Cutting to the Chase by Rose Phillips

Cutting to the Chase by Rose Phillips
Publisher: Evernight Teen
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (146 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rating: Five Stars
Review by: Stargazer

How do you fix something you didn’t break? Lizzy certainly doesn’t have the answer. All she knows is that she needs to survive senior year, then get as far away from her dysfunctional family as possible. In the meantime, when she can’t take the pressure, she eases it with the sharp edge of a razor blade. But, she’s been cutting deeper and her thoughts are growing darker. Until she meets Michael. With him she finds relief. Now, maybe—just maybe—she can make it.

There are some stories that resonate with you and cause you to look at your own life in a different light, this is one of those stories.

Lizzy is just short of graduation and is trying to keep it together in her senior year. Life at home keeps falling apart more each day and to ease the pain and pent up emotions, she has taken to cutting to let out the emotions. In unmistakable ways, it seems like life might just give her a break when she meets Michael. When things suddenly start to fall into place and she has her cutting under control, Lizzy’s life suddenly spirals out of control into complete chaos.

The story is told from the first-person perspective of Lizzy. The author, Rose Phillips, has an astonishing knack for showing the inner emotions of Lizzy and when Lizzy is being defiant, the reader can understand and empathize with everything going on in the character’s life. The reader expressly experiences the highs and lows along with Lizzy-from the romantic date with Michael to the partying friends and the bad choices.

When several events occur that turn Lizzy’s world upside down, the reader is able to relate and experience the same emotional upheaval. With each cut comes the release of emotion and the reader is taken on a journey to understand the inner dynamics of Lizzy’s mind and how it relates to the chaotic and ever changing world around her. The dialogue is crisp and the setting will be familiar to many readers. The reader is able to be drawn in and enveloped by the life and times of the characters and as such, because to understand the deep back stories of each supporting character. From Mags, the always happy old friend that is always there, to Becky the friend with an insatiable party appetite but has experiences more than her own share of worldly burdens.

Cutting to the Chase is a deep story that is sure to reel you and in and cause you to look at your own life as well as the lives of those around you in a very different way!

Not Her Baby by Cassandra Jamison


Not Her Baby by Cassandra Jamison
Publisher: Evernight Teen
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full (232 pages)
Age Recommendation: 16+
Rating: 5 stars
Review by Orchid

When eighteen-year-old Aubrey Dale’s cousin is diagnosed with leukemia, Aubrey volunteers to in-vitro fertilization in order to become a vessel for the donor that will save her life. Now this clean-cut high school student must learn to adapt to life as a pregnant teenager, despite still being a virgin. Things only get more complicated when she falls in love with her best friend, Eli Calhoun, who has just returned from the penitentiary. Rumors soon spread that the insemination story is only a cover up. That’s when the anonymous threats begin. Someone in her small town disapproves of this so-called abomination. The psychological games soon take a twisted turn, putting Aubrey and her unborn child’s lives in danger. Aubrey and Eli race to uncover the horrible truth before it destroys everything.

Aubrey lives with her father and sister. Her mainstay in life is Kailee, her cousin, who has been there for her in all the years since her mother left. This summer a lot happens to Aubrey. Eli, a friend who has been in prison for several years, returns to the town and the friendship threatens to become a deeper relationship . Kailee arrives for the summer, and Brey finds out her cousin has leukemia. Brey offers to be a bone marrow transplant donor but unfortunately she isn’t a perfect fit. She takes the next best option and agrees to have a child with a donor to provide the stem cells needed for Kailee’s recovery.

At first I thought this eighteen year old was being brave in her wish to help her cousin. As the story progresses it becomes apparent she hasn’t really thought things through. One major result will be what to do with the baby when it’s born. At least one lady at her church has definite, but unwelcome, ideas about what will happen to the child.

The attitude of her fellow students at high school make her life more insulated. New students at the school, demean her for their own pleasure, and danger and intrigue from an unexpected source make her life scary and hazardous.

There are several sub-plots to this story which make it all the more intriguing and fascinating. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

April Book of the Month Poll Winner ~ Elphie and Dad Go on an Epic Adventure by Hagit R. Oron and Or Oron


Elphie and Dad Go on an Epic Adventure by Hagit R. Oron and Or Oron

Publisher: Self-Published
enre: Children’s Fiction, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (25 pages)
Age Recommendation: 3+
Rating: 5 stars
Review by: Astilbe

BoM LASR YA copy

For Elphie, everything is an adventure.

But dad is cautious.

Is dad going to join Elphie on his quest or is the trip to the shop going to be dull and boring?

Join Elphie and dad to find out!

READ THE FULL REVIEW HERE!

Woofed Cookies by Greg Bauder


Woofed Cookies by Greg Bauder
Publisher: American Star Books
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (20 pages)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rating: 3 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

A boy, Peter Moon, gets a puppy for his birthday that has an unusually sensitive stomach. Time and time again the puppy comes through for him in tight and often frightening situations. The story is spiced with humour and shows how resourceful the boy is by using his dog’s special attributes.

A little vomit can go a long way.

Peter acted exactly how I’d expected a boy in his early teens to act. Everything from his obsession with getting a pet dog to how annoyed he was when his mom asked him to do chores was spot-on. He was silly at times, too. Watching him bounce through all of those moods gave me a very clear image of what kind of person he was in so many different ways.

This story told the audience what was going on instead of showing us what was happening in them. It would have been helpful to have more detailed descriptions of Peter’s adventures with his dog. They got into all kinds of mischief together, but I had trouble picturing what was happening to them because everything happened quickly and with so little time spent describing what it would be like to actually be part of those scenes.

The dialogue was nicely written. I liked the fact that every single character had such a unique way of speaking. No two people in this book sounded alike, and that made their conversations a lot of fun to read. It was easy to pick out who was talking when a new scene began, and it was also easy to make good guesses about the kinds of things they’d say once I got to know them better.

I struggled when it came to picking the right age recommendation for this tale. Some of the trouble Peter got into sounded like stuff a much younger boy would do, but there were also some scenes where he experimented with certain things that are much more common for teenagers to try. Fourteen seemed like a good compromise between the mature content in those scenes and the goofiness of the rest of the storyline.

Woofed Cookies should be read by anyone who has ever been surprised by what their pet is willing to eat.

Elphie and Dad Go on an Epic Adventure by Hagit R. Oron and Or Oron


Elphie and Dad Go on an Epic Adventure by Hagit R. Oron and Or Oron

Publisher: Self-Published
enre: Children’s Fiction, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (25 pages)
Age Recommendation: 3+
Rating: 5 stars
Review by: Astilbe

BoM LASR YA copy

For Elphie, everything is an adventure.

But dad is cautious.

Is dad going to join Elphie on his quest or is the trip to the shop going to be dull and boring?

Join Elphie and dad to find out!

Anything can be an adventure if you think about it the right way.

This was such an imaginative tale. Not everyone can notice a cat sitting in a tree or a cloud floating through the sky and picture how those things could be transformed into something magical. Seeing the world through these characters’ eyes was a real treat due to of this. I’m going to think of my next walk in a completely different way because of how easy it was for Elphie to see dragons and treasures around every single corner.

The relationship between Elphie and his dad was so sweet. You could tell they really loved each other and enjoyed spending time together. I especially enjoyed seeing how attentive the dad was during their walk to the store. He wanted to make sure his son had fun while they ran their errand, and it showed.

There were a few lessons included in the plot about listening to your parents and avoiding some of the common dangers that exist when you’re walking by a road. I liked the fact that the father in this tale reminded his son to stay safe without making a big production out of it.

The dialogue was delightfully funny as well. Elphie was going through a stage where he liked to repeat certain words that his father used, so there were a few times when I grinned at how this little guy spoke. They weren’t the kind of words that I’d typically expect someone his age to use. I wouldn’t even expect him to know what some of them mean, but that only made it more adorable to see him use them.

If you’re looking for a cute picture book, look no further than Elphie and Dad Go on an Epic Adventure. It was a beautiful story that I can’t recommend highly enough!

March Book of the Month Poll Winner ~ Trouble Returns by Nancy Oswald


Trouble Returns by Nancy Oswald
Publisher: Filter Press
Genre: Action/Adventure, Historical
Length: Full (207 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 8+
Rating: 5 stars
Review by: Aloe

BoM LASR YA copy

Trouble Returns is the third installment in the Ruby and Maude Adventure series.

Eleven-year-old Ruby is in an unbelievable amount of trouble. Trouble in school, trouble with the Sisters of Mercy, trouble with her cat named Trouble, and trouble with Pa after he proposes to the school principal. In 1896 Cripple Creek, Colorado, Ruby narrowly escapes death, and her donkey, Maude, steals the story with an unexpected surprise.

READ THE FULL REVIEW HERE!

The Journey to Writing My First Novel by Alex Lyttle – Guest Blog and Giveaway

Long and Short Reviews YA welcomes Alex Lyttle who is celebrating the release of his debut novel, From Ant to Eagle. Enter the Rafflecopter at the end of the post for a chance to win a $100 bookstore or PayPal gift card.

The Journey to Writing My First Novel by Alex Lyttle, author of From Ant to Eagle
When I was in my first year of medical school I had the difficult decision as to how I was going to spend my summer. In order to get into a good residency training program I needed to do something that looked good on a resume. Most people do research. It looks good on a resume AND helps you get to know the doctors in the area you are applying for.

But I didn’t want to do research. I’d already done a summer of research before medical school and most of that was spent asleep on a microscope. And I mean literally asleep. I would go into the dark room, place my eyes against the microscope and nap. I wasn’t a very good researcher.

So, I decided to take up painting! I knew that it wouldn’t be as appealing on a resume as research but hey, at least it would be a conversation starter in my interviews. I bought canvas, paints and watched one Bob Ross video on how to paint. My one and only painting was of a mountain that more closely resembled a spaceship. And not a very good spaceship. In fact, it was terrible. And not only that, I didn’t enjoy painting.

But I still needed to do something productive with my summer. So I decided to take up writing. About what? I wasn’t sure. I had some vague thoughts about writing about my brother. I’d tormented him when we were little, inventing a “game” whereupon I made him do horrible things to gain a “level” and I guess I harboured some guilt over that. I wanted to show people that despite the outward cruelty, there was a deep-seeded love that existed between us. So I started to write. And I loved it. But the book didn’t have any direction.

I continued to aimlessly pound away at the keyboard until third year medical school when we left the classroom and began rotating through the hospitals. One of my first rotations was in pediatric oncology and it was devastating. I’ll come out and say this: I’m a sensitive person. I cry in almost every movie, including Finding Dory, and sitting in on meetings with families being told their child has cancer was overwhelming. It would resonate with me long after I left the hospital. I didn’t sleep well. I kept thinking about those children and their families. Often, I would think about their siblings. The children brought to the hospitals day-in and day-out while their brothers or sisters underwent treatment. Since the focus of the caregivers is, rightfully so, on the children who are sick, the siblings are often left out. They are the forgotten ones and I decided to write a story from their perspective. I wanted to show young readers what these children go through. I wanted them to be able to empathize.

So I started the book again. And seven years later (pediatric residency does not leave much time for writing), it is finished. It is called From Ant To Eagle and will be available in stores April 1st, 2017. I hope that you read it. I hope that you like it. But mostly, I hope that it opens your eyes to the difficulties of children like Sammy and Calvin.

My name is Calvin Sinclair, I’m eleven years old and I have a confession… I killed my brother.

It’s the summer before grade six and Calvin Sinclair is bored to tears. He’s recently moved from a big city to a small town and there’s nothing to do. It’s hot, he has no friends and the only kid around is his six-year-old brother, Sammy, who can barely throw a basketball as high as the hoop. Cal occupies his time by getting his brother to do almost anything: from collecting ants to doing Calvin’s chores. And Sammy is all too eager – as long as it means getting a “Level” and moving one step closer to his brother’s Eagle status.

When Calvin meets Aleta Alvarado, a new girl who shares his love for Goosebumps books and adventure, Sammy is pushed aside. Cal feels guilty but not enough to change. At least not until a diagnosis causes things at home to fall apart and he’s left wondering whether Sammy will ever complete his own journey…

From Ant to Eagle.

About the Author:Alex Lyttle is a pediatrician living in Calgary, Alberta with his wife and three children. He was raised in London, Ontario – the setting of his first novel, From Ant to Eagle, which he wrote based on his experiences working in the Pediatric Oncology unit. When he is not working, writing or playing basketball, he enjoys learning new magic tricks to perform for his young patients.

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Buy the book at Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

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Heartbeats by Ann Herrick


Heartbeats by Ann Herrick
Publisher: Chaucer Publishing
Genre: Young Adult, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Holiday, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (40 pages)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 3 stars
Review by: Astilbe

Three short stories of teen love and longing

Beneath the Surface:
Lariena can’t go in the water, and the mysterious Adrian won’t come out. Is that any way to have a summer romance? But eventually Adrian teaches Lariena to face her fears and not be afraid of what’s Beneath the Surface, even when it’s the scary unknown.

Shortcut to Romance:
An assignment, a snow storm and a detour take Becca on a Shortcut to Romance.

Saskia:
Even ten years after she disappeared from his life, Ben cannot forget the magic of the girl named Saskia. What will he do now that he has the opportunity to see her once more?

Sometimes the perfect guy shows up when you least expect him to.

The romance in “Beneath the Surface” moved too quickly. I liked Lariena and Adrien as individuals quite a bit, but it was surprising to me to see how quickly they moved from meeting to falling for each other. They knew almost nothing about one another when this happened. It would have been nice for them to discover they shared some common interests or goals in life so that I could have had at least one concrete reason for hoping they’d end up together. With that being said, I did like how much room the ending left for readers to come up with our own theories about what might have happened next.

One of the things I enjoyed the most about “Shortcut to Romance” was how opinionated and perfectionistic the main character was about everything from her schoolwork to what kind of Valentine’s Day card she was planning to make for her crush. She had a well-developed personality that was so complex she genuinely felt like a real person to me, flaws and all. Becca’s insistence on doing everything strictly and methodically was also a fascinating contrast to Colt’s relaxed approach to their group assignment and to life in general. I loved seeing them work together. While it took me a while to decide that I wanted to see them become a couple, I didn’t look back once I made up my mind about that. Sometimes opposites attract in all kinds of interesting ways.

There were a few things about “Saskia” that I didn’t fully understand. Ben’s memories of the girl he used to know were vivid and beautiful, but I had trouble making the leap from his memories to what was currently going on in his life as he met up with her once again. It was never completely clear to me where the past ended and the present began. That made it hard for me to get into this tale despite how much I enjoyed the first scene.

I’d recommend Heartbeats to anyone who is in the mood for some gentle love stories.

The Artist and Me by Hannah Kay


The Artist and Me by Hannah Kay
Publisher: Finch Books
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (105 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rating: 3 stars
Review by Quince

Like the colorful strokes of her brush, love changes the canvas of their lives.

Lucas is just a small town writer starting a summer internship at the local paper when Julie blows into town like a cyclone. Legs a mile long, ginger hair that curls delicately to the small of her back and a smile that could generate enough energy to power Carltonville for months on end, she is easily a knockout. Unlike the other girls at the high school, though, she simply is what she is—beautiful, smart, confident and an artist to her core—all facts that cause the girls to hate her and the guys to want her.

By some stroke of luck—or so he feels—she is choosing to give Lucas, the quiet writer guy, a chance. It doesn’t add up, but Lucas isn’t going to dispute it. He just prays to the great God in Heaven that he doesn’t screw it up.

The writer and the artist—pen and paint. Is this story a masterpiece that will stand the test of time or will it fade with the summer sun?

The Artist and Me is a really short, quick read. It is a story about first love, one summer and heartbreaks. The story revolves around Lucas and Julie’s relationship. Lucas is a small town boy dreaming of becoming a writer. It is the beginning of a summer and he’s just started an internship at a local paper. Soon a new girl is in town, the daughter of local paper owner – Julie. Julie recently lost her mother and has moved in with her father. Julie likes to paint, and in Lucas’ eyes she is the most beautiful creature on the Earth, but also the most unreachable one. But miracles do happen and soon Julie and Lucas begin to date. After that, the story pretty much follows their dating and relationship.

As I already mentioned this is a short story that. I enjoyed it up to one point toward the end of the story. At that point Julie stars to act really strange. Also I did not like how story ended, and really didn’t see the point in that kind of ending. Still, the writing was solid and the plot interesting.  My dissatisfaction was a personal thing, and it may not be the same for you.  Give it a try and let me know!

What Every Girl (except me) Knows by Norah Raleigh Baskin

What Every Girl (except me) Knows by Norah Raleigh Baskin
Publisher: Untreed Reads
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (125 pages)
Age Recommendation: 12+
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

I’m assuming I’ll turn into a woman someday whether I know anything about being one or not. But being womanly is something you definitely have to learn. Girls probably don’t even know they’re learning it. But one thing for sure is that it has to come from a mother.

And a mother is one thing I don’t have.

***

Unlike most kids faced with the prospect of having a stepmother, Gabby Weiss isn’t the slightest bit resistant to the idea. Gabby wishes her father would hurry up and marry someone who knows more about womanhood than she does, someone who understands her obsession with all that is happening (and, worse, not happening!) to her body. For a while, it seems as though her father’s girlfriend, Cleo, might soon be filling the role of mother, but when things fall apart, Gabby has to find her own solution. So she travels to the last place she remembers seeing her mother, searching for a memory. But what she finds is something even better.

 

There isn’t an official handbook for growing up, so Gabby might have to make one up as she goes along.

Gabby’s character development was nicely done. She matured a lot from the beginning of this tale to the end of it. I especially liked seeing how she slowly began to understand certain things that had completely flown over her head in the first few chapters. This was such an interesting way to show how this character was changing because it focused on both the small and the big signs that she wasn’t a little girl anymore.

The only thing holding this story back from a higher rating was how many characters were included in it. There were so many different people to get to know that I often accidentally mixed them up. This was especially true when it came to Gabby’s classmates. Most of them didn’t play a big role in the plot so it was hard to keep all of them straight.

The relationship between Gabby and her older brother, Ian, was wonderfully complex. I really enjoyed seeing how they reacted to each other. Sometimes they argued like all siblings do, but at other times they were surprisingly sweet. Some of my favorite scenes were the ones where these two characters danced around the topic of their mother’s death. While I can’t say much more about that without giving away spoilers, it was fascinating to see how Gabby and Ian handled their grief so many years after losing their mom.

What Every Girl (except me) Knows should be read by anyone who suddenly feels like they’re growing up quickly or who remembers what that stage in life is like.