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Blog Tour: DIE FOR YOU by Amy Fellner Dominy – Review, Novel Secret & #Giveaway
Nov 16th, 2016 by Liza Wiemer

die-for-you-banner

 

ABOUT DIE FOR YOU:die-for-you-coverf

Theirs was the perfect love story.

After Emma Lorde’s parents’ divorce forces her to move halfway across the state of Arizona to live with her father, Emma must face her senior year in a new school knowing absolutely no one.

Then she meets Dillon Hobbs and something just clicks.

Dillon introduces Emma to friends she can call her own. He provides a refuge from the chaos of her past and the security of a commitment that he promises will last forever. And because circumstances of her messy life forced Emma to put aside her dream of pursuing archaeology, Dillon creates a blueprint for a future together.
He saves her, over and over, by loving her more than she thought anyone ever would.

But just when everything seems picture-perfect, Emma is offered an opportunity that will upend the future they’ve planned. Uncertainty grows, and fear spirals into something darker.

Now Dillon is the one who needs saving.

But how much do you sacrifice for the one you love? What if saving Dillon means losing herself?

LINKS: Amazon | B&N 

About Amy Fellner Dominyafd

Amy Fellner Dominy is a former advertising copywriter, MFA playwright and hula-hoop champion. Her novels for teens and tweens include Die For You (11/8/16); A Matter of Heart, Audition & Subtraction; and OyMG, a Sydney Taylor Notable Book.  Amy’s first picture book, Cookiesaurus Rex, will be published by Disney, Fall 2017. Amy lives in Phoenix, Arizona with her husband, various pets and two kids who occasionally stop by for free meals.

LINKS: Website | Twitter | Facebook

Die for YouDie for You by Amy Fellner Dominy

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Profound, painful, powerful. DIE FOR YOU is hard to put down.

Readers will get sucked into the lives of Dylan and Emma and watch what appears to be a beautiful relationship spiral out of control. Amy Fellner Dominy creates a story that could be going on at any high school. Yes, with different circumstances, but we’ve seen the headlines—teens so wrapped up in each other that one or both would be willing to die to keep the other or to make sure they stay together. Forever. In death. Not all relationships that are unhealthy take it that far, but here are some chilling statistics: One in three young people will be in an unsafe or unhealthy relationship. WOW!

Though this is a gut-wrenching, important topic, the story is gripping. The way Amy integrated Emma’s family history and Dylan’s family history brought an eye-opening understanding to the intensity of the relationship. Another very cool aspect was Emma’s love for archeology, which plays a central theme in the novel. I loved the story created around Pompeii.

Friendship is also explored. How loyal should a friend be? What constitutes disloyalty? And then there is family betrayal as well as loyalty to one’s family. What lines should or shouldn’t be crossed?

Without a doubt, DIE FOR YOU is the type of novel that will take you on a journey of reflection, and for some a mirror to look into and hopefully recognize before things get too out of hand. This kind of ugly love is not love at all. It needs to be revealed. It needs to be understood.

Brava, Amy! I highly recommend this novel!

Novel Secret by Amy Fellner Dominy

This book started with an innocent question: “How did you and your husband end up together?”

I asked a friend that question about twenty years ago. I’ve always been a romantic and there’s nothing I love as much as a good love story. But what I got instead was a reply that sent shivers up my spine. She told me her husband had said that if she ever left him, he’d kill himself.

And she believed him.

So she married him.

I never forgot that over the years. How could a smart, talented, beautiful woman let herself be manipulated that way? I would never fall for that kind of emotional blackmail…or would I?

What if I loved someone and what if I worried for his life? What if he convinced me his need was love? What if I thought it came down to his life or mine?

What would I be willing to sacrifice?

What should I be willing to sacrifice?

I always say it was the search for answers that led me to write Die for You. But really, it began with a question.

Thanks so much for hosting me!

Amy

GIVEAWAY

(3 copies of DIE FOR YOU – USA only)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tour Schedule:

This Side of Home by Renée Watson, Review
Feb 6th, 2015 by Liza Wiemer

This Side of Home22392935-1

by Renée Watson

Published by Bloomsbury

Pub date: February 3, 2015

More about the author: Website | Tumblr | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

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

From Goodreads:

Identical twins Nikki and Maya have been on the same page for everything—friends, school, boys and starting off their adult lives at a historically African-American college. But as their neighborhood goes from rough-and-tumble to up-and-coming, suddenly filled with pretty coffee shops and boutiques, Nikki is thrilled while Maya feels like their home is slipping away. Suddenly, the sisters who had always shared everything must confront their dissenting feelings on the importance of their ethnic and cultural identities and, in the process, learn to separate themselves from the long shadow of their identity as twins.

In her inspired YA debut, Renée Watson explores the experience of young African-American women navigating the traditions and expectations of their culture.

My Review:

This Side of HomeThis Side of Home by Renée Watson

An eye-opening view of a predominantly African American community going through transformation. Race relations and honest portrayal and perspective in an beautifully written story of two sisters as they navigate through their last year of high school. A must for all classrooms and libraries, as long as teachers and librarians make an effort to book-talk, promote, and discuss it with their students.

Cover: Fit the novel well with the neighborhood and the girl. I love the smile on her face, which after reading the novel I would interpret as something more than just a smile, but a wonderful sense of pride.

I haven’t read any novel that addresses race relations in quite this way. This book is needed in every classroom, every library. It needs to be book-talked, encouraging young adults to read it, and then discuss it.

I hope that Renee’s book gets a lot of attention. I love that seventeen-year-old Mia says that Black History is OUR history, meaning it belongs to everyone and that everyone should learn it. It should be honored, respected, taught, and shared. As we approach Black History month, there is a tremendous amount to learn, and it’s rich and deep and fascinating and eye-opening. It encompasses so much. I love that that Mia’s parents (and Nikki’s) are community advocates. It just shows that we can ALL be advocates. That it’s important not to stand back and let others be our voice. It’s important to join in.

Reading this book once again shows the divide. I found my heart aching. I found that I was frustrated over the unfairness of cultural division. I found myself cheering for these characters as they succeeded in achieving their dreams. Many things that they endured, I could relate to. On the other hand, try as I may, everyone’s experience is unique and to learn about some of Portland’s Black history, the horrific discrimination, the very real disparity between neighborhoods and educational opportunities, community services, and media attention is, frustrating. Frustrating because we live in a world where this happens ever second of the day and few people do anything about it.

There was a lot to absorb in this novel. Mia brings out an extremely valid point: Why can’t the media report on the fantastic things going on at our school? The media doesn’t hesitate to point out all the bad, but there also doesn’t seem to be room for good. (In this novel, I question the handling of this by the principal. He had the opportunity to show the world the successful graduates, but seems to cancel the media, since they don’t show up.)

What I love about this novel is that it’s an opportunity for dialogue. We need diverse books. The more that become available and students are encouraged to read within classrooms, the more we bridge a space for communication and understanding.

This book hits on some tough issues. Black and White relationships, poverty, violence. It’s a critical step. But let it have meaning and purpose. Share it, discuss it. I’ll be recommending this to everyone!

Thank you to Bloomsbury for providing the ARC.

View all my reviews

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

Review:Unknown

RUMBLE by Ellen Hopkins

Publisher: McElderry Books

Pub date: August 26, 2014

Format: Free verse poetry

Pages: 560

 

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

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

 

From Goodreads:

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

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

Matthew Turner doesn’t have faith in anything.

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

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

My review:

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

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

THE GOSPEL OF WINTER by Brendan Kiely – 5 star review
May 6th, 2014 by Liza Wiemer

THE GOSPEL OF WINTER18048982

By Brendan Kiely

Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books (Simon & Schuster)

Issues: Sexual assault of a boy by a priest, drug use, divorce

Why this novel is important?

This kind of abuse happens every single day.

Finally, a novel that addresses the issue, offers a raw, authentic experience and encourages seeking help.

Victims of any kind of abuse will read this and know they’re alone.

A critical read to understand how abusers manipulate victims and the potential reactions of those subjected to abuse.

Buy a signed copy:  Boswell Books

or buy here: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Audible

I heard Brendan speak during The Gentleman’s Tour with Jason Reynolds and John Corey Whaley at Boswell Books, Milwaukee.

From my Twitter feed: 

Apr 30

Secrets, courage, friendship! That is what The Gospel of Winter is about, crossing the…

 

1374162_211445232360694_254475920_nAbout Brendan:

From his website: Brendan Kiely received an MFA in creative writing from The City College of New York.  His writing has appeared in FictionGuernicaThe AWP Writer’s Chronicle, and other publications. Originally from the Boston area, he now teaches at an independent high school and lives with his wife in Greenwich Village.

Website | Twitter | Facebook

 

From Goodreads:

A fearless debut novel about the restorative power of truth and love after the trauma of abuse.

As sixteen-year-old Aidan Donovan’s fractured family disintegrates around him, he searches for solace in a few bumps of Adderall, his father’s wet bar, and the attentions of his local priest, Father Greg—the only adult who actually listens to him.

When Christmas hits, Aidan’s world collapses in a crisis of trust when he recognizes the darkness of Father Greg’s affections. He turns to a crew of new friends to help make sense of his life: Josie, the girl he just might love; Sophie, who’s a little wild; and Mark, the charismatic swim team captain whose own secret agonies converge with Aidan’s.

The Gospel of Winter maps the ways love can be used as a weapon against the innocent—but can also, in the right hands, restore hope and even faith. Brendan Kiely’s unflinching and courageous debut novel exposes the damage from the secrets we keep and proves that in truth, there is power. And real love.

 

My Review: 

Raw, heartbreaking, authentic, important! 

The Gospel of Winter is a critical novel of coping with one of the worst things that could happen to a young man—sexual abuse. In this case, a priest takes advantage of a vulnerable young adult, Aiden. 

photoCover: 

Brilliantly designed. The jacket is translucent with the silhouette of a boy underneath. This symbolizes the hidden layers of Aiden, his shadowed self, and secrets. The letters in the word “Gospel” are broken symbolizing how the “gospel” Aiden learns from the priest is indeed broken, filled with lies and holes. It’s brilliant.

General comments:

I cried. I paced. I asked the question, “Why?” And I blessed Brendan Kiely for having the courage to write such an important book!

This is a novel that will let others who have gone through sexual abuse know that they’re not alone, that what they’ve experienced and how they’ve coped is normal, but that ultimately it’s unhealthy and painful to keep the trauma to oneself.

The story: (contains some minor spoilers, proceed with caution.)

Aiden’s father has left his mother and him for Europe and another woman. The novel starts out with Aiden co-hosting his mother’s annual Christmas party. He is surrounded by overbearing, “keep up with the Jones” type adults, and lots and lots of alcohol. Aiden crushes Adderall and snorts it. He drinks. All of this is his way of coping with the sexual abuse.

As the story goes on, Aiden develops some positive relationships with three other young adults. They’re able to talk about “real” stuff and take their “masks” off. Aiden sees many of the people around him as fake, always looking for the next deal and trying to out do their neighbors, their friends with bigger and better parties. Personally, I thought this was an accurate portrayal of what it’s like in some East Coast suburbs. I’ve met people like this, and though I find it shocking, it seemed very authentic. Many parents go off and leave their children to be raised by nannies. It’s not a Midwest “thing” but it’s a heck of a lot more common on the East Coast. What crushes me is the lack of respect for another person. Aiden’s “nanny” Elena is Hispanic, and he loves her. But there is definitely “class” and race separation. When will we live in a society that sees beyond skin color? Aiden is more of a second son to Elena. Unfortunately, Elena doesn’t do what it takes to protect Aiden. She too, fails him.

Readers might not like the choices Aiden makes or the adults around him. There are choices that many regret and are ashamed of. BUT THIS IS LIFE! Maybe you’ll get upset with Aiden, maybe you’ll cry for Aiden, maybe you’ll be frustrated with what happens and how the adults cope, BUT GET REAL! Because this is real! The drug use, the denial, the fear, the self-loathing, the shame, the guilt. 

Brendan Kiely gives readers an opportunity to walk in a male young adult’s shoes who has faced horrible abuse. This isn’t a “story” where we get to decide how Aiden shoulda reacted. Brendan Kiely researched this novel and spent six years writing it in order to give people a gift. A gift that will allow young adults going through abuse a window into what can happen if you don’t tell and don’t cope, especially when the abusing adult puts the fear of G-d in you, in this case, literally. 

The power of friendship is also explored in this novel. Aiden fails one of his best friends Mark. His failure is wrapped up in Aiden’s lies and his inability to cope with abuse. Aiden is sixteen! Sixteen-year-olds disappoint friends. They make bad choices. HECK, adults do it all the time! So many adults failed Aiden. Our hearts can break for him, for Mark, but ultimately we need to realize that neither had the love or support or the guidance to get out of this mess.

Except for a lovely friend named Josie. EVERYONE should have a good friend like Josie. 

I want to commend Brendan for writing one of the most important books on sexual abuse, and for tackling an even more taboo topic, sexual abuse involving a boy! 

The Gospel of Winter is a brilliantly written, tough, heartbreaking must read!

 

BETTER OFF FRIENDS by Elizabeth Eulberg – LAUNCH PARTY Blog Tour & Giveaway
Feb 16th, 2014 by Liza Wiemer

whorublog_BetterOffTour

We’re celebrating the launch of

BETTER OFF FRIENDS by Elizabeth Eulberg

Publisher: Point (Scholastic)

Pub. Date: February 25, 2014

SIGNED copies can be pre-ordered or purchased after the Better Off Friends Launch Party on February 25, 2014 through Boswell Books by calling (414) 332-1181

Summary From Goodreads:EEshot copy

For Macallan and Levi, it was friends at first sight. Everyone says guys and girls can’t be just friends, but these two are. They hang out after school, share tons of inside jokes, their families are super close, and Levi even starts dating one of Macallan’s friends. They are platonic and happy that way.

Eventually they realize they’re best friends — which wouldn’t be so bad if they didn’t keep getting in each other’s way. Guys won’t ask Macallan out because they think she’s with Levi, and Levi spends too much time joking around with Macallan, and maybe not enough time with his date. They can’t help but wonder . . . are they more than friends or are they better off without making it even more complicated?

From romantic comedy superstar Elizabeth Eulberg comes a fresh, fun examination of a question for the ages: Can guys and girls ever really be just friends? Or are they always one fight away from not speaking again — and one kiss away from true love?

REVIEWS:

“…a pitch-perfect rom com. With a nod to When Harry Met Sally, rising YA romance writer Eulberg situates relatable characters in realistic situations. There’s depth, too… A humorous and cozy story about friendships and relationships, and the oh-so-fine line between them.”
– Booklist

“Reminiscent of When Harry Met Sally, Eulberg’s account of an evolving relationship offers witty banter interspersed with pangs of unrequited love. …their roller-coaster relationship provides plenty of entertainment and romantic thrills along the way.”
– Publishers Weekly

“Can a guy and a girl ever really be friends, as in ‘friends, but just friends?’ This is the question that animates this delicious, delightful romantic comedy. Readers will devour each chapter, narrated in Macallan’s and Levi’s alternating voices, correct in their confidence that Eulberg is going to deliver on her promise of an enormously satisfying story.”
– Children’s Literature

MY REVIEW:

I absolutely loved, loved, loved, loved this novel, and since it’s set in Wisconsin, it made it even better. Levi, as my friends at Swoony Boys Podcast would say, is totally swoon worthy!

Macallan and Levi relationship goes through many roller coaster rides. Sometimes their perspectives and values don’t match up, but ultimately there’s no doubt that they were made for each other. But are they “better off friends?” Readers will cheer them on & you have to read the book to find out what happens.cheeseball

Told in alternating points of view, BETTER OFF FRIENDS IS contemporary YA novel perfection. <3 <3

FOOD:

Cheese Ball

Cheese Ball

There’s something else that is absolutely delicious about this novel, and that’s the food!!!!!

Wisconsin is known for all sorts of cheese, and Macallan and Levi enjoy plenty of dishes that have cheese it it. Fried string cheese?  Cheese curds? – Welcome to Wisconsin. Elizabeth Eulberg included her mom’s cheeseball! I made it  and shared the recipe for our WI/IL Author/Blogger/Librarian luncheon back in December, but I’ll share the recipe again here:

 

BACKSTORY:

Better Off Friends came from a conversation my editor, David Levithan, had with one of his colleagues, Erin Black, who said she was looking for a YA story like When Harry Met Sally… that grapples with that age old question: can a guy and a girl really be just friends? When David mentioned it to me, I called dibs.Over the course of a year (while I was writing Revenge of the Girl with the Great Personality), I thought about how I could tell the story in a fresh way. I went back toWhen Harry Met Sally… and loved that it’s a story that takes place over a long period of time so you can really see the relationship develop between those two characters. So I knew that I wanted Better Off Friends to be over the course of a few years as well as have little moments of the characters bantering throughout the book so the reader can see right from the beginning the kind of friendship they have.I began to slowly develop the characters of Macallan and Levi, and map out their friendship through five years. When I began writing the book, I decided on a whim to have it set in Wisconsin, which ended up becoming a character of its own. As someone who grew up in Wisconsin, it was fun to set a book in a place that I have such affection for. This also provided me with countless ways to insert my love for the Green Bay Packers (from Levi’s last name, Rodgers, to the various teachers names throughout the book). GO PACK!

Writing this book was a lot of fun, but it also made me cry in a few places. I’m really proud of Better Off Friends and hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it.

GREAT LINKS:

Blog Tour: (Check out each link for a separate post and giveaway of a signed copy of BETTER OFF FRIENDS!)

Feb 16 Liza – WhoRuBlog – Review & some more recipes & giveaway of a signed book http://www.WhoRuBlog.com
Feb 17 Sarah – Novel Thoughts  – Review and and giveaway of signed book  http://www.novelthoughtsblog.com
Feb 18 Jaime and Erin – Fiction Fare – Quotes from the book with Wisconsin references & giveaway of a signed book http://fictionfare.blogspot.com
Feb 19 Andrea – Mrs. Payan Reads – History of Culvers and giveaway of a signed book http://mrspayanreads.blogspot.com
Feb 20 Erica – The Book Cellar – (still to be determined) & giveaway of a signed book http://thebookcellarx.com
Feb 21 Heidi – YA Bibliophile – Irish references and giveaway of a signed book http://www.yabibliophile.com
Feb 22 Rachel – As told by Rachel – Pictures of places mentioned in the book from Wisconsin and giveaway of a signed book http://tigerlilyrachel.com
Feb 23 Kelly – Belle of the Literati – WHEN HARRY MET SALLY: Can girls and boys be friends? Kelly is asking her friends for for their thoughts! http://belleoftheliterati.blogspot.com
Feb 24 Jillian – Heise Reads and Recommends – Reviews from Students & giveaway of a signed book http://www.heisereads.com

We’ll be tweeting: #BetterOffInWI @ElizEulberg

GIVEAWAY: One signed copy of BETTER OFF FRIENDS (US/Canada Only)

 

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Five Star Review & Giveaway of JUST ONE DAY by Gayle Forman – 12 Reasons Why I Loved It!
Feb 3rd, 2013 by Liza Wiemer

Five Star Review and Giveaway of JUST ONE DAY

by Gayle Forman

 

gayle-bioWhen I read a book that I know may have a profound impact on a YA’s life, I have to share it with my readers. JUST ONE DAY by12842115 Gayle Forman is one of those novels. (I felt the same way about Gayle’s other books, IF I STAY and WHERE SHE WENT. If you haven’t read them, they’re a must-read too!)

So, that is why I am doing a giveaway for JOD. It’s open internationally if your country allows for free shipping through The Book Depository, so make sure you check that. Ends Sunday, February 14, 4:00 PM CST.

From Goodreads:

A breathtaking journey toward self-discovery and true love, from the author of If I Stay

When sheltered American good girl Allyson “LuLu” Healey first meets laid-back Dutch actor Willem De Ruiter at an underground performance of Twelfth Night in England, there’s an undeniable spark. After just one day together, that spark bursts into a flame, or so it seems to Allyson, until the following morning, when she wakes up after a whirlwind day in Paris to discover that Willem has left. Over the next year, Allyson embarks on a journey to come to terms with the narrow confines of her life, and through Shakespeare, travel, and a quest for her almost-true-love, to break free of those confines.

Just One Day is the first in a sweepingly romantic duet of novels. Willem’s story—Just One Year—is coming soon!

 

What I loved about JUST ONE DAY:

1. Including Shakespeare’s plays in the novel: Gayle does an amazing job of breaking down the plays that, even if you’ve never read them or seen them, you’ll be able to understand what she’s referring to. And it just might inspire you to go and see one in person or rent one on DVD.

2. The settings: London, Paris, Amsterdam, NYC, and Boston – Gayle captures these cities so magnificently that even if you haven’t been to these cities, you’ll be able to visualize the sights and sounds and tastes and smells. I’ve been to London, Paris, Boston, and NYC and her descriptions brought me right back.

3. There are other books out on the market about how one day can change a person’s life. But what I love about JOD is that the one day Allyson and Willem share in Paris has its highs and its lows. It’s not perfect, which, in my opinion, is a reflection on real life.

4. This is a novel about stepping out of your comfort zone, self-discovery, personal growth. There’s plenty of pain and joy that goes along with these actions, but if there wasn’t, then they wouldn’t be significant. This novel encourages calculated risk-taking, which I am all in favor of at any time in one’s life.

5. Imperfect characters/no cliched characters: There isn’t one character who is perfect i.e. too handsome or gorgeous, too smart, or fits into a cliche. These are “real-life” characters and maybe you won’t identify will everyone (the family seder and how people interact was very different than my own experiences as an adult with my children – ours our fun. We laugh and people ask to get invited each year – they love my cooking, the telling of the Passover story etc. :D), but you will certainly find someone to connect with on a personal level.

6. Gives the reader a different perspective on what constitutes love. Most of the time, love is not about being swept off your feet and carried up the staircase. Love can be messy and strange and confusing and painful and amazing and inspiring and definitely life-changing. I deeply appreciate how it’s portrayed in JOD.

7. Friendship: Gayle shows the ups and downs between friends, an authentic portrayal of how one can grow close or be distant depending on the stage of your life. Instead of worrying about it, Gayle’s portrayal takes a healthy perspective.

8. Decision making/choices: I love how Allyson learns and chooses to do what’s best for her and not what’s best for her parents. It takes tremendous fortitude to buck the system and decide what is best for you rather than giving into someone else’s dream for you. DREAM big and TAKE ACTION! Love this.

9. Conquering fear: Who isn’t afraid? But if you’re not bold, if you don’t “Dare Greatly” (the title of a book I love by Brene Brown) then it’s very difficult to move forward. JOD epitomizes “Daring Greatly.”

10. The writing/storytelling: Absolutely captivating and brilliant. I love the minute details such as the watch that Allyson wears, the coins that Willem flips over between his fingers. These and many more add richness to the story.

11. The portrayal of adults/parents: Flawed, annoying, kind, welcoming, nurturing, selfish. That only captures some of their characteristics of the adults in this novel. Absolutely authentic to real life.

12. Use of foreign languages: French, Dutch, Chinese – you don’t have to know them to appreciate the language or get the nuance of what’s going on. Gayle clues in the reader beautifully when need be. There will be times when you learn along the way or feel clueless like Allyson does. It’s exactly how it should be.

For more information about Gayle Forman and her books visit her website: http://www.gayleforman.com

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International GIVEAWAY & Take Five Q & A with Donna Cooner, Author of SKINNY
Oct 3rd, 2012 by Liza Wiemer

Take Five Q & A with Donna Cooner, Author of Skinny and GIVEAWAY


Skinny is a must-read for every girl! I’d like to see it in every school and library, too, because body image is a critical part of a person’s self esteem!

My review: Oh boy! Does SKINNY know how to crawl into your mind and mess you up! She’s vicious, and I haven’t met one girl who hasn’t heard her at least once in her lifetime!!!! Does she speak to you a lot? Do you listen to her?
You must read Skinny to find out what I mean. Pick up this YA novel and you’ll go on a journey of discovering one’s worth with Ever, the main character of this novel. This is a powerful story about body image, obesity, perceptions, family dynamics, and learning to love yourself. This is not a novel for the weak of heart. Drastic, necessary measures were taken in this novel. Anyone who knows someone who has been morbidly obese or has ever heard a voice in their head telling them that they’re ugly, needs to read this novel.
I deeply appreciate Donna Cooner’s honesty. She doesn’t mince words. The story reads quickly. There is a cast of characters readers will find interesting, especially Rat who could be a role model for a lot of guys out there. I also was taken in by Whitney who was absolutely obsessed with doing a makeover for Ever. Like her or dislike her, there are girls out there just like her. Makes you think about how focused our society is on image!
One last thing—and it’s a personal perspective. If you see yourself first as a body, then it’s hard to ever be truly happy. But see yourself first as a mind, heart, soul and then a person who has a body to do positive things with the gifts you’ve been given, and I truly believe it’ll be much easier to focus on achieving your dreams and goals. Think about it.
Put this on your must-read list. Discover Skinny – find the true Ever. You just might find yourself.

My deepest thanks to Scholastic for the ARC I picked up at the BEA of Skinny.

 TAKE FIVE Q & A

1. I personally don’t know any female who hasn’t at one time in her life had a “Skinny” speak to her. What do you think is the most important message you can tell yourself when dealing with “Skinny?”

Donna Cooner

A: The first step is learning to recognize that moment when the inner, critical SKINNY voice kicks in and speaks up.   Maybe the voice in your head isn’t criticizing your weight, but it’s saying things like, “you’re too stupid” or “you’re too poor” or “you’re too ugly.”  Once you are aware of the self-critical messages you send yourself, then you begin to understand you also have the power to change those feelings.  It might help to document the negative thoughts in a journal to see patterns and situations where your SKINNY voice is especially known to surface.  If it works, give the voice in your head a name or even visualize silencing it, as Ever does in the book.  When you realize the self-criticism is in your own mind and it’s limiting you, then you can concentrate on changing the message to something more positive and supportive.

2. There is a lot of focus on our bodies: being beautiful, wearing the right clothes, being thin. It is a message we’re all bombarded with every day. What, if anything, would you like to see change?

A: The media inundates young people every day with the message that value depends on the way you look.  I hope someday we can break free of those narrow expectations and allow our vision of beauty to become much more diverse.  I know so many beautiful people, and they all look different.  It’s not about how they look, it’s about who they are.

3. Music is an extremely important part of Ever’s life. She loves to sing. But because of her weight, she refuses to consider auditioning for the school musical. If you were to meet a young adult who has a beautiful voice but believes she’s too heavy to audition, what advice would you give her?

A: Music has intense emotional power.  A song can instantly connect a listener to a vivid, visceral-filled response.  In SKINNY, I selected powerful ballads with lyrics that spoke to Ever at that point in her journey.  Even now, when I listen to those songs, I get teary.  The emotional connection is so potent, it puts me right back in the story.  By selecting a favorite song that stirs gutsy, bold feelings, I believe a hesitant performer can overcome fear and negative energy.  Some examples?  Just listen to “I Am Here” (The Color Purple) or “Listen” (Dreamgirls).

4.  Rat is one of my favorite characters. He is an integral part of Ever’s support system, especially when she takes the biggest step to change her life. (I’m not saying what it is because I want readers to find out on their own.) What qualities do you feel a person needs to possess in order to be a trustworthy support?

A: Our closest, most trusted, friends need to have the ability to both love us as we are and to support us as we change. Good friends help us become the person we want to be, but still keep true to their own unique identity in the process.  We can trust them with our biggest dreams and, even though we aren’t always the most perfect friend in return, they don’t let us down.  In my mind that is the true test of a trustworthy friend.  They see you at your worst, but don’t give up on you.

5.  There is a lot of emphasis on diet and exercise in our society. Obviously, it’s to have a healthy lifestyle. Yet, millions of Americans struggle with this issue. Why do you think the message of healthy eating and exercise isn’t getting through to people?

A: I think there is a huge conflict in the messages we receive.  On one hand, we’re told to exercise and eat healthy.  On the other, we’re bombarded with fast food and drink advertisements that tell us the path to true happiness and social acceptance is exactly the opposite.  Combine those confusing messages with the difficulty of trying to break bad nutrition habits rooted in childhood, and we have our current situation.   I was raised in the South, so fried food and desserts were a staple.  Food was used as a reward and big nightly meals were a required part of family life.  That was my nutritional foundation.  Later, as a college student in the era of the microwave, processed foods were quick and common. Now I know the importance of good nutrition, but it isn’t a something that comes easily and naturally.  Eating mindfully and exercising frequently take thought and planning.  I have come to the realization it’s worth it, but it was a definite journey.

For more information on Donna Cooner and Skinny, visit her website: http://www.donnacooner.com/ 

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The Best MG/YA Novels About Death, Dying, or Those Left Behind
Apr 9th, 2012 by Liza Wiemer

DEATH. It’s inevitable. And even though DEATH isn’t the biggest fear for MG/YA, (alienation from peers is number one according to a child psychologist friend who conducted a study on the topic) it is still a topic YA think about. Yesterday, I finished reading The Probability of Miracles by Wendy Wunder. It was another powerful read about the main character dying of cancer that left my head spinning and my dreams mingled with images right off the pages. When I woke up, I started thinking about how many MG/YA novels I’ve read on this topic. I searched my Goodreads list and I realized that DEATH is definitely a reoccurring theme. No, I am not DEATH obsessed at all. But it’s everywhere – from the Hunger Games to Under the Never Sky to Across the Universe—all fantastic novels I highly recommend. In those novels, characters are murdered and DEATH is prevalent. But they don’t necessarily address the deeper issues of DEATH. So, I decided to compile a list for readers who are looking for some of the BEST novels that dig into this topic. In no particular order:

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, WhoRuBlog post: http://www.whorublog.com/?p=1043

The Probability of Miracles by Wendy Wunder, my Goodreads review: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/227446798

Before I Die by Jenny Downham, Goodreads review: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/245856732

Winter Longing by Tricia Mills, Goodreads review: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/215029968

Fracture by Megan Miranda, Goodreads review: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/243297421

Mercy Lily by Lisa Albert, Goodreads review: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/151807847

You Are Not Here by Samantha Schutz, Goodread review: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/226657322

I Heart You, You Haunt Me by Lisa Schroeder Goodreads review: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/223975181

Chasing Brooklyn by Lisa Schroeder Goodreads review: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/223975181

Elsewhere by Gabriella Zevin, Goodreads review: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/274770802

Between by Jessica Warman, Goodreads review: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/207351225

The Everafter by Amy Huntley, Goodreads review: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/162762230

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, Goodreads review: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/174050466

The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson, Goodreads review: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/150999990

Deadline by Chris Crutcher, Goodreads review: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/104403811

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver, Goodreads review: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/91838896

If I Stay, by Gayle Forman, Goodreads review: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/115787142

Read and added on April 21, 2012 – after recommendations from several YA book bloggers: The Catastrophic History of You and Me, Goodreads review: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/195927203

MIDDLE GRADE:

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness (author), Siobhad Dowd, Jim Kay (illustrator), Goodreads review: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/234705851

Radiance, Shimmer, Dreamland (Riley Bloom Series, 1, 2, 3) by Alyson Noel, Goodreads review: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/223997625

Would love to know your favorites. Feel free to share by clicking on comments. 

 

 

Who Is A Frienemy?
Jul 25th, 2011 by Liza Wiemer

After a few conversations with some teens, I compiled this list to help readers determine whether a friend is really a frienemy. Take a look:

A frienemy…

…goes behind your back, undermines you.

…sabotages your successes.

…will say one thing to your face, then tells someone else the opposite.

…blames you for his poor choices or actions.

…will use subtle and not so subtle putdowns to eat at your self-esteem.

…makes you have self-doubts.

…has to ‘one up’ you all the time.

…shows off.

…encourages failure not success or encourages you to do something that seems unattainable or dangerous.

…tells your secrets.

…laughs at you or makes fun of you, especially in front of others (And often says, “I was joking.” Can’t you take a joke?”)

If you have a frienemy in your life, my advice is to break off this relationship. Clearly, it’s unhealthy.

Chelsea Rae Swiggett on Coping with Fear, Anxiety, and Social Phobia
Feb 27th, 2011 by Liza Wiemer

 

Chelsea Rae Swiggett

CHELSEA RAE SWIGGETT

 

AN INTERVIEW ABOUT HER NON-FICTION YA BOOK

RAE MY TRUE STORY of Fear, Anxiety, and Social Phobia

Win a copy of her book:

To win a copy of her book leave a comment!If you follow this blog you get an extra entry. Entries accepted until 8:00PM CST March 16. Open to US and Canada residents.  Winner announced: Marynellie 

Rae MY TRUE STORY of Fear, Anxiety, and Social Phobia

 

Brave, strong, gutsy –– I repeated these words over and over again as I read Chelsea Rae Swiggett’s non-fiction work for young adults (every parent and teacher should read it too), Rae MY TRUE STORY of Fear, Anxiety, and Social Phobia. This candid, beautifully written personal history takes a hard look at the impact on how paralyzed a person can be when consumed by fears and absorbed into the hell created by the social interactions in middle school and high school.

Brave, strong, gutsy were words Chelsea would never have used to describe herself in high school. I definitely didn’t see them in her book. But the steps she took to CHANGE are no less than extraordinary. She continues to conquer her fears, live in the moment, and challenge herself to experience life to its fullest.

In the past, speaking in class could bring on an anxiety attack.

Now, Chelsea approaches strangers, even welcomes new interactions.

In the past, traveling anywhere brought horrific fears of death.

Now, she gets on airplanes and relishes in seeing new things.

In the past, going to school was a living hell. She eventually chose to be home-schooled to survive.

Now, she mixes it up with online classes and on campus classes at college.

In the past, Chelsea escaped real life by delving into books, writing reviews for her website – http://www.coffeeandcliffhangers.com/

Now, she still loves to read and review books, but she utilizes this passion to meet others with the same interests. She has a social life, too.

In the past, Chelsea was obsessed with her weight – depriving herself of food. Her self-image was dismal. She was consumed by how she thought others people perceived her.

Now, food is no longer her enemy. More often than not her self-esteem comes from within and not based on how others perceive her.

So how did Chelsea do it? Without a doubt it has been a process, most importantly CHELSEA WANTED TO CHANGE! She faces her fears one at a time. She lives in the moment.

I had the privilege of speaking with Chelsea about her transformation. Here’s what she had to say:

I have had to remind myself to breathe, not to be overwhelmed. The world is not ending right now. I tell myself I can deal with a situation I’m in and can get past it.

I no longer obsess over different things. For example, if I coughed I would worry. Did I cough too loud? Or if fell down and others saw me, I worried about it for weeks. Do they think I’m a klutz? This constant worry was killing me. Finally, I realized no one else was worrying about these things. I saw that everyone messes up and it’s useless to obsess over what other people may or may not be thinking of me.

I realized I needed to just live. I realized there are only so many years to fully understand myself, so I decided to take the opportunity and do it now. What I learned was it’s important to do what you’re passionate about and don’t allow fear to stop you. If you want to travel, you need to travel. If you want to go to concerts, do it. It is important to find a way to live comfortably and follow your dreams. Don’t stop yourself from accomplishing something you want to do. Spend your time with your passion.

One needs to find balance. A person can hide behind their passion and use it as an excuse not to live. For example, I love to read so I used reading to stay away from others, hide from the world. I was comfortable, but wasn’t putting myself out there. I wasn’t living. But I turned my love for reading into a positive. Instead of letting my passion cripple me, I now use it to connect with people. Working on Coffee and Cliffhangers I‘ve been able to connect with the literary community. I’ve met so many amazing people including other passionate readers, book reviewers, and authors. At first the connections were through social networking, and then in person at different book events.

Through authors’ books, I gain insight into their perceptions. Authors put themselves in their work. It’s personal. I appreciate their vulnerability. I love getting into their heads and seeing what makes them click, how they view things. Books have helped me see that I am not the only one who has issues and problems and goals in this world. There have been so many times I’ve got caught up in my own problems. Reading has helped me see I’m not alone.

One of my goals? I would love to be a successful author, to be able to help and connect with authors and readers. It is the most amazing feeling in the world.

I first connected with Chelsea through Twitter where I learned about her website http://www.coffeeandcliffhangers.com/ and about Rae MY TRUE STORY of Fear, Anxiety, and Social Phobia. It’s been a privilege to get to know her better through this interview. She’s an extraordinary young woman, someone I look forward to meeting in person, hang out with at a book event, or talk with over coffee. She is brave, strong, gutsy – amazing. There will still be challenges – we all have them. But I have no doubt she will face them and turn any fear or weakness or anxiety into a strength. It takes work. It takes courage. It takes action. Chelsea epitomizes these qualities and so much more. She is a role model!

To learn more about Chelsea go to her website:http://www.coffeeandcliffhangers.com/

For more information about or to purchase Rae MY TRUE STORY of Fear, Anxiety, and Social Phobia go to: Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/4f4prgd

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