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Blog Tour: THE MEMORY BOOK by Lara Avery: Novel, Secret, Review & #Giveaway
Jun 30th, 2016 by Liza Wiemer

The Memory Book Banner

LINKS: Amazon | B&N | Indiebound | iBooks | The Book Depository

ABOUT THE MEMORY BOOK:TheMemoryBook_Cover

They tell me that my memory will never be the same, that I’ll start forgetting things. At first just a little, and then a lot. So I’m writing to remember.

Sammie was always a girl with a plan: graduate at the top of her class and get out of her small town as soon as humanly possible. Nothing will stand in her way–not even a rare genetic disorder the doctors say will slowly start to steal her memories and then her health. What she needs is a new plan.

So the Memory Book is born: Sammie’s notes to her future self, a document of moments great and small. It’s where she’ll record every perfect detail of her first date with longtime crush, Stuart–a brilliant young writer who is home for the summer. And where she’ll admit how much she’s missed her childhood best friend, Cooper, and even take some of the blame for the fight that ended their friendship.

Through a mix of heartfelt journal entries, mementos, and guest posts from friends and family, readers will fall in love with Sammie, a brave and remarkable girl who learns to live and love life fully, even though it’s not the life she planned.

 

ABOUT LARA AVERY:

Lara Avery takes her role as a young writer very seriously; she enjoys wandering the world notebook in hand, making her living off of odd jobs. One of those jobs happens to be publishing the novel Anything But Ordinaryjust two years after getting a degree in Film Studies from Macalester College.

When Lara left home armed with nothing but a basketball scholarship, she told everyone she was going to law school. Then, when she started interning at The Onion and publishing pieces of fiction in national anthologies, she realized her secret plans to be a writer all along.

Though Lara sat down to write Anything But Ordinary everywhere from a 110 degree apartment in Kolkata to a hostel in Berlin, she always felt at home in Bryce’s story. Writing currently from St. Paul, MN, she hopes her debut novel will be the first of many.

 

LINKS: Website | Twitter | Facebook

 

My review:

The Memory BookThe Memory Book by Lara Avery

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

OH MY HEART! It’s aching right now! How do I possibly describe this book? How does one sum up a future unfulfilled, dreams extinguished, love found better late than never, a body ravished, memories stolen, the devastation of a disease?

beat
heart
beat

I need to hug Cooper.

This is a beautiful, heart wrenching, special book, and I loved
every
single
word.
Even the ones
that broke
my heart into m i l l i o n s
of p
i
e
c
e
s.

View all my reviews

 

Novel Secret by Lara Avery

A place that inspired the setting:
Okay, this is a fun one. The Memory Book takes place in the Upper Valley, a little pocket in the Green Mountains, along the Connecticut River on the border of Vermont and New Hampshire. I’ve spent many a week there with my best friend, Mandy, who is from the small town of Strafford, VT, where the main character Sammie also lives. I dearly love the place. If ever I become wealthy enough to buy a patch of land, I would buy it there.
Anyway, I’m going to tell you a story that also takes place in the Upper Valley, kind of. This is a little taste of 21-year-old Lara (I’m 28 now) and why it might be better that I’m writing books about young romance rather than continuing to live it.
Once, 21-year-old Lara had a boyfriend. We’ll call him Carl. She met him in her last year of college, and fell deeply, madly in love. Coincidentally, Carl was also from the Upper Valley, and a lot of why they connected was reminiscing about the places they’d both been there. The rolling mountains, the secret swimming holes, the winding roads. Alas, Lara graduated, and because Carl would still attend college, they decided to break up, being in different phases in their lives.
This did not sit well with 21-year-old Lara. 21-year-old Lara went back to her hometown in Kansas to get a job and save money so she could write, but she was miserable. While pining for Carl, she would wait tables and go home and lie in her room and cry. One day, about one month into her new life, she was to go to her cousin’s wedding in Virginia, as a lone representative of her family. She packed a backpack for three nights and boarded the plane, feeling no joy. Because she didn’t have Carl.
On the plane, she had a revelation. Virginia is on the East Coast, she thought, and Carl is also on the East Coast, at home for the summer in New Hampshire! She had a few hundred bucks saved up. Why not fulfill the burning desire she had in her heart for Carl? So when the plane landed in Norfolk, she did not meet her aunt. She did not go to the wedding. Instead, she looked up the nearest bus station.
Lara knew if she told anyone, they would try to talk her out of her decision. Lara did not want to listen to reason. Lara was in love, and no one could stop her. When her bus pulled into Washington DC, she told her family where she was. They all told her she was crazy, and to go back to the wedding. Lara said no. Lara called Carl. Carl also told her she was crazy. Then, for reasons to this day I am not sure of, Carl said okay.
So Lara rode the bus for two days, barely eating, barely sleeping, her body running on the pure, sweet fuel of Carl. Carl picked her up at the bus stop in Hanover (the very same bus stop where Sammie says goodbye to Stuart when he goes to New York), and they frolicked in the mountains. They swam in the swimming holes (like the Pot Holes). They kissed under the stars.
Meanwhile, Carl’s mother was confused. Who was this strange young woman who popped up without warning to stay in her home? Why was she always dressed like she was about to go to a wedding? Was she all right, you know, in the head? On the third day of Lara’s impromptu visit, Carl’s mother sat Lara down and asked her all these questions. This time, Lara could not use the fuel of Carl-love to escape logic.
Lara didn’t know the answer to any of these questions. But she didn’t want to go home and wait tables. She wanted to be a writer, maybe live in New York City. She wanted to be with Carl, but knew that could never happen. She just wanted one last week with Carl, that’s all. She wanted it to never end.
Carl’s mother was a practical woman. Carl’s mother gently led Lara to a computer. She pulled up the website for a bus that went straight from the Upper Valley to New York City. Lara got the message. It was time to go. She would go to New York with no money and three days’ worth of clothes on her back, and maybe change the Carl fuel into story fuel. (She would last about a year in New York, still waiting tables, still pining for Carl. And her family was pissed at her the whole time, understandably so.) Anyway, that beautiful, dappled afternoon, Carl and Lara said goodbye at the bus stop in Hanover. Lara wept like a little girl that she couldn’t just stay there forever, climbing mountains and swimming in the swimming holes with Carl.
So, in a way, the setting of The Memory Book is an homage to that crazy burning, keep-hold-of-every-moment feeling that I associate with the Upper Valley. The whole book contains so much of the bittersweetness of saying goodbye to it that day.

Tour Schedule:

 
Week 1:
 
Week 2:

 GIVEAWAY: 3 FINISHED COPIES (US ONLY)

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Novel Secrets Blog Tour: ALL WE HAVE IS NOW – Lisa Schroeder reveals something special & giveaway!
Aug 17th, 2015 by Liza Wiemer

NovelSecretsBanner_v5_1226x558

 

ALL WE HAVE IS NOW22840148

by Lisa Schroeder

Published: July 28, 2015

Publisher: Scholastic

Buy here: IndieBound | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository

Connect with Lisa: TwitterGoodreads | Website |

NOVEL SECRETS:

In the NOVEL SECRETS Blog Tour, readers will discover some fascinating behind-the-scenes information connected to brand-new YA novels! I’m thrilled that author Lisa Schroeder is sharing some information that none of us would EVER have known just from reading her latest book, ALL WE HAVE IS NOW. I’m always fascinated by how authors infuse parts of themselves in their books. Lisa is no exception. Read her “I Wish Everyone Could Visit the Enchanted Forest,” to find out why she included this special place in her book.

NOVEL SECRETS BLOG TOUR – check out the following posts:

Reading Teen’s post on LEGACY OF KINGS by Eleanor HermanI Wear Ancient Dead People’s Jewelry
–  Giveaway ends August 22nd.

I Wish Everyone Could Visit the Enchanted Forest

by Lisa Schroeder

In my new novel, ALL WE HAVE IS NOW, Vince and Emerson go around helping people do fun things as they make wishes Enchanted forest 2come true before a meteor is due to destroy North America in a little over twenty-four hours. One of the places they end up going is a place called the Enchanted Forest in Salem, Oregon. What some people may not realize is that this is a very real, and very special, place, dreamt up and built by a man named Roger Tofte. In 1964, he purchased twenty acres of land and for the next seven years, he spent all of his spare time building a small amusement park smack-dab in the middle of a forest (thus the name).

Enchanted forest

Lisa Schroeder at THE MAD HATTER’S TEA PARTY display!

The fact that it feels a teensy-bit “homemade” adds to the charm of the place. I’m lucky in that I’ve been visiting the Enchanted Forest since I was a little girl. Much of it is based on children’s stories and fairy tales, so you can see why I love it so much. Over the years, they’ve added various rides in an effort to continue to attract visitors, but the trail that takes you down Storybook Lane at the beginning of the park has hardly changed in forty years. Here, visitors get to say hello to Humpty Dumpty, wave at Little Red Riding Hood, and take a trip down Alice in Wonderland’s rabbit hole, among other things. It’s so fun to write about cool places most of the world doesn’t know about – definitely feels like letting people in on a well-kept secret.

 

GIVEAWAY: US (Only) One lucky winner will receive a signed copy of ALL WE HAVE IS NOW!

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A powerful interview with DON’T CALL ME KIT KAT author K. J. Farnham on Eating Disorders & Body Image
Jun 16th, 2015 by Liza Wiemer

DON’T CALL ME KIT KATUntitled3

by K.J. Farnham

Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Book Depository

From Goodreads:

Junior high is where things really start to happen. Cliques form and break apart. Couples are made and destroyed. And a reputation is solidified that you won’t ever be able to escape. Everything you do and say, and everyone you spend your time with, matters.

Katie Mills knows that. She gets it. That’s why she tried so hard to get in with the cool girls at school. And why she was so devastated when those efforts found her detained for shoplifting and laughed out of cheer squad tryouts.

But Katie has more to worry about than just fitting in. Her parents are divorced and always fighting. Her sister never has time for her. And her friends all seem to be drifting apart. Even worse? The boy she has a crush on is dating the mean girl at school.

Everything is a mess, and Katie doesn’t feel like she has control over any of it. Certainly not over her weight, which has always topped out at slightly pudgier than normal—at least, according to her mother.

So when she happens to catch one of the popular girls throwing up in the bathroom one day, it sparks an idea. A match that quickly engulfs her life in flames.

Is there any going back once she gets started down this path?

And would she even want to if she could?

INTERVIEW

  1. Why did you want to write a novel about eating disorders?

 

Someone very close to me struggled with bulimia from the age of 12 into her mid twenties, so I know exactly what the disease does to a person—both mentally and physically. I drew from my friend’s experiences as well as from some memories of how I felt in junior high to create Katie’s story.

 

Bulimia (as well as other eating disorders) is a complex disease with many different causes and no clear course of treatment. Every bulimic needs different things to heal and heals at her own pace.

 

Eating disorders are often not taken seriously as life-threatening mental illnesses, and those who suffer often feel too ashamed to seek help. To make matters worse, friends and loved ones of sufferers tend to have a hard time understanding that treatment is a lengthy process, so lingering symptoms often get swept under the rug. It breaks my heart.

 

  1. What advice do you have for teens who feel like they don’t fit in?

 

Please keep in mind that everyone feels like they don’t fit in at some point. I know I’ve felt that way many times, especially during my teen years. Still do once in a while. When I was younger, I usually coped by confiding in a few close friends—friends I still maintain contact with (nearly 30 years later). And guess what? Nowadays, when I’m feeling like I don’t belong, I still turn to the same friends. Sure, there are times when they might not understand exactly what I’m going through, but it is amazing how calming it can be to confide in someone when I’m feeling self-conscious or anxious.

 

Another way to combat the feeling of not being able to relate to others is by discovering your passions. Be honest with yourself about what you like and what you don’t like, and don’t be afraid to do what you enjoy, even if friends aren’t interested. If you do what you love, you will eventually connect with others who love the same things.

 

  1. How does one cope when it’s a parent who is battering your self-esteem?

 

Before I answer this question, I’d like to share a little bit about myself…Sadly, I know from experience what this feels like. I was held to extremely high standards as a child. As a result, I have struggled with low self-esteem, OCD-like tendencies and relationship issues. It has taken me a long time to realize that I am good enough just the way I am (flaws and all) and that it is IMPOSSIBLE to be perfect and unfair to expect others to strive for perfection.

 

Now for my answer…This is a tough question because there are different degrees of criticism that can affect a person’s self-esteem. Katie, the main character in Don’t Call Me Kit Kat is constantly subjected to comments about her appearance and her weight and is repeatedly compared to her “perfect” older sister. In my opinion, her mother’s relentless criticisms are a mild form of psychological abuse even though she is unaware of the damage she is doing to Katie’s self-esteem. However, some people might not consider criticism to be a form of abuse, especially since many teens go through much worse than what Katie goes through.

 

So, I think the coping mechanism depends on the severity of the issue. In a case like Katie’s, it’s important to speak up. If your parent repeatedly says things that make you feel self-conscious or critical of yourself, let that parent know. A lot of times, parents don’t even realize how harmful mild criticisms can be.

 

What if the verbal abuse is more extreme? Again, start by communicating to your parent how you feel. If this is not possible or if your parent won’t listen, talk to someone else. A friend. A sibling. A teacher. A guidance counselor. An aunt or an uncle. Do not hide it if you have a parent who constantly berates you or doles out harsh, unwarranted criticisms that attack you as a person.

 

I don’t pretend to be a perfect parent. Like I said, perfection is NOT possible. I have had to bite my tongue at times when my children have misbehaved or even when they’ve neglected to do something they way I taught them to do it. I’m only human. However, parents who have trouble biting their tongues or who think it’s perfectly fine to berate a child need help. Verbal abuse can be just as damaging as physical abuse, yet without marks to prove it, it often goes unnoticed, especially if the abused child doesn’t speak up.

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  1. Society focuses on body image. What do you want young teens to know about their bodies? Is your advice different for boys?

 

First of all, according to the National Institutes of Health, the human body is made up of more than 100 trillion cells. Here’s what that looks like in numeric form: 100,000,000,000,000. Do you know how unique that makes you? With that many cells, it’s absurd for society to push an “ideal” body image on anyone. The extent to which each individual person is unique is absolutely mind-boggling. 100 TRILLION cells! Embrace your uniqueness and take care of yourself by making healthy choices because your body is a miracle. J

 

Secondly, have you ever heard this quote by Maya Angelou?

 

“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

 

In my experience, people will also forget what your body looked like and what you were wearing. Honestly, the way you look right now won’t matter 20, 10, five or even two years from now. But the way you behave today—the way you treat people—will matter for the rest of your life. So love the miracle that is your body, but remember that it’s just a vessel. It truly is what’s on the inside that counts.

 

My advice is no different for boys.

 

  1. You mentioned taking control and losing control. What lessons can readers learn about control?

 

Eating disorder patients often share a common thread; they feel the need to control something. As a result, they have taken control over the one thing that no one can stop them from controlling: the food they do or don’t put into their mouths. But the harsh reality is that the controlling habits of eating disorder patients become addictions, and addicts have no control over their addictions. So that’s why developing an eating disorder can be seen as both taking control and losing control.

 

Facts About Eating Disorders From the National Eating Disorders Association

 

Bulimia nervosa affects 1-2% of adolescent and young adult women.

  • Approximately 80% of bulimia nervosa patients are female.
  • People struggling with bulimia nervosa usually appear to be of average body weight.
  • Many people struggling with bulimia nervosa recognize that their behaviors are unusual and perhaps dangerous to their health.
  • Bulimia nervosa is frequently associated with symptoms of depression and changes in social adjustment.
  • Risk of death from suicide or medical complications is markedly increased for eating disorders

Despite the prevalence of eating disorders, they continue to receive inadequate research funding.

Illness                                            Prevalence                    NIH Research Funds (2011)
Alzheimer’s Disease                     5.1 million                     $450,000,000
Autism                                           3.6 million                     $160,000,000
Schizophrenia                               3.4 million                     $276,000,000
Eating disorders                           30 million                      $28,000,000

Research dollars spent on Alzheimer’s Disease averaged $88 per affected individual in 2011. For Schizophrenia the amount was $81. For Autism $44. For eating disorders the average amount of research dollars per affected individual was just $0.93. (National Institutes of Health, 2011)

To learn more or to make a donation that will go toward prevention programs, rehabilitation and support for those who struggle with eating disorders, please visit http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/.

 

Share five fun facts about yourself.

 

  • I am 50 percent Taiwanese.
  • Despite the fact that I’m a terrible swimmer, I’ve completed five triathlons.
  • In my early twenties, I loved the Red Hot Chili Peppers. As a result, I have a RHCP-inspired tattoo on my inner right ankle.
  • I can say the 50 United States in alphabetical order in less than 30 seconds.
  • In 1994, I started college as a pre-med student. After changing my major from pre-med to clinical laboratory sciences to accounting, I finally graduated in 1999 with a degree in elementary education. And now I’m an author. You never know what life has in store for you!

 

ABOUT K.J

Untitled2

K. J. Farnham is a former educator turned author and freelance writer. She was born and raised in a suburb of Milwaukee and now lives in western Wisconsin with her husband, three children and three cats.

In addition to reading and writing, Farnham loves road trips, beach outings, Body Pump, running, hiking and acoustic music. She hopes to convince her husband to drive across the United States in an RV someday.

During her tween, teen and young adult years, she devoured books by V.C. Andrews, Stephen King and Dean Koontz. Nowadays, Farnham will read just about anything but still leans toward fiction. Her preferred genres include contemporary romance, humor, thriller/suspense, horror and YA.

Website: www.kjfarnham.com

Email: author.kjfarnham@yahoo.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/AuthorKJFarnham

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!

INTERVIEW with Gayle Rosengren, Author of WHAT THE MOON SAID
Apr 7th, 2014 by Liza Wiemer

What the moon saidINTERVIEW with MG Author Gayle Rosengren:

WHAT THE MOON SAID

Published by: Putnam Juvenile

Pub. date: February 20, 2014

Buy it here:

Signed, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound

From Goodreads:

Thanks to her superstitious mother, Esther knows some tricks for avoiding bad luck: toss salt over your left shoulder, never button your shirt crooked, and avoid black cats. But even luck can’t keep her family safe from the Great Depression. When Pa loses his job, Esther’s family leaves their comfy Chicago life behind for a farm in Wisconsin.

Living on a farm comes with lots of hard work, but that means there are plenty of opportunities for Esther to show her mother how helpful she can be. She loves all of the farm animals (except the mean geese) and even better makes a fast friend in lively Bethany. But then Ma sees a sign that Esther just knows is wrong. If believing a superstition makes you miserable, how can that be good luck?

Debut author Gayle Rosengren brings the past to life in this extraordinary, hopeful story.

My review: 

An outstanding MG novel that I’m sure will become a favorite of students and teachers alike. I was completely captivated by this historical fiction novel, which takes place during the Depression. Esther is a young girl struggling to get her mom’s approval and love. Her mom is very superstitious and these superstitions guide Esther’s enter family, determining the good luck and bad luck they’ll have. At times, it’s frustrating, hurtful, and confusing for Esther, especially when she is forbidden to play with a girl she really likes as a friend.

Readers will move with Esther and her family from Chicago to a farm in Milwaukee. They’ll experience hunger, they’ll celebrate the holidays with them, they’ll go through Esther’s illness and recovery. Even though the novel takes place a good eighty years ago, readers will be able to relate to the characters. Family, friendship, and being neighborly are some of the bigger themes of this novel. It’ll has a timeless appeal like Little Women and Little House on the Prairie.

This MG novel is a winner!

1. In your debut MG novel, WHAT THE MOON SAID, it’s my understanding that your mom’s life had a deep influence. What are some of the most important lessons she taught you? 

I was the youngest child and the only girl so my mother and I were very close.  She often told me stories about her experiences growing up. I think the one that made the deepest impression was the lesson she learned about the importance of being honest–not just in terms of always telling the truth but in always behaving truthfully as well. For example, the chapter about cheating in WHAT THE MOON SAID was based on a true experience from my mother’s girlhood.  Mom couldn’t see the blackboard because her vision was poor and her family couldn’t afford glasses, so a friend used to copy the problems for her and my mom, as thanks, would provide the answers. She didn’t feel that she was doing anything wrong, since she wasn’t receiving answers, but one day her teacher caught on to what was happening.  My mother and her friend were both accused of cheating and made to stand in front of the class as punishment.  My mother, who’d only received praise from her teachers before, was mortified!  The lesson stayed with her forever.  She told it to me as a cautionary tale, and it obviously stayed with me forever, too. So the most important lesson my mother taught me was honesty, but also kindness.  My mother was a gentle soul who was always kind and generous, especially to children.

2. Superstitions are definitely prevalent in WHAT THE MOON SAID. Do you have6886590 any superstitions? If so, what are they? What’s your general opinion on superstitions?  

I’m going to answer these questions in reverse order.  My opinion on superstitions is that they are absolutely not true.  That being said, I also believe that if we believe in them, they become true and can have impacts on our lives.  Good moments and bad ones happen in the course of every day.  If we believe in superstitions, we’ll connect the bad moments to the mirror we broke or the salt we spilled earlier.  Conversely, when something good happens we’ll connect it to the lucky shirt we’re wearing or the wish we made on the first star the night before. 

I don’t believe in superstitions, yet, as a result of the beliefs planted in me as a child, I confess to tossing salt over my shoulder and never opening an umbrella in the house or putting shoes on a table.  Logic, it appears, only extends so far when it comes to tempting Fate.  😉

3. One thing that struck me about your novel is that it’s timeless, even though it’s set during The Great Depression. How were you able to achieve this? 

That’s a lovely compliment, thank you! If the story feels timeless I think it’s because it’s so centered in the main character, Esther.  We get drawn into her world very quickly so everything feels very real.

But looked at another way, all the things that happen to her really ARE timeless.  Parents still lose their jobs, forcing families to move to places that are not as nice as the homes they left behind.  Money is tight, and it gets tighter as things don’t improve.  Food becomes less plentiful.  The same families are forced to move again, this time to live with friends or relatives.  Sadly, this is an all too real experience for many children today in the United States since we experienced our own economic crash in 2008.

5. What personality trait do you share with your main character? 

Esther’s desire to please and her love of animals are the two most significant traits I share with her.  I really loved being able to give her a dog and horses to make up for the movie theaters and ice cream shops she had to leave behind when the family moved from Chicago to the farm.

6. Who has influenced your life the most and why?  

I would have to say my brother Dennis.  He was a wonderful big brother–protective, and also willing to take time to teach me things, from tying my shoes to playing chess, riding a two-wheeler to doing yo-yo tricks.  When I was about eight years old he told me to think about how my actions or words might make someone else feel; to always try to put myself in their shoes.  This advice was really taken to heart and I believe that it–combined with my love of reading–is why I’m a writer today. The ability to put myself in someone else’s shoes has enabled me to make even very flawed characters somewhat sympathetic.  But more than that, putting myself in other people’s shoes has also been a great maxim to live by and made me a better friend and a better person than I might have been otherwise.

Lightning round:

Coffee, tea, or hot chocolate?  COFFEE!!!

Winter, spring, summer, or fall? It always used to be spring but as I get older it’s shifting to fall.  Do you suppose there’s some hidden significance in that?  J

Sci-fi thriller or romance movie?  Sci-fi thriller.

Fiction or non-fiction?  Fiction

Folding laundry or doing dishes?  Doing dishes.

An Unexpected Encounter with Tim Federle, author of BETTER NATE THAN NEVER & Giveaway
Feb 4th, 2014 by Liza Wiemer

How a Special Encounter with Tim Federle, author of BETTER NATE THAN NEVER and FIVE, SIX, SEVEN, NATE,  Led to this Giveaway!

To order a signed copy of BETTER NATE THAN NEVER or FIVE, SIX, SEVEN, NATE or TEQUILA MOCKINGBIRD 5446689call Boswell Books at (414) 332-1181

Today, I had an unexpected surprise. I was writing in Starbucks—attached to Boswell Books—when Hannah, one of the wonderful booksellers, came over to me and said, “Liza, come meet Tim Federle. He’s here signing books.”

Blink. Blink. What?? Tim Federle is at Boswells? Did I miss an event? No. Tim was in town visiting schools. I was deeply touched that Hannah thought of me.

After exchanging hellos and a handshake, Tim and I had a few minutes to talk while he signed away. He’ll be attending BEA this year, but not for his MG books. Hopefully in the not-so-distant future, Tim will have a picture book coming out. Details to come. I congratulated him on receiving a Stonewall Book Honor Award and an Odyssey Honor Award (for the audiobook) from ALA. He was at home in his pjs watching the live feed when it was publicly announced. Love that! (Mid-January, I was at an event with WI librarians to discuss and predict which books would win awards at ALA – BETTER NATE THAN EVER was one of them.) I watched the event live too, but not in my pjs. 😀

13414183We talked about how amazing it is to receive those royalty checks – I received one in the mail yesterday for my adult non-fiction book that was published in 1997 through Random House.  Thank you Stuart! (The amount could be used to cover dinner for two, and I am tremendously grateful! It’s amazing to still receive checks after all these years.) Discussing the book publishing process also got a few minutes of our time, sharing a little bit about our experiences.

Tim has a personality that radiates kindness and generosity of spirit. Despite the bitter cold of Wisconsin, our brief moment left me much warmer. Thank you so much, Tim! Now, I want to share that warmth with you!

I have a signed copy of BETTER NATE THAN EVER! (US or Canada only)

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

CHASING SHADOWS

by , illustrated by  

Published: September 24, 2013

Knopf Books for Young Readers

 

From Goodreads:15756269

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

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

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

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

My review:

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

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

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

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

Highly, highly recommend this novel.

MORE INFORMATION:swati_bw

About Swati – from her website:

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

About her award-winning debut novel, Split: 

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

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

Swati Avasthi’s website

Goodreads

 

 

BROKEN by CJ Lyons, Review, YouTube Interview, & Special Pre-order Price Before Nov. 5
Oct 30th, 2013 by Liza Wiemer

BROKEN by CJ Lyons

Published by Sourcebooks Fire, 336 pages

BrokenPreOrderBanner-580x300

Pre-order:

Barnes and Noble

Amazon

Summary from Goodreads:

New York Times bestselling author CJ Lyons makes her YA debut with a fast-paced thriller sure to keep readers guessing to the very last page

The only thing fifteen-year-old Scarlet Killian has ever wanted is a chance at a normal life. Diagnosed with a rare and untreatable heart condition, she has never taken the school bus. Or giggled with friends during lunch. Or spied on a crush out of the corner of her eye. So when her parents offer her three days to prove she can survive high school, Scarlet knows her time is now… or never. Scarlet can feel her heart beating out of control with every slammed locker and every sideways glance in the hallway. But this high school is far from normal. And finding out the truth might just kill Scarlet before her heart does.

My review:

I met CJ Lyons at the 2013 YA Author/Blogger Rooftop Party. A few lucky people received a copy of her debut YA novel BROKEN, thanks to her publisher, Sourcebooks Fire. (Thank you, Derry!!) CJ Lyon is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of numerous adult medical mystery novels. She also has a plenty of experience in the medical field as a pediatric ER doctor.

Wow! BROKEN is so different from other YA novels that I think fans of YA will find it refreshing. It’s medical mystery brilliance, a thriller that will pull readers into the lives of Scarlet, a fifteen-year-old girl who is on the verge of death. Her goal is to spend one week in a regular high school experiencing a regular teenager’s life. There’s nothing “new” to the bullying you’ll read about – the kids that tease Scarlet for being different. That can be found in any school. But what is different is Scarlet’s remarkable story. It’s what makes headlines in the news. Scarlet’s life and death situation, her relationship with her family, and her relationship with the two young men who come into her life and help her to “see” things differently, make this medical thriller intriguing. Though there are plenty of descriptions of Scarlet’s problems, readers will not be overwhelmed or unable to comprehend what’s going on with her. As the story unfolds and you discover more and more about Scarlet’s issues, readers will want to keep turning the pages to learn more and more of her story. I highly recommend that you do NOT read anything at the back of the book until you finish the novel. There are too many hints in the Q & A that will give away plot points, so resist the urge to read them!

Definitely recommend this novel for those who want a break from dystopian and fantasy. Perfect for those who want a different twist to contemporary.

Interview:

An interview with CJ Lyons and her niece Abby, who was the inspiration for the character in Broken. Abby actually has Long QT Syndrome, the same heart condition the main character suffers from.  CJ diagnosed her 20 minutes after she was born.

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

MASTERING THE ART OF FRENCH EATING:

Lessons of Food and Love From a Year in Paris

 

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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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