The BEST Books I Read This SUMMER & MEGA Giveaway
Sep 1st, 2013 by Liza Wiemer

                 The BEST Books I Read This SUMMER & MEGA Giveaway

(Three winners!)

I’ve read a lot of excellent books this summer (June 21-August 31), but not all of them are included in this list. That’s because they were ARCs and haven’t been published, yet. I look forward to putting together another post at the end of 2013, which will include those novels.

Each of the books or series listed below were memorable for different reasons and I want to share them with you. One lucky winner will get to select two books of choice or one audiobook via Audible and a book. Two winners will have a choice of a book or audiobook. International winners – you must have access to Audible or the book must be available through The Book Depository. Giveaway ends September 22, 2013 11:59 PM CST.

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In no particular order:

16151178The Sea of Tranquility by 

Why it’s on the list: I love characters who go through major transformations.

Review: An exceptional story.

A note about the cover: It’s perfect for this novel. That’s melted ice cream that formed the outline of the faces on the asphalt. It fits so beautifully, so kudos to the designer and the publisher for going with it.

I am NOT going to talk about Josh. Or Sunshine. Or what happened to her in THE SEA OF TRANQUILITY by Katja Millay. I am not going to discuss the unfairness of what Josh faced over and over again. Many others have done so and done it extremely well. I second, third, fourth my agreement.
I will say this: THE SEA OF TRANQUILITY begs the reader to take action, to make a change, or a choice, even a small one like picking up the phone and calling a loved one to say “I love you.”

To read the rest of the review, click here: The Sea of Tranquility


Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein (AUDIOBOOK), performed by  and 13479365

Why it’s on the list: I’ll remember what happened to these characters for a very long time.

Review: Voices so real, it’s hard to believe this is historical fiction and not biographical.

I picked up this novel from the library, but then returned without reading it. That was nearly a year ago. I had heard that it would rip my heart out, and I wasn’t ready to grab the knife.
But when my dear friend Heidi from YA Bibliophile @hmz1505http://www.yabibliophile.com raved and raved and raved about the audio, I knew I had to listen to it.
Once again, Heidi was right. The readers brought this novel to life and had me riveted. I was drawn into the story of female spies and female pilots during WWII and the friendship between two women – Queenie and Maddie. As they both had their turn to share the sequence of events that led to their friendship and what happened when Queenie was captured by the Nazis was absolutely stunning. The characters seemed so real and their voices were so authentic, that it’s hard to believe that they were created in Elizabeth Wein’s imagination.

To read the rest of the review, click here: Code Name Verity 

15777621This Song Will Save Your Life by 

Why it’s on the list: Speaks to anyone who’s felt like they didn’t fit in.

Review: Wow, wow!

Can a song save a person’s life?
Hmm, you’ll have to read This Song Will Save Your Life to understand the magic of music. I was deeply impressed with the Leila Sales’ powerful portrayal of Elise Dembowski, a sixteen-year-old girl who has endured bullying and friendlessness for as long as she can remember. As the daughter of divorced parents who share custody, she’s scheduled in and synced to both parents’ lives. With her dad, she’s an only child. With her mom, she’s the big sister and a step-daughter. Elise is bright and creative, and music means everything to her. Her father is a member of a one-hit 70s band, still playing at various venues like cruise ships, bars, etc. while he also works at a music store. It is he, who gave Elise such a passion for music.

To read the rest of the review, click here: This Song Will Save Your Life

What Happens Next by 12819342

Why it’s on the list: Addresses a serious issue: Date rape after being drugged.

Review: Very realistic. Compelling. Painful. Serious issues. One of the best book boyfriends. Ever. Definitely recommend.

What Happens Next was recommended to me by Rachel fromhttp://rachelwritesthings.blogspot.com Thanks, Rachel!

I was immediately taken in by Sid’s story, a sixteen-year-old girl who goes on a school ski trip with her two best friends. While on the trip, the three of them split up and Sid meets a college boy named Dax. He’s fills her with lots of compliments and begs her to come to a party. Her friends are totally against it, by Sid ignores them. What happens next is absolutely horrible and real and a warning to girls to never go to a stranger’s place.
As Sid tries to figure out how to deal with what happened to her, she meets Corey Livingston, a boy who seems like a complete loser. But as the two of them take months to get to know each other, something special blooms between them.

To read the rest of the review, click here: What Happens Next 


Camp Boyfriend by 

Why it’s on the list: For anyone who has ever been torn between two boys or struggled with identity, this story will hit home.

Review: CAMP BOYFRIEND is . . .

authentic. Beautifully captures the difficulties of navigating friendships and relationships. So much more than a love triangle. (Don’t let that turn you off. It’s a huge plus.) This novel is about self-identity, self-worth, self-esteem.
I really want to see this in all middle schools/high schools/libraries.

CAMP BOYFRIEND does an incredible job of portraying the inner turmoil of a girl torn between two really good guys. But it’s also so much more. It begs the reader to ask, “What’s important to me?” Until that question is answered, it’s tough to know the bigger question, “Who am I?”

I am NOT going to summarize this novel. You can read that in the description. Instead, I want to share with you . . .

To read the rest of the review, click here: Camp Boyfriend

The ENTIRE (to date) Covenant Series By 

Half-Blood (Book 1)

Half-Blood (Book 1)

(Half-Blood, Pure, Deity, Apollyon)

Why these books are on the list: The first line of my review says it all!

Review: Adventure, romance, heart-pounding action, and Greek mythology rolled into a captivating, unforgettable series.

Jennifer Armentrout created an fascinating world you’ll appreciate and visit on each page. I can’t imagine anyone not falling in love with Aiden and Alex.

Thank you, Jaime, from http://fictionfare.blogspot.com for sharing the first three books with me and to Spencer Hill for the fourth book APOLLYON and the novellas.

I read all four books in THE COVENANT series plus the novella ELIXIR over the past four days. That should say EVERYTHING. I was completely sucked into the Greek mythology and the incredible storyline told by the hyper, daring, courageous, snarky Alex (short for Alexandria). Alex is a half blood – someone who is born to a pure blood parent (from the Greek gods) and a mortal parent. Pure bloods and half bloods don’t mix. They’re forbidden to love and they’re most definitely a lower class. Half bloods can become slaves to pure bloods, losing themselves by being forced to drink elixir that takes away their ability to think and act on their own freewill.

To read the rest of the review, click here: The ENTIRE (to date) Covenant Series

615359Shark Girl and Formally Shark Girl by 

Why these books are on the list: Powerful portrayal of a teen redefining herself told through free verse poetry.

Review: SHARK GIRL will keep you captivated and will reel you in! Perfect for reluctant readers.

SHARK GIRL is about a girl named Jane who’s life changes in an instant when a shark attacks her and severs her arm. The story of that moment is told in free verse poetry. Throughout the novel, letters from concerned, compassionate people, along with reporters who want her story, are interspersed, breaking up the free verse poetry with the reality of what it means to be in the national spotlight. Jane shares her painful recovery, her deepest emotions, including her fears, frustration, and anger at the loss of her arm. Once a promising artist, she sees her future plans disappear as she has to relearn how to do everything with her left hand.

To read the rest of the review, click here: Shark Girl and Formally Shark Girl

Shadow and Bone and Siege and Storm by  (AUDIOBO


OK), performed by 10194157

Why it’s on the list: Fantasy at its finest!

Review: A captivating audiobook that kept me completely enthralled and invested in the story. Characters came to life.

About the story: Alina and Mal are two orphans who were raised in a Duke’s home (he takes in orphans who are “cared for” by a his servants. They rarely see the Duke.) Alina and Mal become each other’s best friends/family. Eventually, Alina and Mal come to serve the king as trackers. But when it’s discovered that Alina has a special talent, she’s whisked away from Mal and taken to the Little Palace to hone her skills as a Grisha and become the Darkling’s match. Putting their gifts together, they’ll be invincible. But Alina has a lot to learn before that can happen.
I loved the Grisha and their unique abilities. I could visualize the Shadow Fold and the nation of Ravka as well as the Little Palace, which isn’t very little at all.

To read the rest of the review, click here: Shadow and Bone To read the review for the second book in the series, click here: Siege and Storm

16270141The Boy on the Bridge by 

Why it’s on the list: A historical (romance) novel set in the former Soviet Union-USSR (Russia.) I don’t think many YA know about this time period in history.

Review: An accurate portrayal of the Soviet Union in the 1980s. Terrifying and heartbreaking. Highly recommend.

When Laura goes to Leningrad for a semester abroad program, she believes meeting Alyosha on the bridge leading to her foreigners only dorm is a chance encounter. She quickly develops deep feelings for him and it appears that he feels the same way. He and his friends are hungry for anything that connects them to America. Does he love her because she’s wonderful, bright, kind or because of what she represents as an American? There is danger lurking around every corner, people who are willing to get this young couple in trouble, especially Alyosha, for anti-Soviet sentiment. Alyosha longs for the freedom that he perceives America represents. What does this really mean for Laura? You’ll have to read the novel to find out.

To read the rest of the review, click here: The Boy on the Bridge

The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes17572903

Why it’s on the list: Simply unforgettable – Like SARAH’S KEY by Tatiana de Rosnay.

Review: Part 1: Written on  7/20/13


I need to spend some time digesting this novel before I complete my review. I will say this – I am so glad I read the prequel (HONEYMOON IN PARIS) – See my review on Goodreads here: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/…
More tomorrow.
Or the next day.
Must. Close. My. Mouth. It’s on the floor.

Part 2: Written on 7/23/13

Impactful. Eye-opening. Shocking.

Okay. Deep breath.
I’ve been thinking about how to review this novel. A lot. And why it affected me so much. I’ve come to the realization that there are several things that deeply impacted me. The characters and the experiences are so real, that, as the reader, you get completely absorbed in what has happened to them. This experience is similar to what many would say happened while reading SARAH’S KEY by Tatiana de Rosnay.

To read the rest of the review, click here: The Girl You Left Behind

16158528Looking for Me by Beth Hoffman

Why it’s on the list: A unique, page-turner story. The characters are some of the most interesting I’ve read.

Review: An exceptional novel that will leave antique lovers drooling, nature lovers longing for the outdoors, animal lovers running to make a donation to their local animal shelter or humane society, and hopeless romantics swooning.

I seriously can’t believe that I waited a whole month to read this novel. I should have picked it up immediately. Looking for Me is storytelling at its best. Teddi and her brother Josh grew up on a farm in Kentucky. While she loves to give new life to old things like furniture, Josh becomes a protector of nature. Their father fosters their passions while their mother begrudgingly goes along with it. As Teddi and Josh grow up, they take their own journeys away from home. Their stories are both heartwarming and heartbreaking. Some of the overall themes of this beautiful novel are the power of family ties, the bonds of friendship, and the power of love.

To read the rest of the review, click here: Looking for Me
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HOOKED ON AUDIOBOOKS: Why I love to listen
Aug 28th, 2013 by Liza Wiemer


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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