Beauty’s Daughter by Carolyn Meyer – Review & Giveaway
Nov 24th, 2013 by Liza Wiemer

Carolyn Meyer is Giving Thanks for her Readers! 

What is it like to be the daughter of the most beautiful woman in the world?
Hermione knows . . . her mother is Helen of Troy, the famed beauty of Greek myth. Helen is not only beautiful but also impulsive, and when she falls in love with charming Prince Paris, she runs off with him to Troy, abandoning her distraught daughter. Determined to reclaim their enchanting queen, the Greek army sails for Troy. Hermione stows away in one of the thousand ships in the fleet and witnesses the start of the legendary Trojan War.     In the rough Greek encampment outside the walls of Troy, Hermione’s life is far from that of a pampered princess. Meanwhile, her mother basks in luxury in the royal palace inside the city. Hermione desperately wishes for the gods and goddesses to intervene and end the brutal war—and to bring her love. Will she end up with the handsome archer Orestes, or the formidable Pyrrhus, leader of a tribe of fierce warriors? And will she ever forgive her mother for bringing such chaos to her life and the lives of so many others?
Author bio:
Carolyn Meyer is the author of more than fifty books for children and young adults, and has no intention of quitting any time soon. She lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico.


The Story of Hermione and Helen of Troy: 
After years of writing about the young lives of fascinating women of power, from Cleopatra to Victoria, in BEAUTY’S DAUGHTER I’ve drawn on the myths of ancient Greece to tell the story of what it must have been like to be the daughter of the most beautiful woman in the world.
When Helen leaves her husband and daughter and runs off to Troy with handsome Paris, a thousand Greek ships sail for Troy to bring her back..and her daughter, Hermione, goes with them as a stowaway. Hermione’s adventures on the Trojan beaches, her struggle for survival,, and her search for true love of her life drive this story.
Social media:
Follow me on Twitter: http://twitter.com/cmeyerbooks
Facebook: Carolyn Meyer Books

Q & A:

Q: I am curious about your research process for this novel. I know you utilized the Iliad, but clearly you did extensive research on Greek mythology. Also, your descriptions of palaces, Athens, and even the small details such as pots, clothing, weaponry, the ships, the role of women, were quite detailed. What kind of research did you have to do to gather this information?
A: About the research: The ILIAD provided information only about the last year of the Trojan War and nothing about what happened before or after. My main source was an invaluable book by Robert Graves, THE GREEK MYTHS, with references to dozens and dozens of characters and stories, some of which were relevant to Hermione’s story, beginning with her mother’s birth (see LEDA AND THE SWAN). I didn’t reread all of those stories, but I did find the information I needed to frame a coherent story. I also read books about Bronze Age Greece, and as you can imagine, I googled like mad to find diagrams of ancient palaces, layouts of Troy, pictures of ships, and all the other “elements of realism” needed to bring the story to life.
Q: Obviously, much of this novel came from your imagination and Greek mythology. Yet, it had an element of realism. There seemed to be a wonderful balance. Since it’s not clear whether Helen of Troy really existed, what was your ultimate goal in bringing Hermione and Helen’s story to life?
A: I doubt very much that Helen of Troy really existed–or any of those other wonderful characters–but the issues seem very real to me, and very human, something readers can relate to.
Q: What is your next project?
A: Next project: a new treatment of the story of Anastasia of Russia is in the editing/rewriting stage, and I’m working on a first draft of a novel about the Harvey Girls, in the Southwest in the 1920s. Quite a change from ancient Greece!

My review:

Posted on Goodreads:

Cover – Gorgeous!

I’m always in awe of those who love to dig in and research history with a passion that ends up pouring out onto the pages of a novel. Carolyn Meyer is such a writer. She brings to life a history that may or may not have existed. After all, no one knows for sure if Helen of Troy really existed. Certainly, the mythology described in the novel is just that – mythology. But readers will be swept away by Hermione’s journey, which takes her to the beaches outside of Troy where she lives in semi-permenant shelter during the ten year war her father battles in order to get his wife Helen back from Prince Paris. Readers will travel with Hermione to barbarous lands with a husband she despises and go on a quest to find and save the man she truly loves. You’ll walk the streets of Athens, go into lavish palaces, sail on a ship with concubines, fight with warriors, watch Helen through a seer’s eyes, and see the wrath of the Greek gods. Helen certainly possessed a lot of power and was cherished for her beauty. Hermione — a red-haired, freckled girl — was favored by her father, and may or may not have been the daughter of Helen. What she lacked in beauty, she possessed in kindness.(If she looked anything like the cover of this novel, then I’d say she was beautiful!)

This is perfect for school libraries and classrooms teaching Greek mythology. In addition, anyone who likes mythology, romance, history, will appreciate this finely written novel. It will hold your attention and has plenty of action.

Thank you to the publisher for providing a review copy!

Victoria Rebels


Queen Victoria’s personal journals inform this captivating first-person account of one of history’s most prominent female leaders.
Queen Victoria most certainly left a legacy—under her rule as the longest reigning female monarch in history, the British Empire was greatly expanded and significant industrial, cultural, political, scientific, and military changes occurred within the United Kingdom. To be a young woman in a time when few other females held positions of power was to lead in a remarkable age—and because Queen Victoria kept personal journals, this historical novel from award-winning author Carolyn Meyer shares authentic emotional insight along with accurate information, weaving a true story of intrigue and romance.
Cleopatra Confesses
It is the first century B.C. Cleopatra, the third of the pharaoh’s six children, is the one that her father has chosen to be the next queen of Egypt. But when King Ptolemy is forced into exile, Cleopatra is left alone to fend for herself in a palace rife with intrigue and murder. Smart, courageous, ambitious and sensuously beautiful, she possesses the charm to cause two of history’s most famous leaders to fall in love with her. But as her cruel sisters plot to steal the throne, Cleopatra realizes there is only one person on whom she can rely–herself.
In Cleopatra Confesses, award winning author Carolyn Meyer writes the story of the teenage girl who would become Egypt’s most unforgettable queen, from her early years to her her ultimate destiny.
The Wild Queen
Mary Stuart was just five years old when she was sent to France to be raised alongside her future husband. But when the frail young king dies, eighteen-year-old Mary is stripped of her title as Queen of France and set adrift in the harsh world, alone. Determined to reign over what is rightfully hers, Mary returns to Scotland. Hopingthat a husband will help her secure the coveted English throne, she marries again, but the love and security she longs for elude her. Instead, the fiery young queen finds herself embroiled in a murder scandal that could cost her the crown. And her attempts to bargain with her formidable “sister queen,” Elizabeth I of England, could cost her her very life.
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A Little Too Much by Lisa Desrochers – Review
Nov 11th, 2013 by Liza Wiemer

A Little Too Much17824633

by Lisa Desrochers

Published by William Morrow Impulse

416 pages

Purchase this book here: Barnes and Noble or Amazon


Lisa Desrochers’ website

From Goodreads:

In the follow-up to Lisa Desrochers’ explosive New Adult novel A Little too Far, Alessandro Moretti must face the life he escaped and the girl he loved and left behind.

Twenty-two year old Hilary McIntyre would like nothing more than to forget her past. As a teenager abandoned to the system, she faced some pretty dark times. But now that’s all behind her. Hilary has her life on track, and there’s no way she’ll head back down that road again.

Until Alessandro Moretti—the one person who can make her remember—shows up on her doorstep. He’s even more devastatingly gorgeous than before, and he’s much too close for comfort. Worse, he sees right through the walls she’s built over these last eight years, right into her heart and the secrets she’s guarding.

As Hilary finds herself falling back into love with the man who, as a boy both saved and destroyed her, she must decide. Past or future? Truth or lies?

My review:

If you’re looking for something different in NA, then pick up the next book in Lisa Desrochers’ second novel in her A LITTLE TOO FAR series. This novel is filled with some very difficult and painful life experiences for Alessandro (a young man who was close to becoming a priest, but decided against it in A LITTLE TOO FAR) and Hilary, a woman who has spent most of her young adult life numbing herself from the horrible experiences she had during her childhood. Sex with her live-in pseudo boyfriend is one of those things she uses to keep a wall around herself. It’s not love; it’s purely physical. But Alessandro enters Hilary’s life, reigniting the pain Hilary’s tried so hard to keep buried in her past. His presence also starts to knock down her defenses. There are many twists and turns that will surprise readers. Given all that Alessandro and Hilary have gone through, readers will be sympathetic and root for these two to find some peace and happiness. It’s not easy. Their future will be shaky, because no matter what, they’ll still have the past creep up on them. Hopefully, together they can get through it. Painful. Powerful. Memorable. I look forward to reading the next book in the series.

MASTERING THE ART OF FRENCH EATING by Ann Mah – 5 Star Review & Giveaway
Oct 9th, 2013 by Liza Wiemer


Lessons of Food and Love From a Year in Paris



Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books

Pgs: 288

Thank you to Pamela Dorman Books for providing a copy for the giveaway! (See below)

Anyone who knows me well knows that I LOVE TO COOK! Cooking is a way for me to nurture the people I care about. Most of the cooking I do is simplistic, but I always pour a lot of love into each dish. I am not the type of person who collects cookbooks, but I ADORE recipes with a story. Family recipes that have been passed down from generation to generation, food that has a history and holds memories for those who eat it. If you’re anything like me, then you’ll savor every page of MASTERING THE ART OF FRENCH EATING!

(Oh, and one more thing: Julia Child is mentioned in this book. My nickname for my grandma was Julia Child. I used to call her up and when she answered I would say, “May I please speak with Julia Child?” And my grandma knew that I had a cooking question. I cherish that memory sooooo much and whenever I make a recipe that she passed down to me, I’m reminded of that very special bond we had and how cooking and eating that delicious food brought us closer together.)

For all my Wisconsin and Illinois blogger/author/librarian friends, you can bet we’ll be eating something from this book at my annual “A Novel Cuisine Luncheon.”

From Goodreads: 

When journalist Ann Mah’s diplomat husband is given a three-year assignment in Paris, Ann is overjoyed. A lifelong foodie and Francophile, she immediately begins plotting gastronomic adventures à deux. Then her husband is called away to Iraq on a year-long post—alone. Suddenly, Ann’s vision of a romantic sojourn in the City of Light is turned upside down.

So, not unlike another diplomatic wife, Julia Child, Ann must find a life for herself in a new city.  Journeying through Paris and the surrounding regions of France, Ann combats her loneliness by seeking out the perfect pain au chocolat and learning the way the andouillette sausage is really made. She explores the history and taste of everything from boeuf Bourguignon to soupe au pistou to the crispiest of buckwheat crepes. And somewhere between Paris and the south of France, she uncovers a few of life’s truths.

Like Sarah Turnbull’s Almost French and Julie Powell’s New York Timesbestseller Julie and Julia, Mastering the Art of French Eating is interwoven with the lively characters Ann meets and the traditional recipes she samples. Both funny and intelligent, this is a story about love—of food, family, and France.

My Review:

From page one, Ann Mah transported me to Paris! I savored each tasty page, identified with her frustrations over cultural differences, and travelled along side her as she journeyed throughout France, searching for the best cuisine.

I found myself drifting into memories of Paris and France, sipping wine, eating in cafes and restaurants. Most of the memories were joyous, but some came with a flush of embarrassment as I remembered that we initially ate like barbarian Americans, stuffing food down our throats in comparison to our French counterparts. In France, eating is an art form, something to be savored over hours. (Dinner started at 8 pm – if not later – and would go on for hours. Sometimes people sat until midnight or later. Can’t imagine a restaurant here allowing patrons to sit that long. In that period of time, they’d rotate at least 2-3 more sets of guests.) I thought about this and others awkward and embarrassing moments after Mah shares some of hers.

Mastering the Art of French Eating is much more than a book about food. It captures the author’s struggles to create a life for herself after her diplomat husband is given a year assignment in Iraq. Mah makes some comparisons to her own life to the famous chef, Julia Child. Like Child’s husband, Mah’s husband is a diplomat. Mah was raised on watching Julia’s show and when she was a child, she cooked recipes from Child’s cookbooks. There are plenty of other connections that culinary fans with enjoy.

The subtitle for this novel is: Lessons in Food and Love From a Year in Paris. Yes, there are lots of lessons about food and readers will love the stories and the history behind the tastes and smells. Her trips across France are vivid and readers will have no problem picturing the countryside and the people she met. The lessons on love are interwoven and subtle. Mah had to learn to love herself in a different way, to appreciate what she has to contribute or stay locked up in her apartment alone and lonely. Food helps her get out into the streets of Paris and out of her comfort zone. There’s also the love she has for her husband and how they stay connected so far apart from each other.

I absolutely recommend this novel for anyone who loves Paris. France. Cooking. Eating. Or if you appreciate a well-written memoir. There are recipes included throughout the book. You bet that I’ll be trying plenty of them!

About Ann Mah:Ann-in-Paris-KGL

From her blog:

I’m a food and travel writer and author of a food memoir, Mastering the Art of French Eating (Viking Penguin), and a novel, Kitchen Chinese (HarperCollins). My articles have appeared in the New York Times, Condé Nast Traveler, the International Herald Tribune and other publications. I currently split my time between Paris and New York City; I love eating everywhere. Thank you for sharing my food adventures!

To learn more about Ann, check out her website.




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Blog Tour: RECLAIMED by Sarah Guillory – Review & ARC Giveaway
Oct 2nd, 2013 by Liza Wiemer

Reclaimed Banner

RECLAIMED by Sarah GuillorySarah Guillory

Published by Spencer Hill Contemporary

296 pages

From Goodreads:

Jenna Oliver doesn’t have time to get involved with one boy, let alone two.

All Jenna wants is to escape her evaporating small town and her alcoholic mother. She’s determined she’ll go to college and find a life that is wholly hers—one that isn’t tainted by her family’s past. But when the McAlister twins move to town and Jenna gets involved with both of them, she learns the life she planned may not be the one she gets.

Ian McAlister doesn’t want to start over; he wants to remember.

Ian can’t recall a single thing from the last three months—and he seems to be losing more memories every day. His family knows the truth, but no one will tell him what really happened before he lost his memory. When he meets Jenna, Ian believes that he can be normal again because she makes not remembering something he can handle.

The secret Ian can’t remember is the one Luke McAlister can’t forget.

Luke has always lived in the shadow of his twin brother until Jenna stumbles into his life. She sees past who he’s supposed to be, and her kiss brings back the spark that life stole. Even though Luke feels like his brother deserves her more, Luke can’t resist Jenna—which is the trigger that makes Ian’s memory return.

Jenna, Ian, & Luke are about to learn there are only so many secrets you can keep before the truth comes to reclaim you.

My review: (Reclaimed will be on my “top reads list” for 2013!)

As I turned each page of RECLAIMED and got further and further into the novel, I was overwhelmed with the desire to race through to find out what would happen next. I had to force myself not to read too quickly or jump ahead. Thank goodness I didn’t, because that would have been a HUGE mistake. No matter how tempting, don’t do it.

RECLAIMED left me speechless, awed by an unexpected plot unlike anything I have ever read.
When Jenna Oliver gets romantically involved with the McAlister twins, Ian – the sweet gentleman, Luke – the dark and daring one, she has know idea how complicated her life will become. But don’t look at this novel as a love triangle. That would be another mistake. Instead, take in the story and allow yourself to be carried away without making any judgments. Take in the details of Solitude, the small town where the novel takes place, appreciate the three points-of-view from narrators Jenna, Ian, and Luke, find sympathy and compassion in the painful losses created by death and divorce and the complications that are the result from these difficult life events. Discover “Reclaimed,” and the underlying fantastic metaphors that it represents for yourself.
I was totally sucked in, mesmerized by the story that I lost track of time until I read the last word. Without a doubt, RECLAIMED has claimed a spot on my top reads list of 2013!
Bravo, Sarah Guillory!

Blog tour schedule:

October 1 –  Book Review – Jenuine Cupcake Blogspot (Jen Fisher)405
October 2 – Book Review – WhoRuBlog (Liza)
October 3 – Author Interview – Queen Ella Bee (Gaby)
October 4 – Book Review – K-Books (Kayleigh)
October 5 – Guest Post – A Dream Within A Dream (Stephanie)
October 6 –  Guest Post – Wastepaper Prose (Susan)
October 7 – Guest Post – Supernatural Snark (Jenny)
October 8 –  Author Interview – A Book and a Latte (Jen)
October 9 –  Book Review – Fiction Fare (Jaime Arkin)
October 10 –  Author Interview – Met In Eleven (Nurafidah)
October 11 –  Guest Post – Book Savvy (Sam)
October 12 –  Guest Post – Reading Lark
October 13 – Guest Post – Portrait of a Book (Christin)
October 14 –  Character Interview & Review – Swoony Boys Podcast (Meg)

Click here to learn more about Sarah Guillory

Buy Reclaimed here:


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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

308 pages25b3e3_4faf26a11733c85b733ee6488e0b9cbe.png_srz_241_362_75_22_0.50_1.20_0.00_png_srz


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.

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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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HOOKED ON AUDIOBOOKS: Why I love to listen
Aug 28th, 2013 by Liza Wiemer


My friend Heidi from YA Bibliophile got me hooked on audiobooks when she raved about THE SCORPIO RACES by Maggie Stiefvater, one of my all-time 10626594favorite novels. Even though I had already read it, she convinced me that I absolutely had to listen to it. I don’t remember her exact words, but I can definitely remember her face lighting up and the enthusiasm in her voice. That enthusiasm was contagious. I checked out the audiobook from our library and fell in love with the novel all over again.  and  gave fantastic performances and I appreciating the instrumental music that Maggie had created herself! My heart ached when the end came. I wanted to listen over and over and over again. I couldn’t get enough. I needed more.

It’s not like I hadn’t listened to an audiobook before, it’s just that they were reserved for long family road trips. We listened to several Harry Potter novels driving to Memphis, TN and back home to Milwaukee, a slew of Battle of the Books novels on a trip to Door County, WI, and the exceptional historical novel THE COFFEE TRADER by David Liss during our road trip to look at colleges with Justin. These books helped pass the time and kept us all engaged and interested in more than just the scenery.

But THE SCORPIO RACES changed everything for me. Now, I listen to audiobooks almost every day. I’m often juggling three different novels at once: an audiobook, ebook on my iPad, and a good ol’ traditional paper novel. Sometimes, while I’m on the elliptical, I choose to listen to the audiobook instead of reading one from the iPad. I get completely engrossed in the story and my thirty plus minutes pass quickly. I’ll put the audiobook on for short trips to the grocery store and – CONFESSION – sometimes get so engrossed that I sit in the car and listen to the end of a chapter. When I’m cooking or folding laundry I’ll put on the audiobook instead of music. The key is being able to stay focused on both tasks.


101941571. When you listen to an audiobook, you hear the author’s words differently. The characters come alive based on the interpretation of the performer. If he or she is outstanding, you’ll totally find yourself immersed in the story. Sometimes it’s easier to NOT read the novel first. I did that with DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE by , performed by . I absolutely loved the performance and wouldn’t want to experience that series any other way. The same is true with SHADOW AND BONE and SIEGE AND STORM by , performed by .

2. Listening to an audiobook adds dimension to the story that you won’t necessarily get just from reading it. For example: 9464733BEAUTY QUEENS by . The book won quite a few awards, including Audie Award for Narration by the Author or Authors; Audie Award Nominee for Teens (2012)Los Angeles Times Book Prize Nominee for Young Adult Literature (2011)Kirkus Reviews Best Teen Books of the Year (2011). Libba Bray did ALL the voices and to “experience” her novel through her ear – how she heard the characters in her head – was absolutely amazing. I am certain I wouldn’t have loved the novel nearly as much if I hadn’t heard her interpretation. There was music, bells, commercial breaks, footnotes that came to life because of the audio production. I have no doubt I would have “read” it differently.

3. I love books. I love to read. And there is never enough time in the day for it. Audiobooks expands my “reading” time.

4. Sharpens my listening skills. I know this is obvious, but the mind can definitely wander. Audiobooks keep me mentally engaged and rarely do I have to go back because I wasn’t paying attention.

5. Get audiobooks from your local library. I live in Milwaukee County, so our library system is huge. If my library doesn’t have a book I want, I most likely can reserve it from a different one. Most audiobooks are on CD. They’re great for the car, but not as convenient for in-home listening.  The best part, borrowing them is FREE! But there’s one more reason why I love going to the library to look at audiobooks: I’m exposed to novels I 49491never would have picked up. That’s what happened with THE COFFEE TRADER. It was something I saw while browsing the audiobook section and it intrigued me. Six years later, I still remember the novel vividly.

6. I recently started a monthly subscription to Audible.com – another suggestion from Heidi. I’m in the early stages, but it seems like an economical way to get access to a lot of audiobooks, especially my favorites. They have a free month trial offer and various programs that make it worthwhile to check out, including “Daily Deals.” Before subscribing, however, I used the library audiobooks A LOT. I wanted to be certain that downloading audiobooks and listening to them outside of drive-time was what I wanted. When I started dragging the old CD boom box out of the garage and lugging it around the house, I decided to take the leap to Audible. I love the convenience of having the audiobook on my iPhone and I never have to worry about where I left off. There are many great features, including bookmarking favorite sections and auto-rewind, which you can set at various increments. I use the standard 30 seconds.

A note to teachers: Audiobooks are a fantastic way to fuel a love for reading. I truly believe that if students don’t read it’s because they hate it. I hear it all the time, “I hate to read.” Usually they say it’s because they’re “forced” to read things that they have no interest in. We could discuss the fine points of why a particular novel is a good read, how it will expand their higher level thinking skills, expose them to a classic, engage them if they give it a chance. FORGET IT. These kids really aren’t interested. And it breaks my heart since I LOVE TO READ! Obviously, reading certain books is critical to English curriculum, but shouldn’t there be some flexibility when a student is floundering? How many adults do you know that don’t read? Or only read a few books a year? I think audiobooks can change that, and if we give students access to audiobooks in middle school and high school, it may chance their perceptions and may even help them expand their attention span. Think about it: we read to children in pre-school and even into the early elementary years. I taught those grades, and more often than not, most, if not all, the kids sat and listened. Why? Because they were intrigued, even hooked, especially when I used different voices and brought the book to life. That’s what an audiobook does. They engage people differently. Not everyone is a visual learner or a strong reader. Audiobooks could change the experience of reading and perhaps change a YA’s attitude toward it. Hopefully, that’s reason enough to encourage it in the classroom.


THE GIRL YOU LEFT BEHIND by Jojo Moyes, Review & ARC Giveaway
Aug 12th, 2013 by Liza Wiemer


by Jojo Moyes, Review & ARC Giveaway

Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books,

Pages: 384


Jojo Moyes at her signing at ALA – Chicago


From Goodreads:

What happened to the girl you left behind?

In 1916 French artist Edouard Lefevre leaves his wife Sophie to fight at the Front. When her town falls into German hands, his portrait of Sophie stirs the heart of the local Kommandant and causes her to risk everything – her family, reputation and life – in the hope of seeing her true love one last time.

Nearly a century later and Sophie’s portrait is given to Liv by her young husband shortly before his sudden death. Its beauty speaks of their short life together, but when the painting’s dark and passion-torn history is revealed, Liv discovers that the first spark of love she has felt since she lost him is threatened…

In The Girl You Left Behind two young women, separated by a century, are united in their determination to fight for the thing they love most – whatever the cost.

My review – in two parts:

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.

Moyes tells two stories in this novel, which eventually intertwine. The first takes place St. Pieronne, France in 1916/17 and is told in first person by Madame Sophie Lefevre. The men are away at war and Germans occupy much of France, including St. Pieronne where Sophie and her family live and run a hotel that’s been completely stripped of anything of value by the Germans. What Sophie does to protect/shield/feed her family and the village is incredibly heroic. What struck me to the core was how brutal the Germans were. I JUST DIDN’T KNOW. I know a ton about WWII. But I didn’t have a clue about WWI. Was I not listening in history class? Or wasn’t this taught? The Holocaust was HELL on earth, but I had no idea that the Germans did many of the same things during WWI – carting people off to camps, putting them in trains. And the brutality! It gutted me, but ultimately didn’t shock me. What shocked me was how the village people treated Sophie. You’ll have to read the novel to understand what I mean.

Now that I got that out of the way, let me explain that much of this story revolves around a stunning portrait of Sophie painted by her husband Edouard. The Kommandant can’t keep his eyes off the painting. It is this painting that connects the second story in this novel.

The second story takes place in 2006 and is told in third person. Liv Halston is a young widow in possession of Edouard’s painting of Sophie. His family wants it back. The twists and turns and the concept of reparation is an important issue, and a heated one, especially to Holocaust survivors or descendants who are fighting to get their families’ wealth back when it was stolen from them during WWII. But Liv’s painting had no connection to WWII. Yet Edouard’s family and the company they hired to get Sophie’s painting back, use this issue to sway public opinion and makes Liv a villain.
This ripped my heart out on so many different levels. I am deeply sympathetic to those who lost everything in the Holocaust. Yet, at the same time, I saw how absolutely wrong it was to throw the weight of this onto Liv’s shoulders. Horribly painful.
To further complicate things, Liv is in a relationship that has a HUGE personal implication and connection to this case.

This novel is . . .
so incredibly impactful and eye-opening!
deals with important issues.
filled with so many deep, personal wounds.

It brings up an intense need to have the characters, especially Liv, heal, live, and have HOPE.
I’m tempted to say more, but I don’t want to ruin the story for anyone.

Like Jojo’s previous novel that I reviewed, ME BEFORE YOU, THE GIRL YOU LEFT BEHIND will stay with me for a long time. I suspect I’ll be thinking about it and talking about it for years to come.
I highly recommend this novel. But be prepared, it will affect you!
Put this on your must-read list.
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For another opportunity to win THE GIRL YOU LEFT BEHIND, go to: Chick Lit Central

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