The Books of My Life: Liz Fenton & Lisa Steinke

liz and lisa 2014 photoh (3)For the life of me, I cannot recall how I first got turned onto book blogs. One of the first blogs I visited regularly was Chick Lit is Not Dead, which was hosted by Liz Fenton & Lisa Steinke. To my bibliophilic pleasure I won many, many books just from reading the site. Soon after I started following Liz and Lisa, they landed a publishing contract for TWO books. It was evident that they were head for big things! Their blog is now a part of their author website, and they’re still giving away tons of books. I urge you to check it out!

These ladies have written and published three books – all of them gems. The first was Your Perfect Life ( the book won my favorite cover award in 2014), which was about two friends who have a Freaky-Friday-like swap of their very different lives. Casey and Rachel learn a lot about themselves from walking in each others shoes – and they’re not exactly sure if they want to go back to the way things were! The Status of All Things (one of my favorite books of 2015), examines how FaceBook can affect our personal lives. Kate is a woman who lives to post her latest startus update, curating “the peferect life.” After her fiancé dumps her on the eve of their wedding, she’s not quite sure what to post.

Today is publication day for Liz & Lisa’s1450743997663[1] third novel, The Year We Turned Forty. I read an advanced copy of the book and I loved it. It’s really, really good. Three friends get the chance to go back to the a pivotal year in their lives, when they truned forty, so they can correct past mistakes. Of course, these little life-tweaks will darstcially change their futures and that may or may not be a good thing!

Liz & Lisa are great supporters of their fellow authors, and I wanted to support them on their big day by helping get the word out about their book. I thought a “Books of Your Life” interview would be perfect – and I’m honored that they felt that same!

What was your favorite book as a child?

Liz: The Sweet Valley High series was pretty much the best thing ever.

Lisa: Anything by Judy Blume or Beverly Cleary!

Is there a book that you’ve read over and over again?

Liz: Summer Sisters by Judy Blume

Lisa: Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

What’s a classic you’re embarrassed to say you’ve never read?

Liz: To Kill a Mockingbird—I never read it! Sorry, Harper Lee!

Lisa: Anna Karenina

What’s a recent book you wish you’d written?

Liz: Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll. It’s amazing.

Lisa: Come Away with Me by Karma Brown. The twist at the end is amazing.

What’s a favorite movie adaptation of a book you loved? Worst adaptation of a book you loved?

Liz & Lisa: They did a brilliant job adapting The Devil Wears Prada to film! We’ve seen it so many times!

The books I read to my children:

Liz: My kids read on their own now—My son loves The Wimpy Kid series and my daughter is devouring The 5th Wave.

Lisa: Tons of Dr. Seuss. (Green Eggs and Ham and Sneeches is a big favorite in our house.) This past Easter, The Velvetine Rabbit also entered the rotation. My daughter loves the story.

What was an illicit book you had to read in secret as a child?

Liz & Lisa: Um, Forever by Judy Blume, of course! It was so naughty!

 What’s a book people might be surprised to learn that you loved?

Liz: I really enjoyed Game Change by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin. It explored the 2008 presidential election in such great detail!

Lisa: The Last Season: A Team In Search of its Soul by Phil Jackson. (I’m a huge Lakers fan!)

Who is your favorite character?

Liz & Lisa: We both adore Rachel from Something Borrowed—the way she made us root for her, even though she was having an affair with her best friend’s fiancé? Genius.

If there were only one genre that you could read for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Liz: Oh, that’s tough! I’m really into suspense right now, so probably that!

Lisa: What Liz said! (We tend to read the same genres at the same time. So if I have to read one for the rest of my life, I will need to talk to her about it!)

Is there a book you’ve given multiple times as a gift?

Liz: The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. It can be life-changing!

Lisa: Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. (As you can see, I’m a huge fan!) Also, Wild by Cheryl Strayed. (Again, big fan!)

What was the last book that made you laugh out loud, and what was the last one that made you cry?

Liz: The Assistants by Camille Perri was really funny. And I bawled like a little baby while reading Somewhere Out There by Amy Hatvany.

Lisa: I laughed out loud while reading All The Good Parts by Loretta Nyhan and I cried my eyes out when reading Come Away with Me by Karma Brown

What are you reading now?

Liz: I just started The Decent Proposal by Kemper Donovan. It’s fun!

Lisa: I’m reading First Comes Love by Emily Giffin and Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum

Books or eReader?

Liz & Lisa: Books! We still love the feel of paper in our hands.

Do you keep your books or pass them on?

Liz & Lisa: Both! We love to share great books will people we love, but some are so good we can’t part with. In those cases, we buy our friends their own copies!

Do you have a favorite place to read?

Liz: I love to curl up on the couch with the sliding glass door open so I can feel the breeze.

liz's reading spt

Lisa: On my couch in front of the fire.

Lisa Reading Spot

Do you have a favorite bookstore?

Liz: I’m a huge fan of Warwick’s, an independent bookstore in La Jolla. It’s divine!

Lisa: The Book Cellar in Chicago. They have the best selection of books and they serve wine!

Come Away With me BLEW me away – I was flabbergasted! LOVED Game Change!!!!!  Loved it! I was begging friends and family to read it. Double Down (the sequel, about the 2012 election) was good, too, but lacked the juice of Game Change. I can’t wait to see what they come up with for this election – gracious! I listened to Somewhere Out There while I was driving to Florida for Spring Break. I had to stop at a rest stop because I was crying so hard. Heartbreaking.

Thank you so much for joining us. Please leave comments for Liz and Lisa below. They will be on book tour over the next couple of weeks. If you live in Chicago or southern California, check out their website for dates. You can also follow them at following:

Liz & Lisa website





Liz on Goodreads

Lisa on Goodreads




Autism Angels: Blue & Dublin

Autism parents have the same fears as typical parents . We’re afraid of something bad happening to our child, about their futures, and that our children won’t have friends. Unfortunately many of these fears are amplified by different aspects of autism. Some children on the spectrum are nonverbal; others have a tendency to wander off; some experience great anxiety; and others suffer from seizures. I know my greatest fear is that I will lose Barrett, because he does have a bit wander lust, like his momma. Autism service dogs help alleviate many of these fears.

Blue and Dublin are two autism service dogs who belong to classmates of Barrett. Service dogs are different from therapy dogs, and have protections under the law that allows special needs individuals’ public access with their dogs. A service dog is task-trained in specific areas to serve the person that that they are with.

We don’t have a service dog for Barrett, but after some of my son’s antics over the last few weeks – I’m seriously considering it. He’s been a handful, but that’s a post for another day. Today I want to introduce to two special four legged friends, Blue and Dublin. I’ll confess that when I heard that there’d be service dogs in Bear’s classroom, I was nervous. I thought it would make things a little crazy for Barrett. Barrett loves dogs and on occasion has visited canine friends in the neighborhood without permission – from any party! I imagined a scenario where Barrett would think the dogs were for him and this being a problem with his classmates. As with most mommy-worries, it was all for nothing.

I’m in Barrett’s classroom quite often, and I usually forget that there are dogs. They just blend in. I was there once during a class period change, and it was quite chaotic with all the peer buddies, three teachers, therapists and eight students. The dogs seemed unaffected by the noise, which was impressive. I remember being overwhelmed.

Randi, the “mother” of one of the service dogs, has talked to me quite a bit about what it was like to get a dog for her son, Ben. It’s quite a process and very expensive. Yet, the benefits of having one of these dogs far out-weigh all the hassles involved in getting one. Why haven’t I pursued it? Mostly selfish reasons: the road trip, money, and time spent training the dog. I know, I know. Maybe one day.

Meet Blue and Erik, aren’t they cute?

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I interviewed Deanna and Randi, moms of Barrett’s classmates, about their experiences with service dogs. They’re members of my autism sisterhood and I really admire them. They’re dedicated, kind, and work very hard to help their sons be the best they can be. Continue reading Autism Angels: Blue & Dublin

The Books of My Life: Nina Badzin

ninaNina was the very first friend I made when I dove into the world of blogging. Actually, I met her before I made the plunge. I read her post, I’m Not an Aspiring Novelist,” and something in me clicked. I’d just been hired by My Forsyth to write book reviews, and my editor had asked me if I had a blog. No, I thought, I’m going to write a book.  In fact, I’d already written a “novel” over ten years ago. It’s still in a box in my closet and I’m scared to look at it. But I wanted to write and I don’t know – that post inspired me to get serious. I commented that I was “in the process” of starting a blog. She replied back and told me to let her know when it was live. I did, and she visited and commented and kept on doing so. It was through Nina that I connected with Jessica and Stephanie and The HerStories Project. From there, I met Allison Barrett Carter, who also became a mentor. And Allison led me to my blogging sister, Kristi Campbell, of Finding Ninee. See what blogging can do?

Nina’s amazing, brilliant, funny, talented, and oh so wise. Have you read her friendship column at the HerStories Project? You must. Nina’s also a total book nerd like me. She reviews books at Great New Books, a wonderful site for readers that I’m dying to write for. Last summer, while traveling through Minneapolis on our family road trip, I got to meet the real-live version of Nina. She even wrote a post about it, which was an honor. Friends, Nina is everything she seems to be on-line – she’s the real deal. My only regret is that our visit was rushed and my daughter had hurt her leg and she wouldn’t leave us alone. That sounds bad, but the time of her accident was rather suspicious, that’s all I’m saying.


Here’s my interview with Nina about the books of her life: Continue reading The Books of My Life: Nina Badzin

Autism Angel: Mary Hendricks

Once upon a time, I was a very stressed-out and scared mom. That was last week – no, I’m just kidding. I’m talking about my own personal annus horribilis. The year was 2003. We’d just received our autism diagnosis. My husband was working on a long-term assignment out of state (Kentucky). He was only able to come home every other weekend. We sold our first home and moved out of state to Maryland. I had knee surgery. And my father died. All this happened in a period of five months – I kid you not. I was a mess.

As only someone who’s had a child diagnosed with autism may know, after the shock wears off and the anti-depressants kick in, you go into search and destroy mode. I spent months doing research on the internet, calling parents and experts, going to evaluation and therapy appointments, and purging our house of casein and gluten. I was determined to do any and everything to help my son.

I found a program for Barrett that I loved at Emory University, but couldn’t afford the tuition (or the two hour round trip drive, twice a day). Then I discovered a public school system with the very same program – in Howard County Maryland, where my husband grew. When the universe sends you a message like that, you listen.

My first contact in Maryland was Mary Hendricks, who at the time was a resource teacher for early intervention services. She changed my life. We spoke on the phone many times and I cried so much that if I’d been her, I would have stopped taking my calls. I’d been looking at programs in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Florida and Georgia. I didn’t know what to do, and confessed as much. I’ll never forget what Mary said to me: “Come on up, I know we can help you and your son.” And you know what? She was right.

Mary is kind, loving, and brilliant. She has a gift and it’s evident every time she interacts with a special needs child. She’s a ray of sunshine and I don’t think I’ve ever seen her without a smile on her face. She has had helped hundreds (maybe thousands?) of families in her thirty plus years teaching. Her enormous capacity for empathy helped me when I was in a very dark place. I was so stricken with grief during my very first IEP meeting that I cried through half of it. Rich was still in Kentucky at the time and I was all alone in a new place. She walked me out to my car and gave me a hug – a really good one. It’s a memory that has never gone away.

Mary is full of innovative ideas and a fantastic resource for anything related to special education. Her son Sean was in high school when I met and hired him to hang out with the boys and help them interact with each other. I was in no condition to engage in floor time, and then came baby Audrey, so I really needed his help! Sean is now married and a speech therapist in Baltimore. Oh time!

And I will forever be grateful to Mary. I’m honored to introduce you to this Autism Angel (although her expertise with special needs goes beyond autism!):

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On one of our road trips, Mary drove down to Annapolis to meet us for lunch, so she could see the kids! Continue reading Autism Angel: Mary Hendricks