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May. 10th, 2012


Goodreads Book Giveaway

Secret Letters by Leah Scheier

Secret Letters

by Leah Scheier

Giveaway ends June 30, 2012.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

May. 6th, 2012

Review of The Fault in our Stars by John Green

The Fault in our Stars is a book I would recommend above all others-- the "if you only read one piece of fiction this year" type of novel. It could easily go head to head with The Book Thief, The History of Love or any of my favorites. And it made me cry harder than I've ever cried over a fictional character-- ever. I mean I KNEW this was a cancer book, I could predict what was going to happen from the first chapter, but I still needed half a box of tissues and some deep breathing exercises to get through it.
And I know this a cliche- but John Green is a genius. So much so that you don't mind that he occasionally kind of rubs your face in his brilliance. He really does too. I admit that it took me a few chapters to get used to his teenage prodigies. I mean, I went to a college filled with nerds, students who prided themselves on being geeks before the term "nerdfighter" even existed. And I never met anyone who talks or thinks like Hazel or Augustus. A seventeen-year-old boy who holds an unlit cigarette in his mouth as a "metaphor" and a girl who can quote poetry from memory?
It sounds a tad pretentious, no? But somehow this author made it work. And by the end of the novel he had turned against the pretention of the so-called brilliant writer, destroyed the "strong, brave cancer hero" myth, and actually made his quirky teens so real to me that I actually cried out when I turned the last page and hit the acknowledgements section.
I now hate acknowledgements.
I can't think of a better way to end this review than my favorite quote from The Fault in our Stars. It feels very relevant to me right now.
It occurred to me that the voracious ambition of humans is never sated by dreams coming true, because there is always the thought that everything might be done better and again.

May. 1st, 2012

My first professional review is in from Booklist!!

So excited! It just so happens to be mystery month at Booklist and Secret Letters was spotlighted by editor Ann Kelley as a young Sherlockians pic. You can read her review here
Yayy! *does a happy dance*

Apr. 26th, 2012

Book Review: Dead to You by Lisa McMann

I read this book a couple of months ago and had such a strong reaction to it that I immediately passed it on to my teenage daughters and then on to a family friend.
I say "strong" because I don't know how else to put it. All three members of my built-in review board had the same reaction as myself. It went something like this: WHY YOU GIVE ME THIS TO READ? shortly followed by LISA MCMANN WHY YOU NO WRITE A SEQUEL?????
Briefly the story is about a boy named Ethan, kidnapped at age seven from his front yard, who returns to his family at the age of sixteen. As you can imagine, it is a painful story, but the reunion is even more heart-wrenching because Ethan can't seem to remember anything about his life with his real former family.

What I loved most about this book: The voice. Lisa McMann managed to capture the tone and attitude of a sixteen year old boy perfectly. I have always admired authors who can write from the perspective of the opposite gender (Wally Lamb in She's come Undone is the first to spring to mind). I also loved that this book appeals to the most ignored demographic of readers: the teenage boy. With the exception of sci-fi, nearly all YA seems to be aimed at girls nowadays.
The writing flowed easily; the author managed to give us an immature voice without making it choppy or juvenile-- ever.

My only problem with the book is that there was one element which I found quite difficult to believe. Let me pose a question to my readers: Without looking at your loved one (sibling, children, spouse, etc) can you remember if their earl-lobes are attached or detached? I know that sounds weird, but it is a key element of the novel. My immediate response: I remember everything about my children, including that detail. Ethan's parents didn't, for some reason. I didn't understand this. Why couldn't they recall? Why did they need a photograph? Anyone who has ever had children knows that you MEMORIZE your baby. And you never forget, no matter how many years have passed.

And finally, the ending!!

I will not spoil the book by giving away the ending. I will only say that it was the reason we all had such conflicted feelings about the book. It went from LOVE LOVE LOVE to------ OH MY GOD, WHY?????
My recommendation: Read the book.
Then write a letter to the author begging her for a sequel. Please.        

Apr. 12th, 2012

Review of Ultraviolet by RJ Anderson

I've been meaning to review Ultraviolet by rj_anderson for a few months now.   I was impressed by the author's novels (Knife and Rebel) for middle grade readers and really interested to see how her first YA novel would turn out. I was one of a lucky few that got to beta read the first few chapters of Ultraviolet (originally titled Touching Indigo) and I was immediately hooked by the opening:

Once upon a time there was a girl who was special. Her hair flowed like honey and her eyes were blue as music. She grew up bright and beautiful, with deft fingers, a quick mind, and a charm that impressed everyone she met.  Her parents adored her, her teachers praised her, and her schoolmates admired her many talents. Even the oddly shaped birthmark on her upper arm seemed like a sign of some great destiny.
This is not her story.
Unless you count the part where I killed her.

How. Awesome. Is. That. 
The story follows Alison, a sixteen year old synaesthete who has been hospitalized in a mental institution after a nervous breakdown.  She is the last person to have seen her classmate, Tori (the girl described in the opening paragraph), before the girl's disappearance.  Alison is naturally under suspicion for murder, but without a body the police don't have enough evidence to charge her.  Even Alison doubts her own innocence; her memories of her last encounter with Tori are confused and terrifying and she can't help wonder if her strange ability to "taste" colors and "see" sounds had something to do with what happened to the missing girl.  In the hospital she meets Sebastian Faraday, a young man studying the phenomenon of synaethesia, and he helps her learn more about her unusual perceptions, and encourages her to trust herself again, even when no one else will.

I couldn't put this book down; I re-read it before writing this review so it would be clear in my mind, and I was just as intrigued the second time around.  Anderson's use of language perfectly mirrored her character's unique perceptions; I could actually relate to Alison's synaethesia because of the author's descriptions--- and yet she never overdid it.  Too many color and texture similes would have been irritating, but the author managed to find just the right balance. 

I liked the character of Faraday; I don't usually picture actors when I read but for some reason I couldn't help envisioning a young Kiefer Sutherland in that role, mostly because of his velvet voice.
Maybe looking a little like this? (apologies if that's no where near the author's vision of her character.)
To paraphrase Alison, I would like him to follow me around and narrate the rest of my life too, please. *grin*
The book was an interesting blend of paranormal and sci-fi.  I didn't really expect the sci-fi bit, to be honest, as it was introduced in the latter third of the novel, but when I re-read it I could see where I had missed the "clues" which the author had left.  I don't want to be spoilery so I can't elaborate further about that.
My only criticism is pretty minor and involved one of the side characters, Kirk, a troubled teen with bipolar.  I have to humbly admit that I actually really liked Kirk; I thought his sense of humor was a good contrast to Alison's brooding. I laughed out loud every time he appeared. Yeah, he was something of a jerk in the end, but I just ended up feeling sorry for him when he tried to come on to Alison.  I loved how Faraday gave Alison a little history about the boy, and so softened her feelings for him, but I don't know if I agreed with her calling Kirk's clumsy attempt an "assault."  It didn't feel that way to me.
But of course the reader doesn't have to agree with the character's perception.

All in all, I loved Ultraviolet and am so excited that a sequel is due out in 2013. (Quicksilver)  

On a side note, I have just started my nine-year old on the Faery Rebels series. It is a little past her reading level, but I think she will enjoy the challenge.  And she is obsessed with faeries and fantasy... so I'm looking forward to giving her Arrow and Swift which I am expecting in my mailbox this week!

Mar. 27th, 2012

I'll know I made it as a writer when....

This hysterical blog from writer Justine Larbalestier says it all. Not anywhere close to the bottom half of that list but....


Mar. 18th, 2012

I'm baaaaack. :-)

It's been close to a year and a half since I last posted in my blog. I could offer a bunch of excuses: I was busy being a mom, writing a second novel, revising the first, working, making cookies---- I could put together a list, but the truth is, I didn't update my blog because I didn't really feel like it. And then it got to the point that summarizing months and months seemed just too difficult. And so I simply----didn't.
I've decided to pick up blogging again for three reasons: 1) Winter has passed, and with it flu season, so I find that my schedule at work is suddenly wonderfully free again. 2) I think it might be a good idea from a publicity standpoint. My first novel (Secret Letters) is coming out in June so I am tinkering with the idea of a webpage-- and importing a blog might be just the thing. Importing a two-year- old blog- a little pathetic. 3) It is way easier to babble about my life than to come up with a decent idea for a sequel to Secret Letters. Which is what I should be doing right now.
But yeah, that isn't going to happen. So, instead, let me tell you about my life. :-)
We have been in Israel for three and a half years now and are thrilled as ever to be here. My two eldest daughters are full-fledged teenagers. My oldest is nearly sixteen (whaaaaaaaaaaaaaatt?????), is still taking singing and piano lessons, has recently begun painting (and is shockingly good for someone who has never had a single art class), and a few months ago got herself a boyfriend (whaaaaatttttt????). My middle daughter is thirteen now and has recently taken up the guitar. She is shyer than her sister about sharing her talent, so her father and I sometimes have to crouch behind her closed door when she is playing, but it is well worth it. She babysits almost every night and is carefully saving her money for----- something. She's not sure yet, but it is going to awesome. My little one is completely Israeli now, the only one of us who feels as comfortable (more comfortable?) with her Hebrew-speaking friends as she does with the Anglos in the neighborhood. But I expected that when we came. She is still young enough to be cuddly, but when she turned nine in December she earned the right to cross streets on her own-- so it won't be long until I have three daughters roaming Modiin without me. But I expected that too, I guess. Just not quite so soon.
In the pediatric world things are exactly the same as they were when I last wrote. One sentence is enough to cover that.
On the writing front I am excited to announce that my book will be on shelves (and Amazon and B&N) on June 26th! I already shared my cover on Facebook a couple of months ago but I just want to say that I never imagined that it would come out as beautifully as it did. I had nothing to do with it, of course. The amazing art designers at Hyperion are responsible. My role was limited to the gasping noise I made when I received the proof from my editor and the shrieking into my sister's ear (sorry, Dinah) which followed shortly afterward. And then the exclamation point riddled email which I sent back to the publisher a few minutes later.
So yeah. I was happy with the cover.
In January I completed my second novel and last month I sent it off to my agent. She is currently shopping it around to a few different houses. The book is titled Golden Boy, and is a young adult novel set in current day Baltimore, my hometown. I decided to take a break from Victorian England and follow the old adage, "Write what you know." I have to say, after finishing this last book, it's going to be hard to go back to historical fiction. There's something to be said for writing in your own voice, or at least, the teenage version of your own voice. I don't have to struggle over every expression and agonize over whether a young girl from the 1800's would have said that word or used that phrase. I can just speak, and the process is so much more natural that way.
The following is an abridged summary of my second novel:
April Wesley is dreading the beginning of tenth grade. She had gotten used to being the unpopular girl in class, but when her best friend announces that she is transferring to another school, April doesn't know how she will face the year without her. So when Jonah Golden, the handsome new boy in school, starts to flirt with her, April can hardly believe her luck. Jonah is every girl's dream; attractive and charming, sweet and intelligent, a talented painter and soon- the perfect boyfriend. Even Cora, the queen of Fallstaff High, is jealous of her, and she does everything in her power to make April's life miserable. But nothing can mar April's happiness when she is with Jonah; the two become inseparable, and April cannot imagine her life without him. Jonah encourages her to develop her talent for music, and they make plans to tranfer to the local art school together.
A few weeks after they begin dating, April begins to notice a change in Jonah. He starts to withdraw from her and from his family; he becomes progressively more paranoid, convinced that someone is spying on him and stealing his art and April's music, and seems now to be constantly distracted, listening to sounds which only he can hear. As his behavior becomes more and more bizarre, Jonah's mother tries to convince him to seek help, but April refuses to believe that her boyfriend is sick. Finally, in a terrifying breakdown, Jonah descends into acute psychosis, and is nearly shot by a frightened police officer. April stands by Jonah when he is admitted to the psychiatric hospital with the diagnosis of schizophrenia, and stays by his side as he goes through weeks of painful treatment. She braves the teasing of her classmates, her mother's disapproval, and the frustrations of repeated failures of medications and therapy. Through it all April is convinced that Jonah will one day come back to her, that he will support her when she auditions for the art school, and that they will carry on their lives together as they'd planned. But as the months wear on, she learns that she has to rely on her own strength, to fight for Jonah and be his voice at school and in the hospital, and to succeed on her own, when Jonah can no longer be there by her side.
A few weeks back my agent submitted Golden Boy to five publishing houses and so now I am back to where I was three years ago: biting my nails, checking my email every fifteen minutes, and generally making myself crazy. I know, logically, that it could take months until I hear anything and that what I hear will likely be rejection, but I can't help constructing pretty castles in my head anyway.
That just about brings this blog up to date. I could keep going about my latest favorite shows (SHERLOCK, SHERLOCK, SHERLOCK..... and also Mad Men and Modern Family), favorite books (Hunger Games-- yeah, I jumped on that bandwagon, I couldn't help myself), and other silly bits, but I'll just wait until the next entry.
Which hopefully will be before the year 2014. :-p

Jun. 29th, 2010

My 7 year old's life itinerary

Here is the life plan which my 7 year old daughter wrote out and posted on the refrigerator:

I'm in israel
America 8 days
get mareed
israel and give birth
stay ther until my chiyld is 6
africa 9 days
china 15 days
france 2 days
north pole 110 days
bild a big igloo

well, at least I know one daughter is set.  :-)

May. 28th, 2010

Movie review and other matters

I've taken a bit of a break from blogging recently, mostly because I haven't come across any book or movie that I've really loved or hated, and also because my life update would have read something like : "Still not many patients in the clinic, still waiting for book revision notes, still breathing."
I've been splattering my obsession with GLEE all over my facebook page-- so I didn't feel the need to wax rhapsodic about that, and after posting an enthusiastic "thumbs up" for Kathryn Stockett's The Help in my status updates, I didn't have anything further to say except read it

But I watched Disney's The Princess and the Frog yesterday-- or tried to watch it, rather, before finally giving up when my eyes began to bleed. What I want to know is: Who wrote those rave reviews on Imdb.com and what did they smoke before they went to see this thing? For the record, I was looking forward to this film.  Disney hasn't put out a great animated classic since the 90s, (all the great stuff has been Dreamworks or Pixar) and I was very pleased to read about their (long-overdue) introduction of a black heroine.  

  So why... why did it have to suck so bad?   Why was the animation choppy and cheap-- reminiscent of Saturday morning cartoons? Come on, Disney, we were just spellbound by the stunning beauty of Avatar and the creativity of Alice.  We know animators can do better.  Why were the songs irritating and repetitive?  Why did they introduce a new character every five minutes for the first forty five minutes of the film? (that was as far as I got) 
And why couldn't they come up with a better villain than that voodoo guy--that recycled Jafar? 

I'm glad my seven year old saw it before me-- or I would have forced to sit through the whole thing. 

In Leah news, I am thrilled to report that my sister Sarah has just been accepted to Technion Medical School (the American students program.) My sister Tammy is planning to come on aliyah this summer-- so I will have two sisters in Israel with me! 
Two down, two to go.  :-)

Watch out, Dinah and Anna---


Feb. 14th, 2010

Year and a Half Mark

I just realized that last week was the year and a half anniversary of our aliyah and, looking back, I noticed no recent notes about Israel and our "klita."  (except the occasional gripe about bureaucracy and temporary unemployment) I am sitting now in an empty clinic (again) and so I thought-- why not update my journal? 

I am happy to report that work is going as well as can be expected. I have good days and bad days.  Some mornings I feel close to fluent, whizzing effortlessly through fever explanations and asthma counselling in Hebrew, chatting with the nurses about movies, even writing my med notes in Hebrew (a new development of which I am rather proud).  And some days--  some days I feel like I've just stepped off the plane.   It doesn't take much to make me regress, either.  This morning it took a doubtful look from a parent and suddenly I was in "olah chadasha" (new immigrant) mode, all of my insecurities hammering in my ears.  Did I say that right? Why is he looking at me like that? Is he doubting the diagnosis? Or did I just accidentally suggest that his daughter wrap a warm piglet around her neck? ---the entire time attempting to look confident and resisting the urge to curl into a ball, rock back and forth and moan, "English. English. Why don't you speak ENGLISH?"
I managed to stay upright, the patient went away, and I spent the rest of the morning furiously lecturing my computer screen about sprained muscles.  My Hebrew sounds better in my head, or when it is aimed at inanimate objects, apparently.

But I think I'm getting there.  

My kids are still thrilled to be here.  Report cards recently came home and I am quite pleased.  It's almost as if they speak Hebrew. They really don't yet, despite predictions from everyone that they would be conversant in six months.  I've had a few conversations with my seven year old and she has a lovely Israeli accent and is a few months, I think, from being truly fluent.  The older girls are progressing very well, though understandably it will take them longer to "get there."
But the important thing is that they are happy.  They go horseback riding, hang out with friends, enjoy the freedom that they never had in the states.  They miss their grandparents, aunts and uncles, but they have no desire to go back this summer.   
 On the writing front, I just heard from my editor and I've been promised an early March editorial letter. In the meantime I am plugging away at research for the second Dora novel---
It currently has no plot.  This concerns me.
I think someone is likely to get murdered, disappear or lose something valuable.  Or maybe all of the above?
I am narrowing it down, not to worry.  My agent has asked for a summary paragraph for the sequel and I get sick butterflies everytime I think about it.  I'll just keep at the research and pray something materializes.


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