THE FEVER by Megan Abbott, Review and Giveaway
Jul 11th, 2014 by Liza Wiemer

THE FEVER by Megan Abbott18656036

Review and Giveaway

Publisher: Little Brown and Company

Pages: 320

Available here: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Audible


“An unforgettable inquiry into the emotional lives of young people… It’s also a powerful portrait of community, with interesting echoes of The Crucible…Abbott may be on her way to becoming a major writer.”–Booklist, Starred Review

“Thrilling...a gripping story fueled by razor-sharp treachery, jealousy, hormones, and the insecurities of teenage girls.”–Publishers Weekly

“The book to beat… in the “Is it the next ‘Gone Girl’?” sweepstakes.”–Janet Maslin, New York Times 

“The lives of teenage girls are dangerous, beautiful things in Abbott’s stunning novel… Abbott expertly ratchet[s] up the suspense…nothing should be taken at fact value.” —Kirkus, Starred Review

“THE FEVER is deliciously, page-turningly ‘no, no, leave me alone, I’m almost done!’ Abbott nails both the reality of being a teenage girl and the hyper-reality of memory.” —BookRiot

“No one understands the social dynamics of teenage girls better than Megan Abbott…settling into THE FEVER, one realizes that Abbott is setting a rhythm, one that’s measured and paced with the brilliance of one of the best living mystery writers.” —Grantland

The panic unleashed by a mysterious contagion threatens the bonds of family and community in a seemingly idyllic suburban community.

In the idyllic community of Dryden, Tom Nash is a popular high school teacher and the father of two teens: Eli, a hockey star and girl magnet, and Deenie, a diligent student with a close-knit group of friends-who are all horrified one day in class when Deenie’s best friend, Lise, is struck by a terrifying, brutal, and unexplained seizure. As Lise clings to life in the hospital, the seizures systematically infect more teenage girls, one by one, sending the entire town into terrified, questioning chaos. Is there a dangerous virus at work? Is it something in the school itself? Are the girls faking it? Who or what is to blame-and who will be next?

As hysteria and contagion swell, a series of tightly held secrets emerges, threatening to unravel friendships, families and the town’s fragile idea of security.

Loosely inspired by the nationally reported story of the purported “mass hysteria” outbreak in Le Roy, NY in 2012, THE FEVER is a haunting, thought-provoking page-turner that examines the powers of desire, guilt, secrets, and fear. It’s at once entrancing and disturbing, and readers will not be able to put it down until the very last page.

Author Megan Abbott

Author Megan Abbott

Megan Abbott is the Edgar Award-winning author of six previous novels. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, Salon, the Los Angeles Times Magazine, The Believer, Los Angeles Review of Books, Detroit Noir and Queens Noir among other places. She received her PhD in literature from New York University. She lives in New York and recently served as the John Grisham Writer-in-Residence at the University of Mississippi. Currently, she is working on the screenplay for her novel, Dare Me, soon to be a major motion picture.

Find Megan here: WebsiteTwitter | Facebook

My Review:

THE FEVER is right out of the headlines, reminding me very much of what happened in Le Roy, NY when 18 young adult girls developed strange tics, which doctors eventually attributed to mass hysteria.

Readers will find THE FEVER to be an intense, bone-chilling thriller, one that will keep you guessing. The novel opens with a girl by the name of Lise seizing at school. Her best friend Deenie is completely freaked out. Soon, other girls have similar symptoms. Will Deenie get infected to? Is she a carrier of a mysterious illness? Or could the contaminated lake near by, be the cause? Perhaps it’s the vaccinations that some of the girls had to prevent cervical cancer? Or is it mass hysteria?

As the mystery unfolds, readers learn more about Deenie, her brother Eli, and her father Tom, a teacher at the school where almost all of the strange incidents take place. Readers see how a community copes and what types of investigations take place. It’s frighteningly realistic. We also learn more about the group of girls connected to Lise and Deenie, best friends who have lots of secrets.

Though this novel is marketed for adults, I can definitely see it appealing to mature YA.

THE FEVER was a fast read, one that kept me turning pages. With plenty of surprises, readers will be guessing until the very end to what caused the mysterious illness that began with one girl seizing on her classroom floor. If you like novels with medical mysteries, THE FEVER is for you. 

Thank you to Little Brown for the review copy.


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Flashback Friday: A MONSTER CALLS by Patrick Ness
Jul 11th, 2014 by Liza Wiemer



Flashback Friday: A MONSTER CALLS

by Patrick Ness

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


Hardcover, 215 pages

Published September 27, 2011 by Walker Books8621462

From Goodreads:

The monster showed up after midnight. As they do.

But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting. He’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the one he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming…

This monster is something different, though. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor.

It wants the truth.

My review:

Seriously, don’t read any further if you don’t want to know my reaction to this novel.
Because this book will grab your mind, body, heart, and soul.
Okay, I warned you.

A Monster Calls SHOULD be read in one sitting. It’s so powerful, so painful that it feels like a gaping wound right where your heart is. I only read one review on Goodreads and I knew I had to pick up this book. The author of that review said she cried and cried. I braced myself.
I picked up this book knowing that it would tear at my heart, make me think. About life. About death. It’s a book about holding on and letting go. It’s about control and losing control. It’s about lies and truths. As I said, I braced myself. Only once did I get misty-eyed. I didn’t want to cry. But when I finished the last page I paced my living room floor. Dry-eyed. A book like this MUST impact the reader in some way because seriously if it doesn’t, I truly would wonder if stone exists in place of a heart. But the real question is what do you DO with a book like this?
I say gobble it up. Take it in. Hold it close. Then. Let. It. Go. Live life with meaning and purpose. Be kind to others. Be kind to yourself. Work on letting go of old hurts. Turn your dreams into action. Don’t just talk. DO! Because all we really have to hold onto is what we do in the here and now. I realize it’s not an easy way to live all the time. But this book reminds us that life is precious. We can’t waste it. That WE are responsible for finding meaning to our own lives and making something special out of it. 
That’s how I see it. I did warn you.

Find Patrick Ness: WebsiteTwitter | Facebook | Goodreads

SAVE THE DATE by Mary Kay Andrews, Review and Giveaway (US Only)
Jun 22nd, 2014 by Liza Wiemer

SAVE THE DATE by Mary Kay Andrews

Publisher, St. Martin’s Press

Pub date: June 3, 2014

Pages: 448

Purchase here: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, Audible

From Goodreads:18404093

A wedding florist finds love and trouble in this delightful new novel by the New York Times bestselling author of Ladies’ Night

A Savannah florist is about to score the wedding of a lifetime—one that will solidify her career as the go-to-girl for society nuptials. Ironically, Cara Kryzik doesn’t believe in love, even though she creates beautiful flower arrangements to celebrate them. But when the bride goes missing and the wedding is in jeopardy, Cara must find the bride and figure out what she believes in. Maybe love really does exist outside of fairy tales after all. 

Told with Mary Kay Andrew’s trademark wit and keen eye for detail, mark your calendars for Save the Date.

My review:

Save the Date was pure delight. If you love weddings and novels that revolve around them, then this is THE novel for you. Savannah florist Cara Kryzik is struggling to keep her floral shop afloat and pay back her father the money she borrowed to help her business. Life hasn’t been easy. Her husband cheated on her, she faces some extremely demanding brides and mothers of the bride, and even a step-mom that will make you want to rip your hair out. 

As Cara struggles with her business, she experiences many challenges, including a competitive florist who is out for revenge when he loses a big wedding and Jack, a good looking, dog-nabbing guy who keeps bumping into Cara at weddings. Their chemistry is palatable and delicious. But they have plenty of challenges. One of the things I love about Jack is his profession. He remodels and renovates old buildings, and I love how Mary Kay integrated this into the novel.

Save the Date is filled with plenty of Southern charm. I had no problem imagining the lovely estates and the area where Cara’s shop is set. The description of her garden was easy to see in my mind, so much so that I could almost smell the flowers. Without a doubt, readers will cheer for and relish in the relationship between Jack and Cara. There are lots of fantastic secondary characters, many are brides, grooms, and others connected to wedding parties. Some are easy to deal with, others are nightmares, including Cullen Kane, Cara’s biggest competitor. It takes a special breed to deal with the kind of pressure that comes with putting together a wedding that makes all parties happy. 

Oh, and I can’t forget to mention Cara’s dog Poppy, a Goldendoodle, and Jack’s dog, Shaz, who also is a Goldendoodle. The fact that they both have the same time of dog leads to some pretty funny moments.

Definitely save some time to read Save the Date. It’s the next best thing to attending a wedding for someone you love. 😀 It’s a satisfying, enjoyable, quick read with likable characters!

Thank you so much St. Martin’s Press for the ARC copy for review.

About Mary Kay Andrews:

From her website:

Mary Kay Andrews is the author of the New York Times bestselling The Fixer UpperSavannah Breeze and Blue Christmas, as well as Deep Dish,Hissy FitLittle Bitty Lies and Savannah Blues.She also wrote ten critically acclaimed mysteries, including the Callahan Garrity mystery series, under her real name, Kathy Hogan Trocheck. Her mysteries have been nominated for the Edgar, Anthony, Agatha and Macavity Awards.A native of St. Petersburg, Florida (and a diplomate of the Maas Bros. Department Store School of Charm), Trocheck earned a B.A. in journalism from the University of Georgia in 1976 (Go Dawgs!). She started her professional journalism career in Savannah, Georgia, where she covered the real-life murder trials which were the basis ofMidnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. She left journalism after a ten-year stint as a reporter for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.She is a frequent lecturer and writing teacher at workshops including Emory University, The University of Georgia’s Harriette Austin Writer’s Workshop, the Tennessee Mountain Writer’s Workshop, and the Antioch Writer’s Workshop.As a lifelong “junker” the author claims to know the location of every promising thrift store, flea market and junkpile in the southeastern United States, plus many parts of Ohio.Married to her high school sweetheart, she is the mother of two grown children and a proud grandmother. After a brief hiatus in Raleigh, NC, she and her husband moved back to their old neighborhood in Atlanta, where they live in a restored 1926 Craftsman bungalow. She divides her time between Atlanta and her restored beach cottage on Tybee Island, GA.The New York Timesbestselling author is back with another page-turning beach read about a woman whose life is turned upside down when she discovers her husband cheating on her….

Find Mary Kay Andrews here:

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Pinterest


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Review: SILVER BAY by Jojo Moyes
May 13th, 2014 by Liza Wiemer

19802590A modern love story

from Jojo Moyes,

the New York Times

bestselling author of 

Me Before You 


By Jojo Moyes


Jojo Moyes became a household name with her breakaway hit, the New York Times bestselling Me Before You, and The Girl You Left Behind.  SILVER BAY  (Penguin E-book; On-sale April 29, 2014; $9.99; 978-0-69-8156357) now available in the U.S. for the first time, is a surprising and moving romance set in an old-fashioned seaside town on the verge of unwelcome change.

Liza McCullen will never fully escape her past. But the unspoiled beaches and tight-knit community of Silver Bay offer the safety she craves—if not for herself, then for her young daughter, Hannah. That is, until Mike Dormer arrives as a guest in her aunt’s hotel.

The mild-mannered Englishman with his too-smart clothes and distracting eyes could destroy everything Liza has worked so hard to protect: not only the family business and the bay that harbors her beloved whales, but also her conviction that she will never love—never deserve to love—again.

For his part, Mike Dormer is expecting just another business deal—an easy job kick-starting a resort in a small seaside town ripe for development. But he finds that he doesn’t quite know what to make of the eccentric inhabitants of the ramshackle Silver Bay Hotel, especially not enigmatic Liza McCullen, and their claim to the surrounding waters.

As the development begins to take on a momentum of its own, Mike’s and Liza’s worlds collide in this hugely affecting and irresistible tale full of Jojo Moyes’s signature humor and generosity.

My review of SILVER BAY:

Another absolute must read by Jojo Moyes, author of ME BEFORE YOU and many other excellent novels.

From the moment you begin this novel, the multiple characters narrating SILVER BAY will pull you into their story and keep you guessing. They’ll fill your mind with images of Silver Bay, they’ll teach you that people can be transformed, and they’ll make you long for an Australian vacation to watch the magnificent whales and dolphins in the secluded bay with a rundown hotel. You may even be able to get a taste of an ice-cold beer and smell the salty air.

This is so much more than a love story. There are multi-dementions and angles to the story. There are multi-generations that give their perspectives, each one adding their pieces to the whole for a richer, more interesting tale.

I can’t even begin to sing the praises of Jojo Moyes and her incredible storytelling talent. It’s bloody brilliant. Prepare to have a few kleenexes on hand. Prepare to fall in love with Mike and Liza, and Aunt Kathleen and Nino, and even the dog Milly. Most of all, eleven-year-old Hannah will grab ahold of your heart and keep you wondering about her life, not as it is now, but what it will be ten years from now. If you’re like me, you’ll want to think about her and her family and friends and Silver Bay and the future.

There is NOTHING Jojo Moyes writes that I can’t or won’t rave about to anyone who’ll listen. You might as well put all her books on your to-read list, that is, if you haven’t done so already!

About the Author


Jojo Moyes signing at ALA

JOJO MOYES is the New York Times bestselling author of The Girl You Left Behind, Me Before You, and The Last Letter from Your Lover.  Her new novel One Plus One will be published by Pamela Dorman Books / Viking on July 1, 2014. She is also the author of the e-only novella Honeymoon in Paris as well as Silver Bay (Penguin / on-sale: August 26) and The Ship of Brides (Penguin / on-sale: October 28).  Moyes also writes for a variety of newspapers and magazines. She lives with her husband and their three children on a farm in Essex, England.

Praise for Jojo Moyes:

“When I finished [Me Before You], I didn’t want to review it: I wanted to reread it…Moyes’s story provokes tears that are redemptive, the opposite of gratuitous. Some situations, she forces the reader to recognize, really are worth crying over….Moyes’s heroine,  if Lou can be so styled, may not be heroic; her male counterpart may be nobody’s idea of a leading man—and yet with Lou and Will she has created

an affair to remember.”— New York Times Book Review

[Me Before You is] a hilarious, heart-breaking, riveting novel . . . I will stake my reputation on this book.”

—Anne Lamott, People

“There are books that you cannot put down. There are also books where you become so invested in the characters, you force yourself to stop reading to prolong the experience because you don’t want the story to end, and that’s what can happen when you read Jojo Moyes’…ME BEFORE YOU…. Moyes writes well-developed characters, and it’s impossible not to care about them. You’ll find yourself laughing, smiling, feeling angry and, yes, crying.” Associated Press

“We know from Moyes’ previous novel, the bestseller Me Before You, that this is an author worth following…THE GIRL YOU LEFT BEHIND is, well, impossible to leave behind…In this moving paean to daring, determination and perspicacity, Moyes keeps the reader guessing down to the last hankie.”

Los Angeles Times

Blog Tour and Review for FINALLY, FOREVER by Katie Kacvinsky
Apr 30th, 2014 by Liza Wiemer


Blog Tour and Review for FINALLY, FOREVER

by Katie Kacvinsky

Find Katie here: Website | Goodreads | Twitter

FINALLY, FOREVER is Katie’s FIFTH book! To learn more about the other four, including the first two books about Dylan and Gray—FIRST COMES LOVE and SECOND CHANCE, check out her book page.

My favorite quote from Katie’s bio: 

The First Book I Ever Wrote: Was in third grade. It was titled: “The Book of Swear Words,” where I wrote down every curse word I could think of, along with a carefully crafted definition. I showed it to my teacher, beaming with pride. He sent me to the principal’s office and called my parents into school. I was banned from the playground for two weeks and my book was destroyed. It obviously didn’t kill my writing ambitions.

Summary from Goodreads:

Author’s Note: Can be read as book three of the First Comes Love series, or as a standalone .
College baseball player, Gray Thomas, had to go far out into left field to find a girl like Dylan, the ex-love-of-his-life. More than a year later, literally at a crossroads, they find each other together on a journey that is a pause between a painful past and an uncertain future. In this sexy and offbeat summer read, Gray and Dylan discover that a destination isn’t always a place. More often, it’s a person. Now it’s time for them to finally decide, is this forever?

My review: (Five stars. NA, or for mature YA. Themes: Love, soul mates, life’s journeys, family.)

Finally, Forever is the third book about Gray and Dylan by Katie Kacvinsky, but can absolutely be read as a standalone novel. So, don’t think, “Oh, I can’t read this (yet) because I haven’t read the first two books.” Nope, that’s not at all necessary. Katie does a fabulous job bringing readers into the story without any need to summarize what’s going on. Jump right in!

And let me tell you, I love these characters. They are as opposite as day and night, yet their differences bring out the best in one another. I also love that they have an appreciation and respect for those differences. They know each other so well and are so connected, that apart they’re like two people submerged in water, fighting their way to the surface to breathe. Ahh, this is romance/love at its finest.

Dylan (named for Bob Dylan – her mom’s favorite musician) is one of the quirkiest, free spirited, delightful characters I’ve ever read. The fact that she falls for Gray, a more straight-laced, down-to-earth, baseball player, and he falls for her, is . . . well . . . a perfect pairing!

There’s a wonderful cast of secondary characters. Almost immediately, we’re introduced to Nick, who jumps right in as Dylan’s boyfriend. The tales we weave! Then there’s Dylan’s unwed pregnant sister Serena, who adds quite a bit of sparkle to the story. So does Rachel, Gray’s coach’s daughter. I’m being vague, but don’t make any assumptions here. Remember that phrase – If you assume you could make an ass out of you and me? Then there’s Mike, the comedian, Serena’s older-by-ten-years boyfriend.

I can’t begin to tell you how many yummy moments there are in this novel. Like the time Dylan and Gray get caught in a horrific storm, or Dylan picking up a hitchhiker, or the hospital scenes when Serena gives birth. There are moments when you’ll feel your heart jabbed with a icepick and so many more when you’ll be sighing with joy! And yes, you will laugh! If you don’t, well . . . let’s talk. For those who are really into music, you’ll appreciate all the musical references.

This book is geared toward young adults eighteen and older. But there are plenty of young adult novels that are much more graphic than this. So if you’re in high school and have read books Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles, then you’re fine. There are details of childbirth, sexual references between soul mates. You decide!

Dylan and Gray definitely make my list for favorite book couples.

If you love a romance with characters with personality, then you’ll love Finally, Forever!

I received a copy of this novel from the author in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Here’s a teaser. Graphics put together by Kim, at Kimberlyfaye Reads. Check out her post for more.

teaser 2

Blog Tour:

Monday, April 28            Kimberleyfaye Reads                    FF playlist/teaser
Tuesday, April 29           Waiting For Wentworth               Post/discussion
Wednesday, April 30     Liza Wiemer (author)                   Post/discussion
Thursday, May 1             Book Nerds Across America        Post/discussion
Friday, May 2                  Actin’ Up With Books                   10 Facts About Gray and Dylan
Saturday, May 3              Please Another Book                     Character interview

Monday, May 5               Heidi McLaughlin (author)          Review/Post
Tuesday, May 6               A Booklovers’ Review                   10 Facts about Finally, Forever 
Wednesday, May 7         The Reading Date                          Guest Post about cover design
Thursday, May 8            Good Choice Reading                    Post/Discussion
Friday, May 9             Katie Kacvinsky, Release Day

Monday, May 12            Reading Teen                                   Teaser/Giveaway
Tuesday, May 13            Stuck in YA Books                          Post/Discussion
Wednesday, May 14      A Backwards Story                         Post/Discussion

Take 5 Q & A & Giveaway: LOOKING FOR ME by BETH HOFFMAN
Apr 28th, 2014 by Liza Wiemer


Take 5 Q & A & Giveaway

Celebrating the release of the ppb edition.

Pub date: April 29, 2014

Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books

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

Teddi Overman loves her family and the simple life they share on their Kentucky farm, but when high school graduation nears and her mother pushes her towards secretarial school, Teddi knows it’s time to strike out on her own and pursue her dream of working with antiques. Gifted at refurbishing furniture and possessing an uncanny knack for uncovering the beauty and history in what other people discard, Teddi leaves Kentucky in the middle of the night and makes her way to Charleston, South Carolina. There, Teddi builds a new life for herself, and makes her dream come true in a small antiques shop frequented by a cast of quirky customers and friends. But each time Teddi, now thirty-six years old, leaves Charleston and visits the farm of her youth, she’s drawn to the mysterious beauty of Red River Gorge, where her brother went missing at the age of seventeen. Though everyone believes that her beloved brother is dead, Teddi never gives up hope of finding him. When circumstances lead her to clean out the old barn, Teddi makes a discovery that challenges her in ways she never could have imagined. And while trying to fit together the pieces of her family’s shattered past, Teddi unwittingly finds herself among the ruins. 

“Hoffman’s novel of a woman putting the pieces of her family’s secrets together combines a deep dramatic impact with Southern charm.”
Publishers Weekly

“Hoffman has a good ear for dialogue, and Teddie and her friends are realistic, appealing characters. Perfect for fans of family-centered women’s fiction, this book will have special appeal to readers interested in antiques and ‘shabby chic’ style.”

Beth-Hoffman-Author-PhotoABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Beth Hoffman was the president and co-owner of an interior design studio before becoming a full-time writer. Looking For Me is her second novel. She lives with her husband and two cats in Kentucky.

Find Beth:

WebsiteTwitter | Facebook

Beth Hoffman’s Spring/Summer 2014 Tour:
NAPERVILLE, IL, Anderson’s Bookshop, May 1
WICHITA, KS, Watermark Books, May 6
KANSAS CITY, MO, Unity Temple (with Rainy Day Books), May 8
WOODSTOCK, GA, Foxtale Book Shoppe, May 13
FAIRHOPE, AL, Page & Palette, May 15
EVANSVILLE, IN, Vanderburgh Public Library, June 15

My Five Star Review: 

An exceptional story 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. Continues . . . on Goodreads

Take 5 Q & A with Beth:

Q: I love how Teddi leaves notes for her brother Josh in the bottles. It inspired hope for the readers that she’d connect with him again. If there was anyone to whom you could leave notes in a bottle with the hope that they’d find it, who would it be and what would you want that person to know?

A: When I was in my mid-20s I rented part of a big coach house from an older woman named Marge. Marge was funny, kind, and a fabulous storyteller. She’d often invite me into her kitchen and we’d talk while she cooked and I sat at a bistro table surrounded by a menagerie of animals and pots of overgrown plants. We shared the carriage house for two years.

Then Marge reunited with her former husband and I changed jobs and moved away. We kept in touch for a while, but as the years passed we lost track of each other. I don’t know if Marge is still alive, but if I could leave her a note in a jar, it would say this: “Thank you for loving me when I didn’t love myself, and for knowing when to wrap me in your arms and when to leave me be. Thank you for Friday night spaghetti dinners, laughing at the moon, and helping me find my way. I miss your stories so much, especially those that probably weren’t true. I will always love you.”

Q: Teddi thrives on giving new life to old things. Is this something that you personally do? Please give an example. Where did the inspiration for this come from?

A: It all started when my grandmother let me explore her attic: there was everything from canning jars filled with old buttons, to boxes of musty hats, to furniture. I’d open the drawers of dusty chests and imagine what they once held, I’d try on moth-eaten hats, and I’d sit on the floor and sift through fragile photographs. Then I’d go downstairs to find my grandmother and ask questions: who were the people in the photographs? Why were there so many jars of buttons? Who had owned the black hat with the giant plume? I was fascinated by the people and histories behind these objects, and I’ve had a soft spot for old things ever since.

Q: Teddi had many unresolved issues with her mother, yet she loved her deeply.  What’s your best advice for someone who doesn’t see eye to eye with a person they love?

A:  It’s often the people we struggle to understand who can teach us the most. I think it’s important to ask questions and listen carefully to the answers. The more we share, the easier it is to understand and accept our differences. Had Teddi’s mother opened up and talked about the struggles in her own life, her relationship with her daughter would have been so much better. And the flip side is also true, if Teddi had shown more interest and been curious about her mother’s past, the lines of communication would have opened.

Q: Josh decides to live in the wilderness. What kind of research did you do to write these scenes or did you base any of it on personal experience? If so, what was it?

A: The animal and wilderness scenes were the easiest to write because of how I was raised. I grew up on my grandparents’ farm and was taught to be kind to all creatures. The crop fields backed up to hundreds of acres of dense woodlands that I explored with endless curiosity. Fox, white-tailed deer, raccoons, rabbits, woodchucks and countless birds (from raptors to tiny chickadees) were frequent visitors to our farm. Spending time in the wilderness was a big part of my everyday life and I’ve loved and studied nature and animals ever since.

Q: What most surprised you while writing this novel?

A: Crafting LOOKING FOR ME was the most emotional and cathartic writing experience I’ve ever had. To create a story that encompassed my deepest passions often left me raw and depleted one moment, and then set me on fire the next. It’s impossible for me to describe how much I loved writing this book and how surprised I was by how it evolved.

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Review: The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton
Apr 24th, 2014 by Liza Wiemer


Review: The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton

Published by: Candlewick

Pub Date: March 25, 2014

Find it here: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Audible | IndieBound


From Goodreads:

Magical realism, lyrical prose, and the pain and passion of human love haunt this hypnotic generational saga.

Foolish love appears to be the Roux family birthright, an ominous forecast for its most recent progeny, Ava Lavender. Ava—in all other ways a normal girl—is born with the wings of a bird.

In a quest to understand her peculiar disposition and a growing desire to fit in with her peers, sixteen-year old Ava ventures into the wider world, ill-prepared for what she might discover and naïve to the twisted motives of others. Others like the pious Nathaniel Sorrows, who mistakes Ava for an angel and whose obsession with her grows until the night of the Summer Solstice celebration.

That night, the skies open up, rain and feathers fill the air, and Ava’s quest and her family’s saga build to a devastating crescendo.

First-time author Leslye Walton has constructed a layered and unforgettable mythology of what it means to be born with hearts that are tragically, exquisitely human.

My review:

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender is magical realism, one of perhaps two I have read in a list of over 600 books since 2010. It was strange and different and enthralling. I definitely was pulled into the story of Ava Lavender, a winged girl born to a “odd” family. Walton does a great job giving readers a family history filled with wondrous occurrences and plagued with sadness. 

There are many metaphors and life lessons to be extracted from this novel. One of which is to accept or embrace your uniqueness. Love and the perils of love is another theme—choose wisely to whom you give your heart. 

Ava’s family history and ghosts.
Henry, Ava’s non-winged twin.
The bakery.

I deeply appreciated the opportunity to suspend logic and go for this ride in magical realism. Ava was a remarkable character and I was able to visualize what she would have looked like with her useless wings. The bakery scenes with the textures and scents had me drooling. What an imagination Leslye Walton has! The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender is a wonderful challenge for readers who want something different, something out of the ordinary. Mythical, magical, wondrous, unique.

Thank you so much, Candlewick, for the ARC!

Mar 30th, 2014 by Liza Wiemer


Review: MARGOT


Buy the novel:

AmazonBarnes & NobleIndieBound

From Goodreads:

Anne Frank has long been a symbol of bravery and hope, but there were two sisters hidden in the annex, two young Jewish girls, one a cultural icon made famous by her published diary and the other, nearly forgotten.

In the spring of 1959, The Diary of Anne Frank has just come to the silver screen to great acclaim, and a young woman named Margie Franklin is working in Philadelphia as a secretary at a Jewish law firm. On the surface she lives a quiet life, but Margie has a secret: a life she once lived, a past and a religion she has denied, and a family and a country she left behind.

Margie Franklin is really Margot Frank, older sister of Anne, who did not die in Bergen-Belsen as reported, but who instead escaped the Nazis for America. But now, as her sister becomes a global icon, Margie’s carefully constructed American life begins to fall apart. A new relationship threatens to overtake the young love that sustained her during the war, and her past and present begin to collide. Margie is forced to come to terms with Margot, with the people she loved, and with a life swept up into the course of history.

My Review:

What would have happened if Anne Frank’s sister Margot had lived?

Jillian Cantor asked that question and came up with a brilliantly imagined story that seems plausible. Instead of dying in the Holocaust, Margot survives and moves to Philadelphia. There, she takes on a new identity as Margie Franklin, a non-Jewish woman who is from Poland. She ends up working for a Jewish law firm and falling for Joshua, the attorney she works for. He definitely is interested, but not so interested that he would give up his Jewish girlfriend for a non-Jew. (This was difficult or Margot, because she desperately wanted to identify with other Jews, but had suffered so much that it was hard to reveal her secret. (Margie had a number tattooed onto her arm, which she kept hidden underneath clothes. She suffered from a tremendous amount of survivor guilt and was often profoundly lonely.)

The characters in this novel really resonated with me. Cantor showcased antisemitism and discrimination that was prevalent in the US in the 1940s and 50s. Having interviewed Holocaust survivors, Cantor was spot on in her depiction. There is a great cast of Jewish and non-Jewish supporting characters for readers to find likable and interesting.

Bravo to Jillian for being brave and daring to imagine a different ending for Anne Frank’s sister Margot. Obviously, it’s pretend, but in pretending it helps to keep the memory of Anne Frank, Margot Frank, and the others who died in the Holocaust in the forefront of our minds. It also makes you ask the question, what if they had lived? What would they have contributed to this world? Maybe we could all be a little kinder to one another. And wouldn’t it be a miracle if genocide would exist no more!

About Jillian Cantor:1651861







Blog Tour: THE JUNCTION of SUNSHINE and LUCKY by Holly Schindler, Post, Review, Giveaway
Jan 22nd, 2014 by Liza Wiemer



by Holly Schindler

Publisher: Dial

Pub. Date: February 6, 2014


Book Description:

“Beasts of the Southern Wild” meets Because of Winn Dixie in this inspiring story of hope.
August “Auggie” Jones lives with her Grandpa Gus, a trash hauler, in a poor part of town. So when her wealthy classmate’s father starts the House Beautification Committee, it’s homes like Auggie’s that are deemed “in violation.” Auggie is determined to prove that she is not as run-down as the outside of her house might suggest. Using the kind of items Gus usually hauls to the scrap heap, a broken toaster becomes a flower; church windows turn into a rainbow walkway; and an old car gets new life as spinning whirligigs. What starts out as a home renovation project becomes much more as Auggie and her grandpa discover a talent they never knew they had—and redefine a whole town’s perception of beauty, one recycled sculpture at a time. Auggie’s talent for creating found art will remind readers that one girl’s trash really is another girl’s treasure.


“…a heartwarming and uplifting story…[that] shines…with vibrant themes of community, self-empowerment and artistic vision delivered with a satisfying verve.” – Kirkus Reviews

“Axioms like ‘One man’s trash is another man’s treasure’ and ‘Beauty is in the eye of the beholder’ come gracefully to life in Schindler’s tale about the value of hard work and the power of community…


Auggie’s enthusiasm and unbridled creativity are infections, and likeminded readers will envy her creative partnership with [her grandfather] Gus.” – Publishers Weekly

My review:

The Junction of Sunshine and Lucky will leave you smiling and will have you seeing art through completely different lenses.

This novel will make students observe their environment and think about what they see around them. What is beauty? What is art? These are just some of the important themes. Family, friendship, forgiveness are three other concepts that fuel this novel, along with how we view others and judge them. People may live in poverty, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t have pride.

The Junction of Sunshine and Lucky would be a perfect novel for MG teachers to read out loud with or to their students, and then give them the opportunity to create their own art garden with repurposed items. Can’t you see it? A place set aside outside a school for beautiful works that children made from discarded junk? I definitely can. I also could see teachers bringing in artists who would be willing to help spearhead the project.

Here are a few things that loved about this MG debut novel by the talented Holly Schindler:
1. Auggie’s relationship with her grandfather Gus. There is a lot of love and respect to their relationship and it was so much fun to see them collaborate on their art.
2. The relationship between neighbors, helping one another, supporting each other, and standing up for their community.
3. Chuck, the pastor. He played an important role in Auggie’s life, filling in a little of the gap that’s been missing because she has no parents.
4. An appreciation for used items and junkyards.
5. One man’s junk is another one’s art. Do we have a right to tell others they’re wrong to see it that way?
6. Who is a true friend? This novel explores this issue.
7. Even if a person is no longer present, her influence can still guide you.
8. Non-traditional families.

Definitely a winner for second graders and above. I hope teachers will utilize this novel as well.



Twitter: @holly_schindler

Facebook: facebook.com/HollySchindlerAuthor

Author site: hollyschindler.com


THE JUNCTION OF SUNSHINE AND LUCKY & Repurposed Items (written by Holly Schindler)

In THE JUNCTION OF SUNSHINE AND LUCKY, Auggie and Gus repurpose old items from Gus’s trash hauls; they turn toasters or junked cars into metal flowers and wind chimes and even figures they refer to as their “company.”

I’ve been going to auctions since I was a little girl—first, I went with my folks.  These days, I go with my brother (an antiques dealer).  Some of my favorite finds (especially at rural, farm auctions) are the self-made primitives, one-of-a-kind items.  I’ve discovered all sorts of fun things—needlework on old burlap sacks, stools made from worn wooden Coke crates, quilts made from scraps of clothing.

IMG_1298I also do my fair share of repurposing old items myself.  Some of my favorite repurposed items include pieces of jewelry made from broken findings.  (The pendant of this one’s a pin with a busted clasp.  And the beads all came from broken necklaces…You can always come across jars of busted jewelry at flea markets or auctions.  They’re tough to pass up!)

You know, though, the entire manuscript of THE JUNCTION OF SUNSHINE AND LUCKY is kind of a repurposed item.  When I first drafted THE JUNCTION, it was a picture book.  But the first editors who saw it thought the concept of folk art was far too advanced for picture book readers.

So I did the same thing Auggie and Gus did in the book—I took the best, prettiest parts of the draft and I reinvented it as an MG novel.  It wasn’t easy taking a 1,000-word story and reimagining it as a 45,000-word book.  But neither is reinventing a copper pipe as a dancer!  It takes serious sweat to make your artistic vision a reality—using old supplies doesn’t make the process any easier, either.  In fact, you could say it’s tougher, because you don’t exactly have a blank page.  You’ve got to use metal that’s already been bent, wood that’s already been cut and painted.  You’ve got to alter your design to fit the materials.

I really think that whether it’s a necklace, a sculpture, or a book, repurposing materials gives the newer item more depth.  It already has its own history—its own backstory, in a sense!  (And we all know that a character with a rich backstory is a more three-dimensional character…)

 NEXT BLOG STOPOne Writer’s Journey


Young Readers:

Get your review posted here:

Holly Schindler’s Middles – hollyschindlermiddles.weebly.com Reviews can be sent to Holly using the Contact Me.



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CHASING SHADOWS by Swati Avasthi, illustrated by Craig Phillips – Review
Jan 3rd, 2014 by Liza Wiemer


by , illustrated by  

Published: September 24, 2013

Knopf Books for Young Readers


From Goodreads:15756269

Before: Corey, Holly, and Savitri are one unit—fast, strong, inseparable. Together they turn Chicago concrete and asphalt into a freerunner’s jungle gym, ricocheting off walls, scaling buildings, leaping from rooftops to rooftop.

But acting like a superhero doesn’t make you bulletproof…

After: Holly and Savitri are coming unglued. Holly says she’s chasing Corey’s killer, chasing revenge. Savitri fears Holly’s just running wild—and leaving her behind. Friends should stand by each other in times of crisis. But can you hold on too tight? Too long?

In this intense novel, Swati Avasthi creates a gripping portrait of two girls teetering on the edge of grief and insanity. Two girls who will find out just how many ways there are to lose a friend…and how many ways to be lost.

My review:

Swati Avasthi pushes the limits, and then goes even further to tell a raw, emotional, story of murder, friendship, love, sanity, and mental health. Using a combination of a graphic novel and first person narrative from two perspectives, readers will be hooked into the world Avasthi masterfully created. Bravo!!!!

Chasing Shadows tells the story of twins Corey and Holly, HS seniors and the children of a Chicago police officer. When a gunman targets their car and shoots Corey pointblank and barely leaves Holly alive, everything changes. The murder was witnessed by Corey’s girlfriend Savitri who was stopped in her car, waiting for them to go through the intersection after Corey and Holly became stuck at a red light. The three friends have had a long history together. They also have been involved in a unique sport – Freerunning, which involves incredible athleticism. The scenes describing their activities are breathtaking.

After Corey dies, Holly’s mental health slips. Readers will be brought into her world, which is often depicted in graphic novel format. It’s no less than astonishing.

I commend Avasthi for this BRAVE novel. The time and energy, the emotion, the heart, pain, and ultimately her soul had to have been poured into this novel. I think readers will learn a lot about taking risks, what friendship means and when you should put yourself first over a friend, and how one’s sanity can slip quickly and how critical it is for those around to recognize the symptoms. Everyone copes with loss differently. This novel showed an honest portrayal of how people can react in times of deep grief. The novel doesn’t have all the answers, but it shows that one needs to grasp on to what you can in order to find a way to continue, to have hope, to live.

Highly, highly recommend this novel.


About Swati – from her website:

Swati Avasthi has been writing fiction since she read Little House in the Big Woods at age five. Emily Bronte, Harper Lee, and others furthered her addiction. She institutionalized her habit at the University of Chicago, where she received her B.A., and at the University of Minnesota, where received her M.F.A. Her writing has received numerous honors including a Minnesota State Arts Board Fellowship, the Thomas H. Shevlin Fellowship, Loft’s Mentor Series Award, and a nomination for the Pushcart Prize. She is a creative writing professor at Hamline University and lives in the Twin Cities with her two large-ish dogs, two small-ish kids, and one husband (though he is worth two).

About her award-winning debut novel, Split: 

Split received the 2011 International Reading Association Awardthe 2010 Cybils award,a 2010 Silver Parent’s Choice Award, and the New Mexico State Book AwardYALSA,CCBC, and Bank Street were among those who included it their “best of” lists, and the Association of Booksellers for Children made it a New Voices Pick. It has been translated into four languages (German, Dutch, Korean, and Hungarian) and was nominated for fourteen other state awards.

“Avasthi has a great ear for naturalistic dialogue… Jace’s own history of violence makes him a complex and tortured protagonist, and his process of letting go is heart wrenching. A nuanced and mournful work; Avasthi is a writer to watch.”
“This powerful, never maudlin debut paints a visceral portrait of a 16-year-old on the run from an abusive father.”
Publisher’s Weekly (spoiler)
“This taut, complex family drama depicts abuse unflinchingly but focuses on healing, growth and learning to take responsibility for one’s own anger.”
Kirkus Reviews (spoiler)
“Jace’s narration is raw and intimate, dramatic and poetic; readers will feel his internal struggle keenly.”
School Library Journal (spoiler)

Swati Avasthi’s website




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