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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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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.

Rituals — Kelley Armstrong

19 Oct

 

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

 

 

Olivia Jones must make a choice. Caught between two rival supernatural forces, Liv was granted a brief period in which to make her decision. Now that time has run out. Whichever side she chooses, someone she loves will pay. Her lover, Ricky. Gabriel Walsh, the man she knows she cannot, must not love. Her parents, already trapped in prison.And now there is a new, terrifying power rising – one that doesn’t distinguish between good and evil intentions. It feeds on chaos and destroys without mercy. Unless Liv acts fast, no one will survive. In this gripping thriller, international bestselling author Kelley Armstrong brings the Cainsville series to a powerful, richly rewarding climax.

From Goodreads

Excuse me while I take a second to weep into my cozy reading blanket. I cannot believe that this series is over. I actually considered putting off reading Rituals in a weird effort to make the series not end. I lasted all of 30 minutes before I had to dig into it.

What can I say? Kelley is one of my fave authors and also one of my go-to authors. I can always rely on her to deliver an engaging, well thought out and well written book. The Cainsville series was different from her Women of the Otherworld series, delving into different aspects of the supernatural and lore, and I loved it. Rituals was a fitting ending for the series, tying up loose ends but still leaving things somewhat open, which is the kind of ending I love for a series.

The pacing was spot on, speeding up when needing to and slowly down when the story called for it. There was just enough about the previous books to remind me of important plot elements but not so much rehashing that it felt repetitive. In fact, I realized about a quarter of the way through that I actually haven’t read book 4 (GASP!) and I didn’t feel lost at all.

This is definitely a series that I will reread, and I cannot recommend it enough.

36 Questions That Changed My Mind About You — Vicki Grant

17 Oct

 

Publisher: Running Press
Released: Oct 17th 2017
Genre: YA, contemp
Source: ARC from publisher

 

 

Hildy and Paul each have their own reasons for joining the university psychology study that asks the simple question: Can love be engineered?

The study consists of 36 questions, ranging from “What is your most terrible memory?” to “When did you last sing to yourself?” By the time Hildy and Paul have made it to the end of the questionnaire, they’ve laughed and cried and lied and thrown things and run away and come back and driven each other almost crazy. They’ve also each discovered the painful secret the other was trying so hard to hide. But have they fallen in love?

Told in the language of modern romance—texting, Q&A, IM—and punctuated by Paul’s sketches, this clever high-concept YA is full of humor and heart. As soon as you’ve finished reading, you’ll be searching for your own stranger to ask the 36 questions. Maybe you’ll even fall in love.

From Goodreads

This book, guys. THIS. BOOK. So brilliant and funny and heart-warming and just ahhhhhhhhhhhhh. I have loved all of Vicki’s books, but this one is my fave.

First I have to talk about the concept. So so cool! I love that 36 Questions is based on an actual study. It just adds another layer of realism to the story.

The format was very different from other YA contemp books that I have read and it just added to the story telling. I love when authors take a chance like that. Especially when it works out so well.

The writing is just amazing. Most of the book is dialogue and not just any dialogue. Teen dialogue. Which can be hella hard to nail. The flow of the conversation between Hildy and Paul and the back and forth and the teasing and the flirting and the honesty is so spot on it was awkward to read at times. Like I was eavesdropping on a real conversation between two teens trying to navigate their lives while figuring each other out.

I really can’t recommend 36 Questions That Changed My Mind About You enough. I know a couple of people who will be getting this book as a Christmas gift.

 

So Much Love — Rebecca Rosenblum

10 Oct

 

Publisher:McClelland & Stewart
Released: March 14th, 2017
Genre: Mystery, thriller
Source: Finished copy from publisher

 

 

When a young woman named Catherine Reindeer vanishes without a trace from her small town, those who know her are left to cope with her absence. Moving back and forth from her outer circle of acquaintances to her closest intimates, Rebecca Rosenblum’s first novel reveals how the lives of those left behind can be overturned in the wake of an unexplained disappearance. But at the heart of the novel is Catherine’s own surprising story of resilience and recovery.

When a final devastating loss after months of captivity forces her to make a bold decision, she is unprepared for everything that follows her dramatic escape. Woven throughout are stories about a local female poet who was murdered decades earlier, a woman whose life and work become a lifeline for Catherine during her darkest hours—and who may ultimately hold the key to Catherine’s quest to find solace in the aftermath of unimaginable tragedy.

So Much Love is a haunting novel of longing and loss, the necessity of bearing witness, and how the stories we tell have the power to shape our lives.

From Goodreads

 

This mystery was different from any other mystery I have ever read. The multiple POV and story of two different tragedies, for another author, would be too much and too confusing. But Rosenblum handles both elements and presents a book that is deeply tragic but also, at times, uplifting. And it never feels too busy or over done.

There are some scenes in this book that were difficult to read because of their subject matter and the rawness in the telling. But it’s these scenes that actually give the book the depth that it has. Besides being a stellar mystery, So Much Love is also a character study on how different people deal with tragedy.

So Much Love is a very difficult book to describe due to its uniqueness. All I can say is this is definitely one you will want to read.

Fractured — Catherine McKenzie

4 Oct

 

Publisher: Lake Union
Released: Oct 4th, 2016
Genre: Mystery
Source: Purchased copy

 

Julie Prentice and her family move across the country to the idyllic Mount Adams district of Cincinnati, hoping to evade the stalker who’s been terrorizing them ever since the publication of her bestselling novel, The Murder Game. Since Julie doesn’t know anyone in her new town, when she meets her neighbor John Dunbar, their instant connection brings measured hope for a new beginning. But she never imagines that a simple, benign conversation with him could set her life spinning so far off course.

After a series of misunderstandings, Julie and her family become the target of increasingly unsettling harassment. Has Julie’s stalker found her, or are her neighbors out to get her, too? As tension in the neighborhood rises, new friends turn into enemies, and the results are deadly.

From Goodreads

 

McKenzie is one of my fave authors and I have loved ALL of her books. Smart chick-lit with believable characters and plots that may seem somewhat extraordinary at first glance but that she writes with such heart and honestly that they are 100% believable. Fracture is a mystery and a departure from her usual genre, but she writes it with her usual approachable style. Some authors aren’t successful in genre-jumping, but this isn’t the case here at all. Fracture is a well written, well thought out mystery that I absolutely devoured.

These days I’m all about what I call “flash back” mysteries. You know, the ones where the book isn’t told in a linear fashion. We get a glimpse of something that’s happened and then we get some background on what lead up to it. We’re in the dark about what exactly took place, what the trigger event is, until close to the end. And there’s usually a WTF twist. I have been OBSESSED with this kind of mystery lately. Fracture does this brilliantly. For me, it’s the perfect example of this type of story telling. And writing this type of book isn’t easy. McKenzie kept me interested and wondering what the heck was going on without leaving me so confused I was frustrated. I am always in awe of authors who can do this.

I’m also a big fan of the unreliable narrator. This is a dual narrated book and although both narrators are dealing with the same story, their telling isn’t quite the same. I think that this kind of narrator is so true to real life. And it makes the puzzle of the story even more challenging to figure out.

If you are a fan of authors like Ruth Ware and Paula Hawkins, then you will definitely love Fractured.

The Fashion Committee — Susan Juby

29 Aug

 

Publisher: Penguin Random House
Released: May 23rd, 2017
Genre: YA contemp
Source: ARC from publisher

 

 

What if one contest could change the course of your entire life?

Charlie Dean is a style-obsessed girl who eats, sleeps, and breathes fashion.

John Thomas-Smith is a boy who forges metal sculptures in his garage and couldn’t care less about clothes.

Both are gunning for a scholarship to the private art high school that could make all their dreams come true. And whoever wins the fashion competition will win the scholarship.

From Goodreads

 

Susan Juby is one of those authors that I can always count on to deliver an engaging and amazing and awesome book. She has a way of dealing with serious issues with laughter and an honesty that can be brutal. She is also hands down one of the best writers of misfits and odd characters.

OMG these were interesting characters. And you know what? *SPOILER* They don’t fall in love!!!!!!! This is SOOOO refreshing and unexpected for the genre.

The format of the book is diary entries, and I just loved that. And Juby writes both Charlie Dean and John so differently. Both had very distinct voices and sometimes that’s hard to do.

Charlie Dean is such an optimist and the way she writes about some of the crap in her life so matter-of-factly is heartbreaking. She reminds me a lot of Rachel from Glee in season one. That whole the show must go on and I am always awesome attitude. John, on the other hand, is a bit of a pessimist despite the fact that his life is pretty good. The contrast between their attitudes and situations in life is my favorite part of the book.

This was a pretty unique book for the genre and I think everyone will enjoy it.

Optimists Die First — Susin Nielsen

9 Aug

 

Publisher: Penguin Random House
Released: Feb 21st, 2017
Genre: Young adult contemp
Source: Arc from publisher

 

 

Life ahead: Proceed with caution.

Sixteen-year-old Petula De Wilde is anything but wild. A family tragedy has made her shut herself off from the world. Once a crafting fiend with a happy life, Petula now sees danger in everything, from airplanes to ground beef.

The worst part of her week is her comically lame mandatory art therapy class. She has nothing in common with this small band of teenage misfits, except that they all carry their own burden of guilt.

When Jacob joins their ranks, he seems so normal and confident. Petula wants nothing to do with him, or his prosthetic arm. But when they’re forced to collaborate on a unique school project, she slowly opens up, and he inspires her to face her fears.

Until a hidden truth threatens to derail everything.

From Goodreads

It’s no secret that I worship the ground Susin Nielsen writes on. She is one of my top five favourite authors and her books never disappoint. Optimists Die First continues that trend. This is a heartfelt and honestly written book.

I read this book at the perfect time. I was having a hard time dealing with my depression and anxiety. So despite the fact that I am way older that Petula, I could really identify with her. And I think a lot of readers will. For me Nielsen is the queen of writing about important topics without hitting readers over the head with it. She really gets into the psyche of her characters and shows rather than tells the readers what’s going on.

I’m a sucker for stories about people who don’t 100% fit in. Those who are on the edge of society, either doing their own thing or trying to fit in. Petula and Jacob are perfect examples of this.

I really can’t recommend this book enough. Or any of her other books.

Field Notes — Sara Jewell

20 Dec

field

 

Publisher: Nimbus Publishing
Released: September 30th, 2016
Genre: Memoir, essays
Source: ARC from publisher

 

“When my husband told me he didn’t want to be married any longer, I didn’t call a lawyer, talk to my minister, or even tell my best friend. My first thought—and only plan—was go to Pugwash.”
So begins Sara Jewell’s tender and heartfelt collection of essays. After a childhood of idyllic summers on Canada’s east coast, Sara knew the only place she could begin to rebuild her life—to find her heart and home—was amid the salty air and red dirt roads of Cumberland County, Nova Scotia.

Part humorous observation and part honest self-reflection, Sara deftly explores the people, creatures, landscapes, and experiences that make her life in rural Nova Scotia so different from the big-city one she’d grown accustomed to.

They say you can never go back. But they are wrong.

From Goodreads

Delightful. That’s the word that kept popping into my head as I read Field Notes: A City Girl’s Search for Heart and Home in Rural Nova Scotia. 

As a former suburban chick who bought a 100 year old farmhouse and 37 acres of land with her hubby seven years ago, there’s a lot that I could identify with in Jewell’s essays. From her obsession with chickens (I have them also) to her desire for more farm animals (I also gave in to a desire for pet goats) I was nodding my head quite a bit while reading.

I am not a social person, so I really enjoyed reading about how Sara found herself welcomed into the community and all the connections she made. She really embraced the country life and I think that’s awesome. I was also pleasantly surprised to find out that Christina Martin, one of my favourite singers and an acquaintance of mine, is a neighbour of Jewell’s. Even reading a book about the Maritimes can result in that game of “I know them too!”

Jewell’s writing style is lush and descriptive and draws you right into the scene. She’s writes deep without being flowery and sometimes her essays take you to unexpected but beautiful places.

Honest and interesting, anyone who enjoys memoirs will love this book.

For the Love of Mary — Christopher Meades

15 Dec

love

 

Publisher: ECW Press
Released: June 14th, 2016
Genre: YA
Source: eARC from publisher

 

A hilarious coming-of-age novel about the pain of young love, family secrets, and sick ferrets

Fifteen-year-old Jacob feels almost on the inside: almost smart, almost funny, almost good-looking, almost worthy of falling in love. His sister is too busy dating guys in Whitesnake jackets to notice, and his best friend is occupied with his own painful pubescent crisis. Jacob’s mother has just started a curious (and rather un-Christian) holy war with the church across the street, while his father has secretly moved into the garage.

Everything changes when Jacob meets Mary. Jacob thinks Mary is the most beautiful girl in the world. If only Mary’s father wasn’t the minister at the enormous rival church. If only she wasn’t dating a youth pastor with pristine white teeth and impeccably trimmed hair. If only Jacob could work up the courage to tell Mary how he feels . . .

As the conflict between the churches escalates, a peeping Tom prowls the neighbourhood, a bearded lady terrorizes unsuspecting Dairy Queen customers, a beautiful young girl entices Jacob into a carnal romp in a car wash, and the church parishioners prepare their annual re-enactment of Operation Desert Storm.

For the Love of Mary is sidesplitting satire with a surprising amount of heart.

From Goodreads

Do you remember The Best Christmas Pageant ever? It’s a book but was also turned into a TV movie.  For the Love of Mary reminds me a bit of it. The whole fighting between the churches, both sides trying to one up the other, just has the same feel to it. And I LOVE it. This is a quirky book and quirky is very hard to nail. But Meades does it beautifully.

I love how weird and imperfect all the characters were. So so relatable. Every single character is a bit nutso, and really, isn’t that how life is? Their actions and dialogue are so believable even if the situations in the book seem a bit over the top. But because of how believable the characters are, it actually makes those over the top plot points seem believable.

This is humorous satirical writing at its best. But it’s not all about getting the laughs. There’s a real story here about friendship, first loves and tolerance.

I have to take a moment to talk about Jacob’s best friend, Moss Murphy. First of all, how great is that name? And the fact that he’s always referred to as Moss Murphy, not just Moss, is AWESOME. Like there’s the possibility that Jacob knows someone else by the name of Moss. And Moss Murphy is a character well-deserving of the name, let me tell you. He’s one of my favourite parts of the book.

My only issue is with the ending. Not necessarily the way it ended, but how abrupt it seems. I am all for open endings (and I actually prefer them) but the quickness of the ending caught me a bit off guard. This could in part be due to the fact that I really liked the book and didn’t want it to end.

I can’t recommend For the Love of Mary enough. If you like believable, quirky YA, then this is right up your alley.