Celebrating the Book Birthday of WHERE THE STARS STILL SHINE by Trish Doller: Review & Giveaway
Sep 23rd, 2013 by Liza Wiemer


by Trish Doller

Published by Bloomsbury USA Childrens

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Summary from Goodreads

Stolen as a child from her large and loving family, and on the run with her mom for more than ten years, Callie has only the barest idea of what normal life might be like. She’s never had a home, never gone to school, and has gotten most of her meals from laundromat vending machines. Her dreams are haunted by memories she’d like to forget completely. But when Callie’s mom is finally arrested for kidnapping her, and Callie’s real dad whisks her back to what would have been her life, in a small town in Florida, Callie must find a way to leave the past behind. She must learn to be part of a family. And she must believe that love–even with someone who seems an improbable choice–is more than just a possibility.

Trish Doller writes incredibly real teens, and this searing story of love, betrayal, and how not to lose your mind will resonate with readers who want their stories gritty and utterly true.

My review as posted on Goodreads

Astonishing, breathtaking. Deeply moving. I can’t say enough about how incredible I thought this novel was. It’s one of those books you may want to read twice, just to take it all in.

Thank you to Bloomsbury for an ARC.

Seventeen-year-old Callie has had the childhood from hell. For at least ten years, she traveled from town to town to town with her mother. But life changes with the flash of blue lights and a trip to a police station. I don’t want to ruin the story for anyone, so I won’t say more about this. What transpires after is an incredible discovery of what it means to be loved by family, friends, and an incredible young man who has his own demons to face. 

I loved this story. 

Here’s why:
1. Callie’s brave ability to take life on and not apologize for what she’s been through or who she is, but only for how her actions hurt others – it shows how she takes responsibility and how she has had to grow up way too fast. I admire her strength.
2. Callie’s dad is flawed and awesome and real and kind and fumbles his way with enough love that it radiates off the pages.
3. Alex – he is sooooo misunderstood, but not by Callie, and, in turn, he understands Callie and doesn’t judge her. Just loves and appreciates her and RESPECTS her for who she is. It’s beautiful.
4. Yiayoula – Grandma – she’s a tough old bird who could kick some major ass with her sharp tongue. She’s got unwavering love that is a lesson for everyone.
5. Ekaterina (Kat) BFF – Oh yeah, this is who a friend should be . . . Kool, Kind, Kreative, THE BEST!
6. Tarpon Springs, FL (Yup, I want to go and visit. NOW.)
7. A big Greek family. Lots of love and fights and some yummy food.
8. Sponges – okay, you have to read the novel to understand this one.
9. Callie’s ability to love and hate her mom and the same time, yet let love rule.
10. Snorkeling.
11. Callie and Alex. <3 <3 <3 <3
12. Two adorable little brothers. 
13. The story is so beautifully written, honest, and shows the characters’ vulnerability.
14. Even minor characters like Ariel are special and noteworthy. Theo too. Very cool. 😀
15. The mention of the novel, MANDY! It’s one of my ALL-TIME favorites, too.

Put this on your MUST read list! I have a feeling it’ll be on many top ten lists.

For more information on Trish Doller, check out her website.

Giveaway is US and Canada only.

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Blog Tour for Smash: Trial by Fire by Chris and Kyle Bolton – MG Graphic Novel – Review, Q & A, and Giveaway
Sep 10th, 2013 by Liza Wiemer


Q&A with Chris A. Bolton and Kyle Bolton,Writer and Illustrator of

Smash: Trial by Fire

Published by Candlewick Press 


Giveaway (See Rafflecopter below)

About the book

Whap! Thud! Crash! An action-packed graphic novel simultaneously spoofs and pays tribute to superhero lore while inspiring a new generation of crime-fighters.

Ka-boom! Clobbered by fallout from a blast that kills the local superhero, Defender, Andrew Ryan suddenly has super strength and speed! And he can fly! Now it’s up to him to protect citizens from thieves, thugs, and fearsome villains. He dons a homemade costume to hide his true identity, and Smash is born! But fighting crime isn’t easy, especially when you’re in fifth grade. On top of evil robots and trigger-happy bank robbers, there’s homework, curfew, and the school bully to deal with. Not to mention the Magus, a fearsome villain who will stop at nothing to steal Smash’s superpowers for himself! Influenced by film, cartoons, and of course, classic comic books, this vivid escapade features a rib-tickling, high-energy storyline and the colorful, exaggerated figures of nostalgic comic-book art: a combo perfect for kids longing for a secret identity of their own.

About the author

Chris and Kyle Bolton from Smash Comics.

Chris A. Bolton (left) and Kyle Bolton (right); photo by Ocean Yamaha – See more at: http://smashcomic.com/about-2/#sthash.YwhDUq9H.dpuf

Chris A. Bolton has written short fiction, stage plays, sketch comedy, and screenplays. His first published short story appears in Portland Noir and he recently completed a novel. Smash is his first comic series, which he co-created with his younger brother, Kyle. Chris A. Bolton lives in Portland, Oregon.

About the illustrator

Kyle Bolton has been drawing since the age of four, although SMASH is his first professional comic work. A graduate of the Art Institute of Seattle, he has worked for a variety of game companies creating 2D and 3D animations. Kyle Bolton currently draws and lives in Seattle, Washington.

Smash: Trial by Fire (Candlewick Press) is an all-ages graphic novel about a 10-year-old superhero named Smash, who inherits the powers (and villains!) of his superhero idol, Defender. The book is the creation of brothers Chris and Kyle Bolton, who grew up reading comics together, often sharing a bedroom.

For more information about the Boltons and Smash: Smashcomic.com

My review:

It’s a WINNER! Love the “wimpy-MG-boy-turns-into-a-superhero-by-incredible-circumstances,” reminiscent of the best comic book heroes. This graphic novel is perfect for reluctant readers and comic book fans. The dialogue is spot-on and the graphics are fantastic and classic comic book, but with an updated, modern artistic flair. This belongs in school classrooms and libraries and is an excellent gift, especially for boys who don’t necessarily like to read. They’ll get sucked into the story because of the sharp wit and cool graphics. Readers will want more the second they reach the last page. If I were to place a bet on Smash and his creators, I’d definitely wager that they’ll become a “smashing” success!

Q & A: 

Were you the kind of kids who read comic books?

Chris: Oh, absolutely! I read Spider-Man religiously. I also liked X-Men, but it was a little complicated for me at the time, with the many subplots and tangled relationships. I’m sure I went through a period of loving almost every Marvel comic for at least a few months, from Iron Man to Captain America, The Avengers… probably all of them at one point. But Spider-Man was always my favorite.

Kyle: Pretty much anything you had, I would read. I don’t know that it was me reading them at first — I was more captivated by the art. And I would bug you to tell me what was going on in the story. It wasn’t that I couldn’t read, I was just too lazy about it. But eventually I grew to love them so much, I got into them on my own. The first series I remember being really crazy about was Rocket Raccoon [by Bill Mantlo and Mike Mignola].

Chris: What other ones did you like best? I remember you had a lot of Batman comics.

Kyle: I got into, obviously, Batman first. I didn’t have a lot of them, I only had about three or four comics of my own, and then I would borrow a lot of yours.

Chris: Do you remember the first comic you ever read?

Kyle: I want to say one of [our older brother] Gary’s Daredevils or the couple of Conan the Barbarians that he had. Or maybe ROM.

Chris: We were definitely children of the ’80s! I remember my first comic was a Pocket paperback collection of the old Lee/Ditko Spider-Man comics from the ’60s. Gary gave it to me, I think he’d bought it for a train ride to California. I read and reread that book until the cover came off and the spine broke. For years after that, we’d find little six-page sections all around our bedroom.

Kyle: We had lots of comics with no covers.

Did you ever dress up like superheroes?

Kyle: I don’t think we ever did that, no. We dressed up as other people, not superheroes.

Chris: We did play “Star Trek” a lot in the living room, but I don’t think we ever wore costumes. I’m sure we violated Federation protocol by wearing blue jeans on the bridge of the Enterprise.

Kyle: Our older brothers drew instrument panels and viewscreens on the backs of our dresser and a desk. It was a very low-budget “Star Trek.”

Did you play with superhero action dolls?

Kyle: Oh, you mean action figures! Or “poseable sculpted men.”

Chris: Yeah, we had a bunch of the Marvel Superheroes Secret Wars figures. And the DC toy line, Super Powers.

Kyle: Well, we had “Star Wars” before that.

Chris: Yup, “Star Wars,” G.I. Joe, the Transformers…

Kyle: We had all the major ones.

Chris: We used to put all our figures together from different toy lines. Then we’d have a giant, epic game where we used their toys but made up our own characters and stories…

Kyle: And you would write the script.

Chris: Well, I never actually wrote a script — it was more like I directed the storyline.

Kyle: Yeah, and I made suggestions that always got shot down by a majority of one.

Chris: Right. I remember you loved the character Puck from [Marvel’s Canadian superhero team] Alpha Flight. And you would always pick one of the Ewok figures to be your star —

Kyle: Yeah, I remember which one, it was the light-tan, fat one.

Chris: The chief of the Ewoks, or whatever. And because you loved Puck and had never met a real-life little person, you thought all little people were super-agile and could leap and flip around.

Kyle: Yeah, I always picked one character that would be the “superhero dwarf.” And another that was my version of Wolverine.

Chris: I remember we would play-act these epic, day-long sagas — probably inspired by a lot of the soap opera storylines in Chris Claremont’s X-Men comics. Somebody was always in love with somebody else but they couldn’t be together because they were enemies, or something.

Kyle: If that’s what the stories were about, I don’t remember them.

Who were your favorite superheroes and how did that influence your graphic novel?

Kyle: Well, Batman was the largest influence for me. He’s pretty much always been my kind of hero.

Chris: Dark and brooding, like you.

Kyle: Except I’ve never been rich. Also, the origin story of Spider-man appealed to me. So, I would say a mix of those two.

Chris: When you look at Smash, what sort of Batman influences do you see?

Kyle: Since Smash’s costume is basically an offshoot of Defender’s [Smash’s superhero idol], it’s more I guess that Defender was inspired by parts of Batman.

Chris: I always thought of Defender as our version of Superman.

Kyle: Yeah, he is the Superman of the comic. But in his look and costume, I think I was more overtly influenced by Batman — the colors, chest plate, utility belt, pointy boots… And then, when it comes to Smash, I was partly influenced by Spider-Man. When I look back at my early sketches, Smash’s goggles were very small. Making them larger and rounder was more of a Spider-Man influence, like the eye-holes that take up half of Spider-Man’s mask.

Chris: I’m glad to hear that. It feels like my childhood obsession with Spider-Man has come full circle into adulthood.

Does a superhero have to have a superpower?

Kyle: NO!

Chris: Obviously not, because Batman doesn’t have super-powers. Just powerful money.

Kyle: Hawkeye has no super-powers, either.

Chris: But in the Avengers movie, he was shooting arrows blind, behind his back, and never missed. That had to be some kind of super-power.

Kyle: Super-aim.

Chris: Works for me.

What super-powers of your own would you want to have?

Kyle: Flight and invisibility. [evil laugh]

Chris: That’s a terrifying combination. Flight is a pretty universal choice. That’s why we gave it to Smash.

Kyle: Well, flight, and I guess I would have to be able to break the atmosphere barrier. I’m talking interstellar exploration. I’ve always wanted to be able to go anywhere, have complete freedom of movement and not just be stuck to the ground. When I watch nature programs and documentaries, they always show the aerial view, which is more impressive than being on the ground. It would be nice to float, fly around things, go as high as I want.

Chris: I remember the summer before I was in sixth grade, after we’d just moved to a new house across town, away from my friends, I was reading a ton of Spider-Man comics. He had a villain called Puma, a Native American billionaire who could change into a man-sized were-puma…

Kyle: I remember that guy! Didn’t Ron Frenz draw him?

Chris: Yeah, Ron Frenz, he was one of my favorite Spider-Man artists. I used to love the look of Puma so much that I wanted to be him. I thought if I chanted some sort of Native American ceremonial prayer before bed, I would wake up with the ability to turn into an actual puma.

Kyle: Oh, is that what those noises were?

Chris: I didn’t know any actual Native American ceremonies, so I had to make up my own. And I was so disappointed when I found out that it didn’t work. That was actually a big part of my inspiration for Smash: remembering how badly I wanted to turn into a guy who could change into a giant puma and then go to school and everybody would be really impressed.

Kyle: Batman had no powers and was always able to go up high, so it wouldn’t necessarily have to be a super-power or even flight. I guess intelligence, because Batman, who had no actual powers, was one of the most dangerous people on Earth. So to have that level of intelligence to master all these different skills, bring your body to a physical peak, learn all of the martial arts, and then you’re just the master of any situation… Sounds like a lot of work.

Chris: Now, as an artist, what super-power would you wish for that would help you draw better or faster, or just easier?

Kyle: Flight. That’s my answer, I’m sticking with it. I don’t know, maybe telescopic vision? Or night vision?

Chris: If you were the Flash, you could draw a hundred times faster…

Kyle: No, because it’s never about drawing faster. I enjoy the process of slowly putting the image together. If you’re getting it done quickly, I don’t necessarily know that you could slow your brain down enough to enjoy it. So it would just be fast motion. To never get tired would be good. If my wrist never hurt. So, vision and I guess, invincibility. What about you?

Chris: A superhuman vocabulary would be helpful. I type really fast, but I write most of my first drafts by hand, so if I could hand-write at 100 words per minute… No, you’re right, doing it faster wouldn’t necessarily help your mind keep up. I think I’d just end up with about 500 words more than I needed. Tons of useless adjectives. Maybe it would be cool to write while flying.

Kyle: Flight! It always goes back to flight.

Chris: When you were growing up and reading comics, who were the artists who inspired you most?

Kyle: Berni Wrightson. Michael Golden. Mike Mignola. Mike Zeck.

Chris: All the Mikes.

Kyle: Yup, all the Mikes. Later on, Alan Davis with Excalibur. John Byrne on Alpha Flight.

Chris: He was a big early influence.

Kyle: Definitely. That’s all I can remember, but that’s a pretty good list. Who were the writers who influenced you?

Chris: I don’t remember a ton of superstar comic book writers. I mean, there was Stan Lee, but he hadn’t written much since the early ’70s — certainly not since we started reading comics, although I used to buy a lot of back issues to catch up. I knew Chris Claremont from X-Men, and John Byrne from Alpha Flight, although that was kind of a cheat because Byrne was also the artist. That was the thing in the ’80s — most of the writers we knew by name were also artists, like Frank Miller and Walt Simonson. That probably means no one who reads Smash will know my name. They’ll be like, “Whoa, Kyle Bolton! And the guy who writes the balloons…”

Kyle: The guy who shoots down all of Kyle’s ideas.

Chris: I can live with that. Okay, we’ve talked about our own childhood love for comics and superheroes. What do we hope young readers of Smash will take away from it?

Kyle: A sense of fun! And a big, new world to explore.

Chris: I would love it if a couple of brothers who are forced to share a bedroom read Smash until the cover falls off and the spine collapses. And many years later, the brothers publish their own graphic novel that reaches back to their childhood memories.

Kyle: I just hope we’re retired by then.

Chris: Living on a beach somewhere, arguing over which superhero has the best powers.

Blog tour schedule:

Monday, 9/9: Random Chalk Talk — Guest Post on the evolution of SMASH from webcomic to book.

Monday, 9/9: Powells.com Book Blog — Guest Post on the birth of Smash, featuring the scandalous true story how we designed and created the character.

Tuesday, 9/10: Who R U Blog — Q&A with Kyle and me talking about what it’s like to work together as brothers and other titillating tales.

Wednesday, 9/11: Book Bitch — Exclusive interview with none other than Smash himself! (Plus a surprise guest.)

Thursday, 9/12: Cynsations — Guest Post, “Graphic Novel 101″ — how we make the comic.

Friday, 9/13: Green Bean Teen Queen — Guest Post about the magic of libraries and how they helped create a certain pint-sized superhero.

Saturday, 9/14: Charlotte’s Library — Guest Post featuring a comic titled “The True Origin of the Brothers Bolton.” Yes, it’s all true!

Monday, 9/16: Hooked On Books — Guest Post featuring the SMASH playlist, for the perfect soundtrack to accompany the book!

Tuesday, 9/17: Bildungsroman — Q&A with Kyle and me.

See more at: The Smash Blog Tour

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The Voice Is All: The Lonely Victory of Jack Kerouac – Review and Giveaway
Sep 9th, 2013 by Liza Wiemer

17707464Celebrating the Paperback Release of

THE VOICE IS ALL: The Lonely Victory of Jack Kerouac

By Joyce Johnson

Review and Giveaway (See Rafflecopter below)

From the publisher: 

Joyce Johnson offers a groundbreaking portrait of Jack Kerouac as a young artist, focusing on Kerouac’s slow, often painful development as a writer over the first thirty years of his life, from his early struggles to master English through the grueling years of searching for a way to write On the Road, and ending with the astonishing breakthroughs in late 1951 that resulted in the opening sections of Visions of Cody. In a starred review, Kirkus called it, “An exemplary biography of the Beat icon and his development as a writer . . . There’s plenty of life in these pages to fascinate casual readers, and Johnson is a sensitive but admirably objective biographer . . . A triumph of scholarship.”

Johnson’s experience as a writer of both fiction and memoir and her own vivid personal memories of Kerouac, with whom she had a romance when she was twenty-one years old in 1957, greatly inform her take on Kerouac’s creative process in THE VOICE IS ALL, resulting in a book that greatly deepens our understanding of his life and his achievement. A terrific fall read, THE VOICE IS ALL takes a deeper look into Kerouac’s upbringing and the deeply traditional Franco-American immigrant culture that Kerouac was born into.

My review: 

Revealing, highly researched (but never boring) biography of one of America’s most fascinating, iconic novelists.

When Penguin offered me the opportunity to review this biography, I was reluctant. I don’t read many biographies, but as a writer, I couldn’t resist learning more about Jack Kerouac. And does Joyce Johnson deliver. There are times I was deeply sympathetic toward Jack – the loss of his younger brother Gerard had a huge impact on his life. The death left his mother overprotective toward her remaining son. The apron strings were tied tightly and Jack never seemed to be able to cut them. Jack also grew up in extreme poverty with a father who barely provided for his family. His dad was often drunk and at the very least demanding. Jack’s mother was the nurturer, often stepping in to protect Jack’s love for writing when his father pushed for Jack to become a football star.

Jack was given many opportunities in life to succeed. With the promise of a football scholarship to Columbia University, Jack was to finish high school in New York City at the prestigious Horace Mann High School. There, he played football, met some highly influential and supportive people, and had lots of opportunities to excel in his writing. After Horace Mann, he did indeed attend Columbia University on a full football scholarship. But he and the coach didn’t seem to get along, especially after an injury Jack sustained, and Jack bailed, throwing his scholarship away. There were times he regretted this choice and at other times he seemed to be deeply relieved to be rid of the burden of classes he hated and a football game he wasn’t the star of.

There were times when I despised Jack. The binge drinking and drug use destroyed his life. He was arrogant and insecure. He was a womanizer and he abandoned his wife and child with barely a blink of the eye. He had no qualms about sleeping with his friends’ girlfriends. Actually, it was encouraged.
His writing was everything and his friends and acquaintances filled his pages. He hung around with the hottest writers of his generation and the movers and shakers in the publishing world. Sometimes with great respect and love and sometimes with distain. Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, Neal Cassady, and John Clellon Holmes were the friends who influenced him the most. They fueled his experimentation with drugs, sex, alcohol, and deep philosophical discussions. They traveled the road together, listened to the hottest jazz in Harlem together, partied together. All of this led to the creation of novels, poems, short stories, and letters, especially for Jack. ON THE ROAD was penned during and after many trips from New York to Denver, San Francisco, and his home town of Lowell, to name just a few.

There were several sections I loved. The descriptions of Jack’s life at sea were amazing. I found the jazz scenes particularly fascinating as well as his life in Lowell, MA, at the Horace Mann school in NYC, and at Columbia. I found myself completely drawn in and transported to that time and space.

Pulling from the extensive research done from the Kerouac Archives, Johnson maps out Jack’s life in a comprehensive manner. While reading, I experienced the highs and lows of Jack’s life, the successes and the failures. Even when I felt disgusted by him, I still felt drawn to his story and the need to know what made him tick.

I’m not sure anyone could ever say that they knew Jack Kerouac, but this biography gives us a solid look into his world and philosophy of life. As a writer, I definitely know about the ups and the downs. His seemed to be quite manic fueled by alcohol, drugs, and sex.

A side note:
One observation that struck me while reading this biography was that not much in society has changed in the last 70 plus years. There is still war, debauchery, drug and alcohol abuse, mayhem, promiscuity, anti-Semitism, racism, homophobia. I am beginning to wonder if we “human beings” will ever learn. We like to believe that we’ve made progress. Perhaps on a few things we have. But overall, not much. But one thing is for certain: We can’t stop doing whatever we can to make a difference, to leave a positive mark,, and do our best to not only learn from the past, but to utilize it to make life now and in the future better.

I definitely recommend this biography to anyone interested in Jack Kerouac, literature, writing, or history relating to the 1940s and 50s. I enjoyed this so much that I will be reading Joyce Johnson’s memoirs.

Writing tips I extracted from the novel:

A. Jack was influenced by William Saroyan who didn’t have a college education. From that information, he realized that an education doesn’t make a writer. From page 83-84 extracted from Saroyan “demystified the act of writing and made it seem natural as breathing:

1. “Do not pay attention to the rules other people make.”

2. “Forget everybody who ever wrote anything.”

3. “Learn to typewrite so you can turn out stories as fast as Zane Grey.”

4. “Try to be alive. You’ll be dead soon enough . . . ”

B. “The humility of writing-life.” – Keeping a “diary-log.” pg. 288  – Jack often wrote in a diary, keeping track of his writing process and his moods. I think this could be very helpful in the writing process to figure out patterns, progress over time, and perspective.

C. Read – Jack’s writing was deeply influenced by the works he read. “Wolfe, Saroyan, Halper, Whitman, and Joyce.”  page 109. He was constantly reading. Additional authors he read were Proust, Kazin, and Dostoevsky, to name a few.

D. Jack “imagined the mind as an antenna . . . picking up the signals streaming in from the ‘waking consciousness,’ some so faint they could be only be sensed rather than registered. While most writers make no use of them, Jack believed that within these overlooked sensory perceptions one could discover the ‘natural story’ that was of far more importance than any plotting tale.” What I gathered from this was listening to the inner voice and paying attention to the smallest of details that we wouldn’t normally hear or see is what’s critical to making a story special. “For a writer, it would require “an enormous trancelike discipline.” page 392

E. “Jack made a list of events and people he wanted to include in the book and kept it by his typewriter.” page 396.

F. There was a scene in the book where Jack was stuck. He was advised to go out and “sketch” a scene like an artist would draw. He was to use words to describe everything in a place, including the little things he saw like broken glass, garbage. He used sounds, smells etc to describe the scene – paint it on paper. (I will find the exact page number and description and add it later.)

G. Jack also did a lot of spontaneous writing. On page 396 it says: “Allen Ginsberg would call Jack’s method of writing “spontaneous bop prosody,” a term that caught on and would prove misleading.” He did NOT spew his words onto paper. “With unfortunate consequences to his literary reputation, the idea of spontaneous writing suggested the process was easy, leaving out the immense discipline that went into it . . . ” What I extracted from this and from other passages throughout the book is that Jack allowed himself to write freely and go with the flow of inspiration without constantly self-editing.
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The BEST Books I Read This SUMMER & MEGA Giveaway
Sep 1st, 2013 by Liza Wiemer

                 The BEST Books I Read This SUMMER & MEGA Giveaway

(Three winners!)

I’ve read a lot of excellent books this summer (June 21-August 31), but not all of them are included in this list. That’s because they were ARCs and haven’t been published, yet. I look forward to putting together another post at the end of 2013, which will include those novels.

Each of the books or series listed below were memorable for different reasons and I want to share them with you. One lucky winner will get to select two books of choice or one audiobook via Audible and a book. Two winners will have a choice of a book or audiobook. International winners – you must have access to Audible or the book must be available through The Book Depository. Giveaway ends September 22, 2013 11:59 PM CST.

(Rafflecopter Below)

In no particular order:

16151178The Sea of Tranquility by 

Why it’s on the list: I love characters who go through major transformations.

Review: An exceptional story.

A note about the cover: It’s perfect for this novel. That’s melted ice cream that formed the outline of the faces on the asphalt. It fits so beautifully, so kudos to the designer and the publisher for going with it.

I am NOT going to talk about Josh. Or Sunshine. Or what happened to her in THE SEA OF TRANQUILITY by Katja Millay. I am not going to discuss the unfairness of what Josh faced over and over again. Many others have done so and done it extremely well. I second, third, fourth my agreement.
I will say this: THE SEA OF TRANQUILITY begs the reader to take action, to make a change, or a choice, even a small one like picking up the phone and calling a loved one to say “I love you.”

To read the rest of the review, click here: The Sea of Tranquility


Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein (AUDIOBOOK), performed by  and 13479365

Why it’s on the list: I’ll remember what happened to these characters for a very long time.

Review: Voices so real, it’s hard to believe this is historical fiction and not biographical.

I picked up this novel from the library, but then returned without reading it. That was nearly a year ago. I had heard that it would rip my heart out, and I wasn’t ready to grab the knife.
But when my dear friend Heidi from YA Bibliophile @hmz1505http://www.yabibliophile.com raved and raved and raved about the audio, I knew I had to listen to it.
Once again, Heidi was right. The readers brought this novel to life and had me riveted. I was drawn into the story of female spies and female pilots during WWII and the friendship between two women – Queenie and Maddie. As they both had their turn to share the sequence of events that led to their friendship and what happened when Queenie was captured by the Nazis was absolutely stunning. The characters seemed so real and their voices were so authentic, that it’s hard to believe that they were created in Elizabeth Wein’s imagination.

To read the rest of the review, click here: Code Name Verity 

15777621This Song Will Save Your Life by 

Why it’s on the list: Speaks to anyone who’s felt like they didn’t fit in.

Review: Wow, wow!

Can a song save a person’s life?
Hmm, you’ll have to read This Song Will Save Your Life to understand the magic of music. I was deeply impressed with the Leila Sales’ powerful portrayal of Elise Dembowski, a sixteen-year-old girl who has endured bullying and friendlessness for as long as she can remember. As the daughter of divorced parents who share custody, she’s scheduled in and synced to both parents’ lives. With her dad, she’s an only child. With her mom, she’s the big sister and a step-daughter. Elise is bright and creative, and music means everything to her. Her father is a member of a one-hit 70s band, still playing at various venues like cruise ships, bars, etc. while he also works at a music store. It is he, who gave Elise such a passion for music.

To read the rest of the review, click here: This Song Will Save Your Life

What Happens Next by 12819342

Why it’s on the list: Addresses a serious issue: Date rape after being drugged.

Review: Very realistic. Compelling. Painful. Serious issues. One of the best book boyfriends. Ever. Definitely recommend.

What Happens Next was recommended to me by Rachel fromhttp://rachelwritesthings.blogspot.com Thanks, Rachel!

I was immediately taken in by Sid’s story, a sixteen-year-old girl who goes on a school ski trip with her two best friends. While on the trip, the three of them split up and Sid meets a college boy named Dax. He’s fills her with lots of compliments and begs her to come to a party. Her friends are totally against it, by Sid ignores them. What happens next is absolutely horrible and real and a warning to girls to never go to a stranger’s place.
As Sid tries to figure out how to deal with what happened to her, she meets Corey Livingston, a boy who seems like a complete loser. But as the two of them take months to get to know each other, something special blooms between them.

To read the rest of the review, click here: What Happens Next 


Camp Boyfriend by 

Why it’s on the list: For anyone who has ever been torn between two boys or struggled with identity, this story will hit home.

Review: CAMP BOYFRIEND is . . .

authentic. Beautifully captures the difficulties of navigating friendships and relationships. So much more than a love triangle. (Don’t let that turn you off. It’s a huge plus.) This novel is about self-identity, self-worth, self-esteem.
I really want to see this in all middle schools/high schools/libraries.

CAMP BOYFRIEND does an incredible job of portraying the inner turmoil of a girl torn between two really good guys. But it’s also so much more. It begs the reader to ask, “What’s important to me?” Until that question is answered, it’s tough to know the bigger question, “Who am I?”

I am NOT going to summarize this novel. You can read that in the description. Instead, I want to share with you . . .

To read the rest of the review, click here: Camp Boyfriend

The ENTIRE (to date) Covenant Series By 

Half-Blood (Book 1)

Half-Blood (Book 1)

(Half-Blood, Pure, Deity, Apollyon)

Why these books are on the list: The first line of my review says it all!

Review: Adventure, romance, heart-pounding action, and Greek mythology rolled into a captivating, unforgettable series.

Jennifer Armentrout created an fascinating world you’ll appreciate and visit on each page. I can’t imagine anyone not falling in love with Aiden and Alex.

Thank you, Jaime, from http://fictionfare.blogspot.com for sharing the first three books with me and to Spencer Hill for the fourth book APOLLYON and the novellas.

I read all four books in THE COVENANT series plus the novella ELIXIR over the past four days. That should say EVERYTHING. I was completely sucked into the Greek mythology and the incredible storyline told by the hyper, daring, courageous, snarky Alex (short for Alexandria). Alex is a half blood – someone who is born to a pure blood parent (from the Greek gods) and a mortal parent. Pure bloods and half bloods don’t mix. They’re forbidden to love and they’re most definitely a lower class. Half bloods can become slaves to pure bloods, losing themselves by being forced to drink elixir that takes away their ability to think and act on their own freewill.

To read the rest of the review, click here: The ENTIRE (to date) Covenant Series

615359Shark Girl and Formally Shark Girl by 

Why these books are on the list: Powerful portrayal of a teen redefining herself told through free verse poetry.

Review: SHARK GIRL will keep you captivated and will reel you in! Perfect for reluctant readers.

SHARK GIRL is about a girl named Jane who’s life changes in an instant when a shark attacks her and severs her arm. The story of that moment is told in free verse poetry. Throughout the novel, letters from concerned, compassionate people, along with reporters who want her story, are interspersed, breaking up the free verse poetry with the reality of what it means to be in the national spotlight. Jane shares her painful recovery, her deepest emotions, including her fears, frustration, and anger at the loss of her arm. Once a promising artist, she sees her future plans disappear as she has to relearn how to do everything with her left hand.

To read the rest of the review, click here: Shark Girl and Formally Shark Girl

Shadow and Bone and Siege and Storm by  (AUDIOBO


OK), performed by 10194157

Why it’s on the list: Fantasy at its finest!

Review: A captivating audiobook that kept me completely enthralled and invested in the story. Characters came to life.

About the story: Alina and Mal are two orphans who were raised in a Duke’s home (he takes in orphans who are “cared for” by a his servants. They rarely see the Duke.) Alina and Mal become each other’s best friends/family. Eventually, Alina and Mal come to serve the king as trackers. But when it’s discovered that Alina has a special talent, she’s whisked away from Mal and taken to the Little Palace to hone her skills as a Grisha and become the Darkling’s match. Putting their gifts together, they’ll be invincible. But Alina has a lot to learn before that can happen.
I loved the Grisha and their unique abilities. I could visualize the Shadow Fold and the nation of Ravka as well as the Little Palace, which isn’t very little at all.

To read the rest of the review, click here: Shadow and Bone To read the review for the second book in the series, click here: Siege and Storm

16270141The Boy on the Bridge by 

Why it’s on the list: A historical (romance) novel set in the former Soviet Union-USSR (Russia.) I don’t think many YA know about this time period in history.

Review: An accurate portrayal of the Soviet Union in the 1980s. Terrifying and heartbreaking. Highly recommend.

When Laura goes to Leningrad for a semester abroad program, she believes meeting Alyosha on the bridge leading to her foreigners only dorm is a chance encounter. She quickly develops deep feelings for him and it appears that he feels the same way. He and his friends are hungry for anything that connects them to America. Does he love her because she’s wonderful, bright, kind or because of what she represents as an American? There is danger lurking around every corner, people who are willing to get this young couple in trouble, especially Alyosha, for anti-Soviet sentiment. Alyosha longs for the freedom that he perceives America represents. What does this really mean for Laura? You’ll have to read the novel to find out.

To read the rest of the review, click here: The Boy on the Bridge

The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes17572903

Why it’s on the list: Simply unforgettable – Like SARAH’S KEY by Tatiana de Rosnay.

Review: Part 1: Written on  7/20/13


I need to spend some time digesting this novel before I complete my review. I will say this – I am so glad I read the prequel (HONEYMOON IN PARIS) – See my review on Goodreads here: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/…
More tomorrow.
Or the next day.
Must. Close. My. Mouth. It’s on the floor.

Part 2: Written on 7/23/13

Impactful. Eye-opening. Shocking.

Okay. Deep breath.
I’ve been thinking about how to review this novel. A lot. And why it affected me so much. I’ve come to the realization that there are several things that deeply impacted me. The characters and the experiences are so real, that, as the reader, you get completely absorbed in what has happened to them. This experience is similar to what many would say happened while reading SARAH’S KEY by Tatiana de Rosnay.

To read the rest of the review, click here: The Girl You Left Behind

16158528Looking for Me by Beth Hoffman

Why it’s on the list: A unique, page-turner story. The characters are some of the most interesting I’ve read.

Review: An exceptional novel that will leave antique lovers drooling, nature lovers longing for the outdoors, animal lovers running to make a donation to their local animal shelter or humane society, and hopeless romantics swooning.

I seriously can’t believe that I waited a whole month to read this novel. I should have picked it up immediately. Looking for Me is storytelling at its best. Teddi and her brother Josh grew up on a farm in Kentucky. While she loves to give new life to old things like furniture, Josh becomes a protector of nature. Their father fosters their passions while their mother begrudgingly goes along with it. As Teddi and Josh grow up, they take their own journeys away from home. Their stories are both heartwarming and heartbreaking. Some of the overall themes of this beautiful novel are the power of family ties, the bonds of friendship, and the power of love.

To read the rest of the review, click here: Looking for Me
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