Tag Archives: Slavery

Review & Giveaway: Angel Thieves by Kathi Appelt

ANGEL THIEVES
by
KATHI APPELT
Young Adult / Magical Realism / Historical / Contemporary
Publisher: Atheneum / Caitlyn Dlouhy Books
Date of Publication: March 12, 2019

Number of Pages: 336

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An ocelot. A slave. An angel thief.

Multiple perspectives spanning across time are united through themes of freedom, hope, and faith in a most unusual and epic novel from Newbery Honor–winning author and National Book Award finalist Kathi Appelt.

Sixteen-year-old Cade Curtis is an angel thief. After his mother’s family rejected him for being born out of wedlock, he and his dad moved to the apartment above a local antique shop. The only payment the owner Mrs. Walker requests: marble angels, stolen from graveyards, for her to sell for thousands of dollars to collectors. But there’s one angel that would be the last they’d ever need to steal; an angel, carved by a slave, with one hand open and one hand closed. If only Cade could find it…

Zorra, a young ocelot, watches the bayou rush past her yearningly. The poacher who captured and caged her has long since lost her, and Zorra is getting hungrier and thirstier by the day. Trapped, she only has the sounds of the bayou for comfort—but it tells her help will come soon.

Before Zorra, Achsah, a slave, watched the very same bayou with her two young daughters. After the death of her master, Achsah is free, but she’ll be damned if her daughters aren’t freed with her. All they need to do is find the church with an angel with one hand open and one hand closed…

In a masterful feat, National Book Award Honoree Kathi Appelt weaves together stories across time, connected by the bayou, an angel, and the universal desire to be free.

 
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PRAISE FOR ANGEL THIEVES:

Spiritual, succinct, and emotionally gripping. 

— School Library JournalA heartfelt love letter to Houston that acknowledges the bad parts of its history while uplifting the good. — BCBB

Shows the best and worst sides of humanity and underscores the powerful force of the bayou, which both holds and erases secrets.

— Publishers WeeklyNarrative strands are like tributaries that begin as separate entities but eventually merge into a single thematic connection: that love, whether lost or found, is always powerful. — Horn Book

Richly drawn and important. — Booklist, starred review

 

review

It was a little eerie reading Angel Thieves amid all the rain and flooding here in Houston. While I normally think of my city’s flooding as a byproduct of excessive precipitation mixed with overdevelopment and trash, Appelt’s novel clued me in to the fact that this area has a history of floods and how the path of the Buffalo Bayou has relocated many times because of them.

But more on that in a bit; let’s talk art for second. The book jacket has that distinct YA look and is very appealing with its shiny, black background and light blue mixed with white in the text and imagery. The angel statue has line drawings within it of a manacled wrist, an ocelot, and a slave woman with a headwrap. I really dig the font used, graffiti-like with black paint splattered on it. When you take the jacket off, there’s a beautiful surprise of a bright white background with a blue ocelot filling most of the front cover and spine. Within its image, you see the same line drawings from the jacket – it looks like an expansion because now we can see both manacled wrists, the full image of the ocelot and slave woman, in addition to a treble clef staff, a chapel, a slave girl picking cotton, and the words “Reward” and “Wanted” – all important parts of this story.

Appelt’s writing style can be compared to flood water – it flows quickly and sucks you in before you realize just how strong and deep it is. The chapter lengths vary depending on whose perspective we are reading from. Thankfully there are cues to location and time period at the top of each chapter. Ever wondered what it was like to be an ocelot or a body of water? After reading this book, I sort of feel like I kind of do. I must confess, it took me a little while to get my bearings because each new chapter was a revolution of the revolving door that brought out a different character. I really liked the distinction between each character and their unique names.

I am always amazed when I read books that weave so many different stories together into one beautiful literary tapestry. Appelt accomplishes this effortlessly and I was truly invested in each story line. I am impressed with the amount of research that went into writing this book, and how she took random ideas and turned them into a captivating story. As seamlessly as the author tied up the loose ends, I still wished to know more about the details of Achsah’s journey and whether Cade ultimately found what he was looking for. Ok, maybe I don’t want to read more from the perspective of the bayou, but I could read more about the ocelot.

I really don’t have many notes on this book because I thought everything was executed so well. I did have one question though: twice in the book, “I’m here for you” is crossed out and “There’s love enough” is written in its place. Will this be done in every printed copy of this book or did I just get an early version that didn’t have the correction in it? I ask because, while I like the line better, its first use in the book doesn’t set up the following chapter the same way that “I’m here for you” does. The revision disrupts the flow of the story a bit in my opinion.

This book is joining the modest sized YA section of my bookshelf. I plan to reread it on rainy days and can’t wait for my son to grow up and read it as well.

Kathi Appelt is the author of the Newbery Honoree, National Book Award finalist, PEN USA Literary Award–winning, and bestselling The Underneath as well as the National Book Award finalist The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp, Maybe a Fox (with Alison McGhee), Keeper, and many picture books including Counting Crows and Max … Attacks

 
She has two grown children and lives in College Station, Texas, with her husband and their six cats. She serves as a faculty member at Vermont College of Fine Arts in their MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults program.
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Review & Giveaway: Hidden Sea by Miles Arceneaux

HIDDEN SEA
by
MILES ARCENEAUX
  Genre: Mystery / Thriller / Suspense
Date of Publication: November 2017
Number of Pages: 384
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Charlie Sweetwater saw Mexico—especially the Mexican Gulf Coast—as a spiritual second home. He’d worked, played and lived there for much of his life, and thought the country suited him better than anywhere this side of his home on the Texas Coast.
But now a worrisome and potentially dangerous development has shown up on Charlie’s radar. Young Augustus Sweetwater, affectionately known as Augie, hasn’t reported in after completing a south-of-the-border sales trip for Sweetwater Marine. Raul, Augie’s father and Charlie’s nephew, is worried sick. Drug cartel violence in Mexico has reached epidemic proportions and Augie’s path took him through the heart of the narcotraficantes’ territory.
Charlie figures Augie just went off the grid to do some well-deserved fishing, surfing and beer-drinking at the end of his trip. He’d done the same in his time. But as Augie’s unexplained absence grows, Charlie and Raul become increasingly alarmed and set off for Mexico to bring their boy home.
What they unearth is far more than the sum of their fears. The familiar and friendly Gulf of Mexico has turned into a hidden sea plagued by smugglers, human traffickers, crooked politicians and even pirates. And Augie is lost somewhere in the middle of it all.
Charlie and Raul must summon an unlikely cast of characters to aid them, including a hilariously dissolute ex-pat musician, a priest whose faith struggles against the rising tide of refugee migration, a Mexican tycoon who may have secrets of his own and a beautiful maritime “repo man”. At the end of their quest, as the deepest secret of all is revealed, Charlie Sweetwater learns that neither Raul and Augie, nor the Gulf of Mexico, nor even himself, will ever be the same again.
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Praise for Hidden Sea:

“A riveting story from Texas that wanders down the cartel-invested Gulf Coast of Mexico and drifts across to lawless Cuba. The characters are as salty as the sea and the plot pulls you along as powerfully as the loop current.
W.F. Strong, Stories from Texas, Texas Standard Radio Network
“Hidden Sea is a total blast: smart, funny, and riveting, with unforgettably colorful characters and a world so alive that you’ll swear you’re really there.”
Lou Berney, Edgar Award-winning author of The Long and Faraway Gone
  
“In Hidden Sea, Miles Arceneaux tosses us in the drink of a timely contemporary adventure tale with the Sweetwater clan, complete with pirates, slave ships, family secrets, and the mother of all plot twists, in his patented Gulf Coast noir style.”
Michelle Newby Lancaster, Contributing Editor, Lone Star Literary Life, NBCC Literary Critic
300b2-review
“North Beach” is the first Miles Arceneaux book that I got my paws on, and I was thoroughly impressed with the trio’s storytelling. It took me a little longer to ease into this book, but once I was in, I was hooked. Although very far away from anything I’ve experienced in my life, the story is very real and the characters are authentic.
Dialogue is often painful to read in books, especially when another language is involved. But Arceneaux flits between English and Spanish effortlessly. And with so many different characters with varying levels of English proficiency, Arceneaux manages to keep the dialogue style consistent and fluid from one person to the next.
What Arceneaux crafts even better than dialogue is characters. Colorful doesn’t begin to describe the cast of “Hidden Sea”. Even characters that exist on only a few pages are multifaceted and interesting. It makes me wonder if Arceneaux plans to spin off a few of the key characters in the future.
Are you the type of person who can see things coming from a mile away? I dare you to guess how this story turns out. You’d be wrong. I am not usually surprised by books, but this one made me pause every once in a while to absorb what just happened. The suspense of whether Augie will be found in time is exciting. Heck, I was shocked by revelations that I wasn’t expecting to find. Arceneaux never takes the easy or predictable way out.
I can hardly put into words how much I love this book. The social issues are timely and the story is truly riveting. What are you waiting for? Get a copy and start reading!

“Miles Arceneaux” is the pen name of three long-time Texas friends. James R. Dennis is a former attorney turned Dominican friar who lives in San Antonio. Brent Douglass is an international businessman from Austin. John T. Davis, also of Austin, is a journalist and author. Together, as “Miles,” they have been featured authors at the Texas Book Festival, the San Antonio Book Festival, and the Lubbock Book Festival.
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Two Runners-Up: Each win an autographed copy of Hidden Sea

October 11-October 20, 2017
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