The Divining Wand

Discovering authors beyond their pages…

Tish Cohen’s Little Black Lies

October 05, 2009 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books

As the talented, respected and highly acclaimed author of two adult novels — Town House, Commonwealth Regional Finalist, and Inside Out Girl, a Globe and Mail bestseller — Tish Cohen certainly doesn’t lie. Her writing is actually well-known for speaking the truth and her YA debut novel, Little Black Lies, to be released next Tuesday, October 13th, follows the same rule.

In fact, when asked about this new genre venture, the author says, “So much of this book came from a place of honesty, as well as a place of acceptance.”

“It’s really a book about the sort of conflict people deal with in life. About how very angry you can be with someone you love most in the world. About how, with some relationships, as sad as it may be, it’s best to just stop expecting that person to be what you want them to be. Realize they are who they are and if they ever offer you more, you savor that like a candy you discovered in your purse. You weren’t expecting it and may never find that particular candy again, so you enjoy it while you can.”

Difficult yet important life lessons for adults to learn, let alone adolescents. However there’s no doubt that Tish has successfully conveyed the message clear and strong with proof coming from early Praise. This “formula” review, in particular, must have had the author beaming:

“(wicked sense of humour) + (awesome characters)(searingly astute observations) — sentiment = (one great read)”
—Adrienne Kress author of Alex and the Ironic Gentleman

Because it’s that description which almost identifies the writer’s backstory. How? Well do you remember Janie Berman from Inside Out Girl? That character, a “14-year-old pseudo punk just dripping with attitude and love and anger,” latched on to Tish’s heart as she says, “I ADORED writing in her voice. Once I finished writing, I decided to write an entire novel in a teen voice—and I plan to do a few more!”

From that one character’s attitude and voice evolved a story described in this Synopsis:

Sara and her father are moving to Boston from small-town Lundun, Massachusetts. She is going to attend the prestigious Anton High school—crowned “North America’s Most Elite and Most Bizarre” by TIME Magazine—harder to get into than Harvard. As the new girl, Sara doesn’t know anyone; better yet, no one knows her. That means she can escape her family’s checkered past, and her father can be a surgeon instead of “Crazy Charlie” the school janitor.

What’s the harm of a few little black lies? Especially if it transforms Sara into Anton’s latest “It” girl. But then one of the popular girls at school starts looking into Sara’s past, and her father’s obsessive compulsive disorder takes a turn for the worse. Soon, the whole charade just might come crashing down…


What harm indeed? Here’s an Excerpt for a sneak peek.

Does Sara’s voice grab your attention? As I read the Advanced Reader Copy, well before learning how important this voice was to the author, my thoughts/feelings were:

Sara’s “voice” — even when less than honest — possesses confidence for she knows who she is, right or wrong. And it’s her decisiveness and caring that cause everything and everyone else to be believable.

There is depth to this novel, much more than about fitting in and being accepted. And, while attention is given to the loyalty and trust of relationships, the story ultimately comes down to dealing the hand you were dealt, making the best of it and successfully coming-to-terms with life.

Poor judgment, evasion and questionable (including hurtful) behavior are all a part of little black lies, yet not one of these is without its consequences. And, while Tish Cohen’s novel may be written with young adults in mind, the theme is universal and a reminder to anyone about what happens when you decide to deceive.

Little Black Lies is a winner and could well be the author’s best book yet…or so proclaim adult readers. What about the young adults, though, the teens that it was written for?

To discover this truth, The Divining Wand sought out Bookie, one of Tish’s friends on Facebook. Bookie is a teenager who loves books and has her own blog, A Corner of the Universe Just for Books, where she reviewed the ARC that Tish sent her. Since The Fairy Godmother in me wanted an adolescent’s point of view, this bright, perceptive and enthusiastic reader has graciously offered us the following:

“Little Black Lies is something special. Being a teen, I do not often find a novel so true to what one actually experiences in High School, and though Tish is out of High School her description is spot-on. The characters, from Sara to Poppy to every character, are someone that you could find at any high school. There is not one specific word that describes this book. Special and WOW are the only ones that come close.

Tish is a very special person, and she comes up with some of the most amazing stories that I have ever read. When you open Little Black Lies, you enter the world of Anton High, so vivid, so compelling, and so real. What amazes me is that Tish writes what is real and true. She does not try to make it unrealistic or gloss over what really happens at High School. Being an avid reader, it is not too often that I come across something like this.

Reviews are supposed to point out some faults. The only problem with this book was that there was not a single thing wrong! That never happens! Tell us your secret Tish! I REALLY REALLY REALLY love Little Black Lies, and I also believe that no matter what your gender or age is, you will as well. I have already read it twice. When October 13th comes around, rush to a bookstore and buy one! Also, wear pink, black and white to honor this day, one that should be celebrated.

This was the first advance copy that I have ever gotten, and it will always have a special place in my heart. Thanks again Tish!”

And thank you, Bookie! Little Black Lies will be available a week from tomorrow, Tuesday, Ocotber 13th, when you can “rush” to a local bookstore or favorite online retailer to purchase a copy…no matter what your gender or age, you will enjoy. After all Bookie and yours truly both agree and that’s the HONEST truth!

[Note: Two copies of Little Black Lies are being given away this week. Please leave a comment on this post between now and Wednesday evening at 7:00 p.m. EDT to be eligible for the random drawings. The two winners will be announced here in Thursday’s post.]

Lara Zielin Offers Up Donut Days

August 05, 2009 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Contests

For many today may feel like one of those “dog days of summer,” but on the eve of her debut as a YA novelist Lara Zielin is only thinking Donut Days. Yummy title, isn’t it? And how appropriate that it comes from someone who grew up in Eau Claire (French for “clear water”), Wisconsin and thought that “’clear water’ in French was Evian.”

Yes Lara is an engaging, witty and charming young woman who radiates enthusiasm and a visit to her website will confirm her fun-loving nature. As a self-described “writer on the verge of…something,” she loves her day job as the editor of LSAmagazine, a University of Michigan alumni magazine. It provides her opportunities to meet wonderful people, discuss cutting-edge research, visit interesting locations — and then go and write all about it. Michigan is not the author’s alma mater (that would be Carleton College ‘98), yet she bleeds blue!

Sound as though Lara Zielin is confidence personified? Ah, it wasn’t always that way, and thus her inspiration for writing in the YA genre as she explains:

“Middle school and high school weren’t always easy for me, so I often turned to books to escape. The challenges I faced, coupled with the books I read, left a significant emotional imprint on my heart. And that’s why I think writing YA has always been my first love — because I can remember how being a teen can be so crappy one minute, and then so amazing the next. It sounds like a terrible cliché, but having books with characters I could identify with really helped me feel less lonely, and that I wasn’t the only teenager who had ever struggled with things like friendship, love, and acceptance.”

It’s not surprising then to learn that the backstory of the novel, along with the theme/message, is – according to Lara — semi-autobiographical:

“I wrote DONUT DAYS based off my own personal experiences in the evangelical church, but the issues Emma faces in DONUT DAYS transcend any particular denomination. Many teens have doubts about what they’re being asked to believe in a variety of contexts, church being just one among many. My great hope is that DONUT DAYS encourages teens to thoughtfully question what they believe, and why, and to remember that even if people suck, that doesn’t necessarily mean that faith (or God) sucks, too.”

Here’s a brief synopsis:

DONUT DAYS’ main character, Emma Goiner, has a lot going on. Her best friend’s not speaking to her, a boy she’s known all her life is suddenly smokin’ hot, she’s at a camp-out for the opening of a donut shop, and oh yes—her evangelical pastor parents may lose their church. And that’s just this weekend. Suddenly, sixteen-year-old Emma has to make some serious choices: creationism or evolution, faith or freedom, Harley bikers or Frodo wannabes, and of course, cruller or glazed.

And then a wonderful literary trade journal review:


“In this spirited—and, in an offbeat, somewhat irreverent way, spiritual—offering, readers meet Emma, who, despite the fact that both her parents are ministers at an evangelical church, finds her desire to feel the power of God in a direct and immediate way continually frustrated. Emma’s relationship with God becomes even more troubled when a wealthy church member challenges Emma’s mother’s right to preach based on her gender. Add to this the terrible fight that Emma has had with her best friend Nat, her budding relationship with the son of the man who instigated the church trouble and her attempt to get around her parents’ decision that she attend a Christian college by winning a scholarship contest for the best article on the Crispy Dream donut camp, and complications abound. The whimsical plot stretches credulity in places, as does the virtuousness of Emma’s crush, Jake, who never flinches in his loyalty to Emma, but Zielin’s lighthearted yet substantive portrayals of Emma’s struggles with God, family and friendship ring absolutely true.”_Kirkus Reviews

Tomorrow Lara will celebrate the publication of Donut Days and you can too by purchasing this fun but thoughtful read. In fact there’s not a better way to introduce a teen to a new author/friend. Lara Zielin’s career is just beginning, with her second novel, PROMGATE, tentatively due in summer 2011. She admits: “It feels like a long time away but I know the editing process will eat up a lot of that time, and the book will be here before I know it!” And to understand exactly what this author means, merely watch her video, Editing Letter.

Congratulations Lara, may your success be sweet!

To win a FREE copy of Donut Days, simply leave a comment and you’ll be entered in the contest. The deadline is 11:00 pm EDT tonight when a random drawing will be held and the winner announced in tomorrow’s post.