Blog Tour: Confessions of a Teenage Leper Author Q&A

37789805*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: Confessions of a Teenage Leper

Author: Ashley Little

Publisher: Penguin Teen

Publication Date: September 25, 2018

ISBN: 978073526261

Synopsis from Goodreads:
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. But then she notices some spots on her skin. She writes them off as a rash, but things only get worse. 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. 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. . .


I had a chance to ask Ashley Little a few questions. A huge THANK YOU to Ashley for taking the time to answer my questions and to give you, dear readers, a glance at her inspiration and her writing space. Check out our conversation, followed by a book review below.

Author Q&A

1. Featuring a character who struggles with Hansen’s disease is really unique. What inspired you to write a character with such a rare and unusual illness?

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.

2. What struggles did you encounter in the writing of this book?

I originally had a different storyline for Dean, one that did not end well for him… My editors at Penguin Randomhouse thought that it was detracting and distracting from the main storyline – Abby’s struggle with Hansen’s Disease – and so they wanted me to change it.

I was sort of attached to that storyline because it was really powerful emotionally (I thought) so I didn’t want to change it as much as they were suggesting. But I eventually came around to seeing that they were right, and that it would be stronger to focus on Abby’s journey without clouding it up with Dean’s. That’s why editors are so great – because they see what you can’t… but if you can just let go of your ego for a minute and trust their guidance – you end up with a better story for it.

3. Abby’s family looks like the perfect nuclear family from the outside, but there’s so much difficulty going on behind the scenes. Without giving too much away,why did you decide to bring in a secondary, but very intense conflict with Abby’s brother in addition to very difficult diagnosis?

Dean is the metaphorical ‘leper.’  He represents the teens who feel like outcasts and freaks (but not because of a disfiguring disease – just because that’s who they are).

4. Did your experience writing Confessions differ from that of your previous books? If so, can you tell me how it differed? If not, how was it the same?

I really liked the dynamic between Abby and Dean and I had a lot of fun writing their dialogue. I sometimes laughed out loud at the ridiculous things Dean would say or do and I hadn’t really had that experience before. Dean, although he’s a colossal jerk, was a joy to write.

5. What does your writing space look like?

It’s a desk in the corner of my 2 year old daughter’s bedroom. The desk is not actually a desk. It’s a small, old wooden dresser that’s been converted into a desk. I think we found it at the side of the road about 15 years ago. Then I work on a PC so it’s all set up ergonomically. On the wall behind my desk I stick HUGE pieces of paper (giant sticky notes) and keep my plotline, timeline, character charts, and notes on those. When I was working on this novel I had green sticky notes of scenes and ideas stuck all over the wall for about a month, I would re-arrange them daily as I tried to figure out the climax and the ending.

6. Do you have other novels or ideas in the works? Anything you’re particularly excited about?

Yes! Right now I’m working on a thriller for adults about a writer who has a stalker. It’s called Creep.


Review

This quick, but quirky novel shows the transformation of the selfish, mean girl, queen bee of the high school to a thoughtful and driven teen after a diagnosis of Hansen’s disease forces her to reevaluate her life. I enjoyed that Little chose to shed some light on a less well-known disease, especially in today’s society. Abby struggles to shake off her shallow mask that she’s hidden behind for so long in order to truly learn about herself and who she wants to be. Although I didn’t really love Abby as a person/character, I thought that her story was incredibly interesting and unique compared. Abby is a bit of an awful human being, but we do get to see her grow and improve as the story goes on. Her mind opens and so do the various doors of her life as she grows in her recovery. This story layers intense family drama in layers so that it’s not just Abby’s story that we get to see. We get to know her family and its troubles quite intimately through the story. These struggles strengthen the characters’ bonds with one another and lead to self-discovery, especially on Abby’s part. Confessions of a Teenage Leper is an interesting read for sure.

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Book review: Tempests and Slaughter by Tamora Pierce

17312156Title: Tempests and Slaughter

Author: Tamora Pierce

Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers

Publication Date: February 6, 2018

ISBN: 9780375847110

Synopsis from Goodreads: 
Arram Draper is a boy on the path to becoming one of the realm’s most powerful mages. The youngest student in his class at the Imperial University of Carthak, he has a Gift with unlimited potential for greatness–and for attracting danger. At his side are his two best friends: Varice, a clever girl with an often-overlooked talent, and Ozorne, the “leftover prince” with secret ambitions. Together, these three friends forge a bond that will one day shape kingdoms. And as Ozorne gets closer to the throne and Varice gets closer to Arram’s heart, Arram begins to realize that one day soon he will have to decide where his loyalties truly lie. 


I’ve loved Tamora Pierce’s writing for well over a decade now, so I was thrilled when this book was announced. Although it published earlier this year, I was only just able to get my hands on a copy and I’m so HAPPY! Arram Draper’s story will not disappoint Pierce fans one bit. Arram is a child prodigy in mage school. He’s significantly younger than the students at his level and his abilities with spells continue to exceed expectations. This story slots in early in the Tamora Pierce lexicon of stories, bringing us the history of a prevalent character in later series. It’s so refreshing to return to her fantastic world. Her stories are always coming of age stories of characters who’s mark upon her world is great, and Arram’s is no different. He takes everything in stride, learning more and more. He’s a big bookwork who’s a bit naive at times, but his heart is pure and is always in the right place. The friendships he forms are steadfast and lovely, although they are not without their bumps in the road as well.

My only hesitation with this particular story is the peculiar and seemingly incomplete sexual awakening that Arram undergoes as he comes of age. This whole story spans a significant number of years, so we get to follow him through puberty. This whole aspect of the story seemed a bit clumsy and out of place to me. It was the only part of the story where I felt pulled out of the world because it felt a tad clunky as it doesn’t really drive the plot forward. I love that the book moves to discuss puberty, but I don’t know if it was approached as well as it could have been. Pierce begins to introduce Arram’s self-discovery of his body as it goes through changes through maturity, however I couldn’t really see how this tied into the story as a whole, or why it was necessary to the plot for us to witness this particular moment of his young life when, at least in this book, it does not manifest into anything greater. Had it tied into the plot a bit more, then it would have been agood body-positive and learning moment.

Aside from this, the book was fantastic. Pierce is a master world builder. She’s been writing for years and her world remains steadfast and cohesive. It’s magical and immersive and always so enjoyable. She writes intricate characters in stories spanning years so we get to see them grow from childhood into adulthood. Readers can really grow to love the characters and to build an enormous mental picture of all aspects of this world. I cannot wait for book 2 of The Numair Chronicles to come out. Tempests and Slaughter seems to really be setting the stage for the following books in the series. There’s not a ton of action and a lot of the story is just getting to know the characters and setting up context, but I have a feeling we’ll really start to see things come to a head in subsequent books.

Young readers of fantasy everywhere, I encourage you to read any and all of Tamora Pierce’s book. I own nearly all of them (I’ve slacked slightly on the Beka Cooper series sadly). Pierce’s writing is beautiful and her world is all-consuming. It’s a great intro to fantasy and she’s got some kickass female characters in her other series. Would highly recommend.

Book Review: The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart

35424630*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart

Author: Holly Ringland

Publisher: House of Anansi

Publication Date: March 19, 2018

ISBN: 9781460754337

Synopsis from Goodreads:
After her family suffers a tragedy when she is nine years old, Alice Hart is forced to leave her idyllic seaside home. She is taken in by her estranged grandmother, June, a flower farmer who raises Alice on the language of Australian native flowers, a way to say the things that are too hard to speak. But Alice also learns that there are secrets within secrets about her past. Under the watchful eye of June and The Flowers, women who run the farm, Alice grows up. But an unexpected betrayal sends her reeling, and she flees to the dramatically beautiful central Australian desert. Alice thinks she has found solace, until she falls in love with Dylan, a charismatic and ultimately dangerous man.


This novel was a vivid and beautiful story of a young woman looking to find herself. Set in the vast expanse of Australia, this story is so incredibly sensory and tactile. Flowers permeate and inform the story in a language all their own. Alice Harts life and the history of her family, as she learns the language of the flowers, she begins to understand herself and the deepest family secrets more and more. Her story is one of neglect and abuse. It’s shocking and gut-wrenching. This story will break your heart in so many ways, but in the end, it’s a story of family, abuse, recovery, forgiveness, self-discovery, and it is beautiful and moving.

The characters in this story are all so incredibly complex and intense. We see Alice throughout her life, so we know her best. She struggles with deep scars and has the greatest battles to fight as she learns to understand herself and who she is. I connected with her on so many levels as she blossomed from a child into a young woman. Alice has been who she’s been told to be for so long, taking the path that her grandmother, June, set out for her. Alice experiences incredible transformation in this story, but not without terrible bumps along the road. Alice is so pure at heart, but she is so open to being hurt. She must really learn to stand up for herself and to declare who she is to the world. June, also, is a woman with incredible depth. Her past is haunted by pain and it plagues her present. She cannot outrun the sadness and anger that she’s lived through and it weighs her down and traps her in an unbreakable vice. Even Alice’s presence in her life is not enough. June is so complicated and tortured. Her pain permeates through the house and affects her relationships drastically.

My absolute favourite thing about this book is that it’s also a very beautiful book to experience as you read. Flowers, as I mentioned before, thread throughout this whole story. This also includes a very visual experience. The Table of Context is outlined by a frame of hand-drawn flowers and each chapter opens with a drawing of a flower along with it’s name and definition. It’s so stunning. These flowers mirror Alice’s own flower dictionary and the story that she writes about her life. We get to experiences a little of her own creation throughout this story. The little details like this really bring the story to life.

I loved this book and I’d highly recommend it. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Happy Reading!

Blog Tour: I Do Not Trust You by Laura J. Burns and Melinda Metz

37638243.jpgTitle: I Do Not Trust You

Authors: Laura J. Burns and Melinda Metz

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Publication Date: September 11, 2018

ISBN: 9781250052308

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Memphis “M” Engle is stubborn to a fault, graced with an almost absurd knowledge of long lost languages and cultures, and a heck of an opponent in a fight. In short: she’s awesome. Ashwin Sood is a little too posh for her tastes, a member of an ancient cult (which she’s pretty sure counts for more than one strike against him), and has just informed Memphis that her father who she thought was dead isn’t and needs her help.  From the catacombs of Paris to lost temples in the sacred forests, together they crisscross the globe, searching for the pieces of the one thing that might save her father. But the closer they come to saving him—and the more they fall for one another—the closer they get to destroying the world.


Review:

I Do Not Trust You is a DaVinci Code-esque story with a mysterious race around the world to uncover hidden secrets of the god, Set. Not only is the protagonist, M’s father at risk of facing death, the entire world faces the wrath of the god, Set, if M and her companion, Ashwin, cannot protect Set’s hidden secrets from an evil cult. This story moves so quickly and is intense in it’s pace and in the characters struggle to outrun their opposition. M takes the reader around the world, fighting with incredible determination and wit, to save her father’s life. Their story is accompanied by a very unexpected budding romance between M and Ashwin that takes even them by surprise. This is a fast-paced adventure story that combines classic myths and religions, bringing them to life for today’s young readers.

Check out an excerpt below, generously provided by the publisher as part of the blog tour for I Do Not Trust You.

Excerpt

From Chapter 1:

“You should’ve seen Miss Memphis here get into it with Nick last period,” Brianna said, squeezing in between M and Inez at their usual spot in the cafeteria. “She shut him down with her crazy ancient cultures voodoo.”

“He’s an ass. He’s lucky he’s hot,” their friend Ayana commented, waving her spork in Nick’s direction.

M shrugged. “I wouldn’t try to debate him in Physics. I just know more about Rome than he does.”

“What about AP Chem? Would you debate him in that?” Inez asked in a fake-serious voice. “Would you debate him in German class?”

“She’d debate him in German, in German,” Brianna joked. “And if he tried to fight back, she’d switch to Greek.”

M threw a French fry at her. “I can’t help it. I grew up speaking different languages.”

“And learning about pharaohs. And becoming well versed in the history of the Etruscan people,” Ayana said, putting on a fake accent that was probably supposed to be British. “Oh, and setting broken bones in the bush.”

“That only happened once,” M muttered. Her friends laughed.

“Anyway, it was epic. Thanks,” Brianna said. “I can’t stand fighting with people, and Nick always goes after me.”

“He knows you hate it,” M pointed out. “That’s why he does it.”

“An ass, like I said.” Ayana shrugged.

“You think he’s coming to the party tonight?” Brianna asked.

“Probably. Everyone else is,” Inez replied. “Even Memphis.” M made a face. “Anything to get out of the house. Bob and Liza would expect me to play board games with them otherwise.” Her friends exchanged a glance. M winced. “No offense.”

“Oh, were you offending someone?” Nick piped up from behind her. “Good girl.”

Immediately Bri looked down, while Ayana rolled her eyes. Inez just smirked, glancing back and forth between M and Nick.

“I was not offending anyone. I only meant I don’t like parties,” M said. She didn’t bother to turn toward him. It didn’t matter; he inserted himself onto the bench next to her anyway. A little tingle ran up her spine as the scent of his co- logne hit her nostrils, spicy and warm.

“Mmm, they’re boring. Everyone talking about the prom or the senior trip or whatever. I’m over it,” Nick said.

Me too, thought M, wishing she didn’t agree with him. She loved her friends, but even they were all about high school. M just didn’t care. High school was nothing more than what she had to get through before she could leave. After the crash, after the shock of Bob and Liza becoming her guardians, she’d asked if she could go off to college early, either Boston University or the University of Sheffield in England. Both had the kind of archeology program she wanted and would’ve let her in with no questions. They knew her father. They knew high school was a waste of time for someone like her.

But her guardians said no. They said she needed stabil- ity and normalcy after losing her dad. Never mind that traveling the world and taking care of herself was normal for her. While she and Dad technically lived in Boston, she’d never spent more than a few months there during the school year. They traveled. Half the year spent on digs. She missed it.

“What’s with this thing, anyway? Is it to fight off bad guys?” Nick teased, finding an excuse to touch her. He reached for M’s collapsible bo staff, tucked in the inside pocket of her jacket like always. But before he touched it, be- fore his flirty smile registered in her mind, M had already grabbed his hand, twisted it back to the breaking point, and used the pain to push him off the cafeteria bench and onto the floor. With her other hand, she whipped out the stick and shoved it up against his throat.

M froze. Hes just hitting on you. Her friends were aghast, and everyone nearby watched, openmouthed. Nick’s eyes were wide with panic.

“Sorry.” M stood up, leaving Nick on the floor. “I’m really sorry.”

“Freak,” he muttered, climbing to his feet. He glanced around, noticing the barely concealed laughter from onlook- ers. “Jeez, I just wanted a fry,” he joked, as if he hadn’t been humiliated, then hurried out of the cafeteria.

“What. The. Hell?” Inez asked. “He was flirting with you and you beat him up!”

“I know.” M groaned, shoving her staff back into her pocket. “I didn’t mean to. It was just reflex.”

Her friends were silent. She’d freaked them out. Should she explain the years of self-defense and martial arts train-ing? That she and Dad ended up in some rough places? Her friends lived in a city, they understood danger. Sort of. In a nice, upscale Boston kind of way.

M sighed. There was no point in trying to explain. No- body understood her life.

“You kinda push all the guys away,” Brianna pointed out quietly. “Maybe not like that, but still . . .”

“I don’t do romance,” M replied. She was done with love, period. She’d loved her parents, and they were both gone. Love hurt too much. It was better to steer clear of it.

They all ate in silence for a minute.

“I mean, he is an ass,” Ayana said finally. And everybody laughed.

M: You up?

MIKE: It’s a 12 hr time difference. Of course I’m up.

M: Like you never sleep in on weekends.

MIKE: Fine, your text woke me.

M: I don’t think that glyph is a lotus. It’s bending the wrong way.

MIKE: It has to be a lotus. If it’s not, the whole phrase is wrong.

M: The rest of the phrase never sat well with Nefertum anyway.

MIKE: Your dad said it was a lotus.

Book review: Contagion by Erin Bowman

35068650*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: Contagion

Author: Erin Bowman

Publisher: HarperTeen

Publication Date: July 24, 2018

ISBN: 9780062574145

Synopsis from Goodreads:
After receiving a distress call from a drill team on a distant planet, a skeleton crew is sent into deep space to perform a standard search-and-rescue mission. When they arrive, they find the planet littered with the remains of the project—including its members’ dead bodies. As they try to piece together what could have possibly decimated an entire project, they discover that some things are best left buried—and some monsters are only too ready to awaken.


Reflecting back on the long weekend, it was awesome to have a book to sit down with and read over the course of a day. Contagion is a fast paced sci-fi horror fic featuring an interstellar mission gone wrong. The book takes on a variety of perspectives, creating a sense of chaos throughout the novel. It can be a bit confusing at times as it jumps around, but I think the reader is meant to feel the same sense of anxiety and disorientation that the characters are experiencing as their worlds fall apart.

I found this book to be similar to the first book in The Illuminae Files. The contagion, the interstellar fight for survival, the effects of the pathogen on the affected. If you’ve read this other series, then you’ll probably like Contagion. It differs in a few ways, through the varying perspectives and the rescue team’s group dynamic. The ending also hints at a story to come that is vastly different. I wasn’t sure how the story was going to unfold when I first began, but by the end, I was hooked on this series.

This story builds and builds, gaining strength as it moves along. The beginning was a bit slow, but once the story really picked up, I couldn’t get enough. I would have given this story 5 stars, but I had some frustrations with the captain, Dylan. At first I could understand her power-hungry nature and her recklessness. The other characters identify her vices and call her out on them. Yet she stubbornly refuses to listen to reason and that ultimately leads to the demise of her team. I know the story would have been a bit less intense had she seen reason earlier, but as a team captain of her station, I couldn’t find her totally believable in this world.

The other characters, however, are interesting and each has a distinct and unique voice. Bowman does a great job differentiating the voices in each POV and creating well-rounded backgrounds for each of her characters. This detail makes her world that much more robust and adds a certain level of relatability to each character.

Overall, I’d say if you’re looking for a new sci-fi series, check out Contagion. I, for one, am looking forward to reading book 2!

Worn Pages is on Facebook!

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Book review: The Fall of Innocence

30309371.jpg*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: The Fall of Innocence

Author: Jenny Torres Sanchez

Publisher: Philomel

Publication Date: June 12, 2018

ISBN: 9781524737757

Synopsis from Goodreads:
For the past eight years, sixteen-year-old Emilia DeJesus has done her best to move on from the traumatic attack she suffered in the woods behind her elementary school. She’s forced down the memories–the feeling of the twigs cracking beneath her, choking on her own blood, unable to scream. Most of all, she’s tried to forget about Jeremy Lance, the boy responsible, the boy who caused her such pain. Emilia believes that the crows who watched over her that day, who helped her survive, are still on her side, encouraging her to live fully. And with the love and support of her mother, brother, and her caring boyfriend, Emilia is doing just that. But when a startling discovery about her attacker’s identity comes to light, and the memories of that day break through the mental box in which she’d shut them away, Emilia is forced to confront her new reality and make sense of shifting truths about her past, her family, and herself.


Reading this in public while I was waiting for an oil change on my car while trying not to cry at this absolutely devastating story is possibly the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. The Fall of Innocence is a story of survival and deep pain following the brutal attack and sexual assault of a young girl. We’re never shown exactly what happens to Emilia DeJesus out in the woods behind the school that day, but the author hints about a brutal assault and rape. The reader does intimately live the after affects with Emilia, experiencing her pain and struggle along with her desire to just be a carefree teen like everyone else.

Sanchez paints and incredibly moving story about Emilia, now a teenager, as she struggles to live with the intense fear and stress of her memories. Her case has been reopened as new information has come to light and everything she’d experienced as a young girl rises to the surface again. Everyone fears that they won’t be able to help Emilia in any way, although those that love her desperately want to ease her agony. This story gives us a glimpse at intense trauma, PTSD, and a family trying to find their way.

This is by no means a happy ending kind of story and its themes might be a trigger for some. It’s a tragic and emotionally devastating story, but it’s so beautifully written. It’s honest and shows this story from every angle. Each family member has a voice which I think brings so many issues to light and explores how each family copes and suffers in the aftermath of the attack. Each family member has their own story to tell and we are given brief glimpses of each of them throughout. Tomas, in particular, hides his own secret that he can share with no one. I wish we’d gotten to see more of him, because his own emotional turmoil rages deep within him and he feels he cannot outwardly be the person he is on the inside, yet he pushes his own concerns aside to focus his love and energy on his sister.

This is a heavy boots kind of book so fair warning, it might not be the book for you. But if you’re looking for something that shares the vast depth of human emotion and the inner workings of a family trying to recover, then I’d give The Fall of Innocence a try.