’t put in the book for shock value. They were key to the telling of this story and added a horrific layer that had me wanting to shut my eyes and read more at the same time.

Other reviewers have complained that this book is promoted as “The Silence of the Lambs” for teens and they strongly think that it isn’t. After reading Blood Will Out, I can totally see the similarities in themes and drama and tension and tone. It totally had that whole creepy psychological thriller vibe.

I really enjoyed Blood Will Out and it reminded me how much I like reading horror/suspense/psychological thrillers. I defintely recommend it if you want a strong, true to form thriller.

Miss Winter’s Demise and Other Crimes Against Poetry — Paul Minton

5 May

Publisher: Troubadour Publishing Ltd
Released: January 28th,  2018
Genre: Poetry, humour, kids
Source: ARC from NetGalley

Miss Winter’s Demise and Other Crimes Against Poetry is the debut collection of poems from Paul Minton exploring a wide range of themes and subjects. The book contains poems about strange things like a dog with too many legs, a boy who turns into a bird and even superheroes armed with the powers of bad breath and dandruff. There are rhymes about flying farm animals, extremely polite pirates and a newspaper especially for ghosts. And then there is the curious tale of Miss Winter’s demise in which the mystery of her spontaneous combustion is finally explained… Or is it? 

Written in a quirky and humorous style, Miss Winter’s Demise and Other Crimes Against Poetry also contains a number of illustrations that will help to fire the reader’s imagination. Each poem rhymes and concludes with a surprising twist or comic punchline.

From Goodreads

Rhymes that are funny, punny and have twists? Yes, please!

This was such a fun read. And I can only imagine how much fun it would be to read this out loud to a group of kids.

Some of the poems were really, really weird, which took me by surprise in a good way. And some of them almost had a slight undertone of menace a-la Lemony Snicket. I appreciated that the tone of all the poems wasn’t exactly the same.

This collection reminded me a bit of nursery rhymes as far as the rhyming and meter went. The meter wasn’t always bang on which interrupted the flow of a couple of the poems but overall the poems just kind of tripped off the tongue (yes I read them out loud to myself!).

I think kids would have a blast with this and it is definitely not a book that adults would get bored reading to their children.

 

Court of Lions — Jane Johnson

15 Jan

 

Publisher: Double Day
Released: May 30th 2017
Genre: Historical
Source: Finished copy from publisher

 

Kate Fordham, escaping terrible trauma, has fled to the beautiful sunlit city of Granada, the ancient capital of the Moors in Spain, where she is scraping by with an unfulfilling job in a busy bar. One day in the glorious gardens of the Alhambra, once home to Sultan Abu Abdullah Mohammed, also known as Boabdil, Kate finds a scrap of paper hidden in one of the ancient walls. Upon it, in strange symbols, has been inscribed a message from another age. It has lain undiscovered since before the Fall of Granada in 1492, when the city was surrendered to Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand. Born of love, in a time of danger and desperation, the fragment will be the catalyst that changes Kate’s life forever.

An epic saga of romance and redemption, Court of Lions brings one of the great hinge-points in human history to life, telling the stories of a modern woman and the last Moorish sultan of Granada, as they both move towards their cataclysmic destinies.

From Goodreads

This was an interesting read. I think it’s the first historical novel I’ve read that also has a current timeline plot connected with it. And while I found the transition back and forth between time periods smooth, I have to admit that I enjoyed the historical plot line more than the contemp plot line. It may be because I don’t read a lot of novels based on historical events that I found that plot so engaging.

The writing is so rich in detail that it made the location just pop to life. In fact, to me the location was a character in the book. It was almost like I was there. The description of the places made me want to go there, which is neat, because travel isn’t really my thing.

I’m normally not a huge fan of romance, but as I’ve said before if it’s done as part of the story and is done well, then I actually enjoy it. The romance and love in this story was beautifully written, especially in the historical parts of the book. I don’t want to give anything away, but it was quite lovely to read.

I really enjoyed Court of Lions and look forward to reading more from this author.

 

 

A Line in the Dark — Malinda Lo

11 Jan

 

Publisher: Dutton Books for Young Readers
Released: October 17th, 2017
Genre: YA, psychological thriller
Source: ARC from publisher

 

Jess Wong is Angie Redmond’s best friend. And that’s the most important thing, even if Angie can’t see how Jess truly feels. Being the girl no one quite notices is OK with Jess anyway. While nobody notices her, she’s free to watch everyone else. But when Angie begins to fall for Margot Adams, a girl from the nearby boarding school, Jess can see it coming a mile away. Suddenly her powers of observation are more curse than gift.

As Angie drags Jess further into Margot’s circle, Jess discovers more than her friend’s growing crush. Secrets and cruelty lie just beneath the carefree surface of this world of wealth and privilege, and when they come out, Jess knows Angie won’t be able to handle the consequences.

When the inevitable darkness finally descends, Angie will need her best friend.

“It doesn’t even matter that she probably doesn’t understand how much she means to me. It’s purer this way. She can take whatever she wants from me, whenever she wants it, because I’m her best friend.”

From Goodreads

Okay, so I’ve been struggling for MONTHS with how to review this book. Not because I’m not sure how I feel about it (I really enjoyed it) but because I really don’t want to give anything away. So this will be a short review.

I LOVE Lo’s writing. She really gets to the heart of her characters and their motivation without dumping a lot of info on the reader. And she weaves such wonderful stories that her books are really hard to put down. I mean, as I write this review I’ve added A Line in the Dark to the top of my to reread pile.

YA contemp is one of my favourite genres, and I love when it leans towards psychological thriller. The plot was tight and really kept me wanting to turn the page. And the ending wasn’t cliche or typical.

I think anyone who likes books with a bit of edge and twists should give this a try. And fans of YA contemp are going to love it.

Spellbook of the Lost and Found — Moïra Fowley-Doyle

24 Oct

 

Publisher: Penguin Random House
Released: June 1st, 2017
Genre: YA, mystery, supernatural
Source: Finished copy from publisher

 

 

One stormy summer night, Olive and her best friend, Rose, begin to lose things. It starts with simple items like hair clips and jewellery, but soon it’s clear that Rose has lost something bigger; something she won’t talk about.

Then Olive meets three wild, mysterious strangers: Ivy, Hazel and Rowan. Like Rose, they’re mourning losses – and holding tight to secrets.

When they discover the ancient spellbook, full of hand-inked charms to conjure back lost things, they realise it might be their chance to set everything right. Unless it’s leading them towards secrets that were never meant to be found . . .

From Goodreads

Ooooh how to talk about this book without giving anything away!  Okay, here goes…

This book has a really cool and unique concept and made me realize that I really need to read more books with spellbooks and charms and the likes. I really like the idea of the give and take of the charms and also the fact that when it comes to the supernatural, what you see usually isn’t all that you get.

All of the plots were captivating and I felt like I was right along with the characters, trying to figure things out. The characters were well-written and I really liked that each was dealing with their own crap while also dealing with crap as a group.

There is a twist towards the end of the book (don’t worry, no spoilers here!) and I felt that once it was revealed, the pacing was a bit rushed. I would have liked to have seen more emotional reaction from the characters. Everyone seems to just accept the twist and continue one, which didn’t ring 100% true to me.

With that being said, this book is definitely one that I would recommend. The writing is tight, the concept really cool and over all it was a great YA read.