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Gem & Dixie by Sara Zarr

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“I don’t have the power to be responsible for every single person in the world.”

Gem & Dixie is the new novel from renowned young adult author and National Book Award finalist Sara Zarr—a deep, nuanced, and gorgeously written story about the complex relationship between two sisters from a broken home.

Gem has never known what it is to have security. She’s never known an adult she can truly rely on. But the one constant in her life has been Dixie. Gem grew up taking care of her sister when no one else could: not their mother, whose issues make it hard for her to keep food on the table; and definitely not their father, whose intermittent presence is the only thing worse than his frequent absence. Even as Gem and Dixie have grown apart, they’ve always had each other.

When their dad returns for the first time in years and tries to insert himself back into their lives, Gem finds herself with an unexpected opportunity: three days with Dixie, on their own in Seattle and beyond. But this short trip soon becomes something more, as Gem discovers that to save herself, she may have to sever the one bond she’s tried so hard to keep.

National Book Award finalist Sara Zarr has written her most personal and affecting book yet—an unforgettable story of breaking apart and of coming together again.

Book Links: Amazon | B&N | BD | Goodreads | Publisher

Personal Thoughts:

Sara Zarr explores the relationships of two sisters who both grew up in a dysfunctional family in this upcoming contemporary novel, Gem & Dixie.

Gem is three years older than Dixie. And being the older one, her instinct is to take care of her younger sister. She used to be Dixie’s protector until the two steps into their own separate lives. They still live in the same house with their mother but they aren’t exactly close anymore. They don’t even agree with lots of things. They rarely converse at home nor at school. They never bond anymore. When their Dad suddenly return to their lives, Dixie and Gem find themselves together running away from home. How long they can manage to stay together?

Gem as a narrator is easily accessible inspite of being a loner. Her internal monologues and letters about her past shows real struggles of living a life with no adult role in it. As she desperately tries to get out of the her messy life, readers will surely feel and even ache for her.

Sara Zarr successfully shows in this novel how Gem and Dixie navigates their relationship as sisters, as well as the family dynamics that made these two who they are. The absentee parents, poverty and other difficult things that Gem and Dixie has to deal with everyday of their lives push them into different directions and hardened them like no other girls their age.

“When you have a shared experience with someone who showed you some kindness when you needed it most, it sticks with you.”

Ultimately, this novel is about the relationship between two sisters, Gem and Dixie. But what I find more interesting is how Sara Zarr shows the contrast between two individuals. Gem and Dixie have the same home situations. They basically have the same issues and problems, but these two girls cope up with their lives differently. Gem becomes a loner who talk to school psychiatrist while Dixie charms her way to survive everyday.

Sara Zarr reminds us in this novel, how unique and different people are, even those with the same life circumstances. Sometimes we tend to compare our lives with other people but in reality even we have the same position with others we won’t exactly get the same life.

All in all, Gem & Dixie is a quick and heart-rending read. Sara Zarr takes a simple yet emotionally difficult story of two sisters and let the readers brave the reality of their situations.

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* This review is based on an advance readers copy I received courtesy of the publisher, Balzer + Bray an imprint of HarperCollins International in exchange of honest opinion.

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Scholastic Asia – PBBY Project: You Write to Me, I’ll Write to You

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WHAT IF YOUR MANUSCRIPT IS READ AND CRITIQUED BY THE MAN WHO DISCOVERED J.K. ROWLING?

Scholastic, the global children’s publishing, education and media company, is giving a chance to Filipino writers living in Asia to submit a short synopsis and the opening pages of their unpublished chapter book or novel and stand a chance to be shortlisted to receive a review and written feedback by the man who discovered J.K. Rowling, Mr. Barry Cunningham, on their submission.

In partnership with the Philippine Board on Books for Young People (PBBY), You Write to Me, I’ll Write to You is a manuscript critique initiative of the Scholastic Asian Book Award (SABA) in an effort to further encourage and inspire Asian writers. The manuscript critique initiative aspires to motivate writers while assisting them to get their manuscript in shape and recognizing excellence in Asian writings.

A total of 6 entries (the brief synopses and opening pages of 6 manuscripts) will be shortlisted to receive a review and written feedback from Mr. Cunningham, and only the most outstanding entry from the shortlist will receive a review of the complete manuscript.

“It is truly remarkable to be able to work with a prolific name like Barry Cunningham in the international children’s literature scene to provide his critique and review on unpublished manuscripts written by Filipinos living in Asia,” said Joyce A. Bautista, Trade Manager of Scholastic Philippines. “It will be a privilege to unearth some of the most talented Filipino writers in Asia and a chance not to be missed by them to have their manuscripts critiqued and reviewed by Mr. Cunningham.”

“The birth of this idea came from the Scholastic Asian Book Award (SABA) and we hope that through this initiative, more Filipino writers in Asia will submit their manuscripts to the SABA and stand a chance to get their work published,” she added.

“This is a great opportunity for Filipino writers,” said Tarie Sabido, Chair of the PBBY. “This initiative will stir up even more interest in writing novels for children and teens and will help those who wish to submit to the Scholastic Asian Book Award. For the winners, getting feedback from Barry Cunningham will be a very exciting and valuable experience.”

Mr. Cunningham, who is the Publisher of Chicken House Books – home of great reading – has had an impressive career in publishing. He has worked with all the great names in children’s books including Roald Dahl and became one of the best-known names in publishing after he signed up J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

You Write to Me, I’ll Write to You, is open to all Filipino writers living in Asia, who are 18 years of age and above. Manuscripts submitted must be chapter books or novels intended for children to young adults between age 6 and 18 years old, and must be Asian in content. The closing date for all submission entries is April 2, 2017, 5:00pm (Philippines time). Selected entries will be informed via email in June.

For more information on how to enter, visit scholastic.asia/youwritetome.

About Scholastic
Scholastic Corporation (NASDAQ: SCHL) is the world’s largest publisher and distributor of children’s books and a leader in educational services and children’s media. Scholastic creates quality books, print and technology-based learning materials and programs, magazines, multi-media and other products that help children learn both at school and at home. The Company distributes its products and services worldwide through a variety of channels, including school-based book clubs and book fairs, retail stores, schools, libraries, on-air, and online at www.scholastic.asia.

About PBBY

The PBBY or Philippine Board on Books for Young People, is a private, non-stock, non-profit organization committed to the development and promotion of children’s literature in the Philippines. The PBBY is the lead agency in the celebration of National Children’s Book Day (NCBD).

* PR courtesy of Scholastic Philippines

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A List of Cages by Robin Roe

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“I used to think that if I concentrated, I could make myself disappear. I don’t believe that anymore, but sometimes I still have to try.”

When Adam Blake lands the best elective ever in his senior year, serving as an aide to the school psychologist, he thinks he’s got it made. Sure, it means a lot of sitting around, which isn’t easy for a guy with ADHD, but he can’t complain, since he gets to spend the period texting all his friends. Then the doctor asks him to track down the troubled freshman who keeps dodging her, and Adam discovers that the boy is Julian–the foster brother he hasn’t seen in five years.

Adam is ecstatic to be reunited. At first, Julian seems like the boy he once knew. He’s still kind hearted. He still writes stories and loves picture books meant for little kids. But as they spend more time together, Adam realizes that Julian is keeping secrets, like where he hides during the middle of the day, and what’s really going on inside his house. Adam is determined to help him, but his involvement could cost both boys their lives.

Book Links: Amazon | B&N | Book Depository | Goodreads | Publisher

Personal Thoughts:

A List of Cages is an astounding debut novel that leaves me deeply affected and emotionally invested. It is brave, gripping, if at times uncomfortable read that sometimes makes me wish there’s something I can do for the characters.

Adam and Julian are foster brothers for a time, until Julian is forced to live with his only living relative. Their lives crossed again when Adam is assigned to help the school psychologist as his elective. Part of his task is to track down Julian, making sure Julian won’t skip more of his appointments. As Adam try to do his job, he noticed the difference between the Julian who used to live with them and the present Julian. Concerned with his former foster brother, he tries his best to be part of Julian’s life once again. As Adam unravel the new Julian, Adam not only understand Julian but also see the reality of the situation he was in.

Robin Roe did a wonderful job of writing Julian and Adam’s story. I almost can’t believe that ‘A List of Cages’ is her debut novel given how good and affecting her writing is. The alternating narration between Adam and Julian easily shows the contrast between Adam and Julian’s lives. Not just their personal living condition, but as well as the way they handle their mental health conditions.

Julian’s storyline will undoubtedly linger to readers. My hearts bleeds for him, and constantly lost my breath while reading his parts. He affected me deeply that even I feel uncomfortable reading some of the things that happened to him I still can’t stop reading, if only to prove to Julian that he has someone who won’t leave him.

Julian doesn’t deserve those horrifying things. Sometimes I wonder who’s to blame — his uncle or the foster system that put Julian to his uncle’s care? But as much as I want to point finger, I also know that there’s no use in condemning any of those people. This is fiction after all. I can only hope that no one suffers like Julian in real life. No one deserves that kind of treatment or that kind of life.

“I used to think struggle was what aged you, but if that were the case, Julian should’ve been a hundred years old. Now I wonder if the opposite is true. Maybe instead of accelerating your age, pain won’t let you grow.”

As for Adam, well he is genuinely caring guy. He reminds me that kindness and love goes a long way. Sometimes it’s easy to forget little things like that. I’ve seen many times how hardships change people. How bad experiences can make someone tough by stripping him of kindness and love. It is sad but it is also a reality.

“Hate ricochets, but kindness does too.”

On the whole, A List of Cages touches some difficult issues with sensitivity and reality that will surely make readers think of things and feel every kind of emotions that the characters went through. It’s unflinching, honest, and uncompromising story that shows the power of kindness, friendship and brotherhood.

This new addition to the ya contemporary novels is not to be missed.

* This review is based on an eBook I received courtesy of the publisher, Disney-Hyperion via NetGalley

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Quick Catch Up

Happy Friday Everyone!

I just want to write a quick post today as I try to catch up with my blogging and reading. I know I’ve been MIA for more than a month already and truth to be told, I miss blogging and reading so much. But honestly I don’t feel I have something creative or new to share to everyone lately. Plus the fact that I have crazy schedule outside the blogging world just doesn’t give me much room to even go on-line. If you are following me in my other social media accounts, I’m sure you probably notice my silence in the past few weeks. But here I am, trying a baby step to go back on-line by stealing a few minutes out of my busy schedule. Also, I’m hoping that after this I get my writing and reading mojo back soon.

On the side note, I received an early Christmas gifts yesterday from Scholastic Philippines. Thanks so much Ms. Joyce 🙂

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Will try my best to be back again here hopefully before Christmas. I miss talking to everyone here and on twitter and instagram.  Thank you for sticking around.

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Book Signing Tour : Lauren Kate back in PH with Harrison Gilbertson

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Lauren Kate Book Signing Event

Join bestselling author of the ‘Fallen’ series Lauren Kate (@laurenkatebooks) for a book signing event on November 6, 2016 at 2 p.m. in The Gallery, Greenbelt 5. Plus! Meet and greet Harrison Gilbertson who portrays Cam in the movie adaptation of ‘Fallen’.

Registration starts at 11 a.m. The event is made possible in partnership with Raffles Makati, Pioneer Films, Greenbelt, and Ayala Center.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

When and where are the book signings?
November 6, 2:00 p.m., at The Gallery, Greenbelt 5

Is there a registration fee?
No. There is no registration fee.

When will the registration be?
Registration opens at 11:00 a.m. on November 6 at The Gallery, Greenbelt. Each guest will be asked to fill out the registration form upon arrival. First come, first served. Guests must present their book to get a numbered Signing Pass. The book must have either of the following as proof of purchase: Price Tag or Official Receipt from National Book Store, National Book Store Express or Powerbooks.

How many books can I have signed?
Each guest is allowed to have a total of three (3) books of any of the following titles:
Fallen – one (1) copy only
Torment – one (1) copy only
Passion – one (1) copy only
Rapture – one (1) copy only
Fallen in Love – one (1) copy only
Waterfall – one (1) copy only
Teardrop – one (1) copy only
Unforgiven – one (1) copy only

One copy will be personalized and the rest are signatures only.

Is there a limit as to how many people can have their books signed?
National Book Store will take every effort to get as many books signed as possible. However, should there be an excessive number of guests, National Book Store reserves the right to limit the number of copies per guest or limit the number of guests in line.

Can I bring old books or other editions of the books?
Yes, as long as the books were purchased from National Book Store, National Book Store Express or Powerbooks. The books must have either the price tag or official receipt.

Do I need to buy on-site?
No. You can buy books before or during the event.

Can I have other items signed?
No. Only books will be allowed to be signed by the author.

Can we have our photo taken with the author?
Yes. There will be an official photographer from NBS who will take your photo with the author. However, we strictly allow only one photo per person.

How much are the books?
Fallen (Trade Paperback – P359)
Torment (Trade Paperback – P359)
Passion (Trade Paperback – P385)
Teardrop (Trade Paperback – P395)
Unforgiven (Trade Paperback – P399)

Only books purchased from National Book Store, National Book Store Express or Powerbooks will be accommodated.

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We Are Still Tornadoes by Michael Kun & Susan Mullen

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“Hang in there, Baby.”

Growing up across the street from each other, Scott and Cath have been best friends their entire lives. Cath would help Scott with his English homework, he would make her mix tapes (it’s the 80’s after all), and any fight they had would be forgotten over TV and cookies. But now they’ve graduated high school and Cath is off to college while Scott is at home pursuing his musical dreams.

During their first year apart, Scott and Cath’s letters help them understand heartache, annoying roommates, family drama and the pressure to figure out what to do with the rest of their lives. And through it all, they realize that the only person they want to turn to is each other. But does that mean they should be more than friends? The only thing that’s clear is that change is an inescapable part of growing up. And the friends who help us navigate it share an unshakable bond.

This funny yet deeply moving book–set to an awesome 80’s soundtrack–captures all the beautiful confusion and emotional intensity we find on the verge of adulthood…and first love.

Book Links: Amazon | B&N | Book Depository | Goodreads

Personal Thoughts:

We Are Still Tornadoes is an epistolary novel about longtime best friends who happen to be at different side of United States but managed to strengthens their relationship through constant communication.

Scott’s and Cath are best friends since they were young. They went to the same school, know each others very well and basically just super close. When Cath went off for college in North Carolina, Scott stays in Maryland to help with the family business while trying to build a career in music. But being miles apart doesn’t stop their friendship. They continue to communicate through letters (as in snail mail hand written letters since the story is set in the 80’s). They share stories, private jokes, playful banters, update each other about what is happening with their lives, about the new friends they met, family issues and more.

The letter format gives the characters a very distinct voice. Though it really helps that the novel is written by two different authors, the letters really made the narration more personal. Scott and Cath not only become accessible but also relate-able even if you are not familiar with the life in the 80’s like them. Reading their letters sometimes feels like snooping to someone’s personal belonging without the worry of being caught. Each letters even the brief ones perfectly captures Scott’s and Cath’s relationship.

Aside from the letter format, I also enjoy the inclusion of song lyrics from Scott’s letters. Those songs added more creativity and open more about Scott’s thoughts and feelings. It proves that he is really a smart guy even everyone is telling him otherwise. Actually even without the songs, readers will know that Scott’s is really smart from his letters alone. He is witty, sensitive, and thoughtful. Reading his letters and Cath’s is not only fun but also insightful at times.

As for the 80’s settings, the dropping of songs and band names that actually exist of at the peak of their career during that era provides the 80’s vibe. Though I’m not familiar with most of them I can still easily provide my own mental images. I don’t get lost or distracted instead I feel more immerse in the story.

Witty, endearing and captivating. We Are Still Tornadoes is a heartwarming story of friendship and a realistic view of two persons transition to adulthood. A quick read that will not only entertain but will also tug readers’ heart.

* This review is based on an eBook I received courtesy of the publisher, St. Martin Press via NetGalley

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