Four Excellent Stand Alone Novels I’ve Read/Listened to This Year
May 13th, 2013 by Liza Wiemer

Reviewing my Goodreads “read” page, I was surprised to see how many novels I’ve read this year were a part of a series. It made me think about my reading choices. Sometimes, it’s agony having to wait for the next book  in a series when I’m living to find out what happens next. I mark my calendar, hope for an ARC, and often pre-order! Once in awhile, I actually wait for the series to be completed, especially a trilogy) before I read book two. There are plenty of exceptions- by Maggie Stiefvater, for example, will be one of them.

I didn’t start the Lux Series by Jennifer Armetrout until recently. I gobbled up books 1-3, but now I’m longing for the next one. I loved being able to read three books back-to-back. Now I’m waiting, waiting, waiting along with other fans.

Because I devour so many novels, I don’t want to reread or skim to remind myself what happened. So I don’t. I’ll dive into the next book in the series and get caught up quickly. But this comes at a price. It’s possible I miss some of the author’s nuances that carry through a series.

It’s nice to have a little relief from the waiting. You gotta love the stand alone novels. Beginning, Middle, End. Done! So here’s a few I recommend:


16101080OUR SONG by Jordanna Fraiberg is a hauntingly beautiful, mysterious, and captivating romantic page turner. Masterfully crafted.

For all those YA who have been deeply confused by their relationships when they suddenly take a huge plunge without obvious warning signs, OUR SONG is an eye-opener. What’s been missing? Is the perfect boy really so perfect? How does he impact your self-esteem? Wake up!

The novel opens with Olive recovering from a horrible car crash. She’s only alive because paramedics resuscitated her. Many rumors surround the circumstances behind the accident that just might not have been an accident, but a cry for help. Was it? The circumstances of that rainy night unfold as readers wonder about Olive’s mental state. Immediately, you will know something occurred with her ex-boyfriend Derek because Olive was driving his car. He comes across as heartless and selfish. It’s hard to understand what Olive saw in this jerk. What I deeply appreciate about this character is knowing that there are plenty of girls who go out with guys similar to Derek and take their crap. I hope this novel will be insightful. Who doesn’t know someone who has gone out or hooked up with guys just like this?

As Olive tries to deal with the circumstances behind the accident and her near-death experience, she joins an interesting support group. There, she meets a boy named Nick who helps Olive become more grounded. As they learn to trust each other, they share many adventures. Still, there’s lots of mystery behind Nick. Finding out his story is definitely a highlight.

There are lots of interesting family dynamics going on for both Olive and Nick. Olive’s parents seem to be struggling with their relationship. Her mother has an obsession with gardening and baking. Her father is a workaholic and spends a lot of time away from the family. I love her eight-year-old brother Noah. Despite the large age gap between them, Olive and Noah have a special, sweet bond. Nick has absent parents and readers will wonder why this bright young man has so much time on his hands.

The book unfolds beautifully, weaving words to a song that plays over and over again in Olive’s mind. A message? A warning?

She has a lot to learn about love, life, friendship, and her family. Sometimes a person has repeat experiences/bad choices in order to get it right and find the courage to be their best, strongest self.

This Is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith15790873

Clever, fun, sweet, romantic!

I thoroughly enjoyed every page of this novel about an accidental slip of one letter that leads to an email exchange between Graham, a Hollywood star actor and Ellie, a girl with her own secrets. She lives in Henley, a small town in Maine. She shares life in Middle-of-Nowhere as he tells her about life in Middle-of-Everything, CA. When Graham has the opportunity to arrange for part of his next movie to be filmed in Henley, he goes in search of of Ellie. At this point, each has kept their identities secret from the other. This changes quickly when Graham comes to town. The connection to Ellie runs deep, but it’s not so easy for her to let him in. The boy she communicated with and revealed so much of herself to doesn’t quite jive with this big-time star. He has his own wounds and self-preservation keeps him from pursuing her after the paparazzi go crazy over his new “love” interest. With time running out, they can’t bare to stay apart. This leads to an interesting adventure and some tender moments, capturing “what happy looks like.”

This Is What Happy Looks Like is another wonderful book by the talented Jennifer E. Smith.


873584An Abundance of Katherines, by John Green. YA  – This John Green novel was published in September 2006. It won the Printz Honor Award.

My husband and I listened to An Abundance of Katherines on a road trip. It’s the perfect YA novel to share with family (if you don’t get embarrassed with an occasional sex reference.) – 1. Male narrator. 2. Lots of humor they guys can relate to. 3. Brilliant writing. 4. Male characters who are hysterical and quirky. 5. Incredible story – strong values, insightful.

Colin Singleton has dated nineteen Katherines – not Kat or Catherine or Katie or Kate – and when the last one dumps him, he’s devastated. During the summer between high school and college, Colin goes on a road trip with his BFF, Hassan. Their adventure is a powerful experience as Colin – boy prodigy and anagram expert – discovers where he’s gone wrong with his nineteen Katherines relationships. There are also insightful moments that help define friendship.

Narrated by Jeff Woodman. He did a great job switching from one character to another, changing voices and adding a special touch to their personalities with his intonation. <3 it.

This novel will make you lol, smile, and appreciate the what makes each of us unique. Highly recommend.

Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turage – MG, won the Newberry Honor (2013)


I absolutely LOVED this audio! The change of voices was spot on and captured the essence of the story. There were many lol moments. The story is about Mo (aka Moses), an eleven-year-old girl who was found as a baby after a hurricane without any trace of her parents. She writes letters and sticks them in a bottle to her “upstream mother.” She has a best friend Dale and they have a detective agency. With the agency, they find lost dogs and investigate a murder! The circumstances are funny and touching. I love the Lavender, Dale’s older brother. Mo has a crush on him and it’s quite sweet. Miss Lana raises Mo as her own, and I have to say that I am deeply touched by their closeness. There’s also the Colonel who found Mo during the hurricane and is a father figure in Mo’s life. I love the suspense, the mystery, and the eccentric characters. This is a wonderful book for middle graders. The audio is perfect for a road trip with MG kids. The entire family will love it

Book Club Questions for John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars
Feb 9th, 2012 by Liza Wiemer

Book Club Questions for John Green’s

The Fault in Our Stars

The Fault in Our Stars is the first novel that our Wisconsin YA Bloggers/Authors/Educators/Librarians group chose to read for our book club. (We definitely need an official name!) We’ll be meeting this coming Sunday and I can’t wait to discuss it with these incredible women. I’ll wait to post my review, though I will say that I finished the novel in one night, so that gives readers a clue on just how amazing I found TFiOS. I started thinking about different aspects of the novel, which made me curious about what our book club members thought about a particular character, concept, scene. So, I decided to put a SHORT list of questions together and share them on WhoRuBlog. (I am sure there are other study guides. If I run across them, I will link them at the bottom.)

1. John Green has numerous characters with various relationships/reactions to cancer. What did you like/dislike about these characters? How would you describe their personalities? How do you identify with them? Do they remind you of people you know? • Hazel –

• Hazel’s mother –

• Hazel’s father –

• Hazel’s friend Kaitlyn –

• Augustus –

•Augustus’s mother –

• Augustus’s father –

• Augustus’s half-sisters (spouses, children) –

• Support Group Patrick –

• Isaac –

• Isaac’s girlfriend Monica –

• Peter Van Houten –

• Lidewj –

• Dr. Maria –

2. If you could only choose one scene/moment/dialogue that had the most impact on you, which one would it be and why? And don’t say the entire novel – we know!

3. How (if at all) has TFiOS changed your perspective of cancer or those who are living with it?

4. It was important to Augustus that his actions/existence would leave a mark on this world. How does he do that? How do you do that?

5. Hazel uses the word “hamartia” or “tragic flaw” to describe Augustus when he stuck a cigarette between his lips and it also describes Peter Van Houten and his drinking. The differences between these two are night and day – and a brilliant metaphor. What was your perspective/reaction?

Feel free to add your own questions or comments by clicking the “comments” button below. Also, if you find a link for other study guides, feel free to add it. Thanks.

ADDED February 19:

A huge perk of getting the CD version of TFiOS is the incredible seven bonus videos on DVD narrated by John Green. He explains the name choices, the history of how the book came to be, the background of The Hectic Glow etc. We watched them in our book club and I think we all really enjoyed them. It also impacted our discussion, so that was definitely a positive!

Have questions about TFiOS? Check out:  OnlyifyoufinishedTFiOS.tumblr.com (The password is the last word in the acknowledgments) – Please don’t go to this website unless you have finished the novel!

Also for book club, I brought a chicken salad that was inspired by the novel. Though chicken salad isn’t specifically mentioned, food from Holland is included, and this definitely is similar to chicken salads I found on the net for recipes from Holland. This recipe was given to me by my friend, Sarah Kealy. Enjoy.

Chicken Salad

2 cups cooked and diced boneless skinless chicken

1 cup celery

1 cup chopped parsley

1 cup toasted pecans

3 apples peeled and diced


2 Tbs OJ

4 teas Dijon Mustard

salt and pepper to taste

1 teas honey

2 Tbs lemon juice

1/4 cup canola oil

Added 12-17-2012


Hazel and Gus eat dragon carrot risotto. pg. 165

Recipe posted here:


Dragon carrots are PURPLE. They’re not too hard to find, but call around first. I got in touch with an organic farm. For more details from our Novel Cuisine Luncheon check here: http://www.whorublog.com/?p=1570

John Green Week
Jan 10th, 2012 by Liza Wiemer

When my friend, the big-hearted, make-people-smile Heidi at http://www.yabibliophile.com/ decided to put together a John Green Week, I decided to join. I had already read Will Grayson, Will Grayson, which John Green co-wrote with David Levithan is one of the most unforgettable YA novels I’ve ever read. There were so many lol moments that I memorized page numbers-something I’ve never done before. I also read Looking for Alaska and found the characters to be intriguing, heartbreaking, and memorable.

I haven’t quite finished my John Green Week challenge novel, Paper Towns, so I’ll update this post when I do. But for now, I’m definitely intrigued to see how the main character could find himself in a situation may very well jeopardize everything he’s worked to accomplish in high school and keep him from attending Duke University.

If you need a laugh, take a look at Heidi’s selection of John Green’s vlogs. http://www.yabibliophile.com/2012/01/john-green-week-vlogs.html

Updated: January 18, 2011 My review of Paper Towns as posted on Goodreads:

I read Paper Towns in honor of John Green Week (Jan 3-10) put together by Heidi of YABibliophilehttp://www.yabibliophile.com/2011/11/joh…
The book is narrated by Quentin, a senior who has had a crush on his neighbor Margo Roth Spiegelman, Margo has pretty much ignored Quentin for years until one night when she knocks on his window and convinces him to take his mother’s car and help her with eleven various activities, including sneaking into SeaWorld. Against his better judgment, Quentin goes along with Margo’s plan. The evening ends up being quite eventful and life-changing for Quentin and some of the people the visit.
The next day, Margo runs away from home and since she had done it before, everyone is certain she’ll be back. But as days go by, Quentin begins to lose hope for her return and is determined to find out what happened to her.
I love how the mystery of her disappearance unfolds as Quentin tries to figure out what happened to Margo. He hopes he’ll find her alive, but is prepared for the possibility she killed herself. Quentin’s journey is guided by some clues Margo left behind, which he is certain she left for him, including the poem “Song of Myself” by Whitman.
Paper Towns is a fabulous novel with some lol moments. Page 248-250 OMG!
Another John Green winner.

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