Kirkus Review of Under Shifting Stars

Hi everyone! I’m a bit late posting this, but KIRKUS has reviewed Under Shifting Stars and you can now find it online and in this month’s print magazine.

“Latos’ prose is highly relatable, giving an accurate and gut-wrenching depiction of the uncertainty of growing up and finding oneself. She emphasizes the pain that comes from knowing that someone you love has changed without you along with the fear of being left behind. Bullying of queer and neurodivergent students is shown in all of its bitter truth. At the same time, Latos reassures readers that these situations are not hopeless.”

Thank you, Kirkus!

(Pre)School’s Out For Summer!

This might be one of my best inventions – it bought me at least ten minutes of down time 😉

Little Do We Know

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Thank you to Disney Hyperion for providing me with a copy of this arc!

Little Do We Know is a touching and compulsive read. It’s told from the dual POV of best friends Hannah and Emory, who have drifted apart due to a fight. The description states that there is a boy caught in the middle, which originally lead me to believe that Hannah was interested in her BFF’s boyfriend (or they would soon become involved), so I was glad when it turned out to be that Hannah and Luke were simply friends in their own right. It was refreshing that Emory and Luke’s romance was more of a subplot and that the main story focused on Hannah and Emory’s friendship.

Both Hannah and Emory grew as characters throughout the novel. Hannah questioned her Christian beliefs, specifically whether or not they were hers or her parents’, and Emory confronted a traumatic event that happened with her mother’s fiancé and struggled with the decision of whether or not to tell her mother. The novel ultimately revolves around this event and the miscommunication between Emory and Hanna that occurred immediately after, but Luke’s subplot tied the story together and gave the two friends a reason to make up (which is why he referred to himself as “the glue”). I enjoyed the element of mysticism/religion in Luke’s story, how he died but came back to life and it shook his entire belief system.

The subplot I found problematic and felt didn’t add to the story was the budding romance between Hannah and her teacher (or teacher assistant? Doesn’t matter). He was 23 or 24 and had already graduated from college, and she was in senior year, so either 17 or 18. Even if she was 18, he was still her teacher she was still in high school, so I found it creepy he would be interested in her. I think the book could have done without that romantic subplot, since the friendship between Hannah and Luke provided enough substance to carry her story.

I recommend this book to anyone looking for a YA book about friendship and the ways we can fall apart but find our way back to each other.

Luckiest Girl Alive

I read this book in two days (which is saying a lot when you’re at home with a preschooler and a toddler and the toddler is on a nap strike!)

TifAni FaNello has reinvented herself as “Ani” following a terrible high school experience that put her in the news. She is engaged to a good looking man with a solid career, and she has her own solid career as an editor at a well known magazine in NYC. When a director approaches her to be in a documentary that will shed light on the events fourteen years ago, Ani jumps at the chance to tell her side of the story and clear her name. However, participating in the documentary forces her to relive terrible events and face a part of herself of which is she ashamed.

The narrative structure of this novel is unique in that it felt like reading an adult novel and a young adult novel at the same time. The first chapter takes place during present day when Ani is 28, engaged and successful. The second chapter takes place fourteen years earlier, when Ani begins to attend the prestigious Bradley school where her life as she knows it will begin to unravel. As the story progresses in the present, more of the past is revealed, with Jessica Knoll deftly revealing just enough new information to keep up the suspense.

What impressed me was how authentically Jessica Knoll handles the aftermath of sexual assault. Not just in terms of the victim’s and perpetrator’s feelings of guilt, but Ani’s uncertainty as to whether or not a crime had actually been committed against her when both parties had been drinking. To the reader it’s obvious a crime was committed, but to fourteen year-old Ani, it isn’t quite so clear. The characters and their actions were so realistic that it often felt like reading a work of non-fiction rather than fiction. I struggled to like Ani sometimes due to her downright b!tchy personality, but overall I understood her edge (and at times, her cruelty) because of everything she went through and the lack of support she received. She was raw.

I suppose the only aspect of the book I didn’t enjoy was Ani’s preoccupation with the world of privilege. I got a bit tired of the name and brand dropping, as well as hearing about the “rules” required to fit into New York’s “elite”. It felt like a page out of Gossip Girl.

I recommend this book and will definitely be checking out other books by this author!

Teaching Kids and Toddlers to Ski

Trenton and I love skiing. The winter before I got pregnant with Owen, we went skiing every second weekend, both on day trips and ski trips with friends. So it was quite a change after baby when we could no longer go! We’ve been super excited about the idea of introducing the kids to something we love, and in the last month it finally happened!

It’s been a pretty cold winter, but a week after Owen’s fourth birthday, it was finally warm enough to take him out. The wait was worth it–we went on a beautiful bluebird day, warm enough to do a few runs on the bunny hill and then have lunch together on the patio, and Owen loved it! Friends have told us it’s worth waiting until kids are at least four years old to teach them, and I can see why. Owen was already coordinated enough to get on and off the magic carpet by himself, and because skis are longer and more stable than skates, he thought it was way more fun than his skating lessons.

His little bro, however, will not be able to wait! Max wanted to try so badly, he was climbing onto Owen’s skis! So we went back to Sport Chek and bought a second pair of used skis in the smallest size we could find, and the smallest boots they make. Of course he’s not really skiing at this point, just being held between Mom or Dad’s legs as we sloooowly make our  way down the hill, but it’s still good for him to get used to the feeling. Most importantly, he was stoked to be part of the action!

We’ve only gone twice so I’m in no way an expert, but here are some tips for teaching kids to ski, some of which have been passed on to me by other parents:

1. Take breaks BEFORE the kids get tired so that the experience stays positive. Do a few runs and then have a snack. Then if the kids are up for it, try a few more runs afterward. Introduce skiing slowly and keep it fun!

2. Some ski hills have free bunny hills, which takes the pressure off. If you feel like you’re skiing for “free” (minus all the gear!), you won’t be tempted to keep trying even when kids are tired. And they’ll feel more comfortable learning at their own pace. We love being in the mountains, so even if we only do a few runs, it’s worth the drive just to be out in the fresh mountain air with the kiddos.

3. Find the smallest pair of secondhand skis possible. We didn’t do this with Owen, and he’s learning on 100cm skis. I’ve definitely noticed this makes it tougher for him to learn how to pie! However, they will last longer, so maybe it’s a tradeoff.

4. Use a “wedgie” to keep ski tips together. This will help your child get a feel for making a pie. At first Owen went straight down the hill, but now he’s learned he needs to do a pie to slow himself down, and the wedgie is a huge help.

5. To use a harness, hula hoop, or nothing? This one is personal preference because I’ve heard advantages and disadvantages to all options. There are harnesses with handles that allow the straps to be adjusted to different lengths so that Mom or Dad can basically “steer” the child down the hill and teach them to turn. Some parents have said harnesses prevent kids from learning on their own because the harness holds the child up, so a hula hoop is the best option. Other parents say put the wedgie on the kids skis, tell them to put their hands on their knees and make a pie, and then ski backwards or walk down the hill in front of them. We’ll probably try everything! The first time we went I wore boots and Trenton wore skis so we could try different approaches.

6. Enrol your child in ski lessons. Sometimes kids learn better when someone else (anyone else besides their parents!) teaches them. Private lessons can be good for the one-on-one help, but I think it could be good for kids to see other kids learning and succeeding because it makes them want to try too. At least, it worked when Owen was learning how to put on his own shoes! We’ll probably try a lesson next month.

Keep it fun is probably my best advice. The most important thing is that everyone is outside being active and having fun together!