29 September, 2013

The Misadventures of the Magician's Dog Blog Tour Schedule


The blog tour kicks off on Monday, Sept 30! Visit your favorite tour host to enter the book giveaway. It is open internationally* and will have 2 winners (ends October 17, 2013).

Monday, Sept 30 - I Am a Reader - Interview
Tuesday, Oct 1 - Read Now Sleep Later - Review
Wednesday, Oct 2 - Kid Lit Frenzy - Guest Post
Thursday, Oct 3 - Sharpreads - Review & Guest Post
Friday, Oct 4 - Mrs. Brown Loves Bookworms - Review
TBA - The Serial Reader - Interview and Review
to be cross-posted at I Am a Reader
TBA - Dee's Reads - Review
Wednesday, Oct 9 - Paperback Writer - Guest Post

Check back soon as posts go live!

If you are a book reviewer (print or online), please contact me - frootjoos at gmail dot com - and let me know if you are interested in reviewing the book. We may have a couple of copies still earmarked for a blog tour that have not yet been claimed. Sorry, due to rights issues we can only mail ARCs to reviewers in the US at this time. We understand that receipt of a review copy does not guarantee a favorable review.

If you email me, please make sure to mention which book you are writing in about and send a link to your blog if you have one. We especially welcome teachers and librarians who blog about middle grade books!

If you are in the Los Angeles area on Saturday, October 5th, you can meet Frances at her book launch at Children's Book World (2:00 pm)! I'm going to try to be there too :)

Find the book on Goodreads | Author Website

* I am providing the book for the non-US winner through BookDepository.

28 September, 2013

Better Late Than Never ARC Challenge Sign Ups


I'm currently languishing without a proper Internet connection but if you head over to Nite Lite you can sign up for this ARC challenge hosted by The Windy Pages, Nite Lite Book Reviews, and The Reader's Antidote.

You can get all the details there because blogging from my phone is, well, not ideal :(

Can't wait to feel better about my giant TBR pile.


Good luck!

West Hollywood Book Fest 2013


My pal @davidshead and I are going to check out the West Hollywood Book Fair tomorrow. 

If you're in the area, stop on by! We'll be hanging out at the Young Readers' events throughout the day. I'm hoping both my new iPhone's battery and LTE connection hold out better than my old one so I'll be able to tweet and recap easily.

I better get to bed--early start tomorrow!

(Oh who am I kidding, I'll be up late blogging and eating pepperoni out of a small plastic bag.)

20 September, 2013

eBook Steals & Deals


I was searching Amazon for good Kindle deals recently and was surprised to find a ton of really awesome deals. There are even some newer books on there (Hello, Fangirl) that are amazingly priced. I don't know who long some of these deals will last so I'd get them now if you're interested. Our links below are to Amazon but if you have another eReader, definitely check out the other eBook retailers because there's a good chance that the sale is good across more than one retailer.

Full disclosure - links below will be affiliate links. That means that if you end up buying anything from clicking on that link, we get a very small commission, which we put back into the blog and use for giveaway prizes and such. If affiliate links creep you out, feel free to go to Amazon on your own and purchase directly. 

$0.00 - $1.99
Open Minds by Susan Kaye Quinn
Among The Nameless Stars by Diana Peterfreund (short story)
First Star to Fall by Diana Petrefrend (short story)
Ashes by Ilsa J Bick 
Shadows by Ilsa J Bick 
Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Mayberry 
Beauty Queens by Libba Bray 

$2.99
The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
Breathe by Sarah Crossan
For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund
Wicked Girls by Stephanie Hemphill
Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr
Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier
Shut Out by Kody Keplinger
Hemlock by Katherin Peacock
Enclave by Anne Aguirre
Ten by Gretchen McNeil
All These Things I've Done by Gabrielle Zevin
Obsidian byJennifer L. Armentrout
Entice by Jessica Shirvington
A Beautiful Dark by Jocelynn Davies

$3.99
The Fault In Our Stars by John Green

$4.99
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

Phew! That was seriously a long list. Now I have to go home and see which of these I don't own yet and do some shopping. :) Hope this was helpful and let me know if any of these are must reads. Happy weekend!



17 September, 2013

Tumble & Fall - Interview with Alexandra Coutts (Giveaway US/Can ends 9/25)


Thanks to author Alexandra Coutts (née Bullen) and Farrar, Strauss & Giroux (BFYR) for including us on the blog tour for Tumble & Fall! Alexandra answers some questions and you can enter to win a copy of the book (make sure you use the Rafflecopter widget below). Then check out the rest of the blog tour posts!


Find this book on Amazon | Barnes & Noble | BookDepository | IndieBound | Goodreads

About the book:
A novel about the end of days full of surprising beginnings

The world is living in the shadow of oncoming disaster. An asteroid is set to strike the earth in just one week’s time; catastrophe is unavoidable. The question isn’t how to save the world—the question is, what to do with the time that's left? Against this stark backdrop, three island teens wrestle with intertwining stories of love, friendship and family—all with the ultimate stakes at hand.

Alexandra Coutts's TUMBLE & FALL is a powerful story of courage, love, and hope at the end of the world.
About the author:

Alexandra Bullen Coutts has been a playwright, waitress, barista, gardener, script reader, yoga instructor and personal assistant. She grew up in Massachusetts, went to college in New York City, and lives most of the year full time on Martha’s Vineyard.

Q&A

RNSL: If you knew it was the last day of the existence of the world, how would you spend your last day? What would make it perfect?

The perfect last day on earth for me would be spent with my family and friends on the beach. Ideally, it would be glorious, beachy weather, and we would swim in warm water and picnic on delicious, summer food and play in the sand, and there would be music, and at the end of the night we would huddle together to watch the sunset.

RNSL: What's in your emergency kit? Are you the kind of person who's ready for anything?

I am the kind of person who is ready for nothing. I never even have a Band-Aid when I need one, which is starting to be a problem, now that I have a kid. I am the opposite of an alarmist, whatever that is: it takes a lot to get me to freak out about something, and I am prone to suspecting that everything is a conspiracy, unless I witness it firsthand. I guess this would make me pretty much the last person you would want in your corner, in the event of the real apocalypse. (Unless steadfast denial is your cup of tea!)  

RNSL: Tumble & Fall isn't so much a dystopian as it is a story of relationships and attitudes. What inspired you to write this kind of book?

I think that is a wonderful description of not only this book but of every book I’ve written and hope to write. “Relationships” and “attitudes” are the things that most interest me in the real world, and so I find myself drawn to writing primarily about the way characters grow and change, as their relationships and attitudes grow and change around them. “Story” and “plot” for me are fancy ways of talking about the stuff that happens to make these changes happen, over the course of a book. But it’s the changes themselves that I find most interesting.

RNSL: There are so many elements put together in this story: astronomy, sailing, art... Did you have to do research, and what form did that research take? Were you already interested in these topics before you incorporated them into your novel?

The only thing I researched was the asteroid science, and let me tell you, it was terrifying. There are a number of videos floating around the Internet that simulate what would happen to Earth in the event of a serious asteroid “shower,” and I spent hours watching them, and biting my nails.

The rest of the stuff is pretty much from my life. I live on Martha’s Vineyard, where the book is set, so I spend a lot of time talking to people about their boats, or surfboards, or artwork. It’s a pretty fascinating community of people that live here year-round, and I do a lot of eavesdropping to make my characters more interesting, whenever possible!      

RNSL: The characters are very much an ensemble -- so many individuals! Was it difficult to keep track of how their stories intertwined? How did you manage it?

This was my first multi-POV (point-of-view) book, and I have to say I found that aspect of writing it very, very challenging. There were times when my brain would start throbbing, from the effort of trying to keep track of where everyone was, what day it was, where we had seen them last and where they needed to end up. I had color-coded outlines and Stickies on my computer desktop with character names and descriptions, so I could remember everything from favorite foods to eye color. It was tough, but in the end, I felt like I had created this other little world: another island, similar to the one I live on but populated by a totally different group of fictional people!    

RNSL: Do you have a new project in the works? If you can share anything about it with us, please do.

I do have a new book that I’m working on, but it’s still in the super-secret early stages. I can say that it’s another island story, and it’s something I’m really, really excited about!

RNSL: Did you set out to write a YA novel, or did you write it first without a clear idea of who the audience would be?

I knew that TUMBLE & FALL would be a YA book from the beginning, because I was interested in exploring the way every-day teenagers might react to something as big and terrifying as the end of the world. But what surprised me while writing was the fact that I wanted to know so much more about all of the secondary characters, as well, regardless of their ages.

Each main POV character (Sienna, Caden and Zan) had parents and siblings and acquaintances of all ages, and I found myself really drawn to the various ways different people might handle the same, incredibly high-stakes situation in different ways. It’s definitely a YA book because of the way it focuses on the teens in the story, but it’s my hope that people of all ages might be able to find characters they can relate to, as well.

RNSL: When you were a young(er) adult, were you a reader? What books did you read?

I read constantly when I was younger (still do, although I had more time to do it back then!) I went through a very serious Judy Blume phase (my all-time favorite childhood book was JUST AS LONG AS WE’RE TOGETHER. I still remember the first line: “Stephanie is into hunks.”) I took a brief detour into the teen horror genre, with guys like R.L. Stine (whom I met at BEA this year!) and Christopher Pike.

When I got to high school, I did most of my reading for classes, and I remember being introduced to amazing authors like Joyce Carol Oates, William Faulkner, and the poetry of E.E. Cummings. I wrote my senior thesis paper on The Sound and the Fury by Faulkner and it’s still my favorite book, today.

Find out more about the author on her website alexandracoutts.com, and follow her on Twitter @abcoutts. You can also check out more stops on the Tumble & Fall blog tour, the Fierce Reads tour info and read an excerpt from the book!



My review post is still to come, but you can enter to win your own copy (if you live in US/Canada) using the Rafflecopter below!


Giveaway Rules:
  1. Open to US/Canada residents only.
  2. We are not responsible for lost, stolen, or damaged items. 
  3. One set of entries per household please. 
  4. If you are under 13, please get a parent or guardian's permission to enter, as you will be sharing personal info such as an email address. 
  5. Winner will be chosen randomly via Rafflecopter widget a day or two after the contest ends. 
  6. Winner will have 48 hours to respond to to the email, otherwise we will pick a new winner. 
  7. If you have any questions, feel free to email us. You can review our full contest policy here
  8. PLEASE DO NOT LEAVE ANY PERSONAL INFO IN THE COMMENTS. Sorry for the caps but we always get people leaving their email in the comments. Rafflecopter will collect all that without having personal info in the comments for all the world (and spambots) to find. Thanks!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

16 September, 2013

Wild Cards by Simone Elkeles New Mini Web Series

If you guys didn't know, Simone Elkeles has a new series coming out called Wild Cards. To promote the new series, she has created a mini reality web series. The first two episodes are out now. The production value looks pretty good with these. Enjoy!




 


13 September, 2013

Infinityglass - Flash Giveaway (One Day only! US/INTL ends 9/15)



One day only! Two winners will be drawn!

You could win a hardcover and poster of Infinityglass by Myra McEntire (US only)
OR up to $20 worth of books (to be sent by me through Bookdepository or Amazon, depending on where the winner is) -- may we suggest the paperbacks for Hourglass & Timepiece, the first two books in the thrilling Hourglass series? Use the Rafflecopter widget below to enter!

About Infinityglass:

The stakes have risen even higher in this third book in the Hourglass series.

The Hourglass is a secret organization focused on the study of manipulating time, and its members—many of them teenagers— have uncanny abilities to make time work for them in mysterious ways. Inherent in these powers is a responsibility to take great care, because altering one small moment can have devastating consequences for the past, present, and future. But some time trav­elers are not exactly honorable, and sometimes unsavory deals must be struck to maintain order.
 
With the Infinityglass (central to understanding and harnessing the time gene) at large, the hunt is on to find it before someone else does. 
But the Hourglass has an advantage. Lily, who has the ability to locate anything lost, has determined that the Infinityglass isn't an object. It's a person. And the Hourglass must find him or her first. But where do you start searching for the very key to time when every second could be the last?


Myra McEntire has had her nose in a book since she could hold one. She was once caught reading in the shower (true story) and only stopped when her father disconnected the hot water heater. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with her husband and two boys. You can visit her online at www.myramcentire.com or follow her on twitter at @MyraMcEntire

Add the books on Goodreads:
Hourglass
Timepiece
Infinityglass

The Hourglass Tumblr


Browse more books from Egmont USA


Once again, one prize (US only) will be the Infinityglass + poster and one prize (international) will be up to $20 worth of books from bookdepository.com (non-US address) or amazon.com (US address). Good luck!

Giveaway Rules:
  1. Open internationally.
  2. We are not responsible for lost, stolen, or damaged items. 
  3. One set of entries per household please. 
  4. If you are under 13, please get a parent or guardian's permission to enter, as you will be sharing personal info such as an email address. 
  5. Winner will be chosen randomly via Rafflecopter widget a day or two after the contest ends. 
  6. Winner will have 48 hours to respond to to the email, otherwise we will pick a new winner. 
  7. If you have any questions, feel free to email us. You can review our full contest policy here
  8. PLEASE DO NOT LEAVE ANY PERSONAL INFO IN THE COMMENTS. Sorry for the caps but we always get people leaving their email in the comments. Rafflecopter will collect all that without having personal info in the comments for all the world (and spambots) to find. Thanks!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

10 September, 2013

Little Fish - Blog Tour and Giveaway (US/Can ends 9/18)



Thanks to Zest Books for inviting me to join the Little Fish blog tour and share a story about a time when my life was in transit. Stick around and enter to win your own copy of the book and a matching swag pack!


Little Fish by Ramsey Beyer
Publication date: 3 Sept 2013 by Zest Books
ISBN 10/13: 1936976188 | 9781936976188



About the book:

To eighteen-year-old Ramsey Beyer, the transition from a high school in small town Michigan to freshman year of college at a bustling art school wasn't entirely easy. Like most college freshman, Ramsey experienced an entire range of emotions through the year, from being painfully homesick to gleefully independent - and everything in between. And yet, overall, and in Ramsey's own words, at college she felt "limitless . . . like I'm challenging everything I thought I knew." Little Fish artfully tells the story of that different kind of year.

My Little Fish Memory:
Just Keep Swimming

I had almost the complete opposite experience than Ramsey did at that age, and yet we faced some of the same challenges as well: experiencing new things, feeling homesick, and defining who you are as an adult. When I was 18, instead of going to college in the United States as I had planned, I found myself boarding a plane back to the Philippines. I hadn't been there except to visit since I was about 12. I was incredibly unhappy to be returning--I had spent all of high school planning for my big university experience, buffing up my grades and extracurricular activities--all that hard work for nothing, it seemed. 

And yet my parents had a good point: I had to come home to repair the withering bond between me and my younger siblings, who were growing up without me. My family had returned to Manila a few years before and left me in California where I had wanted to finish high school. To my brother and sister I was a face in a photograph, a distant voice on a scratchy long distance phone call at holidays. Even as I begrudgingly deleted my application to Yale, I knew I wanted to be more than just a vague memory of someone an ocean away.

There were lots of things I really loved about going home. I had missed my family and now I could see them every day. No $3-per-minute rushed phone calls at holiday time--we could just spend all day together, eating and talking and laughing. I love cooking for my family and that's hard to do when you're 7,300 miles apart. I didn't have to work (aside from cooking and laundry and the usual at-home chores). My brother and I played video games ad nauseam and listened to Pinoy rock music. I learned my little sister's autistic quirks. I may not have loved every moment of my time there, but those are some of the really good things I don't regret.

Going back to school, however, was a really different story. It took hours of commuting back and forth to get to my classes (a 15-minute walk to a jeepney, to another jeepney, to a bus, to a jeep again, and finally either a tricycle ride or a really long walk to my building--and all that in reverse at the end of the day). Talk about culture shock. People dressed differently, and had cliques that were hard to break into. I spoke Tagalog enough like a native speaker, but I spoke English like an American and found it hard to switch back. I think I alienated a lot of people (some of them on purpose). I considered joining the international students club, but a lot of the people I met there were really temporary visitors--here for a year--while I was home to stay. I didn't really have friends beyond people who needed help with math. I felt like a complete moron in my French class (where I kept pronouncing things in Spanish--the second language I'd taken in high school). I was a fish out of water. I missed my friends and got really depressed. 

I missed my independence, working at a bookstore, and delving into schoolwork that meant something to me. I missed Yale (I've never been there, actually, but that missed opportunity is still a huge gaping hole in my life that I try not to look at or think about, most days). My mom recognized that I was sad, more than just sad--clinically sad. She let me go "home" to Los Angeles and I'm eternally grateful for that. I couldn't have imagined I'd be doing what I am today: creating, writing, and still swimming along. I don't know if I accomplished what I set out to do by going back to Manila, but I do know that those formative years were crucial in shaping the person that I am today. For better or for worse, I wouldn't change a thing. 

Okay, to be honest, I'd change that part about not going to Yale. I really wanted that.





You can check out some pages from Ramsey's new book on her Tumblr!


You can enter to win this neato swag pack!


Giveaway Rules:
  1. Open to US/Canada residents only.
  2. We are not responsible for lost, stolen, or damaged items. 
  3. One set of entries per household please. 
  4. If you are under 13, please get a parent or guardian's permission to enter, as you will be sharing personal info such as an email address. 
  5. Winner will be chosen randomly via Rafflecopter widget a day or two after the contest ends. 
  6. Winner will have 48 hours to respond to to the email, otherwise we will pick a new winner. 
  7. If you have any questions, feel free to email us. You can review our full contest policy here
  8. PLEASE DO NOT LEAVE ANY PERSONAL INFO IN THE COMMENTS. Sorry for the caps but we always get people leaving their email in the comments. Rafflecopter will collect all that without having personal info in the comments for all the world (and spambots) to find. Thanks!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

08 September, 2013

Middle Grade Madness Giveaway (US - Ends 9/19)

Hi! It's time for another random giveaway. This giveaway is for some great middle grade books. All of the books are ARCs and one of them is even signed. This is what we are giving away:


Amulet 5 by Kazu Kibuishi
In A Glass Grimmly by Adam Gibwitz
The Templeton Twins Have an Idea by Ellis Weiner

Like I said, these are all ARCs and are in new condition. Amulet 5 is signed by Kazu Kibuishi. If you accept/win an Advance Reader Copy (ARC) from us, you swear to abide by The Rule: ARCs may not be resold! It's yours, or if you must pass it on, please give it to a book blogger/educator/librarian who can give it a good home. :)

Giveaway Rules:
  1. Open to US residents only.
  2. We are not responsible for lost, stolen, or damaged items. 
  3. One set of entries per household please. 
  4. If you are under 13, please get a parent or guardian's permission to enter, as you will be sharing personal info such as an email address. 
  5. Winner will be chosen randomly via Rafflecopter widget a day or two after the contest ends. 
  6. Winner will have 48 hours to respond to to the email, otherwise we will pick a new winner. 
  7. If you have any questions, feel free to email us. You can review our full contest policy here
  8. PLEASE DO NOT LEAVE ANY PERSONAL INFO IN THE COMMENTS. Sorry for the caps but we always get people leaving their email in the comments. Rafflecopter will collect all that without having personal info in the comments for all the world (and spambots) to find. Thanks!
a Rafflecopter giveaway





07 September, 2013

September Random Giveaway! (US - Ends 9/16)

Hi, everyone. Happy September! It totally doesn't feel like fall here since it's 100 degrees outside. Anyway, today we are having a totally random giveaway. We tend to put things aside for giveaways during the year and right now our coffers are pretty full. This means random giveaways for you guys. 

Today's giveaway item is a shirt promoting Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen. I actually haven't read the book yet (but I have it!) and hear that it's pretty awesome. The shirt is nice and thick (none of that cheap stuff) and is a size large. It's pretty big and long so it should fit most people. Only US folks at this time. Sorry but shipping international is crazy expensive. We'll have some international giveaways soon though with Book Depostitory or something. We love our international friends and want to let them in on the fun. That's it. Just fill out the Rafflecopter below. Thanks and good luck!


Giveaway Rules:
  1. Open to US residents only.
  2. We are not responsible for lost, stolen, or damaged items. 
  3. One set of entries per household please. 
  4. If you are under 13, please get a parent or guardian's permission to enter, as you will be sharing personal info such as an email address. 
  5. Winner will be chosen randomly via Rafflecopter widget a day or two after the contest ends. 
  6. Winner will have 48 hours to respond to to the email, otherwise we will pick a new winner. 
  7. If you have any questions, feel free to email us. You can review our full contest policy here
  8. PLEASE DO NOT LEAVE ANY PERSONAL INFO IN THE COMMENTS. Sorry for the caps but we always get people leaving their email in the comments. Rafflecopter will collect all that without having personal info in the comments for all the world (and spambots) to find. Thanks!

a Rafflecopter giveaway





04 September, 2013

Zero Tolerance by Claudia Mills - Guest Post and Giveaway (US only, ends 9/12)


Thanks to Claudia Mills and FSG for inviting me to kick off the Zero Tolerance blog tour!

Go for the Cringe
by Claudia Mills


Like many authors, I fashion my books as a patchwork stitched from varied scraps of memories, although there may not be a single scene, character, or even line of dialogue taken intact from real life. Still, the emotional core of a book tends to start with some remembered childhood experience. Usually that core originates in some memory that continues even decades later to make me cringe. 

I drew the actual incident that triggered Zero Tolerance from the local news, when a nearby middle school took action to expel an honor student who brought the wrong lunch to school, an incident that received extensive media coverage. I saved no newspaper clippings; I don’t have that kind of careful filing system for book ideas. But I held onto the story nonetheless. Years later, when I sat down to write Zero Tolerance, that incident stored in my writer’s brain helped unearth an adolescent memory stored in my writer’s heart.

Here is the memory at the heart of Sierra’s story. 


Many years ago, as a student at North Plainfield High School in central New Jersey, one spring I took issue with the school’s practice of locking all the school doors after the closing bell (both from inside and out) even though extracurricular activities were going on at that time. What if there were a fire? How could students exit the school? It seemed to my adolescent self such a metaphor for school-as-prison. So I complained to my friends. I complained to a few teachers. And then one of my friends took it upon herself to send a letter to the local paper protesting the locked doors—and signed the name of our much-disliked P.E. teacher.

When the letter appeared in print, I was horrified. A budding writer, I knew how important it is that we can own the words that appear over our signature; I knew what a wrong thing my friend had done. Worse, I knew I would be taken to be the author of the fraudulent letter. I knew I would be blamed, or even punished, when I myself had done nothing wrong. I still remember the terrible helplessness I felt as I waited to see how the teacher would respond, for any attempts I made to clear my name would be taken only as further evidence of guilt.

What ended up happening was... nothing. Life is so often less interesting than fiction. The school year drew to a close, and I tried to suppress that painful memory as best I could. But it resurfaced as I grappled with how to tell Sierra’s story. Readers of the book will know that Sierra ends up sending a fraudulent letter to the newspaper signed by the much-disliked school secretary. And while she is clearly at fault for doing so, she spends most of the book being punished for something she clearly deserved no blame for doing.


Many other snippets from my real life found their way into the book. A sixth grade best friend who excelled at analyzing every utterance or gesture of the boys we liked. A teachers’ assistant at my sons’ elementary school who was inappropriately bossy toward the students. A friend of mine who is an ardent though unrecognized playwright. A comforting cat.

But the heart of the book is the dark memory of a letter that never should have been written. The heart of the book is a memory that still lies heavy on my heart. So my advice for other writers, and for myself as a writer, is and will continue to be: don’t be afraid to go into those dark places. Sometimes you can write the book you need to write only if you let yourself go for the cringe.

Claudia Mills (c) Larry Harwood
About the author

CLAUDIA MILLS is the author of many chapter and middle-grade books, including 7 x 9=Trouble!; How Oliver Olson Changed the World; and, most recently, Kelsey Green, Reading Queen.

She also teaches philosophy at the University of Colorado at Boulder. She lives in Boulder, Colorado.

To learn more, visit her website: claudiamillsauthor.com

Enter to win a copy of the book using the Rafflecopter widget below!



Follow Claudia on her her blog tour! Check back for new posts between now and Sept 17.



a Rafflecopter giveaway

In case anyone is wondering, the question you need to answer in the Rafflecopter (for the Commenting points) is "Sierra ends up bringing something to school that she shouldn't have. More often than not, we forget to bring something to school we should have! What's the thing you kept forgetting to bring? For me, it was clean gym clothes :("

Zero Tolerance by Claudia Mills - Review and Recipe


Thanks to Claudia Mills and FSG for inviting me to kick off the Zero Tolerance blog tour!
Make sure you check out Claudia's guest post and giveaway, too. 


Publication date: 18 June 2013 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
ISBN 10/13: 0374333122 | 9780374333126



Category: Middle Grade Realistic Fiction
Keywords: School controversy, friendship, family, values, morality
Format: Hardcover, eBook
Source: Library; Netgalley


Synopsis:

Seventh-grader Sierra Shepard has always been the perfect student, so when she sees that she accidentally brought her mother's lunch bag to school, including a paring knife, she immediately turns in the knife at the school office. Much to her surprise, her beloved principal places her in in-school suspension and sets a hearing for her expulsion, citing the school's ironclad no weapons policy. While there, Sierra spends time with Luke, a boy who's known as a troublemaker, and discovers that he's not the person she assumed he would be--and that the lines between good and bad aren't as clear as she once thought. Claudia Mills brings another compelling school story to life with Zero Tolerance.

Review:

I was initially drawn to read this by the great cover art by Vera Brosgol (author-illustrator of Anya's Ghost -- note, not all her artwork is SFW ;) Sierra's worried brows striking just the right gesture of uncertainty towards the green apple on top of her head, William Tell-style, with the subtle background behind her forming a target. The symbolism of the apple is so clever--not just its part in setting off the events in the book, but also the reference to apples for teachers, that iconic fruit for teacher's pets. I started this late one night and finished around 3 am, earning it the Stay up all night rating!

Careful plotting and great characters are what make this middle grade novel by Claudia Mills so compelling to read. The book centers not necessarily around the zero tolerance policy that Sierra unwittingly breaks, but around the idea that right and wrong aren't always clearly defined. For a goody-two-shoes like Sierra and the other good girls she hangs around with, everything seems black-and-white... until she gets suspended and put on a track towards expulsion.

Her perspective shaken off its axis, Sierra starts to see people differently: Mr. Besser, the school principal she had previously viewed with an almost worshipful eye; her lawyer dad, who might not be handling the situation in a completely above-board way; and her friends, especially a cute boy named Colin who sticks up for her, but maybe not for the reasons she wishes he would. Then there's the hyperactive Luke, perennially suspended but not exactly bad-to-the-bone. Sierra starts to make impulsive, spiteful decisions she will later regret. As the consequences start to pile up, she needs to re-balance her views of good and bad if she is ever going to be able to make things right again.

There are a couple of words used that might make this objectionable for parents (assuming it's assigned for school reading), however I think Sierra's attitude towards swearing and how it changes throughout the book is a great way to broach the topic with tweens and younger teens (who, lets face it, probably swear a lot more than their parents think they do). Counterbalance that analysis with the school's creed: RULES - RESPECT - RESPONSIBILITY - RELIABILITY, and you've got quite a lot to talk about. The author provides a discussion guide with activity ideas on her website. 

I think this would make a great family tv-movie. Nick Offerman would make a great Mr. Besser; Joel McHale and Alison Brie could play Sierra's dad and mom. I don't know of any young actresses that could really pull off the various emotions and attitudes that Sierra goes through, do you?

Lastly, Sierra's mom keeps trying to keep her spirits up. She's affectionate and loving, but most noticeably (as most good moms do) she keeps feeding Sierra comfort foods. As the book goes on and Sierra becomes more and more disgusted by her own actions, she develops aversions to particular foods. I can't say I blame her! If only she hadn't brought that knife to school by accident... So below, I've included some ideas for apple nachos--if you're a kid, have an adult help you with the chopping and heating parts. You can vary the amounts as you wish, but for a lot of the toppings just a tablespoon of each will do. Recipes for the sauces follow. I'll try to update this post with more photos when I can make the other variations. And please, remember to leave the knife at home!

Enjoy!


Apple Nachos


"The Sweet Sierra"

Ingredients:
An apple, any variety
A lemon
Assorted toppings

Equipment:
A knife
A cutting board
A mixing bowl
A serving plate (or a container with an air-tight lid if you're taking it to school)

Makes 1-2 servings

  1. Wash and dry an apple. You can peel the skin off if you want to, but I like to keep it on unless it's a variety that has a bitter or waxy skin. 
  2. With an adult's help, chop the apple into quarters. Carefully cut out the core with the stem and seeds, then slice each quarter into thinner slices. These are your "chips".
  3. Cut the lemon in half and squeeze the juice into a bowl.
  4. Toss the apple chips in the lemon juice and let them soak for a minute. This will stop them from turning brown right away. Drain and pat the apple chips dry with a paper towel.
  5. Arrange the slices on a plate and add your choice of toppings. You can drizzle the sauces on or put them on the side for dipping.
  6. Eat it right away, or take it to school with you.
Suggested Toppings:

The Sweet Sierra (pictured above)
the sweet and sour variation
Dulce de leche or caramel sauce + raisins + mini chocolate chips + shredded coconut

Media Circus
the nutty variation
Peanut butter sauce + raisins + chopped pecans + banana slices


The Principal Besser
the school lunch variation
Nacho cheese (yes, apples taste great with cheese!)
+ diced tomatoes, olives, and jalapeños (optional)


The Gerald Edward Shepard, Esquire
the fine dining variation
Extra-virgin olive oil + balsamic glaze or vinegar
+ pine nuts + crushed dried basil or oregano + parmesan cheese
(You can toss a little crushed garlic in there if you're really feeling brave)

The Cornflake
the French toast variation
Maple syrup + crumbled shredded wheat or other cereal + cinnamon sugar


The Angie Shepard
the tough cookie variation
Cookie butter sauce + slivered almonds + dried cranberries


The Comfort of Friends
the hot chocolate variation
Chocolate syrup + mini marshmallows + whipped cream*


*You're going to want to eat this right away, unless you for some reason have access to a refrigerator at school. You can also toast this combo after adding marshmallows but before adding the chocolate syrup and whipped cream!

Credit: I first found this recipe on Allyson Kramer's blog.

***

Caramel sauce (based on Ree Drummond's ingredients)
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp half and half, heavy whipping cream, or milk
1/2 Tbsp butter
Tiny pinch of salt
A few drops of vanilla extract

In a small saucepan over low heat, stir together all the ingredients except the vanilla. When the sauce has melted and blended together (about 1 minute), stir in the vanilla. Turn off the heat and keep stirring all the while to help it cool down. When it is no longer very hot, pour over apple nachos.

***

Peanut butter sauce
2 Tbsp peanut butter, smooth or crunchy
1 Tbsp half and half, heavy whipping cream, or milk
1 Tbsp white or brown sugar
Tiny pinch of salt
1 tsp maple syrup or light corn syrup

In a small saucepan over medium heat, stir together all the ingredients until well blended. Turn off the heat and keep stirring all the while to help it cool down. When it is no longer very hot, pour over apple nachos.

***

Cookie butter sauce
2 Tbsp cookie butter, regular or crunchy
1 Tbsp half and half, heavy whipping cream, or milk
1 Tbsp white or brown sugar
Tiny pinch of salt

In a small saucepan over medium heat, stir together all the ingredients until well blended. Turn off the heat and keep stirring all the while to help it cool down. When it is no longer very hot, pour over apple nachos.

***

I used a Granny Smith apple for The Sweet Sierra variation since it's a little tart -- it balances out all the sweet stuff and I thought this represented Sierra's character changes throughout the book. I used Gala apples for all the rest but you can use any kind you like or have available. I also used Mallow Bits for the hot chocolate variation, but use regular mini-marshmallows if you're going to toast it.


02 September, 2013

September 2013 Events


Happy belated Labor Day, all. I hope you guys had a day off and spent it doing something you love. I really can't believe that fall is already upon us. How insane is that? There are some really fun author events coming up this month. I am definitely going to try to make a few of these events so I hope to see you out and about this month. 

Kathy Reichs
Bones of the Lost: A Temperence Brennan Novel
Thursday Sept 5, 2013 7pm
Vroman's Bookstore
695 E. Colorado Blvd
Pasadena, CA 91101

Elizabeth Wein
Code Name Verity, Rose Under Fire
Saturday Sept 14, 2013 7pm
Once Upon A Time
2207 Honolulu Ave
Montrose, CA 91020
event page  

Ellen Hopkins & Sonya Sones
Tuesday Sept 17, 2013 6pm
Mrs. Nelson's Toy & Bookshop
1030 Bonita Avenue
La Verne, California 91750
event page
Join us on September 17th for a discussion and book signing with Ellen Hopkins and Sonya Sones. The discussion will begin at 6 pm with the signing to follow.

Ellen Hopkins is the author of many bestselling novels including, The Crank Series, The Burned Series, and TheImpulse Series.

Sonya Sones' most well-known book is What My Mother Doesn't Know. Her works also include, One of Those Hideous Books Where the Mother Dies, and most recently,To Be Perfectly Honest: A Novel Based on an Untrue Story.

Jonathan Maberry
Fire & Ash (Rot & Ruin series)
Wednesday Sept 18, 2013 7pm
Mysterious Galaxy San Diego
7051 Clairemont Mesa BlvdSte 302
San Diego, CA 92111-1040
event page

Gretchen McNeil & Kendare Blake
Join Gretchen McNeil (3:59) and Kendare Blake (Antigoddess) as they sign their new book releases.
Wednesday Sept 18, 2013 7:30pm - 8:30pm
Mysterious Galaxy Redondo Beach
2810 Artesia Boulevard
Redondo Beach, CA 90278
event page

Gretchen McNeil
3:59
Thursday Sept 19, 2013 7pm
Barnes & Noble The Grove
189 The Grove Drive Suite K 30Los Angeles, CA 90036

Melissa de la Cruz
Frozen
Saturday Sept 21, 2013 2pm
Barnes & Noble The Grove
189 The Grove Drive Suite K 30
Los Angeles, CA 90036


LA Teen Author Reading Night 
Thursday September 26, 2013 6:30PM
with Cherry Cheva, Leslie Margolis, Gretchen McNeil and Teddy Stenkellner
Eagle Rock Branch Library
5027 Caspar Ave
Eagle Rock, CA 90041
Facebook event page

OC Children's Book Festival
Sunday Sept 29, 2013
We don't have too many details on the authors for the MG-YA stage yet but like the festival's FB page for more updates. We will post updates as soon as we have them.
http://kidsbookfestival.com

Jon Scieszka 
SPHDZ series, Time Warp Trio, Stinky Cheese Man,Guys Read
Monday Sept 30, 2013 7pm
Once Upon A Time
2207 Honolulu Ave
Montrose, CA 91020
event page