Sunday, September 27, 2020

Lone Star Book Blog Tour: THE DIARY OF ASSER LEVY by Daniela Weil ***AUTHOR INTERVIEW & GIVEAWAY***

First Jewish Citizen
of New York

Genre: Historical Fiction / Middle Grade / Jewish / Colonial America
Publisher: Pelican (Arcadia Publishing)
Date of Publication: March 9, 2020
Number of Pages: 128

  ***Scroll down for the giveaway!***

For twenty-four years the Dutch colony of Pernambuco in northeastern Brazil was a safe haven for Jews who had escaped the Inquisition in Europe. Recife, its capital, was known as “Colonial Jerusalem,” and it was from this religiously tolerant town that Asser Levy tells his story. When the Portuguese recaptured the territory in 1654, they brought the Inquisition and its torments with them, forcing Asser and his family and friends to flee to Holland. About fifteen ships arrive safely in Holland; Asser’s ship does not. 

Through imagined diary entries based on real events, Asser tells the harrowing story of the Jewish refugees who arrived on the island of Manhattan and of some of the first court battles fought to allow religious freedom in America.

“The book breathes life into a little-known yet important Jewish figure of early New Amsterdam and New York. Through a series of diary entries based on fact and the author’s creation, the author brings out the emotion, drama, and conflicts of Asser Levy’s turbulent journey to a new land in search of religious freedom. ... The book will add color to classroom lessons on early US history and on Jewish immigration.” —Paul Kaplan, author of Jewish New York: A History and Guide to Neighborhoods, Synagogues, and Eateries 

"What an extraordinary amount of research went into it! And what a creative way of combining historical fiction and contemporary pictures. Kudos!” —Cynthia Levinson, author of The Youngest Marcher

"What a fine job [Daniela] did with this story! ... The diary-style keeps the pace moving, and the adventures make it exciting. Lots of setting details bring the scenes alive, and the dialogue engages the reader in the plot. I can see how it will be easy for a young reader to identify with Asser, worrying about how (and if) he’ll succeed in his quest.” —Gail Jarrow, author of Fatal Fever



Interview with Daniela Weil



Where did you grow up, and how did that place (or those places) shape your work?

I grew up in Sao Paulo, Brazil. My grandparents are Jewish WWII refugees. Growing up in Brazil really shaped my character and personality. I’ve been obsessed with nature and biology from an early age. Being around nature and animals is my comfort zone. Growing up in a third-world country also gives you great perspective. Being Jewish and having family who went through the Holocaust also shaped my life, always giving me a keen understanding of how society scapegoats minorities, and how our ancestors took such great sacrifices to see their families survive, succeed, and not take things for granted. I find that my writing usually revolves around nature, science, history, and compassion for humans who are different or suffering.

Did you always want to be an illustrator and writer, or did that come later?

My earliest memories are of making books. I used to take a drawing tablet and make drawings, then write a little spiel at the bottom and continue the story on the next page. It’s funny how we always come around to doing what we’ve always done. My thing was drawing, though. My whole life, I drew. But I wanted to be a biologist. So I would draw nature. After studying biology in college, I began a career as a natural-science illustrator. In Brazil, I wrote and illustrated my first picture book about a worm, with the goal to teach kids about the importance of worms for ecology. I also illustrated the first field guide to whales and dolphins in Brazil.

In 1998, I got a job in Houston as a 3D medical illustrator and animator. There, I learned to write scripts for lay audiences on medicine and diseases. I was always told by my English teachers that I was a good writer, but I never fancied myself a writer. When I joined SCBWI about ten years ago, my focus was to learn how to write for real. I sort of dropped my artist side and focused on that. I went to a Highlights workshop on writing for science, and that’s when I really found my niche. I love writing about science and history for kids. I’m just now finding my illustrator voice again.

If someone were to follow you around for twenty-four hours, what would they see?

Oh boy, they’d need to drink lots of coffee—my life is pretty boring! I swim, exercise, and meditate early in the morning. I send my daughter off to school (before the pandemic, that is). She is thirteen and is walking distance from her middle school, so no need to pick up or drop off. I make a smoothie for breakfast and sit down by my computer to work (write, research, draw, plan family schedule). At noon I have lunch with my husband, who also works from home. We usually watch a Netflix show as part of our break. Currently we are watching Better Call Saul.

When I illustrate, I listen to podcasts to feed my brain. I’ve been listening to podcasts for many years. Learning something I didn’t know before is always the highlight of my day, whether from a podcast while I draw or from research for a book. Then, I work until my daughter comes home. After that, I go into soccer-mom mode: school meetings, driving to activities, etc.

I cook dinner for my family. I love to cook, though I don’t particularly like to follow recipes. At night, all three of us lie in bed together and binge-watch Grey’s Anatomy. On weekends, when it’s nice out, I like to go hiking and to be in nature.

How does your everyday life feed your work?

I have an unusual family. I am a Brazilian Jew living in America, my husband is English, and my daughter is adopted from Ethiopia. My parents live in Mexico. My husband’s parents are German and Israeli. We are a very international family. My daughter is a triple threat: she is a woman, Black, and Jewish. She has ADHD. I have written a book dummy that subtly deals with how hard it is to be a kid with ADHD, socially.

I have been on the journey to fully understand racial issues since my daughter was a baby. We have been going to Black Lives Matter marches together for many years. My work is highly affected by current politics, by our history and heritage, and by our experiences. After the protests started, I began working on a graphic-novel script about the racial issues my daughter, Lucy, experienced at a Jewish school in Houston. I thought, It’s time.

My book that just came out, The Diary of Asser Levy: First Jewish Citizen of New York, is based on historical events. It takes place in the 1600s, yet it is eerily analogous to the current crisis in the US with refugees and asylum seekers. I usually write about what I know, what I’ve experienced, what I think the world needs to understand better, and what I am passionate about.

Tell us about some accomplishments that make you proud.

I am very proud that my MG novel, The Diary of Asser Levy, was published. It was six years of research, writing, and dealing with a new historical perspective that goes against the current views historians hold. It was tough to be a historical heretic, but I got through it. I sold the book to the publisher without an agent. I made the layout and the cover, took the pictures, did the travels . . . everything myself. And it came out in my parents’ lifetime, which was my big wish! This one really is a huge, loud baby!

I’m also very proud of my daughter. She is everything I’m not: extroverted, confident, gregarious, fearless, radiant. I am raising her to have a powerful voice, and I think she does. She’s also a much better writer than I am!

 What surprises you about the creative life?

What surprises me is how easy it is to fall off the wagon, and how hard it is to get back on it.

When a reader discovers your work, what do you hope they find?

I hope they learn something they didn’t know before. And I hope that information makes a difference to their lives and to the world somehow.


Quick-Fire Questions:

Would you rather go fishing or do open-mic-night at a comedy club?

Open mic. I’ve been told I can be funny.

Would you rather be a whale or a dolphin?

I think a whale; they seem more chill and introspective.

Yoga with dogs or with goats?

Goats. I don’t get to be around goats that often, so seems like more of an experience.

Georgia O’Keefe or Leonardo da Vinci?

Leonardo, Leonardo, Leonardo! I’m all about being a Renaissance person, and his anatomy drawings are everything for artists like me.

In closing, Daniela wrote her own “extra credit” Q and A: What do you really hate?


Leaf blowers. There is one right outside, and it’s killing me right now.



First posted at SCBWI Austin, June 9, 2020


Daniela Weil was born in Brazil. She attended the International School in São Paulo, where she was surrounded by people and cultures from around the world. It was also there that she developed a passion for nature, art, and writing. After earning a BA in biology from Brandeis University in Boston, Weil became a field research biologist. She participated in various whale projects, including illustrating the first field guide for whales and dolphins in Brazil.

Being a mother rekindled her desire to share her passion about the natural world. She joined the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and attended workshops on writing nonfiction and science for kids. After writing several articles on science and history, she ventured into books. Weil attended the Texas Library Association annual conference with her SCBWI group and met the folks from Pelican, who were intrigued by her middle-grade book idea. As the project developed, her research took her back to Brazil and across the world, chasing Asser’s experiences.

When not on the hunt for new experiences, Weil makes her home in Austin, Texas, with her husband, Erik, and daughter, Lucy.

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Monday, September 21, 2020

YA Review: DANCE OF THIEVES by Mary Pearson

Dance of Thieves
by Mary Pearson
Published by Henry Holt & Co.
August 7, 2018
512 pages

Plot: A formidable outlaw family that claims to be the first among nations.  A son destined to lead, thrust suddenly into power. Three fierce young women of the Rahtan, the queen's premier guard. A legendary street thief leading a mission, determined to prove herself.  A dark secret that is a threat to the entire continent.

When outlaw leader meets reformed thief, a cat-and-mouse game of false moves ensues, bringing them intimately together in a battle that may cost them their lives―and their hearts. (2020,

Review: Another enjoyable start to a new series by Mary Pearson.  Her Remnant Chronicles series was very good.  This story is similar to that series.  In Dance of Thieves, you get the dual perspectives from the two main characters. Another strong female lead who is tough yet vulnerable when it comes to her heart.  A rough around the edges male counterpart who is a leader, but not without feelings.  Kazi and Jase are both harboring secrets and loyalties that are tough to break.  Both sides have family/friends who don't approve of their relationship, so tensions run high throughout the story.  Lots of drama with kidnappings, betrayal, and lies. Will their love be enough?  

Overall, I did enjoy the story and I'm looking forward to the second and final book in this duology: Vow of Thieves.  If you like YA Romance than you should try this series.  Enemies to lovers romance is the main theme in this story.  The book is long at over 500 pages, so be prepared for that.  A good series to add to your high school library. 

*An DRC was given for an honest review.

Rating: 4 Hearts!

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Lone Star Book Blog Tour: SOMETHING WORTH DOING by Jane Kirkpatrick ***ENTER GIVEAWAY***

A Novel of an Early Suffragist
Jane Kirkpatrick
Genre: Christian Historical Fiction 
Publisher: Revell
Publication Date: September 1, 2020 
Number of Pages: 336

 ***Scroll down for the giveaway!***

Some things are worth doingeven when the cost is great In 1853, Abigail Scott was a nineteen-year-old schoolteacher in Oregon Territory when she married Ben Duniway. Marriage meant giving up on teaching, but Abigail always believed she was meant to be more than a good wife and mother. When Abigail becomes the primary breadwinner for her growing family, what she sees as a working woman appalls herand prompts her to devote her life to fighting for the rights of women, including the right to vote. 
Based on a true story, Something Worth Doing will resonate with modern women who still grapple with the pull between career and family, finding their place in the public sphere, and dealing with frustrations and prejudices when competing in male-dominated spaces.

"I have long admired Jane Kirkpatrick's rich historical fiction, and Something Worth Doing is well worth reading! Oregonian Abigail Duniway is a vibrant, fiercely passionate, and determined activist who fought for women's suffrage. Women of today have cause to respect and admire heras well as the loving, patient, and supportive husband who encouraged her to continue 'the silent hunt.'" Francine Rivers, author of Redeeming Love 

"On the trail to Oregon, young Jenny Scott lost her beloved mother and little brother and learned that no matter what, she must persist until she reaches her goal. Remembering her mother's words'a woman's life is so hard'the young woman who became Abigail Scott Duniway came to understand through observation and experience that law and custom favored men. The author brings alive Abigail's struggles as frontier wife and mother turned newspaper publisher, prolific writer, and activist in her lifelong battle to win the vote and other rights for women in Oregon and beyond. Jane Kirkpatrick's story of this persistent, passionate, and bold Oregon icon is indeed Something Worth Doing!" Susan G. Butruille, author of Women's Voices from the Oregon Trail, now in a 25th anniversary edition.


Jane Kirkpatrick’s Something Worth Doing Scrapbook Page

My writing is influenced by four categories I weave into every story: landscape, relationships, spirituality, and work. Something Worth Doing is a novel about a suffragist in the 1800s, and her story is told through those four threads. My scrapbook has photos to reflect those threads in my life, and they parallel Abigail Scott Duniway’s life as well. All photos are mine except for Smith Rock, which was taken by Deb Barnes and is used with permission.

1.       Landscape: homestead. We lived for twenty-seven years at the end of a dirt road called “Starvation Lane,” seven miles from our mailbox and eleven miles from a paved road. We “homesteaded” our 160 acres, building a life from scratch. Abigail lived on a remote farm she called “Hardscrabble.”  This landscape is in Oregon. Much of Abigail’s work was in Oregon. (Our homestead is now part of Oregon’s state park system, and our adventure building a life there resulted in my first book, a memoir titled Homestead.) Abigail used her experiences on Hardscrabble as backdrops for several of her novels.


2.         Landscape: spirituality umbrella. This picture was taken in Burundi, East Africa. One of my passions is working with indigenous people, and our church works with three Batwa villages, bringing them identity cards, school access, health access, and agricultural work. It was very hot in Burundi, hence the umbrella. Abigail’s passion was helping women adversely affected by laws. She saw her work as a calling by God, and it was her faith that helped her carry on during the difficult times when men kept voting down the franchise for women.


3.      Rancho Mirage. This past year, my husband and I moved for half a year to Rancho Mirage, California, for health reasons. There are still mountains in our view! Abigail went to California on a buying trip for her millinery business. It was there she discovered other women passionate about women’s rights and suffrage. That visit changed her life. Our visit to California last year changed ours, too. We now spend six months there and six in Oregon. Abigail had a disabled husband who was supportive of her work; my husband is disabled too and my biggest cheerleader. Abigail and Ben moved to Portland in part for his health. In moving, we discover how new landscapes shape us.


4.      Work: book wall. Not far from our home in Rancho Mirage is this book wall. It’s on a walking trail and it speaks to me, reminding me of the work of writing. Abigail wrote twenty novels, had a column in a local paper, and then started her own newspaper called The New Northwest, which she ran, wrote for, and edited for seventeen years. Books and writing were her work. Mine too. I’ve written for newspapers and magazines and written nonfiction books and twenty-nine novels. Abigail had six children! I have three stepchildren. I don’t know how Abigail did it all while keeping her family together.


5.      Landscape: Smith Rock. After twenty-seven years, we moved to Bend, Oregon. Just down the road from us is Smith Rock, an internationally known place for rock climbers, a very demanding landscape. Abigail didn’t climb rocks, but after years of living on a farm, she moved to the city, and then in later life, found the stark landscape of Idaho called to her. “Landscape” is a word coined by Dutch painters to describe their efforts to paint the interior, as opposed to seascapes. Landscapes speak to our interior souls. (Photo by Deb Barnes, used with permission)

6.      Relationships. In addition to my husband of forty-four years, dogs are a special part of my life. The Cavalier is Caesar and he is eleven. Bodacious Bo, the wire-haired pointing Brussels griffon, passed away last year. Dogs and cats have always been a part of my life. Dogs were a part of Abigail’s life too. Their unconditional love can keep us uplifted when life tugs us down.


7.      Work: bookstore. This is bookstore owner Judy Wutzke and I in Clarkston, Washington (right), on the Snake River near Lewiston, Idaho. Abigail would have known the Snake, and she gave speeches all over Idaho as well as Washington, Oregon, California, Illinois, Washington, DC, and even British Columbia. She would have signed her books, just as I did and hope to do again one day, in stores. I’ve spoken in Italy, France, Canada, and throughout the US about the power of story in our lives.


8.      Work and relationships: Yreka, California. Libraries are a significant part of my writing life. I visit several each year to support reading programs. Siskiyou County Public library was the last event before the pandemic hit. Now I’m doing virtual visits. Abigail’s brother was the first head of the Portland, Oregon public library. I think she envied his access to all those books. Harvey was the first graduate of Pacific University. Abigail only had a formal third-grade education. She used her parents’ library to educate herself. Part of her story is a great rivalry between Harvey and Abigail. I have a younger brother and I adore him. I think he adores me too!


Spirituality: It’s hard to find a picture to describe this thread, but all of them combine to bring meaning to my life as a writer, mental-health professional, and public speaker. Abigail challenged many religious figures of her time who felt women should not be public speakers and that gaining the vote would diminish them. She felt called by God to be an activist for women. I’ve felt called to bring healing through writing. Maybe the book wall or the Homestead photo is a good photo to demonstrate both of our spiritual journeys. Abigail was, and I and many others are, called to what our faith community calls “Spacious Christianity,” whose task is to “cultivate spaces of grace for hope, healing, and purpose.” (Bend First Presbyterian Church)

Jane Kirkpatrick is the New York Times and CBA bestselling and award-winning author of more than thirty books, including One More River to Cross, Everything She Didn't Say, All Together in One Place, A Light in the Wilderness, The Memory Weaver, This Road We Traveled, and A Sweetness to the Soul, which won the prestigious Wrangler Award from the Western Heritage Center. 
Her works have won the WILLA Literary Award, the Carol Award for Historical Fiction, and the 2016 Will Rogers Gold Medallion Award. Jane divides her time between Central Oregon and California with her husband, Jerry, and Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Caesar.

  Website Bookbub  Facebook  Twitter  Pinterest ║ Amazon  Goodreads


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SEPTEMBER 15-25, 2020 
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