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Morris Finalist Blog Tour: Review of THE SCAR BOYS by Len Vlahos
Jan 27th, 2015 by Liza Wiemer

The 2015 finalists for the YALSA William C Morris Debut Award:

  • “The Carnival at Bray” written by Jessie Ann Foley, published by Elephant Rock Books (http://www.elephantrockbooks.com/). In 1993, the grunge movement is at its height and Maggie Lynch is living comfortably in Chicago, near Nanny Ei and Uncle Kevin, her musical guru. After her impulsive mother marries and moves the family to a tiny Irish village, Maggie struggles to adjust to the changing world around her.
  • “The Story of Owen: Dragon Slayer of Trondheim” written by E.K. Johnston, published by Carolrhoda Lab™, an imprint of Carolrhoda Books, a division of Lerner Publishing Group (https://www.lernerbooks.com/carolrhodalab/). Owen is training to be a dragon slayer, a crucial job in a world where dragons bring death and destruction. With help from their friends and family, Owen and his bard Siobhan seek the source of a growing dragon threat.
  • “Gabi, a Girl in Pieces” written by Isabel Quintero, published by Cinco Puntos Press (www.cincopuntos.com). Aspiring poet Gabi Hernandez is having a complicated senior year: One of her best friends is pregnant, and the other just came out. Even as her mother worries that she will become a “bad” girl, Gabi adds romance and the quest for college to her already full plate.
  • “The Scar Boys” written by Len Vlahos, published by Egmont Publishing (http://egmontusa.com/). In a college admission essay, Harry Jones reveals the physical and psychological scars of his childhood and the solace and self-confidence he found in friendship and punk music.
  • “The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender” written by Leslye Walton, published by Candlewick Press (http://www.candlewick.com/). Born with a pair of wings, sixteen-year-old Ava Lavender inherits a rich family history and a legacy of heartbreak. After a young man becomes convinced she is an angel, can Ava survive his obsession intact?

My review of THE SCAR BOYS12769538

by Len Vlahos

Published by Egmont USA

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

Connect with Len Vlahos: Goodreads | Twitter | Website 

From Goodreads:

A severely burned teenager. A guitar. Punk rock. The chords of a rock ‘n’ roll road trip in a coming-of-age novel that is a must-read story about finding your place in the world…even if you carry scars inside and out.

In attempting to describe himself in his college application essay–help us to become acquainted with you beyond your courses, grades, and test scores–Harbinger (Harry) Jones goes way beyond the 250-word limit and gives a full account of his life.

The first defining moment: the day the neighborhood goons tied him to a tree during a lightning storm when he was 8 years old, and the tree was struck and caught fire. Harry was badly burned and has had to live with the physical and emotional scars, reactions from strangers, bullying, and loneliness that instantly became his everyday reality.

The second defining moment: the day in 8th grade when the handsome, charismatic Johnny rescued him from the bullies and then made the startling suggestion that they start a band together. Harry discovered that playing music transported him out of his nightmare of a world, and he finally had something that compelled people to look beyond his physical appearance. Harry’s description of his life in his essay is both humorous and heart-wrenching. He had a steeper road to climb than the average kid, but he ends up learning something about personal power, friendship, first love, and how to fit in the world. While he’s looking back at the moments that have shaped his life, most of this story takes place while Harry is in high school and the summer after he graduates.

My review:

The Scar BoysThe Scar Boys by Len Vlahos

The Scar Boys.

I find myself fumbling for words, struggling to put my thoughts together.

But I’ll try.

Through a super-long college essay – from 250 words to the length of a novel, readers will discover the life-changing event that altered Harry’s life FOREVER! Thanks to some horrible, horrible bullies.

This one act changes Harry’s life forever, and it doesn’t get better until he becomes a member of a band, The Scar Boys, aptly named because of all the scars he carries.

Throughout the novel, readers receive the narrative of the most impactful moments that shaped Harry’s psyche. Some will leave you gasping, cringing, hurting. Others will make you smile, cheer for Harry.

This novel has impact. It will leave you shaking your head, cheering, hoping for a broken soul and a broken body to heal. It leaves you thinking about people who have walked in shoes similar to Harry’s, whatever their physical challenges. It makes you think about the healing power of music, the importance of finding your passion, the basic need that everyone has to be loved, cherished, and how those that should love us, sometimes don’t in the way that’s needed.

The Scar Boys will leave a long-lasting imprint on my mind and in my heart. I have no doubt, I’ll be thinking about these characters and recommending this novel to others.

Bravo to Len Vlahos!

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Review and Giveaway: SAVING GRACE by Jane Green
Jan 11th, 2015 by Liza Wiemer

Review and Giveaway:21853667

SAVING GRACE by Jane Green

Hardcover, 352 pages

Pub. Date: December 30, 2014

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

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

Connect with Jane Green: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Instagram | Pinterest

“Green spins a dark romance, recalling All About Eve, where intimacy masks betrayal.”

Kirkus Reviews“Green tackles serious issues such as emotional abuse and over-prescribing of drugs while

still managing to keep the pages turning at a rapid rate.”
Booklist
“Fans of Green get everything they have come to expect and love in this
psychological domestic drama: it’s fast paced and emotionally satisfying.”
Library Journal 

ABOUT SAVING GRACE

From the number one bestselling author of Tempting Fate and The Beach House comes Jane Green’s stunning new novel about a shattered marriage and a devastating betrayalA perfect stranger wants her perfect life.

Grace Chapman has the perfect life, living comfortably with her husband, bestselling author Ted, in a picture-perfect farmhouse on the Hudson River in New York State.

Then Ted advertises for a new assistant, and Beth walks into their lives. Organized, passionate and eager to learn, Beth quickly makes herself indispensable to Ted and his family. But Grace soon begins to feel sidelined in her home–and her marriage–by this ambitious younger woman.

Is Grace just paranoid, as her husband tells her, or is there more to Beth than first thought?

Filled with Jane’s own recipes–she trained as a chef at the French Culinary Institute–SAVING GRACE also explores the misdiagnosis of mental illnesses, and the dangers of handing out drugs which are supposed to cure, but end up causing more harm.

ABOUT JANE GREEN

Jane Green’s sixteenth novel, Saving Grace, will be published on December 30th, 2014; she is the author of fifteen previous New York Times bestselling novels. Initially known for writing about single thirty-somethings, she has gone on to write mature stories about real women dealing with all the things life throws at them, with her trademark wisdom, wit and warmth.A former feature writer for the Daily Express in the UK, Green took a leap in faith when she left, in 1996, to freelance and work on a novel. Seven months later, there was a bidding war for her first book, Straight Talking, the saga of a single career girl looking for the right man. The novel was an immediate top-ten bestseller in England, and Green was an overnight success.

Now in her forties, Green has graduated to more complex, character-driven novels that explore the concerns of real women’s lives, from marriage (The Other Woman) to motherhood (Another Piece of My Heart) to divorce, stepchildren, affairs, and most recently, midlife crises (Family Pictures and Tempting Fate).

She joined the ABC News team to write A Modern Fairytale – their first enhanced digital book – about the history of Royal marriages, then joined ABC News Radio as a live correspondent covering Prince William’s wedding to Kate Middleton. She has written a micro-series for Dove starring Alicia Keyes, many short stories, and has contributed to various anthologies, as well as regularly appearing on television shows including Good Morning America, The Martha Stewart show, and The Today Show.

Together with writing books and blogs, she contributes to various publications, both online and print, including Huffington Post, The Sunday Times, Cosmopolitan, and Self, has taught at writers conferences, and does regular keynote speaking.

A foodie and passionate cook, Green filled one of her books, Promises to Keep, with recipes culled from her own collection. She says she only cooks food that is “incredibly easy, but has to look as if you have slaved over a hot stove for hours.” This is because she has six children, and has realized that “when you have six children, nobody ever invites you anywhere.”

Most weekends see her cooking for a minimum of twenty people in her home in Westport, Connecticut, where she lives with her husband and their blended family. When she is not writing, cooking, gardening, filling her house with friends and herding chickens, she is usually thanking the Lord for caffeine-filled energy drinks.

 My Review:

Saving GraceSaving Grace by Jane Green
Grace leads a wonderful, sheltered life with her best selling author husband Ted Chapman. He’s a bit of a handful, but his assistant makes all the difference in smoothing out the rough edges of his life and keeping everything on track. When she leaves for family reasons, Beth steps into the scene.

Everything about Beth seems like a perfect match. She changes Grace’s life for the better and is a fabulous assistant to Ted. Until Grace realizes that what Beth really wants is Grace’s life.

SAVING GRACE will keep readers on their toes. You never know what Beth is going to do next on her quest to take over Grace’s life. Grace has a fight on her hands, and it’s for her sanity.

I love how things turn out for Grace. I have nothing but pity and distain for the weak Ted. This is done so perfectly!

Oh and Beth. Pure evil. A conniving, manipulative, deranged woman, who destroys lives. Very much reminded me of similarities to the movie Fatal Attraction. Anyone who has seen it, knows it’s unforgettable. This novel has the same type of impact.

I love Grace’s family history. I love Grace’s adopted family back in England. I love the choices she makes with them. I love Grace’s daughter. I love Grace’s quiet strength.

The book ending is really great.

Final verdict: If you want a psychological thriller that’s a captivating read and a mind-bender with fascinating characters, then I definitely recommend SAVING GRACE.

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Giveaway: (US Only) One copy of Saving Grace

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Happy Release Day & Review: A LEAGUE OF HER OWN by Karen Rock
Dec 1st, 2014 by Liza Wiemer

Review:23252231

A LEAGUE OF HER OWN

by Karen Rock

Publisher: Harlequin

Pub. Date: December 1, 2014 Buy here: Amazon

Connect with the author: Goodreads | Website | Facebook

From Goodreads:

He was attractive, talented…and way off limits.
Heather Gadway may have been a world-class college pitcher and a top university coach, but she’s a rank amateur when it comes to managing the Falcons, her father’s struggling minor league team. And when it comes to managing her aggravating attraction to Garrett Wolf, their talented new pitcher. It’s going to be difficult enough to make it as the first female manager in the league and prove to her overly critical father she’s worthy. No distractions. No missteps. And certainly no romances with players. Everything stands between them—including their troubled pasts—even as Heather’s world falls apart and Garrett’s the one who’s there to catch her…

Romance, Baseball, Rivals to Lovers, Contemporary Romance.

My Review:
A League of Her OwnA League of Her Own by Karen Rock

How does the past influence your present? In A League of Her Own Karen Rock brings Heather and Garrett together — two deeply wounded people scarred from their past.

Heather’s father owns a minor league team. When he needs Heather (a former superstar pitcher of her own right and a pitching coach at a college), she drops everything to take over for her dad, managing the boys.
Garrett is a potential star pitcher, but his sketchy past haunts him in the present. For Heather, it’s a reminder of her worst childhood nightmares. Yet, her attraction to Garrett and vise versa is so palatable that it hurts. On so many levels this relationship is wrong. Heather’s Garrett’s boss, he has issues that cut her to the core, and she can’t move past them, even though he’s trying the best he can.

Can they resolve issues from the past and find a way to love and cherish one another?

With baseball as the backdrop, Karen Rock fuels readers attention for America’s pastime and interjects sweet, tender romance appropriate for anyone at any age.

Things I loved about this story:

1. The lesson that our past shouldn’t always influence our present and future.
2. That we’re not all doomed to repeat past mistakes if we work hard to change.
3. That love is the most powerful weapon/gift of all.
4. Sometimes healing the past can be done by helping someone in the present.
5. Personal dreams can change.
6. Appreciate the NOW because in an instant what we know can vanish.
7. What we believe isn’t always the truth, so hear others out.

This is a romance novel for anyone who seeks something deeper and more meaningful, for anyone who has experienced difficulties and has had a hard time moving past them. This is a story of love and ultimately hope. Enjoy!

Thank you to the publisher for the NetGalley copy.

View all my reviews

Blog Tour & Book Review: ONE WISH AWAY by Kelley Lynn & Giveaway
Nov 20th, 2014 by Liza Wiemer

One-Wish-Away-tour banner new

Review: ONE WISH AWAY

by Kelley Lynn

Release Date: 11/24/14

Bloomsbury Spark

 

 Pre-Order Links:

AmazonBarnes & NobleKobo Books

Add to Goodreads

 

Book Summary:One Wish

Be careful what you wish for…

 

Lyra has always been ahead of the curve. Top of her class in school, a budding astronomer, and with a best friend like Darren she barely has time to miss the mother who abandoned her family years ago. She’s too busy planning to follow in her father’s footsteps, and to become the youngest astronomer at Space Exploration and Discovery.
When a star goes missing Lyra is determined to get to the bottom of it only to discover her braniac dad is the mastermind of a top-secret government experiment. They promise to build a perfect world, one galaxy at a time, but with every tweak of the present, a bit more of the future starts to crumble.

Lyra has to go undercover to reveal the truth and let humanity decide if the consequences are worth more than wishing on a star.

 

My review:

One Wish AwayOne Wish Away by Kelley Lynn

ONE WISH AWAY is a wonderful addition to novels that feed into our passion for wish making. Readers will see in a very real way how wishes can have a global impact. Kelley Lynn weaves science and a bit of wish making magic into this story, which I believe with hold the interest of late middle school and young adult readers.

What I liked:
1. The scientific setting.
2. Lyra’s strong moral compass and her curiosity.
3. Darren, a supportive boy who is definitely swoony.
4. The description of SEAD – short for Space Exploration and Discovery, the place where Lyra interns and her father is the lead scientist.
5. The family dynamics were realistic and painful.
6. The consequences of the wishes and how they impacted situations.

The novel ends with many questions for readers to ponder: What happens to Lyra? What happens to Darren? Who was the mystery man? Will there be a sequel? Will Lyra’s father do anything to protect her? If there won’t be a sequel, it’s definitely fun for readers to come up with their own answers.

The biggest question of all might be: What would YOU wish for? And what might the consequences be?

If you are a stargazer, into science, or just love the idea of making wishes, then you’ll enjoy ONE WISH AWAY!

Thank you to Bloomsbury Spark for the review copy on NetGalley.

View all my reviews

 

About the Authorkelley lynn

Eventually the day came when the voices in Kelley Lynn’s head were more insistent then her engineering professor’s. So instead of turning to her Thermodynamics book, Kelley brought up a blank page on her computer screen and wrote. Somewhere along the way she became a Young Adult author.
Kelley was born and raised a Midwestern girl. She’s not afraid to sweat and fills her free time with softball, soccer and volleyball. (Though you probably don’t want her on your volleyball team.) She occasionally makes guest appearances as a female vocalist for area bands. Music plays a large role in her writing process as well as the characters and plot lines within her stories.

You can find Kelley hanging out at her blog, titled in her name, as well as the group blog she shares with her fellow critique partners, Falling for Fiction. Kelley is a member of the Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators. 

Author Links:

WebsiteGoodreadsTwitterFacebook

GIVEAWAY:

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A THOUSAND PIECES OF YOU by Claudia Gray – Review
Nov 4th, 2014 by Liza Wiemer

A THOUSAND PIECES OF YOU17234658

by Claudia Gray – Review

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

Find out more about Claudia Gray here: Website | Twitter | Facebook

 

From Goodreads:

Every Day meets Cloud Atlas in this heart-racing, space- and time-bending, epic new trilogy from New York Times bestselling author Claudia Gray.

Marguerite Caine’s physicist parents are known for their radical scientific achievements. Their most astonishing invention: the Firebird, which allows users to jump into parallel universes, some vastly altered from our own. But when Marguerite’s father is murdered, the killer—her parent’s handsome and enigmatic assistant Paul—escapes into another dimension before the law can touch him.

Marguerite can’t let the man who destroyed her family go free, and she races after Paul through different universes, where their lives entangle in increasingly familiar ways. With each encounter she begins to question Paul’s guilt—and her own heart. Soon she discovers the truth behind her father’s death is more sinister than she ever could have imagined.

A Thousand Pieces of You explores a reality where we witness the countless other lives we might lead in an amazingly intricate multiverse, and ask whether, amid infinite possibilities, one love can endure.

My Review:

A Winner! This novel will keep you guessing. There is a satisfying ending, and you’ll want to read the next book in the trilogy. A perfect combo of science fiction, contemporary, romance, intrigue.

A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray

Mysterious. Captivating. Intriguing. Suspenseful. Imaginative.
Travel to alternate universes. Your life. Different variations. I’m hooked.
Scientists. A murderer? Who are you? Love. Death. Second chances.

Things I loved about this novel:
1. The possibility of multiple universes. What if we’re living our lives simultaneously in different universes without any knowledge of these different lives, but then be able to jump into that life and see loved ones etc? – what an awesome concept!
2. The idea of learning from yourself in different universes – so cool.
3. The science/mathematics behind the idea. It’s not so complex that people can’t grasp what’s going on.
4. Who is real and who leaped into that universe? Mystery and intrigue.
5. I love the idea you’re not quite sure who to trust an a particular moment.
6. Romance is sweet.
7. The Firebirds. They allow people to travel from one universe to another. Cool name, cool idea.
8. Good versus evil. When does science and corporate interest go too far?
9. My favorite character by far is Paul – geek hotness!
10. The ending. You’ll feel satisfied with it and still want more!

Overall, this is a fantastic beginning to a new trilogy that will keep readers guessing. A perfect combo of science fiction, contemporary, romance, intrigue. Claudia Gray has a winner.

Thank you so much to the publisher for the ARC review copy.

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

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Books 4 Your Kids http://www.books4yourkids.com/ 9/11/2014
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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

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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!

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.
View all my reviews

Flashback Friday: BLINK ONCE by Cylin Busby
Aug 8th, 2014 by Liza Wiemer

flashback-friday-featuredFor more information on FLASHBACK FRIDAY, check out Fiction Fare

13416087BLINK ONCE by Cylin Busby

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Pub Date: Sept. 4th, Pages: 288

Find Cylin here: WebsiteGoodreads | Twitter

Buy BLINK ONCE here: Amazon $2.99 ebook, $13.42 Hardcover  | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound | Book Depository

Awards: Junior Library Guild Selection for Fall (2012)

From Goodreads:

West is a high school senior who has everything going for him until an accident leaves him paralyzed. Strapped down in his hospital bed, slipping in and out of consciousness, West is terrified and alone. Until he meets Olivia. 

She’s the girl next door-sort of. A patient in the room next to his, only Olivia can tell what West is thinking, and only Olivia seems to know that the terrible dreams he’s been having are not just a result of his medication. Yet as West comes to rely on Olivia-to love her, even-certain questions pull at him: Why has Olivia been in the hospital for so long? And what does it mean that she is at the center of his nightmares? But the biggest question of all comes when West begins to recover and learns that the mysterious girl he’s fallen in love with has a secret he could never have seen coming.

My review:

Cylin Busby’s Blink Once is an engrossing, mysterious novel that will keep you guessing. In many ways, it reminded me of Megan Miranda’s outstanding novel Fracture. The reader learns quickly that West has been in a biking accident and is now paralyzed and unable to speak because of a breathing tube. The description of his hospital experience is at times heart breaking and touching. As the story unfolds, we are introduced to Olivia, a sick girl who’s room is next to West’s. Olivia, a vivacious, sad, bold girl who helps bring West out of his shell. She devises a plan of communication. Blink once means yes, blink twice means no. Her visits provide friendship and courage and hope. And in time, West and Olivia fall in love. 
With every page, the reader is pulled deeper and deeper into the mystery of West and his paralysis. Will he recover? What will happen between Olivia and him?
I loved this novel and I think it is perfect for reluctant readers. Guaranteed to draw them in. 
Definitely a winner, put it on your must-read list!

 

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