Wednesday, March 2, 2016

"Nora & Kettle" by Lauren Nicolle Taylor

Nora & Kettle
(A Paper Stars Novel Book 1)
by Lauren Nicolle Taylor

Nora & Kettle is currently on tour with Xpresso Book Tours. The tour stops here today for my review, an excerpt, and a giveaway. Please be sure to visit the other tour stops as well.

What if Peter Pan was a homeless kid just trying to survive, and Wendy flew away for a really good reason?
Seventeen-year-old Kettle has had his share of adversity. As an orphaned Japanese American struggling to make a life in the aftermath of an event in history not often referred to - the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II and the removal of children from orphanages for having "one drop of Japanese blood in them" - things are finally looking up. He has his hideout in an abandoned subway tunnel, a job, and his gang of Lost Boys.
Desperate to run away, the world outside her oppressive brownstone calls to naïve, eighteen-year-old Nora - the privileged daughter of a controlling and violent civil rights lawyer who is building a compensation case for the interned Japanese Americans. But she is trapped, enduring abuse to protect her younger sister Frankie and wishing on the stars every night for things to change.
For months, they’ve lived side by side, their paths crossing yet never meeting. But when Nora is nearly killed and her sister taken away, their worlds collide as Kettle, grief stricken at the loss of a friend, angrily pulls Nora from her window.
In her honeyed eyes, Kettle sees sadness and suffering. In his, Nora sees the chance to take to the window and fly away.
Set in 1953, Nora & Kettle explores the collision of two teenagers facing extraordinary hardship. Their meeting is inevitable, devastating, and ultimately healing. Their stories, a collection of events, are each on their own harmless. But together, one after the other, they change the world.

Book Videos
I can't choose which of these videos is my favorite, so I'm sharing both. Let me know what you think.

[*Spoiler alert* Don't read this excerpt if you don't want to find out what happens after Nora meets Kettle. This excerpt is taken from the chapter called "Work", told from Nora's point-of-view, where Nora is trying to get through the crowd to get work at the docks.]
This is some medieval contest. Teeth gnash, men who smell much too much like men and … fish … grab at each other’s heads and hair, pull each other down and claw at each other’s necks. They are a desperate, scrabbling entity. I stand back from the jostling crowd, wondering whether I can do this. I bite my lip, lock my limbs, and decide it can’t be worse than anything else I’ve experienced. So I take a deep breath and await instruction.
“You don’t have to do this,” Kettle says as he edges into the throng from the western side.
Yes I do.
“I want to,” I say, trying to keep my voice low this time. Kettle chuckles at my attempt to sound like a boy, his blue eyes flashing with excitement.
Over the noise, he yells, ducking when a fist comes flying at his shoulder, “You’re small, fast, try to squeeze your way in.” He shoulders his way in and disappears. I hear him shouting underneath a tangle of arms, “If you don’t make it through, wait for me outside.”
He doesn’t think I’ll make it. It makes me more determined to prove him wrong. I test a foot on the edge. It instantly gets stepped on. I grimace.
I think about a slap coming toward me, my father’s palm aching to mark my cheek red. If I could have avoided it, ducked out of the way, what would I have done? How would I have done it?
Each man in this throe of clashing bodies becomes my father. And I’m surprised that instead of wanting to hurt them, all I want to do is get through, stand on the inside of the fence where he/they can’t get to me anymore.
There are small shadows of space opening up before my eyes, and I hurl toward them, I stop thinking, stop worrying, and just react. Under elbows, between bodies, over large legs trying to stomp on me. There are no walls to be thrown against. No one to protect. There is an escape, a way through for me to find.
The freedom tastes delicious, salty and hard-earned on my tongue.
I’m nearly there. The fence vibrates, ringing for me. Calling - You’re close, so close. My hand stretches to the wire and I grab at it, missing as my head suddenly jerks back. Someone’s fingers dig into my collar and pull me backward. The top button on my shirt presses into my neck and I can’t breathe, a strange cacking, gurgling noise coming from the back of my throat. I turn around to meet the owner of the hand. A small, twisted man, a skeleton almost. My cap tips back and he sees my face clearly, suddenly releasing me. “Sorry, ma’am,” he says. Then he’s scattered behind me like a spilled bag of bones, and I’m thrust forward.
The gate slides open and my feet don’t feel like they’re connected to the ground. I’m carried along, through the gap by a sea of muscled, grunting flesh and thrown into the clear, sea air.
The guard at the gate claps it shut and shouts at me, “Lucky last, eh?”
I made it. Me.

Praise for the Book
"Lyrically written, this powerful and at times painful read captures the reader and does not let go. Told in alternating chapters from the two characters' perspectives, their respective narratives cross and intertwine, drawing Nora and Kettle closer until they finally unite. Parallels to Peter Pan and Wendy provide motif and depth without overwhelming the reader. Firmly rooted in the history of internment camps and racial prejudice, this remarkable novel educates subtly while focusing on themes of home, acceptance, courage, and the danger of secrets." ~ Melissa Moore, Booklist Starred Review
"A poetically written novel about two strong-willed characters who will do whatever they can to ensure the safety of the people they love. Nora & Kettle is an exhilarating read and I highly recommend it." ~ Ellen Zaccarias
"It was eloquently written with the same gorgeous imagery I adore from Ms Taylor, her words putting me right in front of the characters, allowing me to see what they see, feel what they feel." ~ Goodreads Review
"What an emotional rollercoaster, tears one minute, laughter the next. This is totally different genre from Ms Taylor's The Woodland series, but there are similarities. From the beautifully written strong, yet flawed central characters, trying to find their way in a cruel world, to the authors amazing ability to take me to another time and place with her writing." ~ Goodreads Review
"Nora & Kettle was by far one of the most breathtaking books I’ve ever read. Truly an eye opener ... " ~ Kevin

My Review

By Lynda Dickson
Eighteen-year-old Nora has lived through a life of physical abuse at the hands of her father, a lawyer campaigning for the civil rights of Japanese Americans interned seven years earlier in World War II prison camps. Children who escaped from these camps or became orphans were dubbed the "Lost Children" by the press. Kettle is one of these children. Now seventeen, Kettle lives in the tunnels of the railway station with his "family" of homeless children, the Kings of the Subway. Refusing to resort to stealing, Kettle ekes out a meager living by working dangerous jobs on the docks to support his family. We follow both Nora and Kettle on their separate journeys. Their paths intersect on so many levels until they finally meet - right when they both need each other most.
This is a heartbreaking account of a young man's struggle to survive on the streets and of a young woman's physical abuse at the hands of her own father. This is a story that moved me the tears. It is an emotional journey for both the characters and the reader. The author imbues the story with a fable-like quality through her beautiful, lyrical, and poetic prose, full of rich metaphors and similes. We see shades of Peter Pan through the recurring theme of flying, and the more you look, the more references you will find; this added layer of nuance provides the reader some relief from the stark realities of the characters' lives. I love the cover, the significance of which will be revealed as you read. Thankfully, this story is ultimately uplifting. I love how Nora ends up defeating her father in a totally unexpected, yet satisfying, way.
Best read of the year so far.
Warnings: domestic violence, violence, animal cruelty, mild swearing, minor sexual references.

About the Author
Lauren Nicolle Taylor lives in the lush Adelaide Hills. The daughter of a Malaysian nuclear physicist and an Australian scientist, she was expected to follow a science career path, attending Adelaide University and completing a Health Science degree with Honours in obstetrics and gynaecology.
She then worked in health research for a short time before having her first child. Due to their extensive health issues, Lauren spent her twenties as a full-time mother/carer to her three children. When her family life settled down, she turned to writing.
She is a 2014 Kindle Book Awards Semi-finalist and a USA Best Book Awards Finalist.

Enter the tour-wide giveaway for a chance to win a Clean Teen Publishing Mystery Box (open internationally).

In addition, share a picture of you with a paperback copy of Nora & Kettle to receive your free gift (offer ends 31 March).