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Flashback Friday: TALES OF THE MADMAN UNDERGROUND
Sep 12th, 2014 by Liza Wiemer

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For more information on FLASHBACK FRIDAY,

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Flashback Friday:

TALES OF THE MADMAN UNDERGROUND

4906766

By John Barnes

532 pages

Published June 25, 2009 by Viking Juvenile

Buy it here: IndieBound | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

Connect with John Barnes: Website | Twitter

Literary Awards Printz Honor (2010)

From Goodreads:

Wednesday, September 5, 1973: The first day of Karl Shoemaker’s senior year in stifling Lightsburg, Ohio. For years, Karl’s been part of what he calls “the Madman Underground” – a group of kids forced (for no apparent reason) to attend group therapy during school hours. Karl has decided that senior year is going to be different. He is going to get out of the Madman Underground for good. He is going to act – and be – Normal. But Normal, of course, is relative. Karl has five after-school jobs, one dead father, one seriously unhinged drunk mother . . . and a huge attitude. Welcome to a gritty, uncensored rollercoaster ride, narrated by the singular Karl Shoemaker.

 

My Review:

Tales of the Madman UndergroundTales of the Madman Underground by John Barnes

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I continue to vacillate between appreciating this book as pure genius and as part insanity. Perhaps that is one of the reasons why it was a ALA Printz Honor Book. At times I wanted to throw the book against the wall and at other times I absolutely couldn’t put it down. We have heard the phrase that ‘the truth is stranger than fiction,’ but in this case I am left wondering how much truth was in the fiction. I am certain that these circumstances had to have taken place in some way to someone at some time. There is true humanity in this book, a sense of compassion, understanding, friendship, and a strong dose of nightmarish circumstances (abuse of all kinds) in the lives of these teens. It may have been set in 1973, but there’s a modern reality to the experiences of these teen characters and the adults who teach/parent/work with/council them. I have a feeling that this is a book that will stay with me for a long, long time.

View all my reviews

Powerful Interview with Caroline Bock, Author of BEFORE MY EYES
Sep 11th, 2014 by Liza Wiemer

Interview with Caroline Bock,

Author of the YA novel17934644

BEFORE MY EYES

Hardcover, 304 pages

Published February 11, 2014 by St. Martin’s Griffin

 

Buy the novel here: IndieBound | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

Connect with Caroline Bock: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Praise for BEFORE MY EYES:

“GRIPPING…”   -Publishers Weekly
 
“GRIPPING, DISTURBING AND NUANCED.” 
-Kirkus Reviews
“In the opening scene of unflinching thriller Before My Eyes—reminiscent of the shooting at Gabby Giffords’ political rally in 2011—a gunman pulls out a weapon at a Labor Day campaign rally for New York state senator Glenn Cooper. Who is the target? What is the motive? And how will the crowd react to and fare the tragedy? …The thought-provoking story broaches such topics as recognizing signs of mental illness, caring for the mentally ill, gun control and the difficulties of each… a rich opportunity to start a dialogue on these issues that continue to plague America.”-Bookpages
“Every one of Bock’s fragile characters hides an unflinching inner backbone of steel. Impassioned and moving.” – Elizabeth Wein, bestselling author of
Code Name Verity and Rose Under Fire.

Summary from Goodreads:

From the author of LIE, a powerful new young adult novel about a fateful Long Island summer and the lives of three young people who will never be the same.

Dreamy, poetic Claire, seventeen, has spent the last few months taking care of her six-year-old sister, Izzy, as their mother lies in a hospital bed recovering from a stroke. Claire believes she has everything under control until she meets “Brent” online. Brent appears to be a kindred spirit, and Claire is initially flattered by his attention. But when she meets Max, the awkward state senator’s son, her feelings become complicated.

Max, also seventeen, has been working the worst summer job ever at the beachside Snack Shack. He’s also been popping painkillers. His parents—more involved in his father’s re-election than in their son’s life—fail to see what’s going on with him.

Working alongside Max is Barkley, twenty-one. Lonely and obsessive, Barkley has been hearing a voice in his head. No one—not his parents, not his co-workers—realizes that Barkley is suffering from paranoid schizophrenia. Until the voice in his head orders him to take out his gun.

Narrated in turns by Claire, Max, and Barkley, Before My Eyes captures a moment when possibilities should be opening up, but instead everything teeters on the brink of destruction.

 

INTERVIEW:

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Author Caroline Bock

Q: Of all the characters, who do you relate to the most and why?

I relate to Claire. How could I not?

Like Claire, my mother had a stroke (though my mother never returned home).

Like Claire, I took care of my siblings (though I had two younger brothers and a sister).

Like Claire, I had a father who found it hard to pull it all together after his wife’s stroke (Who could blame him? He had four children under five years old to take care of. He raised us single-handedly; he turned out to be an inspiring and loving Dad).

Like her, I wrote poetry (I was the editor of my New Rochelle High School literary magazine, Opus).

Like her, I was a dreamer (my father always said: if my head wasn’t screwed on, I’d lose that too, but some days I wanted to just lose myself in dreams, and I think he understood. He always encouraged my love of books and writing).

Like her, I was tall and curvy and extremely self aware of my body parts: my breasts, my lips. However, I never had to face someone with a gun. Yet, in my teens I faced some very big life and death issues, (my father went through a serious illness when I was a teenager), which said to me that even a dreamer, even a poet, even someone feeling the loss of their mother, could find the inner strength to face a life- challenging moment, and come out stronger.

Q: Claire is dealing with some very heavy issues. With her mother’s stroke, she not only has her own responsibilities, but has to help take care of the house, her sister, and is burdened by her father’s fears and issues. What advice do you have for YA who face a crisis in their family, especially one when a member becomes ill?

Both of my parents suffered serious health issues in my young life (see above), so I had firsthand experience with taking on a lot of responsibility as a teen. I wish I could go back to my teenage self and reassure her that she didn’t have to be perfect. She didn’t have to worry about everything, about the laundry and making dinner and dirty dishes; that she wasn’t responsible for her mother or her father, that in the scheme of life what mattered is that she loved her parents and that they loved her even if they weren’t capable of telling her every day.

I’d tell that teenage self to be the one to say, “I love you,” to my siblings even if it’s late and you’re tired from all the responsibility. In BEFORE MY EYES, Claire does this. Claire tells her sister Izzy that she loves her, and I wish I said this more often to my younger siblings. What I know now is this: Those words— I love you—make us all less lonely and a little less afraid in this imperfect world.

 Q: There are various types of parents in the novel: overbearing, overburdened, oblivious, self-centered, indulgent. What qualities do you think make for the BEST type of parent?

The parents in BEFORE MY EYES see what they want to see about their kids. And what they want to see is that everything is okay. They are caught up in their own lives. As Barkley’s father repeatedly asserts to his son through his closed bedroom door, he’s an “awesome,” kid, and then, races out, not wanting to be late for work. A close reader will catch how many times the parents are talking at their kids—through closed doors, i.e. not seeing them —and not talking with them.

As a parent of a 14-year-old young man, the hardest thing is just talking with him and listening to him, just finding the right moment in time, the right space is my biggest challenge. He’s not a talkative kid. And I’m sure others have noticed that teens are not chatting on the phone these days but on the computer or their smart devices, texting away. Often in the car, alone, when we’re not in a rush to get anywhere, when we have our best conversations. I do my best to ask specific questions that cannot be answered by a Yup or a Nah, and then let him talk (and perhaps drive slower or take a longer route, depending on the conversation!).

Time, patience, listening—as a parent, I feel like I’m working at these every day.

Q: The Snack Shack, the place where Trish, Barkley, Peter, and Max work, seems to represent different things to each of them. For Barkley it’s a place where he can be in charge, for Trish, she creates order, for Peter, a place to belong, and for Max, it’s a hellhole trap he can’t wait to get away from. A job can be all of those things. Many YA need to work. What are your suggestions for choosing a job? Working at a job you don’t like?

 I have to back up to answer this. I envisioned BEFORE MY EYES set in the last days of summer, the time when you are thinking and waiting for the next thing to start —for the heat to break – for school, for autumn. Once I set the time, I wanted a place for all the characters to converge. The beach. No, I didn’t want to write about idle well-to-do suburban teens hanging out waiting for something to happen. My characters would work at the beach at the kind of summer job that so many of us have as teenagers —and hate. The setting – end of the summer, five days over Labor Day weekend, the Atlantic beach, is absolutely key to making BEFORE MY EYES comes together for me as a writer.

But back to the Snack Shack! I learned a few key lessons at my most despised teen job—at a copy center located far from the beach—and realize that I’ve carried the lessons learned there through my working life:

–Show up on time. Ready to work.

–Customers are key, and customers are often difficult. Learn how to deal with difficult customers and your workday will go much more smoothly.

–Work well with others. Workplaces are more diverse than ever, and one often finds oneself working alongside people who are very different from your friends or family. One of the main characters in BEFORE MY EYES, is “forced’ to work a summer job by his father, who is running for re-election as a state senator and thinks it will look good if his son works. Max learns that people who stand by him – the overweight Trish and the developmentally challenged Peter – may be truer friends than many others.

Q: If there were one or two life lessons people could take away from BEFORE MY EYES, what is most important to you?

Life is fragile. We all hurt. But with a little luck, and love— always love— we learn something about ourselves, we learn what matters, and we go on.

I hope— teens and adults— find something to take away from BEFORE MY EYES.

Blog Tour Review, Guest Post & Giveaway: EVIL LIBRARIAN by Michelle Knudsen
Sep 9th, 2014 by Liza Wiemer

20708754Blog Tour: EVIL LIBRARIAN by Michelle Knudsen

Publisher: Candlewick Press 

Pub Date: September 9th 2014

Buy it here: IndieBound | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Audible | Book Depository 

Connect with Michelle Knudsen:

Twitter | Website | Goodreads | Facebook | Tumblr 

Guest Post:

Where did the idea for the Evil Librarian come from?

As someone who loves libraries, I must admit I feel a teeny bit guilty having written a book called Evil Librarian. But that’s the thing about fiction — despite the old cliché “write what you know,” the most fun is in writing about what you don’t know. Or in taking something that you know and looking at it from an entirely different direction. Maybe that’s why the idea of an evil librarian was so appealing to me.

The library has always been a safe place in my life. I’ve worked in several, beginning with my first library monitor position in junior high school. And all the librarians I’ve known in real life have been wonderful, even the ones who maybe seemed a little scary before I got to know them. Perhaps I seemed a little scary myself sometimes when I worked at the Cornell University Library, at least when the situation called for it … such as when students tried to stay in the library after closing to keep working or attempted to “borrow” materials that weren’t supposed to leave the building.

At Cornell, I was an evening and weekend supervisor, and one of my responsibilities was walking through the entire library after closing to make sure no students were hiding in there, trying to stay in the library all night. On some nights, the library was open until 2am, and walking through the empty hallways and silent rooms at that hour was often pretty spooky.

On some of these late-night walks, I started thinking about writing a scary library story, but instead I ended up writing my picture book Library Lion, which is about as far away from a scary library story as you can get. But I wonder if that scary-library idea hung around in the back of my mind, and eventually turned up again in this novel. The evil librarian certainly makes the high school library in the book a very scary place at times. (Although careful readers will note that even though he’s very, very evil, he takes the librarian part of his existence very seriously. He’s actually a good librarian, when he’s not trying to suck out people’s life forces or do other very, very bad things.)

 

From Goodreads:

When Cynthia Rothschild’s best friend, Annie, falls head over heels for the new high-school librarian, Cyn can totally see why. He’s really young and super cute and thinks Annie would make an excellent library monitor. But after meeting Mr. Gabriel, Cyn realizes something isn’t quite right. Maybe it’s the creepy look in the librarian’s eyes, or the weird feeling Cyn gets whenever she’s around him. Before long Cyn realizes that Mr. Gabriel is, in fact . . . a demon. Now, in addition to saving the school musical from technical disaster and trying not to make a fool of herself with her own hopeless crush, Cyn has to save her best friend from the clutches of the evil librarian, who also seems to be slowly sucking the life force out of the entire student body! From best-selling author Michelle Knudsen, here is the perfect novel for teens who like their horror served up with a bit of romance, plenty of humor, and some pretty hot guys (of both the good and evil variety).

My review:

Evil LibrarianEvil Librarian by Michelle Knudsen

Cover: Clever – I like the overlay of the devilish outline and fangs with the title in the middle. Red on black = perfect.

I really, really like this. A demon (Mr. Gabriel) gets the job of a school librarian, ends up sucking the essence out of students, and gets girls to swoon, especially Annie, Cyn’s best friend. Cyn, the MC, is immune to the demon’s powers and she’s determined to stop him, whatever the cost.

Things that I liked about this novel:
1. Cyn’s crush on Ryan, the boy she ends up fighting demons with.
2. Cyn’s loyalty as a friend. She would walk to the ends of the earth (or to a Hellish place where demons dwell) for her best friend. I love how she doesn’t give up on Annie, even when Annie is under a spell.
3. The invasion of demons into the school and their murderous ways. Strangely, I was totally into the murder of teachers etc. That’s what’s great about a fiction. It’s make-believe!
4. The development of Ryan and Cyn’s relationship. It wasn’t insta-love. Even though Cyn has crushed on him for a long time, they don’t get together too quickly. I like how they talk with one another, learn about each other. (And sharing banana bread!)
5. The inclusion of the play Sweeney Todd. Cyn is in charge of props/stage crew and Ryan plays lead. Love that the demons are into the play and can’t wait to see the production.
6. The description of the store Books of Darkness: Your One-Stop Shop for Magic, Mystery, Hidden Secrets of the Universe. I could completely visualize the place.
7. Cyn is a strong female character, and I loved that she stood her ground, wasn’t swayed to change her mind once she decided what she felt was right.
8. The tackle!!!! Swoon. (You have to read it to understand!)

I really believe that young adults will enjoy this one very much! Even though the cover says 14 and up, I wouldn’t have a problem giving this to a seventh grader to read. And YES! libraries should absolutely carry this book!

BLOG TOUR INFORMATION

WhoRuBlog http://www.whorublog.com/ 9/9/2014
Elizabeth O. Dulemba http://dulemba.com 9/13/2014
Random Chalk Talk http://randomchalktalk.blogspot.com/ 9/10/2014
Books 4 Your Kids http://www.books4yourkids.com/ 9/11/2014
Green Bean Teen Queen http://www.greenbeanteenqueen.com/ 9/12/2014
Katie’s Book Blog http://katiesbookblog.com/ 9/15/2014
Word Spelunking http://www.wordspelunking.blogspot.com/ 9/16/2-14
Book Chic Club http://www.bookchicclub.blogspot.com/ 9/17/2014

Giveaway: One lucky winner will get a copy of

EVIL LIBRARIAN (US Only)

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Blog Tour/Giveaway: FERAL by Holly Schindler – WHY THE HECK IS A DEAD GIRL STILL FEELING PAIN?
Sep 6th, 2014 by Liza Wiemer

FERAL TOUR BANNER

 

WHY THE HECK IS A DEAD GIRL STILL FEELING PAIN? (HOLLY SCHINDLER)

The opening of FERAL centers on a girl who has just died, who is being drawn from the window of her high school. A dead girl who still feels pain.

Unlike Susie Salmon of THE LOVELY BONES, Serena, the murdered Peculiar High student, is not the protagonist of FERAL. Instead, Serena serves as a setup for the rest of the book: Serena is stuck inside a broken body, unable to move yet still able to feel everything. This is reflective of where Claire, the protagonist, is as well. The previous spring, Claire suffered a brutal beating in her hometown of Chicago. As she crosses the city limits of Peculiar with her father (who’s on sabbatical), she swears she’s moved on from the beating…but she hasn’t. She’s stuck—and afraid. Just like Serena.

FERAL is, essentially, a classic psychological thriller—and one of the aspects of a psychological thriller is the quest to untangle what is real from what isn’t real. The spirit of Serena also helps put that quest into motion AND, in the end, helps to draw the line between truth and the imagined.

Many physical events in the book are undeniably real: Serena goes missing and is found dead. Her spirit is forced to let go of the earthly world, make its journey to the afterlife. The town police do overlook clues regarding her death. A former Peculiar High student has died in the basement. A car malfunctions. A feral cat follows Claire.

FERAL also includes what I would call malicious paranormal events: angry ghosts, soul-filled fog. Claire also witnesses Serena’s spirit invading a feral cat’s body. Unhappy with the gnarled, ugly look of the cat she inhabits, the spirit of Serena sets her sights on another body: Claire’s. But during a scene at the school dance toward the end of the book, these malicious events are revealed to be something else—namely, a horrifying truth about Claire. The spirit of Serena, as Claire has been seeing it, really reflects (again) Claire’s own unspoken desires—mostly, to be free of her own gnarled, post-beating body.

At the end of the book, Serena’s POV offers a sense of closure, but also emphasizes what has been real and what hasn’t: while Serena is a spirit, she denounces one last time any possibility of her having haunted Claire, claiming the story Claire tells her at the cemetery about seeing her inside a cat is “strange”—outside of her own experiences.Feral HC

What I most love about Serena’s voice and spiritual character, as she appears in FERAL, is that she serves to both propel the action and illuminate Claire’s internal story.

FERAL JACKET COPY:

The Lovely Bones meets Black Swan in this haunting psychological thriller with twists and turns that will make you question everything you think you know.

It’s too late for you. You’re dead. Those words continue to haunt Claire Cain months after she barely survived a brutal beating in Chicago. So when her father is offered a job in another state, Claire is hopeful that getting out will offer her a way to start anew.

But when she arrives in Peculiar, Missouri, Claire feels an overwhelming sense of danger, and her fears are confirmed when she discovers the body of a popular high school student in the icy woods behind the school, surrounded by the town’s feral cats. While everyone is quick to say it was an accident, Claire knows there’s more to it, and vows to learn the truth about what happened.

But the closer she gets to uncovering the mystery, the closer she also gets to realizing a frightening reality about herself and the damage she truly sustained in that Chicago alley….

Holly Schindler’s gripping story is filled with heart-stopping twists and turns that will keep readers guessing until the very last page.

FERAL AND THE PSYCHOLOGICAL THRILLER:

FERAL falls squarely into the realm of the classic psychological thriller. While the book features mystery, horror, and paranormal elements, the emphasis is on the “psychological” rather than thriller / action. The novel features a Hitchcockian pace and focus on character development (here, we’re exploring the inner workings of the main character, Claire Cain). Essentially, every aspect of FERAL is used to explore Claire’s inner workings—that even includes the wintry Ozarks setting. The water metaphor is employed frequently in psychological thrillers to represent the subconscious, and here is incorporated in the form of a brutal ice storm (that represents Claire’s “frozen” inner state). The attempt to untangle what is real from what is unreal (another frequently-used aspect of the psychological thriller) also begins to highlight the extent to which Claire was hurt in that Chicago alley. Even the explanation of the odd occurrences in the town of Peculiar offers an exploration into and portrait of Claire’s psyche. Ultimately, FERAL is a book about recovering from violence—that’s not just a lengthy or hard process; it’s a terrifying process, too. The classic psychological thriller allowed me to explore that frightening process in detail.

AUTHOR BIO:SONY DSC

Holly Schindler is the author of the critically acclaimed A BLUE SO DARK (Booklist starred review, ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year silver medal recipient, IPPY Awards gold medal recipient) as well as PLAYING HURT(both YAs).

Her debut MG, THE JUNCTION OF SUNSHINE AND LUCKY, also released in ’14, and became a favorite of teachers and librarians, who used the book as a read-aloud. KirkusReviewscalled THE JUNCTION “…a heartwarming and uplifting story…[that] shines…with vibrant themes of community, self-empowerment and artistic vision delivered with a satisfying verve.”

FERAL is Schindler’s third YA and first psychological thriller. Publishers Weekly gave FERAL a starred review, stating, “Opening with back-to-back scenes of exquisitely imagined yet very real horror, Schindler’s third YA novel hearkens to the uncompromising demands of her debut, A BLUE SO DARK…This time, the focus is on women’s voices and the consequences they suffer for speaking…This is a story about reclaiming and healing, a process that is scary, imperfect, and carries no guarantees.”

Schindler encourages readers to get in touch. Booksellers, librarians, and teachers can also contact her directly regarding Skype visits. She can be reached at hollyschindlerbooks (at) gmail (dot) com, and can also be found at hollyschindler.com, hollyschindler.blogspot.com, @holly_schindler, Facebook.com/HollySchindlerAuthor, and hollyschindler.tumblr.com

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Flashback Friday: SCARS by Cheryl Rainfield
Sep 5th, 2014 by Liza Wiemer

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For more information on FLASHBACK FRIDAY,

check out Fiction Fare

SCARS by Cheryl Rainfield7531478

Published by: Westside Books

Pub date: March 24, 2010

Buy it here: IndieBound | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Audible | Book Depository

Connect with Cheryl Rainfield here: Twitter | Website | Facebook | Pinterest | Goodreads

 

From Goodreads:

Kendra, fifteen, hasn’t felt safe since she began to recall devastating memories of childhood sexual abuse, especially because she still can’t remember the most important detail– her abuser’s identity. Frightened, Kendra believes someone is always watching and following her, leaving menacing messages only she understands. If she lets her guard down even for a minute, it could cost Kendra her life. To relieve the pressure, Kendra cuts; aside from her brilliantly expressive artwork, it’s her only way of coping. Since her own mother is too self-absorbed to hear her cries for help, Kendra finds support in others instead: from her therapist and her art teacher, from Sandy, the close family friend who encourages her artwork, and from Meghan, the classmate who’s becoming a friend and maybe more. But the truth about Kendra’s abuse is just waiting to explode, with startling unforeseen consequences. Scars is the unforgettable story of one girl’s frightening path to the truth.

Watch the book trailer here: 
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lF5xEK…

ScarsReview:

Scars by Cheryl Rainfield Reviewed November 2010

I recently heard the following statistics: 1 out of 4 girls are sexually abused and 1 out of 6 boys are sexually abused. Scary numbers indeed! Scars is an important, emotional story about sexual abuse and cutting. It is hard to read, but even harder to put down. Whether you or someone you know has been abused or whether you want to understand the physical/spiritual/sexual/emotional impact, this novel is IT! There is a lot of intrigue and questions as the reader is led on a journey with the MC to discovering her perpetrator so that she can move forward on her path to healing. This novel will haunt you long after you put it down. Truly memorable. A must read!

View all my reviews

 

Take Five Q & A & Giveaway with J.R. Roper, author of THE HUNTER AWAKENS
Sep 2nd, 2014 by Liza Wiemer

Take Five Q & A with22464735

J.R. Roper, author of

THE HUNTER AWAKENS

Pub date: July 6, 2014

Publisher Crushing Hearts and Black Butterfly Publishing

For more information on J.R. Roper: Facebook | Twitter | Website

 

From Goodreads:

When thirteen-year-old Ethan Morus is forced to stay on his grandparent’s old farm, he expects to find weathered barns, rusty tools, and a creaky house in need of fresh paint. What he doesn’t expect is to hear a legend placing his family at the center of an ancient treasure hunt. Or find burial chambers protected by poltergeists, or a secret lair guarded by an ancient beast. And least of all, Ethan doesn’t suspect that powerful sorcerers are watching his every move.

They’ve found Ethan and believe he is from a line of treasure hunters who possess a rare instinct to locate powerful artifacts. Whether he has the instinct or not, Ethan is faced with a choice—search the Morus property and find what they want or lose yet another family member.

My review:

The Hunter AwakensThe Hunter Awakens by J.R. Roper

Middle grade treasure hunters will love the mystery, magic, and adventure in THE HUNTER AWAKENS.

The author is a beloved middle grade teacher who knows what captures the attention of young readers. The brother/sister team of Ethan and Destri are forces against good versus evil, a theme I expect will carry through this series.

I love the grandpa. There is a lot of mystery behind the uncle—is he or is he not evil? Come hunt with these middle graders and discover magic and mayhem. It’s a fun, quick read, easy for strong readers as young as second grade to delve into this book.

I received an advanced copy of this novel for review.

Congrats, Joe!

View all my reviews

 

Q & A with J.R. Roper

1. What was it about the mythology and mystery and magic that compelled you to write this story? 

I love history and enjoy taking bits of what we think we know about the past and twisting them with alternate explanations. The mystery of Atlantis is explained in The Hunter Awakens and more will come in the rest of the series. I think that mystery keeps the reader turning pages late into the night and I plan to infuse it into all of my works. Magic is something I think most people want to be real. We want to find something powerful that will save our loved ones when they are sick. We want to learn a spell that will turn our fireplace into a portal. We want to wake up someday and discover that we have some latent power that can help us solve our problems. I absolutely love fantasy because it plays into my hopes and dreams and helps me escape the real world for a while. Magic is magical!

 2. Grandparents play a key role in this novel. Was this relationship inspired by anyone in your life?

My grandpa’s name was Vernon, just like in the book. And the old family farm where The Hunter Awakens is set is quite similar to the house I grew up in that had been in the family since the 1850s. I lost my Grandpa Vern when I was twelve years old. He was a reader and loved history, much like myself and I’m sad we never had the opportunity to develop an adult relationship. I am convinced we would have been extremely close. With all of that in mind, I had to place Ethan’s grandpa in harm’s way. Will he make it out alive?

3. As a middle grade teacher and a connoisseur of MG books, what novels most inspired you or influenced you?

There is no doubt that J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter turned me into a reader. When the last book came out in July of 2007 I was in Post-Potter-Depression. This was when my younger sister (whom I dedicated the book to) told me I should write. I have been addicted ever since.

Joseph Delaney’s Last Apprentice series has really influenced my desire to create constant suspense and create characters who keep you guessing about their allegiance and motivations. I love his work.

Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book gave me courage as a writer and if you have read the beginning, you understand why.

Anthony Horowitz is well known for Alex Rider but I found his book Raven’s Gate to be an incredible read with plot twists that pushed me to dig deeper.

4. In your novel, things aren’t always what they seem. How do you connect this to real life?

In real life we are all capable of good and evil and I hope to have readers guessing throughout the series. The best of people can commit terrible atrocities and the worst of people can become heroic. In book two, The Hunter Falls, the world will continue to challenge the reader’s assumptions. Our perceptions seem like reality, but are they?

5. What is your favorite line or paragraph in the novel?

I confess, I love Hellish Mel. She is a thirteen year old who has been surrounded by the Dark for her entire life and she is ready to ascend from spy to assassin. Here is one of my favorite paragraphs (plus a line).

The last sliver of sunlight winked out, as if a shawl had been drawn over the sky. A fog chased up the hill like a tidal wave and clouded Mel’s view. The fog moved upward and the sky rippled with a surge of power. All heavenly lights darkened and Mel aimed a thrower in the direction of the sorcerer.

If he knew she was here and came looking for her, it’d be his last act on Earth. She feared no one. She was Hellish Mel.

Giveaway:

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Flashback Friday: THE PULL OF GRAVITY by Gae Polisner
Aug 29th, 2014 by Liza Wiemer

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For more information on FLASHBACK FRIDAY,

check out Fiction Fare 

8891408THE PULL OF GRAVITY

by Gae Polisner

Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Pub Date: May 10, 2011

Pages: 202

Buy it here: IndieBoundAmazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

Gae Polisner

Gae Polisner

Find Gae Polisner here: Twitter | Website

From Goodreads: 

While Nick Gardner’s family is falling apart, his best friend, Scooter, is dying from a freak disease. The Scoot’s final wish is that Nick and their quirky classmate, Jaycee Amato, deliver a prized first-edition copy of Of Mice and Men to the Scoot’s father. There’s just one problem: the Scoot’s father walked out years ago and hasn’t been heard from since. So, guided by Steinbeck’s life lessons, and with only the vaguest of plans, Nick and Jaycee set off to find him. Characters you’ll want to become friends with and a narrative voice that sparkles with wit make this a truly original coming-of-age story.

My review from September 17, 2011


The Pull of Gravity
by Gae Polisner

The Pull of Gravity will definitely pull you into the MC Nick Gardner’s life and take you along on a journey this freshman wasn’t quite prepared for but will definitely change him forever. Scooter, his friend and neighbor, has Hutchinson-Giford progeria syndrome, a disease that’s killing him, Nick’s father is obese and decides to walk to NYC to get his life in order, and then Jaycee, a girl who’s own life has been pretty messed up, pops in and complicates everything for Nick by becoming obsessed with finding Scooter’s father who left Scooter early on in his life. There are lots of interesting twists and turns with references to Star Wars and the novel, Of Mice and Men. It all interconnects with lots of tender moments, raw emotion, and humor too. The Pull of Gravity is a journey you will definitely want to take in – I recommend that you read this book with a can of cherry cola – you may suddenly find yourself craving one! Lovely and touching novel about loss, friendship, family, and romance.

View all my reviews

 

Review: RUMBLE by Ellen Hopkins
Aug 27th, 2014 by Liza Wiemer

Review:Unknown

RUMBLE by Ellen Hopkins

Publisher: McElderry Books

Pub date: August 26, 2014

Format: Free verse poetry

Pages: 560

 

Buy it here: IndieBound | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

For more on Ellen Hopkins, check here: Twitter | Website

 

From Goodreads:

Can an atheist be saved? The New York Times bestselling author of Crank and Tricks explores the highly charged landscapes of faith and forgiveness with brilliant sensitivity and emotional resonance.

“There is no God, no benevolent ruler of the earth, no omnipotent grand poobah of countless universes. Because if there was…my little brother would still be fishing or playing basketball instead of fertilizing cemetery vegetation.”

Matthew Turner doesn’t have faith in anything.

Not in family—his is a shambles after his younger brother was bullied into suicide. Not in so-called friends who turn their backs when things get tough. Not in some all-powerful creator who lets too much bad stuff happen. And certainly not in some “It Gets Better” psychobabble.

No matter what his girlfriend Hayden says about faith and forgiveness, there’s no way Matt’s letting go of blame. He’s decided to “live large and go out with a huge bang,” and whatever happens happens. But when a horrific event plunges Matt into a dark, silent place, he hears a rumble…a rumble that wakes him up, calling everything he’s ever disbelieved into question

My review:

Thanks to Heidi at YA Bibliophile, who received the ARC from Simon Teen and passed it on to me, knowing that I am a huge Ellen Hopkins fan. Thanks, Heidi! Another powerful, impactful novel by the brilliant Ellen Hopkins. 

RUMBLE 
opens your eyes 
to religion,
it’s influence
on dating, sex,
homosexuality.
Family broken.
Love a token.
What if Dad
felt trapped
to marry? Not
for love. 
Guess why? 
Would you protect,
support, defend,
your gay
brother?
Would you stand
against bigots?
Religious zealots
determined to shut
you up? Slap
you down?
Twist your beliefs
into evil? Banning
books for content?
Could it be true
love? Premarital 
sex beautiful? Or
for sluts?
Affairs. Hate.
Prejudice.
Guns. Do
you have faith?
No hiding
from tough
subjects when
brilliant
Ellen Hopkins
shakes up 
the soul,
makes you think,
and creates quite 
the RUMBLE!

Blog Tour: THE REAL THING by Cassie Mae – Review & Giveaway
Aug 26th, 2014 by Liza Wiemer

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THE REAL THING

Written by Cassie Mae

Published by Flirt

August 19, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-553-39253-1 

Get your copy of THE REAL THING

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Google Play | Kobo | Other retailers

 

THE REAL THING on Goodreads

In this electrifying novel from Cassie Mae, two close friends surprise themselves by shifting from platonic love to sexual attraction.

Eric Matua has one friend—his best friend and childhood sweetheart, who needs a place to stay for the summer. Mia Johnson has thousands of friends—who live in her computer. Along with her email chats and Facebook notifications, Mia also devours romance novels, spending countless hours with fictional characters, dreaming of her own Romeo to sweep her off her feet. When she starts receiving supersweet messages from a stranger who thinks she’s someone else, Mia begins to believe that real love is possible outside her virtual world.

When the two friends become roommates, Mia finds herself falling harder than she ever thought she could. But Eric keeps his desires locked away, unsure of himself and his ability to give his best friend what she deserves in a boyfriend. As her advances are continually spurned, Mia splits her time between Eric and her computer. But she soon realizes she’s about to lose the only real thing she’s ever had.

 

My review:

Cover – Isn’t what I would have imagined the character Eric to look like. Doesn’t seem to reflect his character. He’s from Samoa. (But, set that aside!!!) This book is AWESOME!

THE REAL THING is a different type of NA romance novel. There were many things that I found deeply compelling and meaningful. Emilia Johnson is Eric Matua’s best friend. They haven’t seen each other for years, but when Eric offers Emmy a place to stay for the summer – his Mom’s beach condo in Florida – she jumps at the opportunity. She’s always had a secret crush on him. He didn’t seem to notice.

CAUTION: THIS PART has a few SPOILERS – - - 

Eric was always heavy and very conscious of his weight. His ex-girlfriend made him feel horrible about his body and it caused a great deal of anxiety for him, so much so that he developed an anxiety disorder. He’s lost the weight, but the history of how his ex treated him impacts his self image. I commend Cassie Mae for creating a male character, who struggled with his weight!

As Eric and Em discover how much they care for each other, they have a lot of issues to work out. Em is addicted to the internet, so much so that it interferes with their relationship. She spends more time with her “online” friends, than with the man who loves her, the guy who is right in front of her. This really pisses Eric off – as it should. She also texts and drives and is on Facebook etc while she drives. This scares Eric, as it should.

Eric has his anxiety/relationship issues to overcome.

When a meaningless online relationship suddenly seems like it might lead somewhere for Em, it threatens their love and could very well destroy it FOREVER.

Second chances aren’t easy to come by when you break trust.

——-END OF  SPOILERS!

 

I LOVED!! that Cassie Mae showed a completely vulnerable guy dealing with his fear and anxiety, unsure of himself, coping with body image issues and being head-over-heals in love with his best friend!

Cassie Mae does an excellent job bringing to the forefront addictions to the internet and social media, anxiety disorders, relationships, trust, fear, and sex. There are some wonderful romantic scenes! The writing is terrific—descriptive, emotional. The characters comes to life and are relatable. Cassie Mae will make you laugh. You’re heartstrings will be tugged. You will swoon. You will really enjoy this novel! If you’re a fan of NA romance novels and want a story that has some meat to it, then THE REAL THING will definitely do it for you!

 

ABOUT CASSIE MAE:

Cassie Mae is a full-time writer and mother from Utah. She loves being glued to the computer, thinking up new stories, and writing the day away while the kids run wild at her feet. When she finished her first novel, she started a blog that now gets more than five thousand hits a month. Her group blog is also dedicated to reaching out to aspiring authors by providing critiques and other marketing tools to help them succeed in the industry. When she’s not writing, she’s spending time with the youth in her community as a volleyball and basketball coach, or searching the house desperately for chocolate.

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Connect with Cassie

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest

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Website | Facebook | Twitter

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Review: THE YOUNG WORLD by Chris Weitz – 14 things we can learn from this novel
Aug 25th, 2014 by Liza Wiemer

The Young World (The Young World Trilogy, #1)

Review: THE YOUNG WORLD

by Chris Weitz

Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Pub date: July 29, 2014

Pages: 384

Buy it here: IndieBound | Audible | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

To connect with Chris Weitz find him on Twitter

 

From Goodreads:

After a mysterious Sickness wipes out the rest of the population, the young survivors assemble into tightly run tribes. Jefferson, the reluctant leader of the Washington Square tribe, and Donna, the girl he’s secretly in love with, have carved out a precarious existence among the chaos. But when another tribe member discovers a clue that may hold the cure to the Sickness, five teens set out on a life-altering road trip to save humankind.

The tribe exchanges gunfire with enemy gangs, escapes cults and militias, braves the wilds of the subway and Central Park…and discovers truths they could never have imagined.

 

The Young World by Chris Weitz - My review

Incredible window into humanity. Post-apocalyptic story after adults and children die from a virus with only teens left.

THE YOUNG WORLD contains a lot of violence and brutality, which is balanced well with humor and romance so it doesn’t feel too overwhelming. The post-apocalyptic New York City is described in full detail. Anyone who has been to NYC will recognize these places and be able to envision how it is now and what it’s like in Chris Weitz’s imagination. He took iconic places and really changed the environment to give it an after-the-world-is-nearly-destroyed feel.

The actions of many of the characters are not much different than what we see in society today. People lust for power and those are not the kind of people who make the best leaders. We see sexism, racism, homophobia. Depending on the group of YA, the role of young women varies. In one group, teen girls are forced into prostitution, in another they’re respected leaders. Intellectualism is respected, but can also be a major character flaw, depending on the situation.

Key insights I pulled from this novel that are applicable to today:
1. Treat people how you want to be treated. The Golden Rule. This doesn’t always work. Being kind doesn’t mean others will be kind back. “The Golden Rule” does brings a sense of humanity to a brutal world.
2. What do we value? Life? Liberty? Power? Friendship? Money? What we value says a lot about who we are.
3. Dwelling on the past doesn’t get you anywhere. Focus on the now. Have hope for a future, even if it seems futile.
4. Love is important. It shines light on darkness. It provides hope, comfort. Human beings need love, even when there is a good chance it will end.
5. In order to have a civilized society a person’s basic needs of food, shelter, water, clothes must be taken care of first.
6. There are people who thirst for power, and will do anything to obtain it.
7. If used to help people, intelligence is something to be valued. If valued above humanity, it becomes meaningless.
8. We NEED LIBRARIES!
9. Violence begets violence. When will understand this?
10. Society naturally breaks off into groups.
11. Some myths are true, or a variation of the truth. What do we learn from it?
12. Know your true friends. Who can you rely on?
13. Some risks are worth taking. We have to determine which ones are worth the potential consequences.
14. What can we learn from history? And are we destined to keep repeating it? It sure seems like it.

Overall impression: Although THE YOUNG WORLD is a post-apocalyptic novel, it is an insightful, unapologetic, brutal view into our society today. Readers can get a ton out of this novel if they read it with those eyes. Chris Weitz nailed the -isms and lust for power, the despair, the threads of hope. But there can’t be hope until someone is willing to take a stand. THAT may very well be the ultimate lesson. What are you willing to stand up for?
I definitely recommend this novel and am looking forward to the next book.
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