Young Adult Fiction

On The Come Up by Angie Thomas

The award-winning author of The Hate U Give returns with a powerful story about hip hop, freedom of speech – and fighting for your dreams, even as the odds are stacked against you.

Bri wants to be one of the greatest rappers of all time. As the daughter of an underground hip hop legend who died right before he hit big, Bri’s got massive shoes to fill. But when her first song goes viral for all the wrong reasons, Bri finds herself at the centre of controversy and portrayed by the media as more menace than MC. And with an eviction notice staring her family down, Bri no longer just wants to make it – she has to. Even if it means becoming the very thing the public has made her out to be.

Angie Thomas has created quite a stir in the world of YA fiction, hard-hitting with characters and situations many young people can relate to. Her first novel The Hate You Give was a book picked off the library shelves time and time again.

Nominated for awards and adapted for the big screen it’s certainly a lot to live up to but I think On The Come Up can certainly hold it’s own. It’s smart and very readable making it suitable for even reluctant readers. Give them a story that will grip them, excite and move them and they won’t be able to put it down. I can’t wait to share it with my young adult readers.

On The Come Up is published today by Walker Books.

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Adult Fiction, Blog Tour, Crime, Fiction, Thriller, Young Adult Fiction

Inborn by Thomas Enger

Today I’m delighted to be hosting the blog tour for another gripping offering from Orenda Books. Inborn by Thomas Enger is a thrilling court room drama that had me hooked and reading into the night.

When a teenager is accused of a high-school murder, he finds himself subject to trial by social media … and in the dock.

A taut, moving and chilling thriller by one of Nordic Noir’s finest writers.

When the high school in the small Norwegian village of Fredheim becomes a murder scene, the finger is soon pointed at seventeen-year-old Even. As the investigation closes in, social media is ablaze with accusations, rumours and even threats, and Even finds himself the subject of an online trial as well as being in the dock … for murder?

Even pores over his memories of the months leading up to the crime, and it becomes clear that more than one villager was acting suspiciously … and secrets are simmering beneath the calm surface of this close-knit community. As events from the past play tag with the present, he’s forced to question everything he thought he knew. Was the death of his father in a car crash a decade earlier really accidental? Has his relationship stirred up something that someone is prepared to kill to protect?

It seems that there may be no one that Even can trust.

But can we trust him?

A taut, moving and chilling thriller, Inborn examines the very nature of evil, and asks the questions: How well do we really know our families? How well do we know ourselves?

Oh my, this is one good read. A chilling prologue leads us into the story where we follow young Johannes, a bright young soul, as he walks into something he really wishes he hadn’t. What follows is a series of events that we begin to witness through the trial when 17 year old Even takes to the dock.

Twists and turns aplenty my suspicions changed on many occasions. Wonderfully told mostly through the voice of a 17 year old the story keeps the fear, frustration and despair right on the surface. It brilliantly showed the dangers of social media. How it can be easy to condemn and spread hate and mistrust. Chinese whispers for the 21st century and a super way to throw in those clues (or red herrings).

You can’t help but feel sorry for Even; he has a difficult life with a reclusive younger brother and a mother who still continues to drown her sorrows some years after the death of their father in a car crash. The only sense of parental support comes from their uncle Imo. And now Even’s recently ex-girlfriend has been murdered and he is under suspicion.

I love the way Enger has built the story around the trial, hearing what Even has to say but also returning to past events with flashbacks through Yngve Monk, the Chief Inspector who has recently lost his wife and is floundering somewhat. He is also a great character though and I felt his loss keenly. Enger expertly portraying the sense of bewilderment and sadness that follows the death of a loved one. Monk really cares about the case too, determined to get to the bottom of what happened on that awful night he puts his grief to one side and gets the job done – with a little bit of help of course. The picture gradually becoming clearer and clearer until the shocking conclusion is revealed.

Absolutely gripping, this is one that I would definitely recommend for young adults and older readers alike. It is also crying out for a tv adaptation. There are plenty of skeletons in the closet of the people in Fredheim and they’re about to come out in a most spectacular but deadly way.

Thoroughly recommended.

Thank you to Anne Cater for inviting me to be part of this blog tour and to her and Orenda Books for my eBook. As much as I prefer print copies I do LOVE the way I can read in the dark with an eBook. 🙂

About the author

Thomas Enger is a former journalist. He made his debut with the crime novel Burned in 2010, which became an international sensation before publication, and marked the first in the bestselling Henning Juul series. Rights to the series have been sold to 28 countries to date. In 2013 Enger published his first book for young adults, a dark fantasy thriller called The Evil Legacy, for which he won the U-prize (best book Young Adult). Killer Instinct, upon which Inborn is based, and another Young Adult suspense novel, was published in Norway in 2017 and won the prestigious prize. Most recently, Thomas has co-written a thriller with Jorn Lier Horst. Enger also composes music, and he lives in Oslo.

Adult Fiction, Blog Tour, Young Adult Fiction

Odette by Jessica Duchen

Odette Cover Image.jpgThere is something rather wonderfully unique about this tale. A fairytale for grown ups with all the darkness and magic that surrounds them. I absolutely adore the ballet Swan Lake; the music, the dancing and the storytelling is all wonderful and something I never tire of. When I read the synopsis of Odette my immediate thought was ‘I have to read this!’ I was curious how this tragic story could be brought into the twenty-first century.

By day Odette lives as a swan and then at dusk she becomes a woman and so it has been for nearly 200 years after being cursed by the evil Baron Von Rothbart. She lost everything that day and ever since has been looking for her one true love, a love that will last a lifetime – as this, she believes, is the key to break the spell. Then on a cold, stormy night she crashes through Mitzi’s window. Mitzi who is nursing her own broken heart after the death of her father and the end of a relationship. Mitzi who now wonders if she might be going mad. After all how else would you explain a woman who is half human, half swan?

With most fairy-tales true love is the key to breaking the spell but this is no ordinary fairy-tale and I was carried along following the twists and turns, wondering if a young woman from the 19th century could actually find true love in the 21st.  The combination of villainy, romance, music and literature all added up to an enchanting read.

I absolutely adored this novel. It is a wonderful story and the ending quite unexpected but perfect. The characters remain with me long after reading the final word and I can still see them all in my mind’s eye. I’d love to know what life has in store for them next.

This is a story about finding love, empathy, loyalty and friendship.  Yet it also touches on contemporary issues such as homelessness, exploitation, illegal immigrants and integration.   It shimmered and shined from beginning to end and held me under it’s spell long after I read the final page. Thoroughly recommended.

SYNOPSIS
When a swan crashes through her window at the height of a winter storm, Mitzi Fairweather decides to nurse the injured bird back to health. At sunset, though, it becomes a human being.

This unexpected visitor is Odette, the swan princess – alone, in danger and adrift in 21st-century Britain, dependent on the kindness of strangers. Bird by day, woman by night, with no way to go home to Russia, she remains convinced that only a man’s vow of eternal love can break her spell.

Mitzi is determined to help Odette, but as the two try to hide the improbable truth, their web of deception grows increasingly tangled…

A narrated concert based on ODETTE is in the planning stages with the award-winning violinist Fenella Humphreys. pianist Viv McLean and Jessica as narrator. Music will include a celebration of Tchaikovsky’s magical score for Swan Lake, plus works by Chopin, Liszt and Gershwin. The first performances will be at Music at Mansfield Street, London W1, 17 April 2019 and St Mary’s, Perivale, 27 April 2019. – This sounds just wonderful!

About The Author

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Jessica Duchen is an acclaimed author and journalist, specialising in words for, with and about music. Her work has appeared in The Independent, The Guardian and The Sunday Times, plus numerous magazines around the world. Her first five novels have gathered a loyal fan-base and wide acclaim. Music plays a vital role in her books, and she frequently narrates concert versions of Alicia’s Gift, Hungarian Dances and Ghost Variations.

Jessica is the librettist for the opera Silver Birch by Roxanna Panufnik, commissioned by Garsington Opera and shortlisted for a 2018 International Opera Award. Current projects include the libretto for a youth opera with composer Paul Fincham for Garsington 2019 (an updating of an Oscar Wilde fairy tale) and two large-scale choral works with Roxanna Panufnik.

She was born within the sound of Bow Bells, studied music at Cambridge and held editorial posts on several music magazines before going freelance to concentrate on writing. She edited a piano magazine for five years and was then classical music and ballet correspondent for The Independent from 2004-2016. Her output also includes plays, poetry, biographies of the composers Erich Wolfgang Korngold and Gabriel Fauré (published by Phaidon) and her popular classical music blog, JDCMB. She lives in London with her violinist husband and two cats. She enjoys playing the piano, cookery, long walks and obscure books about music.

Thank you to Anne at RandomThingsTours for my ebook to read and review and for inviting me to take part in the blog tour.  This is definitely one I will be buying for my bookshelves.

For a longer synopsis and an extract from the book please visit: https://unbound.com/books/odette/

LINKS

ORDER FROM UNBOUND

https://unbound.com/books/odette/

AMAZON: PAPERBACK

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Odette-Jessica-Duchen/dp/1789650003/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1539504625&sr=8-1&keywords=Odette+duchen

AMAZON: KINDLE

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Odette-Jessica-Duchen-ebook/dp/B07JC5NJ4Y/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1539504625&sr=8-2&keywords=Odette+duchen

WATERSTONES

https://www.waterstones.com/book/odette/jessica-duchen/9781789650006

JESSICA DUCHEN’S WEBSITE

https://www.jessicaduchen.co.uk

 

 

 

Fiction, Review, Young Adult Fiction

Dry by Neal Shusterman and Jarrod Shusterman

EVERYONE’S GOING TO REMEMBER WHERE THEY WERE WHEN THE TAPS RAN DRY

The drought – or the tap-out, as everyone calls it – has been going on for a while. Life has become an endless list of don’t: don’t water the lawn, don’t take long showers, don’t panic. But now there is no water left at all.

Suddenly, Alyssa’s quiet suburban street spirals into a warzone of desperation and violence. When her parents go missing, she and her younger brother must team up with an unlikely group in search of water. Each of them will need to make impossible choices to survive.

The kitchen faucet makes the most bizarre sounds.

It coughs and wheezes like it’s gone asthmatic. It gurgles like someone drowning. It spits once, and then goes silent.

And so it begins…

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There are certain things in modern life that are a given. We go to the supermarket, we buy food. We go home and then cook and eat that food. Our neighbours are often there for us in a crisis. Help is always on hand. We have fresh water to drink and wash with. We only have to turn on the tap. So imagine if one day the water ran out. Imagine the worst possible drought. Not in some far off country that you see in commercials asking for aid but in the country you live. A country where swimming pools are common place and everything is taken for granted.

Dry is a great novel. Through the eyes of a regular, American, suburban family we see the breakdown of society. Every aspect of human nature is shown within this story. The heroes, the cowards and the villains. Those who find their calling, those who find their strength and also those who will take and do anything, at whatever cost, to profit from the suffering of others.

After the taps run dry, Alyssa and her brother Garrett watch their parents head off towards a promised supply of fresh water.

‘See you in a bit’ Alyssa says as they go but she’s uneasy. Supplies are dwindling fast and people are turning on each other as the panic begins to spread. When their parents don’t return, the youngsters embark on a dangerous journey to find them and the water. With danger around every corner and not knowing who they can trust, things begin to spiral out of control and it’s not long before Alyssa and Garrett are fighting for their lives.

They form an unlikely fellowship with some other kids, kids they wouldn’t normally have anything to do with, but there is nothing normal about their situation and it doesn’t take them long to work out that if they’re going to survive this, they’re going to have to work together.

An absolutely electrifying story that looks at the many sides of human nature and the lengths that people will go to to survive in a world that suddenly turns upside down.

Dry is published by Walker Books.

Fiction, Young Adult Fiction

I won a giveaway! – The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw

This week our lovely postman delivered something rather special.  A beautiful, signed copy of The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw.  Shea sent it to me all the way from America after pulling my name out of the hat on a giveaway she ran on Twitter.  I’m absolutely thrilled to give this beautiful edition a home and look forward to reading it again very soon.  It was also rather exciting to here that this spine-tingling story is going to be adapted into a movie!  Can. not. wait.

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The jacket is illustrated with silver foil that flickers with stunning colours as the light catches it.
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Three beautifully illustrated limited edition bookmarks were also included in my prize.
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Underneath the dust jacket sits a stunning hardback cover.
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Signed by the author herself, this will be a wonderful keepsake.

So this is a beautiful book but what about the story within… well that’s rather fabulous too.  Here is my review posted earlier this year.

The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw

A haunting tale of three sisters on a quest for revenge…

Two centuries ago, in small, isolated Sparrow, three sisters were sentenced to death for witchery and drowned in the waters surrounding the town. Now, each summer, the sisters return, stealing the bodies of three girls and seeking revenge by dragging boys to their watery deaths.

Like many locals, seventeen-year-old Penny Talbot has accepted the town’s fate. Then, on the eve of the sisters’ return, Bo Carter arrives; unaware of the danger he has just stumbled into or the fact that his arrival will change everything…

Mistrust and lies spread quickly through the salty, rain-soaked streets. Penny and Bo suspect each other of hiding secrets. And death comes swiftly to those who cannot resist the call of the sisters.

But only Penny sees what others cannot. And she will be forced to choose: save Bo, or save herself.

Wowser, I loved this beguiling story full of witchcraft and revenge. Even the cover tempts you to pick it up with smatterings of foil that catch the light, making the book shimmer. It is beautifully designed. This isn’t a book that languishes in a tbr pile, it’s one that calls to you until you pick it up and then entrances you, pulling you in deeper and deeper until you reach the stunning end. Such is the magic of the Swan sisters and their sinister tale.

Ernshaw spins this tale with expert ease. Spanning two hundred years, the Swan sisters story is one that has had a hold on the people of Sparrow, a town cursed by its treatment of the three sisters, outsiders, who were said to bewitch the men with their beauty and the perfumes they concocted. Every year since, they have returned to seek their revenge. As the deadly Swan Season approaches, visitors swarm to the town and the teenagers prepare for the annual beach party that welcomes in the sinister season.  As the Swan sisters song begins, a sense of foreboding sweeps over the town as they wait for the eerie silence that can only mean the sisters have returned, and the hunt for their first victim begins.

This story swept me away and I loved inhibiting the town of Sparrow (from a safe distance). Full of atmosphere, magic and intrigue, I was sad to finish the novel.  I shall very much look forward but to revisiting The Wicked Deep so I can look for all the clues that brought me to the remarkable ending.

Fabulous, fabulous, fabulous! Oh and did I mention that it has a shimmery cover?

You can find Shea on Twitter: @SheaErnshaw

 

 

Blog Tour, Someone Else’s Shoes, Time to talk, Young Adult Fiction

Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow Blog Tour – seeing things from another perspective

This is a blog tour with a difference and I’m delighted to be kicking it off today on Tales Before Bedtime. The tour has been inspired by the novel, Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow by Siobhan Curham which is published today by Walker Books. As Siobhan’s book is about empathy and seeing things from others perspective I’m delighted to have the opportunity to step into someone else’s shoes and post a piece by a fellow blogger and book lover.

Our lives are often touched by people who leave a mark: perhaps a light in dark times or kindness, love and laughter. Perhaps they’ve reminded us of who we are or who we’d like to be, or simply they’ve become part of memories that stay with us long after we’ve known them. Quite often we never get the chance to let them know what they mean to us and Amy has expressed this perfectly in her piece. We should never presume that others know how we feel about them. Some things just shouldn’t be left unsaid.

 

So now over to Amy.

Open Letter: To those, I still love but have lost

To those, I still love but have lost,

I have wanted to write this for the longest time, but this was finally the right time. For this blog tour but also because I finished university recently. University was a place where I met so many new people, but my life seems very up in the air.

You might be wondering who this is about, and the truth is: this is for everyone. Anyone who has made an impact on my life. My friends. My family. Those who are no longer in my life anymore. Although this is my side of the story, I respect your OK too. After all friendship is a two-way relationship.

Life has a way of making us lose touch with people. People you think will be in the longest time in life. You make plans. Going to university. Even bridesmaid at a wedding. Then BAM. Life gets in the way. You move. Someone else moves. You lose contact. Your life becomes liking each other’s posts on Instagram or Facebook. You become someone’s old friend rather than someone’s friend. It’s weird.

So, this is for you. You may never see this, but I know that you mean something to me. We may have lost touch, but I still love you. Like you. Remember you. I remember the times when I laughed so hard that I cried. The films that we saw together. Our days at school. The lessons and the inside jokes that only worked at that times that we would laugh at and everyone would think we were crazy. The lunchtimes. The breaks. The throwaway conversations about our day. The nights that we stayed up too late and the sleepovers that we had.

I remember it all. And I hope you do too. But I don’t mind if I am just a distance memory. We needed each other at that time. We moved on and that’s OK. A piece of me would like to talk to you. See you again. See where you are now. But I don’t mind if I don’t. I hope you are well. That your life is great. Because you deserve it. You really do.

So that’s you. If you wonder about me. I’m good. I’m really good. I’m doing what I love, and I am working towards where I want to be. I hope that this is enough. I really do. But if that’s not. Do what I am scared to do. Because I’m here. I’m here.

The weird thing is that I don’t know how to end this, so I’ll leave it here. If you read this and think it sounds like you. Then it probably is. Know that I remember you. That I love you.

Amy

Thank you Amy for sharing such a personal message with us. It was lovely to read.

Do make a visit to Amy’s blog here where she shares her love of books and writing.

And readers do share your thoughts on this post by leaving a comment. Do you have anything you wish you hadn’t left unsaid?

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Want to know a little more about Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow by Siobhan Curham? Here’s the synopsis.

img_0022Fourteen-year-old Stevie lives in Lewes with her beloved vinyl collection, her mum … and her mum’s depression. When Stevie’s mum’s disability benefits are cut, Stevie and her mother are plunged into a life of poverty. But irrepressible Stevie is determined not to be beaten and she takes inspiration from the lyrics of her father’s 1980s record collection and dreams of a life as a musician. Then she meets Hafiz, a talented footballer and a Syrian refugee. Hafiz’s parents gave their life savings to buy Hafiz a safe passage to Europe; his journey has been anything but easy. Then he meets Stevie…

As Stevie and Hafiz’s friendship grows, they encourage each other to believe in themselves and follow their dreams.

 An uplifting story of friendship, unity and hope that highlights the important and topical issues surrounding young carers and young refugees.

Find out more about this title from Walker Books by visiting their website here.

Thank so much to Kirsten and John at Walker books for inviting me to take part in this blog tour.

Author Spotlight, Young Adult Fiction

Author Spotlight – Nic Stone

I’m delighted today to be taking part in the blog tour of Nic Stone’s brilliant debut novel Dear Martin.

A debut confronting modern racism in America finally hits the UK

Justyce McAllister, a black scholarship student at an elite private school in Atlanta, is top of his class, captain of the debate team and heading for Yale.  But his presumptions are challenged when he is arrested by the police for helping his druck ex-girlfriend late at night.  This won’t be his final run-in with the police.  The next time someone gets hurt…

“Why try to do right if people will always look at me and assume wrong?”

Despite leaving his rough neighbourhood, he can’t seem to escape the scorn of his former peers or the attitude of his prep school classmates.  The only exception: Sarah Jane, Justyce’s gorgeous (and white) debate partner and Justyce is starting to feel guilty about how he feels.

Struggling to cope with it all, Justyce starts a journal to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

How far has America come since 1968?

Dear Martin cover final[1188]Reading is like a super power. It takes you to places you’ve never been, never seen and allows you to try an infinite amount of lives, explore different characters, worlds and experiences.  Stories are the doorway to so many possibilities.  Reading a great novel makes you feel, it creates emotion and touches your very soul. That I love.

We are all different and books, I believe, give us the chance to put ourselves in to another’s shoes.  To feel their emotions, their hopes, their fears, their highs, their lows.  Dear Martin is one such book.  Superbly written, powerful, moving and an  insight into racial hate and the effect it still has on the world today, this is an incredible book.  Eye-opening and unflinching in it’s brutality, I was moved by Justyce and his story.  Such an amazing character; he is brave, tough yet fragile and already so close to being broken.  Justyce is at odds with the world around him.  He is a good kid, smart and popular, yet  for some these qualities are eradicated by the colour of his skin. In a world where people are still judged first by their colour, this novel shows that change does come, albeit slowly, but it comes.

The diversity is excellently portrayed.  Nic Stone has the ability to look at situations from all angles and we are able to build a picture of how the situations arise and although heart-breaking in parts, it is only a reflection of what is still happening in our world today. Prejudice breeds prejudice.  The refusal to accept difference is what keeps conflict alive. That constant lack of understanding and emphathy.  We need stories like this to teach, show and inform.

“Jus, I think I hate everything,” she says. “Why can’t we all get along like butterflies?”

He tuckes her hair behind her ear.  Tries to shift his focus to the TV, where layer upon layer of monarchs cover the trees in some Mexican forest.  While he appreciates her sentiment, Jus wonders if she notices all those butterflies look exactly alike.

This book, like so many that are inspired by real life, has an important message.  Having the courage to stay true to ourselves no matter what conflict or predjudice we might be facing is tough.  We discover this alongside Justyce and at times he is pushed to his absolute limits, but ultimately it will be his own choices that will make the real difference.

I thoroughly recommend this courageous and thought provoking novel and think it would be an excellent choice for the classroom too.  Dear Martin is Nic Stone’s debut novel and I look forward to reading more from her in the future.  She is definitely an author to watch.

You can find out more about Nic by visiting her website here.  Here is a snippet that I feel sums up our experience as readers perfectly…

Nic Stone[1189]
Nic Stone
It wasn’t until the summer I turned twenty-three and hopped on that plane to Israel that I began to get a real grasp on the role of Story in the human experience. I spent that summer stepping into other people’s shoes. There were the shoes of a Palestinian Christian girl living in the West Bank who wasn’t allowed into Israel Proper without a permit, but faced insane amounts of harassment in her neighborhood because of her family’s chosen faith. There were the shoes of the Israeli soldier who’d been trained to view all Arabs as potential threats, but was so sickened by it he couldn’t wait to get out of the army so he could leave the country. There were the small shoes of the children in the Palestinian refugee camps training to be Martyrs for Allah because they felt it was their call in life. There were the shoes of the orthodox Jewish man whose entire family had been murdered in his home by Palestinian militants while they slept.

As I listened to these stories and made an attempt at empathy—putting myself in their proverbial shoe—my perspectives shifted. Life became less about right and wrong, good and bad, black and white, and more about complexity and nuance, the power of the human being to bring either calm or chaos into the lives of others and the world around them. Storytelling revealed itself as a means of getting people to listen without interrupting. Done well, it engages listeners/readers to the point where they’re completely oblivious to the shifts in worldview taking place as a result of stepping into a different perspective.

The stories I heard over that summer, like my own, were the ones I hadn’t encountered in my Language Arts classes. And they shook me. They changed the way I approach people with beliefs that differ from my own. They changed the way I voice my opinions. In a way, they cleaned the lens through which I view the world.

I discovered that once I put on all those different pairs of shoes, I wanted to share those shoes and their impact with others. I wanted to tell the stories that weren’t being told, the ones featuring diverse characters in non-stereotypical roles, the ones that blurred the line between “right” and “wrong”, the ones that reveal the humanity in those who are underrepresented or misunderstood. Since that summer I turned 23, I’ve reread most of the books that I was unable to connect with as a teen, and I’m happy to report that I quite enjoy them now that I’ve found the shoes for myself. The answer to my identity crisis was simple: I am a storyteller.

Now get those shoes off so I can give you a different pair to try on.

Dear Martin is published in the UK by Simon & Schuster on the 3rd of May 2018.

Thank you to Eve at Simon and Schuster for sending me a copy of Dear Martin and inviting me to take part in the blog tour.  This is a book that will stay with me for a long time.