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Flashback Friday: LEAVING PARADISE and RETURN TO PARADISE by Simone Elkeles
May 23rd, 2014 by Liza Wiemer

flashback-friday-featured

For more information on the MEME, check out Fic Fare’s post: http://fictionfare.blogspot.com/2014/05/flashback-friday-may-23-2014.html

LEAVING PARADISE by Simone Elkeles

Published by Flux

Pub Date: April 8, 2007

Buy the book: Amazon | Audible | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound

544424From Goodreads:

Nothing has been the same since Caleb Becker left a party drunk, got behind the wheel, and hit Maggie Armstrong. Even after months of painful physical therapy, Maggie walks with a limp. Her social life is nil and a scholarship to study abroad—her chance to escape everyone and their pitying stares—has been canceled.


After a year in juvenile jail, Caleb’s free . . . if freedom means endless nagging from a transition coach and the prying eyes of the entire town. Coming home should feel good, but his family and ex-girlfriend seem like strangers.

Caleb and Maggie are outsiders, pigeon-holed as “criminal” and “freak.” Then the truth emerges about what really happened the night of the accident and, once again, everything changes. It’s a bleak and tortuous journey for Caleb and Maggie, yet they end up finding comfort and strength from a surprising source: each other.

 

My Review: 

Simone Elkeles writes some fascinating characters, and this book is no exception. The characters in LEAVING PARADISE have depth. Emotions run high, and the story draws you in. I appreciate the surprises and contrasts of this novel. It’s easy to compare an author’s work, especially in the same genre. Don’t. This is an amazing book to be read with a fresh eye. Don’t compare it to her other works, as I’ve seen in other reviews, which have said it’s not as good as… Instead read this as a stand-alone novel (until the sequel comes out). I am certain you’ll appreciate it on so many different levels. LEAVING PARADISE is an emotional, fast, great read.

I highly recommend reading the sequel, FINDING PARADISE, too! I loved it. A very satisfying end to these books! Love Simone!!!

About Simone Elkeles:

Twitter | Website | Facebook | Goodreads

 

Let’s Eat: A Novel Cuisine – Wisconsin YA Book Bloggers/Librarians Dinner!
Dec 20th, 2011 by Liza Wiemer

Enjoy cooking? Try some yummy food inspired by ten YA novels written by eight awesome authors.

On December 19th, seven Wisconsin YA book bloggers/librarians/book addicts met for our first book club meeting. And what a night we had!!! Heidi from http://www.yabibliophile.com , Rani from Next Chapter Bookstore http://twitter.com/#!/couldberuthless, Jillian from http://heisereads.blogspot.com, Erica from http://www.thebookcellarx.com Sasha http://twitter.com/#!/FzngWizbee, Maggie http://twitter.com/#!/MaggieMelchior and me. We had a blast talking about YA novels we loved from 2011, novels we can’t believe we waited so long to read, novels that surprised us or disappointed us. We talked about the authors who have hilarious tweets and are so wonderful in person. (There are a lot of them!!!!) We talked about how we review books for our blogs and Goodreads. Time flew by! It was one of the best nights I’ve had in a long time with just the best gals to hang out with and talk books. And I can’t WAIT for our next book club meeting, which is scheduled for February. For more info check out the awesome Heidi’s post! http://www.yabibliophile.com/2011/12/my-book-club-rocks.html

Besides reading and writing YA, cooking is another one of my passions. (I used to volunteer my time and cater events for a non-profit organization. That’s how much I love to cook. :) ) Whenever food is mentioned in a novel, I pay attention. And so I decided to create a menu and cook a dinner as a surprise for our first book club meeting. All the recipes were inspired by YA novels. Some mentioned a specific food, like mariquitas in The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin (Noah and Mara

Mariquitas and Garlicky Sauce inspired from THE UNBECOMING OF MARA DYER by Michelle Hodkin (Click photo to enlarge)

are eating in a Cuban restaurant in Miami, page 222) while others mentioned atype of food, for example Korean in Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins (Lola runs into Mr. Lim and asks him about his Korean restaurant, referenced on page 9. Lindsey Lim is Lola’s best friend.)

Here’s the menu and the YA novels that inspired the food:

A NOVEL CUISINE (All recipes are vegetarian except the chicken tikki masala, but feel free to substitute tofu)

Pita Chips (How to Ruin a Teenage Life by Simone Elkeles)

Chummus (How to Ruin a Teenage Life by Simone Elkeles)

Guacamole (Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins, Chain Reaction by Simone Elkeles)

Mariquitas w/ Garlicky Sauce (The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin)

Hot-Sour Soup (Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver, If I Stay by Gayle Forman)

Chicken Tikki Masala (We’ll Always Have Summer by Jenny Han)

Brown Rice (We’ll Always Have Summer by Jenny Han)

Bok Choy and Cucumber Kimichi inspired by LOLA AND THE BOY NEXT DOOR by Stephanie Perkins

Bok Choy and Cucumber Kimichi inspired by LOLA AND THE BOY NEXT DOOR by Stephanie Perkins (Click photo to enlarge)

Bok Choy and Cucumber Kimichi (Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins)

Moelleux au Chocolat (Molten Lava Cakes) with Strawberry Sauce

(Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins)

Sprecher* Cherry Cola  (Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins, The Duff by Koby Keplinger)

Hot Mint Tea (Timepiece by Myra McEntire)

Water with Sliced Lime (The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin)

*Note – Sprecher is a Wisconsin favorite local brewery. Try and find their soda if you can. Once you taste their cherry soda, will will never want to drink Cherry Coke or Cherry Pepsi again!

Click here for ALL THE RECIPEShttp://www.whorublog.com/?page_id=1015

Take Five with YA Author Simone Elkeles
Jan 2nd, 2011 by Liza Wiemer

Here’s the perfect way to start 2011.

Snuggle up with a book by one of my most favorite YA authors, Simone Elkeles.

Want the chance to WIN a copy of one of her books? Leave a comment about this interview, and which book you would want to read. Winner will be randomly chosen Sunday, January 16, 2011 8PM CST. US and Canada only. (Be a Google follower of this blog for an extra entry.)  WINNER HAS BEEN RANDOMLY CHOSEN: CONGRATS – MINAS

To learn more about Simone Elkeles, visit her author website:  http://www.simoneelkeles.net/

Perfect Chemistry was the first Simone Elkeles novel I read, and I fell in love! (When I’ve browse YA sections at bookstores I’ve tell complete strangers to buy it and her other novels. I can proudly say that I’ve been successful!) I am hooked, hooked, hooked. I am sure you will be too.

Here’s a complete list of her novels: The sequel to Perfect Chemistry, Rules of Attraction, and the third in the trilogy, Chain Reaction is due out in May, 2011 – and boy would I like to get my hands on the ARC!) Leaving Paradise and the sequel, Return to Paradise, How to Ruin a Summer Vacation, How to Ruin My Teenage Life, and How to Ruin Your Boyfriend’s Reputation

I was fortunate to receive an ARC of Return to Paradise from Flux, so I’m including my review here.

Simone Elkeles’s Return to Paradise is an outstanding sequel to Leaving Paradise! I couldn’t put this book down. I rarely would describe a novel as exquisite, but it fits. Once again, Simone Elkeles draws the reader in by alternating between Caleb and Maggie’s narration, and it works beautifully.
Return to Paradise is a richly written, emotionally charged novel that will leave you satisfied, but also wishing that the last page didn’t come so quickly.
What makes Simone Elkeles’s books (including this one) so fabulous is the realistic portrayal of characters from all different life experiences. She doesn’t shy away from the tough issues that teens face today. She seamlessly integrates sexuality, disabilities, race, religion and faith, love, family dynamics, drug use, and divorce. All of Simone Elkeles’s main characters face difficult challenges and Caleb and Maggie are no exception. There is no sugar coating life, but love can make a person better, can help to overcome obstacles, and can give strength when you’re feeling weak.

Enjoy this interview with Simone:

1.  Which one of your characters do you identify with the most and why?

I would say I am the most like Amy from the How to Ruin series.  Her story is entirely fictional, but we do share some of the same experiences.  I also went to Israeli boot camp as a teen and met my future husband there.  I’m also like Amy because I like to solve problems and help people, but I’ve never signed anyone up for an online dating service!

2.  If you could trade places for a day with one of your characters who would it be and why?

That is one of the toughest questions.  I guess I would want to be Brittany Ellis from Perfect Chemistry/Rules of Attraction because Alex is the type of guy who would respect me and take care of me, but still let me be independent while being my forever partner in life.

3.  Many authors read their published work and wish they could change something.  Has this ever happened to you?  What would you have changed?

Of course there are always little things I want to change, a word here or a detail there.  But, I force myself not to think about any major changes.  Mostly because I figure it would take too long to drive to every bookstore in the country with my red pen and make the changes I want.  I do the best I can during my final rewrites and then let it go.

4.  Many of your characters face adversity and become stronger human beings.  Not everyone is able to do that.  What qualities or attitudes do you think are crucial for a person to possess in order to utilize adversity and turn the experience or experiences into a positive?

All of my characters possess the desire to change.  Most of them don’t know it in the beginning, but they all realize eventually that they want to better themselves and rise above their situation.  Alex gets out of the gang for Brittany and Maggie chooses to make a bright future for herself even though she’ll never fully heal physically. Ultimately, I think it’s a result of loving someone and being loved; it makes you want to be the best version of yourself possible.

5.  Another fabulous aspect of your novels is your portrayal of relationships, sex, and love.  Just sex does not equal love.  Instead, loving someone deeply is expressed in a respectful, meaningful, tender, and intimate way, connecting individuals.  Why have you chosen to convey this message in your novels?

You are exactly right.  Sex can be a beautiful and meaningful expression of love, but it isn’t always that way.  I know teens are thinking about sex, talking about sex, and having sex.  I want them to see that they all deserve someone really special to share that moment with.  You would be surprised how many emails I get from teens telling me that because of my book, they’ve realized that they want to be treated as well as Alex treats Brittany.  On the flip side, Amy in the How to Ruin series chooses to wait for marriage.  It’s not an easy decision for her, but she sticks with it.  Having or not having sex can be an overwhelming decision for many teens.  The truth is that everyone feels that way!

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