Books Diversity Reading Challenge

The Obvious Game by Rita Arens

It’s not obvious from the title of The Obvious Game by Rita Arens that there are deep and intense issues discussed within. In a small town in the Midwest, lives our heroine, Diana, a girl who has a tough situation at home. Diana’s mother has cancer and in this small town, everyone knows everyone else’s business, which means that well meaning townspeople ask after Diana’s mother because they care. The problem with this behavior is that Diana can’t get any rest or privacy. She needs a place where she can get a break from the stress of a sick mother at home.

Diana, for some unknown reason, thinks that she is chubby and decides to lose weight. So this is how she processes stress. Her dysmorphic view of her body causes her to stop eating, exercise too much and hide her problem. Diana is suffering from anorexia.

What’s important about this story is that Diana seemingly has everything going for her: she has a boyfriend, she’s friends with the popular girl (even though this girl is annoying) and leads a fairly normal life outside of her home. There should be no reason why she starves herself to death, right?

Wrong. I love that our author brings this disease to light. Mental illnesses can strike anyone in any socio- economic background. I’m amazed that in this day and age we still have kids who are afraid to discuss such taboo topics and are therefore not getting help. Diana cannot help the way she thinks. There’s something going on in her brain that makes her see herself differently than others see her or themselves.  As she tells a doctor when she finally gets treatment: the rules are different for me.

I hope that others will read this important book and be on the look out  for teens (boys and girls) in their lives who seem to be too thin or have strange eating habits and encourage them to get help.  I used to be a teen who had an eating problem. I needed to control things in my life and not eating was the only thing that I could control. It’s a difficult cycle to break. If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder you can go to National Eating Disorders Association’s website for resources. The also have a helpline to call: (800) 931-2237.

Please get help. You can beat this. I did it.  You can too.


Books resources Young Adult

If You Feel Too Much: Thoughts on Things Found and Lost and Hoped For by Jamie Tworkowski

I know you’re wondering: what this book is about? This title is not my typical read. But you see. dear reader, it IS. I like to read books about people like me. And Jamie, sometimes, feels like me.

If You Feel Too Much: Thoughts on Things Found and Lost and Hoped For by Jamie Tworkowski

As I sit here on a beautiful patio overlooking a beautiful Sioux Falls, South Dakota, I’m enjoying the sun and the breeze and being outside. Alive.

And many people, because of heartache, trauma or other circumstances don’t get to be alive for very long.  The author, Jamie Tworkowski, suffers from depression. And he’s met many people in his young life who suffer also. Some from depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, cancer, negativity, you name it. Young Jamie started an organization called TWLOHA in response to a young woman he encountered who was a cutter.  Jamie and his friends successfully kept this woman alive until she could enter rehab.

This experience encouraged Jamie to to want to encourage others. To tell them that they are not alone and that they matter. That they have a friend; in him and in the other people who believe the same things he believes.

It’s nice, this book. It’s a compilation of Jamie’s  blog posts. It’s like insight into his brain. Jamie’s not afraid to admit that he’s sad, confused, and cries alot. Most people suffering from depression do. But they’re afraid to admit it.

That’s why I chose to review this book.  I want you to know that if you’re struggling with something: depression, suicidal thoughts, addiction, cutting, ANYTHING, that there is hope and that you have a friend.

You have me. I’ve been there.

You have Jamie.  His non profit movement, To Write Love on Her Arms can help you get started. Its located at 

Jamie and I want you to remember that you’re not alone.

Please remember that.

Teens, especially, who feel different, marginalized or for whatever reason feel like they don’t fit in, might need to know this.  You matter.

To me.



Children resources

It’s WAR: Lemonade War! #Alex’sLemonade

It’s the Great Lemonade War!



As you know, nothing makes me happier than reading a book; except kids reading books makes me even more happier!  Sick children, however, make me very very unhappy.  That’s why I’m happy to tell you that I’ve declared WAR on childhood cancer.  What kind of war, you ask?

A Lemonade War!

That’s right folks, the beautiful lemony people over at Alex’s Lemonade Stand have partnered with my fave book The Lemonade War , by Jacquelyn Davies. They are challenging kids to read The Lemonade War, start a lemonade stand and donate the proceeds to Alex’s Lemonade Stand.










You might remember I read The Lemonade War with my Tweenies this summer and I LOVED it!  What a fun and sneaky way to teach kids about math and economics while reading a book!

Wanna participate? Go to Alex’s Lemonade Stand website and click to enter! Here’s the link here.

Read a book and let’s kick cancer’s butt!


The Girl Next Door by Selene Castrovilla

The Girl Next Door Tour


eBook Publication Date: May 24, 2013

Two teens are forced to make some very grown-up decisions when one of them is diagnosed with terminal cancer, twisting them into an unpredictable nightmare. Best friends since toddlerhood, Samantha and Jesse grapple with the realization that they are actually in love. What now? Beautifully written while handling a very heavy topic, Castrovilla addresses the universal question: In a world where the worst can strike at any time, how can we ever feel safe?

The Girl Next Door: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes

Selene is pleased to team with the Anthony V. Mannino Foundation helping young adults in their fight against cancer. She will donate $1 for each book ordered during THE GIRL NEXT DOOR’s Blog Tour!
Selene will send a free autographed copy of THE GIRL NEXT DOOR to anyone who donates $25 or more to the foundation (click here to donate!). For your purchase to count and/or to show proof of donation, just send a screenshot or receipt of your order or donation, along with your shipping address if necessary, through “Drop me a line” in the “Latest News” section of her website,
The AVM Foundation Mission:
The Mission of The Anthony V. Mannino Foundation is to financially assist young adults in the age group of 18-28 while they are undergoing their cancer treatment.  We also want to help development support programs to aid this unique age group, with their special needs, as they battle cancer. 
We found that Anthony’s age group of 18 plus, doesn’t have the emotional or financial support that other age groups do. We are also aware of the unique situations that this age group faces and want to help those adolescents and their families. 
Grand prize is a  Kindle Fire + THE GIRL NEXT DOOR ebook (US only), and 10 second prize winners will receive an ebook copy of THE GIRL NEXT DOOR (International).

a Rafflecopter giveaway


The Long-term Effects of Writing

 I’m not sure people realize just how much writers are affected by what they write.

I wrote this line in a piece about controversial topics in YA literature, and I decided it merited its own discussion.

First, I must say that I don’t choose my topics “willingly.” They find me, and they won’t leave me alone until I address them. This is true of all my work, fiction and nonfiction.

Recently I wrote this post on Facebook: What does it take to be a writer? Guts, sacrifice, tears. Devotion to truth on the page at      the expense of a life. You can’t live effectively in two worlds at once, so when you’re in the midst of your work that IS your life.

 The sacrifice is two-fold:

1.You don’t get to go out and play like everyone else (on occasions when you try, you squirm around uncomfortably all night because your characters are bursting with things for you to write down.)

2. The truth hurts.

Number two is the bigger burden. Because the truth you’re sharing on the page won’t conveniently slip away when you’ve finished the novel. No, it will haunt you always.

Writing a novel changes you. It presents ramifications you have to live with.

Specifically, let’s take THE GIRL NEXT DOOR. A sad book, for sure. One I never saw coming – I went to sleep, and the next day there it was. The questions raised in the story run deep:

How do you deal with death at such a young age?

How can you enjoy yourself at all when you or someone you love is dying?

How can you walk around when at any moment something bad might happen?

How do you handle grief?

Does love transcend death?

These are some heavy issues. I don’t claim to know the answers. I just follow the characters as they try to find their personal solutions. Then it’s up to the readers to think about everything, and form their own conclusions.

But what about the writer? Writers carry all these things in our hearts. It isn’t horrible – it’s necessary to lead us to the next story. Our journey is in our stories. And because of that, there really is no conclusion.

I’m not the same person I was before I wrote THE GIRL NEXT DOOR. This isn’t good or bad, it just is.

Are you a creator, or a messenger? At times you feel like both. But in the end what matters is that you are honest, evolving and writing.

 Don’t mistake this for complaint. I’m pleased that I’m on this journey, that I can make a contribution to this world. I’m so grateful that I provide solace, and fodder for thought. The greatest gift a writer can give is contemplation. Sometimes I want to shut my mind off, so I can stop thinking about all the implications. But I’m afraid if I do, I won’t be able to start again. And then, how will I write? So I leave it be.

At best¸ I can push the thoughts to the corner like childhood memories. I do this when I’m on vacation with my kids, and when I’m reading someone else’s work. But they’re always there, pacing. Waiting.

This is what it’s like to be a writer.


Selene Castrovilla


Selene Castrovilla is an award-winning teen and children’s author who believes that through all trends, humanity remains at the core of literature. She is the author of Saved By the Music and The Girl Next Door, teen novels originally published by WestSide Books and now available digitally through ASD Publishing. Her third children’s book with Calkins Creek Books, Revolutionary Friends, was released in April. She is also a contributing author to UncommonYA.  Selene holds an MFA in creative writing from New School University and a BA in English from New York University. She lives on Long Island with her two sons. Visit her website for book excerpts and more information!

Author links: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Tumblr | Goodreads

Adult Fiction Books Non Fiction

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

I’ve been reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks for a book club I belong to at work. The book has been a best seller for a while but I’ll admit I was hesitant to read the book at first.  My science years are long gone and I dreaded the idea of a snooze fest of boring science read.  To be sure, Skloot includes plenty of scientific discovery, but if there is anyone who can make science easy to understand (as in Bill Nye the science guy and Mrs. Frizzle of Magic School Bus fame) it’s Skloot.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Skloot took a convoluted history of working with cells and created a timeline that is easy to read and combined it with the human interest story of cancer patient and cell donator Henrietta Lacks.  The human interest portion of the story draws you in and compels you to keep reading.   By the end of the book you are a cellular scholar and gain a greater appreciation for scientific discoveries.

What is still troubling, however, is whether or not the Lacks’ descendents are entitled to any financial compensation from the million dollar industry that their mother’s cells helped create.  Like someone says in the book, her descendants can’t afford the medical care they need even though their mother helped produce a cure for many of their ailments.

Another troubling point in the story and one Skloot was right not to dwell on was the health problems created by family inbreeding.  Henrietta married and produced children with her first cousin, Day.  I know this practice has gone on for centuries and I’m not judging it either, I would be interested to know how and why the birth defects happen when close relatives procreate, purely from a scientific view.  Oh well, maybe Skloot will write another book about that.  If so, I’m on it.

Thanks to Skloot for championing the case of an African American family and depicting, without judgement, their language and lifestyle.  It sounds like Skloot and the Lacks have touched each others’ lives.

Bonus points to Skloot for living in Pittsburgh at the same time I was. Woot!

Four paws for scientific discovery and authentic portrayal of African Americans.

Unconventional Librarian 4paws