WHAT I LEAVE BEHIND by Alison McGhee, 5 star review
May 16th, 2018 by Liza Wiemer


by Alison McGhee

Where to buy it: IndieBound | Amazon | Barnes & Noble |  Book Depository


This novel has received 3 starred reviews! 

Thank you @simonteen for my review copy!

From Goodreads:

After his dad commits suicide, Will tries to overcome his own misery by secretly helping the people around him in this story made up of one hundred chapters of one hundred words each.

Sixteen-year-old Will spends most of his days the same way: Working at the Dollar Only store, trying to replicate his late father’s famous cornbread recipe, and walking the streets of Los Angeles. Will started walking after his father committed suicide, and three years later he hasn’t stopped. But there are some places Will can’t walk by: The blessings store with the chest of 100 Chinese blessings in the back, the bridge on Fourth Street where his father died, and his childhood friend Playa’s house.

When Will learns Playa was raped at a party—a party he was at, where he saw Playa, and where he believes he could have stopped the worst from happening if he hadn’t left early—it spurs Will to stop being complacent in his own sadness and do some good in the world. He begins to leave small gifts for everyone in his life, from Superman the homeless guy he passes on his way to work, to the Little Butterfly Dude he walks by on the way home, to Playa herself. And it is through those acts of kindness that Will is finally able to push past his own trauma and truly begin to live his life again. Oh, and discover the truth about that cornbread.



What I Leave BehindWhat I Leave Behind by Alison McGhee
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If this isn’t on your radar, it should be! This is a remarkable YA novel!

From page one, I was pulled into this beautifully written, uniquely told story. There are 100 written pages with 100 words on each page. Perfect for reluctant readers, this novel will draw you in. Will, our narrator, shares his pain of his dad’s suicide, the rape of his best friend, Playa, and the action he takes to cope with this trauma. He walks it off. But during his walks, he gives to others, often in secret. It brings him great joy to make other people’s lives better. For a book with few words, it’s filled with plenty of fascinating characters. There’s a homeless man named Superman, Will’s boss, Major Tom, and Mrs. Lin, who owns what Will calls “the blessings store.”

I really felt for Will. He has a huge, loving, compassionate heart. This world needs kindness, and this novel spreads it in spades!

Highly recommend!

View all my reviews


About Alison McGhee

Allison McGhee, photo from her Goodreads page

Alison McGhee writes novels, picture books, poems, and essays for all ages and is the author of #1 NEW YORK TIMES bestseller SOMEDAY, illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds. Her work has been translated into more than 20 languages. She lives in Minneapolis, California and Vermont.

Visit her: Website 




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

Easy by Tammara Webber Discussion Questions for Mothers-Daughters, Sisters, Friends & Giveaway
Jan 10th, 2013 by Liza Wiemer


The New York Times Bestseller:

Easy by Tammara Webber

Readers Guide/Discussion Questions for

Mothers-Daughters, Sisters, Friends

International Giveaway:

Rules: 1 paperback copy of Easy. 18 and older. Outside of the US, only for countries where there is free shipping through The Book Depository. Ends January 18, 4 PM, CST. For more information, check the Rafflecopter.

EasyEasy by Tammara Webber is one of those books that may deeply alter a person’s life. It’s about love, relationships, and rape. Personally, any parent who is sending off a son or daughter to college would benefit from reading Easy. It should be read by sorority sisters and friends. Because what happens in Easy takes place EVERY SINGLE DAY! The events depicted in Easy need to be talked about. Daughters need to be prepared so that they can be proactive and safe just in case they run into a situation that could put them in harm’s way. Sons need to know how to have healthy relationships with young women. If you need guidance with that, then Easy is a helpful source, a launching point for discussion. You may not agree with everything that transpires. That’s okay. It’s about having the opportunity to create a dialogue with those you care about. If you don’t have someone to talk to about these issues or don’t feel comfortable doing so, then that’s okay too. Easy is an outstanding novel to help you formulate your own opinion.

As a parent, teacher, writer, I wanted to create my own guide to share with my friends. Now, I’m posting it on my blog. I personally have purchased Easy for several friends and their college-bound daughters to read and discuss. I was told by my friends that they each read Easy separately, then came together to discuss it. Both moms and daughters said their discussions was extremely helpful and meaningful because of this book.

Note: There also is a helpful publisher’s readers guide in the back of the book. The questions created by me were done before I saw the guide. Use them both.

Link to my Readers Guide – Discussion Questions for Mothers-Daughters, Sisters, Friends.

There are spoilers, so utilize the guide after you read Easy.


From Goodreads:

Tammara Webber

Tammara Webber

Rescued by a stranger.
Haunted by a secret
Sometimes, love isn’t easy…

He watched her, but never knew her. Until thanks to a chance encounter, he became her savior…

The attraction between them was undeniable. Yet the past he’d worked so hard to overcome, and the future she’d put so much faith in, threatened to tear them apart.

Only together could they fight the pain and guilt, face the truth—and find the unexpected power of love.

To see my Goodreads review, click here: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/443052366

To learn more about Tammara Webber and all her novels, please visit her website: http://tammarawebber.blogspot.com

(Mature Young Adult/ New Adult)

There are spoilers, so utilize the guide after you read Easy. http://www.whorublog.com/?page_id=1696

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Aug 9th, 2009 by Liza Wiemer

photo-1Wisdom from the Streets of San Franciscophoto

No, I’m not shy.  Yes, I actually stood on the street and asked strangers to share their best advice for young adults.  Thanks San Francisco!  Note:  The photo on the left is of actor Wylie Herman in front of Alamo Square.  The photo on the right was taken at a bus stop on Powell Street.

Actor Wylie Herman

“I took an alternate route after high school.  I chose to skip college to pursue my acting. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it, because it’s risky.  But it did work for me.  I don’t have any regrets, not at all.  But there was a time when all my friends were in college doing their thing.  There was always that sense, well, should I be in college?  But, I was doing what I love to do – so why not continue doing it?  So I did.” 

“My advice is to follow your heart, follow your dreams.  Do something artistic.  Most people have some kind of artistic inclination, so follow it as far as you can.”  

In addition to acting in films, TV, and theater, Wylie Herman gives movie tours of San Francisco.  Click on this site for further information.  http://www.sanfranciscomovietours.com/ 

“Don’t get into things before you’re ready to handle them or because of peer pressure, especially sex or drugs.  You should be in control of your decisions, so ask yourself if you’re ready for the consequences.”  Richard, 39

If you’re absolutely sure you want to do something, then do it.  If you have any doubts, don’t do it.  Obviously, if you don’t want to do something, don’t do it.”  James, age 42

“Love is not what you get, but what you give.”  James, age 42

“Life is far too short for fear and all that stuff that might hold you back ’cause you feel you don’t know what you’re doing.  Guess what, not too many people know what they’re doing when they pursue their dreams.  Just do it.  I should have been afraid to move to San Francisco from the other coast.  There was nothing rational or practical about it.  My heart and soul were telling me it was the right thing to do.  It was the little voice inside saying forget the rational and just go for it.  It turned out to be the best thing I have ever done.  In the end, I met the love of my life and have been very successful.”  James, age 42

“Listen to music that speaks to you.  But know that what you listen to says a lot about you.  So, my recommendation is to listen to music that inspires you in good ways and doesn’t promote all the negative stuff in life.”  Anonymous 

“This past weekend I had some friends over for a party.  One of my friends was a regular user of GHB (Date Rape Drug) and he overdosed and died.  He was 34.  I didn’t even know that he had slipped it into his drink.  The hardest thing I’ve ever had to do was meet his mother and sister at the coroner’s.  He had been a long time user of drugs.  You think that it will never happen to you.  But it can, it very well can.  My best advice is don’t start using drugs, because you don’t know if you’ll end up in my friend’s shoes.  Jimmy, age 39

My advice:  If there is something you really want to do in life, don’t let someone dissuade you from doing it.  I really wanted to move to San Francisco from England.  My mother was very unhappy about the choice and tried to get me to change my mind.  I am certain she acted that way out of love and concern.  I glad I didn’t let her pressure dissuade me from moving here.  That was eight years ago.”  Josie, age 32

“My father said, ‘The world is run by the people who show up!’  I think that was great advice.”  Jay, age 30

“My parents divorced and I lived in Canada with my mom.  I didn’t care about school and hung out with the wrong crowd.  My mother sent me to live with my father in San Francisco – and I continued with the same behavior.  I found the same types of kids here.  What did I learn from this experience?  Avoid peer pressure by following what you feel is the right thing to do.  I got caught up in the peer pressure and things didn’t change for me until after high school.  My life would have been better and much easier if I just listened to what I thought was right, instead of following the crowd.”  Brendon (City Rent-a-Car), age 27

“I didn’t get along with my parents when I was growing up. Actually, I hated them and thought they were completely full of it.  They valued education and I could have cared less.  Plus, I struggled with ADD.  My parents never lowered their expectations of me.  They wanted me to go to college and pushed me to understand that an education brings value to your life.   I ended up going to college, getting a degree in Political Science, and now I work on environmental issues.  My mother is a independent woman.  She once told me that it is important for me know who I am.   She also said do for yourself first, but don’t forget to do for others too.  I think my mom’s a wise woman.  The greatest lesson I learned was that parents often know best.  Looking back, I am so grateful that they wanted me to get an education, that they never stopped believing in me.   They were right, going to college turned out to be a great thing for me.” Kimberly, age 28

“If you have a problem in life, don’t just go to your peers for advice. Have an open mind. Don’t get locked into one opinion that you can’t hear what others have to say.  Get many different opinions and perspectives before you make up your mind.  Seek adults you can trust, people you respect – perhaps teachers, clergy, family friends, or family members.  Once you’ve heard these different opinions, you are better equipped to make a sound decision.  Remember, the best decision may not be the one you might have wanted to hear.”  Harold, age 40   

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