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.

Car Trouble by Jeanne DuPrau

Car Trouble by Jeanne DuPrau
Publisher: Untreed Reads
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (83 pages)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rating: 3 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

Duff Pringle has bought his first car. (Used.) He’s got six days to drive 3,000 miles cross-country to California and start a new hi-tech job that will make him wealthy. (Sort of.) Nothing can stop him. (Or can it?)

Uh-oh . . . CAR TROUBLE.

Duff’s Ford Escort barely makes it a hundred miles from home before breaking down. What’s he supposed to do? He’s promised his new boss he’ll be there by Monday. But he’s also promised himself that he’ll make this journey by car, so he can really see the country. Using his laptop and some quick thinking, he pieces together a way to continue his trip. What he doesn’t plan on are the people he meets along the road. There’s Stu, a hitchhiker with a secret; Bonnie, an aspiring singer with a con artist for a mother; two thugs looking for a trunkful of cash; and Moony, the terrier prone to carsickness.

What could possibly go wrong on a simple road trip?

The dialogue was nicely written. Every character had a unique voice that suited him or her well. I had no trouble telling who was speaking because of how much time the author put into showing the audience the differences between how everyone spoke and what kinds of things they generally did and didn’t say. This made getting to know the characters easier than it might have been otherwise. It also gave me a good idea of what kinds of people they were because of what they liked to talk about and how they treated each other with their words.

Duff made a lot of bad decisions in this story. He was described as someone who was intelligent and resourceful in the beginning of it, so I had a tough time understanding why he kept making choices that I would expect any smart person to recognize as dangerous. Had this happened once or twice it would have been understandable. The fact that it happened over and over again, though, strained credibility.

Despite these issues, I did enjoy this book’s sense of humor quite a bit. Duff’s naive approach to life provided plenty of opportunities for laughs. He was so good at misinterpreting signals and small signs that something was off about a situation that I looked forward to seeing what he would misunderstand next and if he’d finally catch on to what was really going on around him.

Car Trouble should be read by anyone who is looking for something humorous.

February Book of the Month Poll Winner ~ Kitty Hawk and the Curse of the Yukon Gold by Iain Reading

Kitty Hawk and the Curse of the Yukon Gold by Iain Reading
Publisher: Self Published
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Historical, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full (253 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 12+
Rating: 4 stars
Review by Aloe

BoM LASR YA copy

Kitty Hawk and the Curse of the Yukon Gold is the thrilling first installment in a new series of adventure mystery stories that are one part travel, one part history and five parts adventure. This first installment of the Kitty Hawk Flying Detective Agency Series introduces Kitty Hawk, an intrepid teenage pilot with her own De Havilland Beaver seaplane and a nose for mystery and intrigue. A cross between Amelia Earhart, Nancy Drew and Pippi Longstocking, Kitty is a quirky young heroine with boundless curiosity and a knack for getting herself into all kinds of precarious situations.


In the Company of Crazies by Nora Raleigh Baskin

In the Company of Crazies by Nora Raleigh Baskin
Publisher: Untreed Reads Publishing
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (84 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 12+
Rating: 4.5 stars
Review by: Stargazer

Thirteen-year-old Mia Singer thought that she had it all under control. Sure, her grades were slipping a little bit (well, really, more than a little), and she couldn’t explain her occasional compulsion to shoplift, but things weren’t that bad. Then the sudden death of a classmate affects Mia in a way she can’t quite define—and she goes one step too far. At their wits’ end, Mia’s parents place her in an “alternative” boarding school. Away from her parents and surrounded by trees, space and students whose problems she can’t completely comprehend, Mia has no choice but to learn about herself.

With insight and sympathy, Nora Raleigh Baskin focuses on the universal feeling of being a misfit, showing that sometimes the path home is as unexpected as it is challenging.

Some books leave you re-evaluating your life and the lives of those around you, this is one of those books.

Mia Singer is in a downward spiral. Her grades stink, she is caught shoplifting and quite frankly, doesn’t care about what is going on in her life or her family. Mia isn’t a bad kid, Mia just is having a hard time with some life transition.

Mia is sent by her family to a special “school” to help with her attitude and outlook on life. Needless to say, this is one reform school or boarding school, whatever you want to call it, that is completely unlike what you would expect.

The reader sees the world through Mia’s eyes. Through flashbacks we get to see what happened and we start to understand the choices that Mia made. Mia is a girl who is trying to make her way through the world. The story tends to be a little darker in some aspects, but this is where I found the magic. We get to see the world through a different set of eyes, we see the darkness out there, and then appreciate how good life may be for us.

Mia’s experiences are very similar. She learns about “cheating life” and she sees others who have a life so very different from her own. Mia begins to understand a little more about the other students who at first seemed so weird and “alien” to her. As a reader we begin to understand that those who walk life’s journey with us are not all that different from us, but they may just show it in a different way.

I am honestly glad that I had the opportunity to read In the Company of Crazies, the author does a great job of causing the reader to re-evaluate the world. I hope that you will consider taking a strange journey with Mia and also walk In the Company of Crazies! I am grateful that I did.

Don’t Tell Jessie by Traci Jo Stotts

Don’t Tell Jessie by Traci Jo Stotts
Publisher: Evernight Teen
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (175 pages)
Age Recommendation: 16+
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 5 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

Jessie tries to make the most of her senior year while dealing with the recent loss of her mother. She spends most of her time taking care of her dad, who has turned into a workaholic, and spending time with her best friend Stef who is getting over his own tragedy, his boyfriend’s suicide. The only thing bringing a smile to her face is Derek Stevens. He’s just been dumped by the head cheerleader and Jessie’s dreams come true when he asks her out. Stef warns her that Derek might be using her to get his ex-girlfriend back, but she falls for him anyway. Life is good until a secret turns her world upside down. Now, Jessie must choose between her own grief and salvaging her tarnished relationships.

Whoever said high school was supposed to be the best time of your life clearly doesn’t know just how many things can go wrong during those four long years.

This is one of the best books about bullying and betrayal that I’ve ever read. All of the characters had complex reasons for behaving the way that they did. Not only did that make them fascinating to read, it gave satisfying answers for why they behaved the way that they did. Some of the scenes were pretty painful for Jessie, so having such detailed reasons for why certain things happened to her were quite helpful.

Speaking of the main character, I absolutely loved her as an individual. I was also a huge fan of the strong character development she showed as a result of her experiences. Her stubborn, feisty personality made itself known from the very first scene, so it was great to see how such a well-rounded character responded to all of the plot twists that were thrown her way.

Stef and Jessie’s lifelong friendship was a highlight of the plot as well. I really liked how supportive they were of each other when it came to getting through their final year of high school, making plans for the future, or dealing with the guys they wanted to date. They genuinely cared about each other, and that made me want to see what would happen to them next.

Another thing I adored about this story was how thoroughly the main character’s strained relationship with her dad was explored. I quickly became engrossed in figuring out why their relationship had soured and why neither one of them seemed that interested in doing anything to fix it. She clearly had issues with him that had been going on for years, so trying to untangle how things had gone so wrong with them was rewarding.

Don’t Tell Jessie is a must-read for teens and adults alike!

An Epiphany in Lilacs by Iris Dorbian – Spotlight and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Iris will be awarding a $20 Amazon or B/N GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

An Epiphany In Lilacs is a young adult novel set in a DP camp outside Hamburg, Germany following the end of World War II. The author, Iris Dorbian, captures in this story a unique glimpse into the period after the Holocaust when survivors had to deal with their new realities for living, based on her father’s personal experience.

After liberation in May 1945, Daniel, a 14-year-old Latvian Jew, is treated in a field hospital in the British zone of partitioned Germany. A survivor of various concentration camps, Daniel fights to recover from starvation and disease. Racked by nightmares, a nearly nightly occurrence, Daniel finds sleep almost impossible. Through his love of nature, and pre-war memories, Daniel struggles to find comfort. He forms an intriguing bond with an older German gentile, another survivor. Later on, as he joins a theater troupe, Daniel tries to move on with his life, yet still searching for the whereabouts of his mother and two sisters. Poised on the cusp of a new life, young Daniel makes his way to the country that will become his new home.

Enjoy an Excerpt:

The July heat could sometimes get clammy and oppressive under the glare of the morning sun, but Daniel didn’t care about peripheral meteorological considerations. What he cared about as he traipsed and traversed the grounds, the meticulously mowed lawns, the proliferating lilacs always in bloom, was an sensation that rippled throughout his body, the entire network of valves and veins constituting his inner being, the framework of his soul and flesh, a feeling so powerful and ineffable, it always bubbled up inside his head, manifesting in three simple words – “I am alive.”

Sometimes he would say these words aloud, sometimes within the earshot of other patients, some ambulatory, others not, yet all who heard would faintly acknowledge Daniel’s prosaic but freighted affirmation of being with their own gesture of recognition and affinity, be it an askew nod, a wry smile or a knowing wink.

Like other survivors, Daniel was plagued with guilt, confusion, disorientation and shock – the symptoms of post-traumatic stress that sometimes felt more terminal than transitory. But there was another emotion he shared with them, or rather a byproduct of an emotion, as he wasn’t ever sure he could qualify it as one, and that was gratitude. And it was this thankfulness, this visceral appreciation of just how lucky he was when far worthier beings like Tante Masha and Cousin David had not been, which instilled him with awe and wonder during his outdoor digressions. “I am alive.”

About the Author:

Iris Dorbian is a business and arts journalist whose articles have appeared in a wide number of outlets that include the Wall Street Journal, Reuters, Venture Capital Journal, Buyouts, Investopedia, DMNews, Jerusalem Report, the Forward, Playbill, Backstage, Theatermania, Live Design, Media Industry Newsletter and PR News. From 1999 to 2007, Iris was the editor-in-chief of Stage Directions. She is the author of “Great Producers: Visionaries of the American Theater,” which was published by Allworth Press in August 2008. Her personal essays have been published in Blue Lyra Review, B O D Y, Embodied Effigies, Jewish Literary Journal, Diverse Voices Quarterly, Adanna Literary Journal,, Skirt! and Gothesque Magazine. A New Jersey native, Iris has a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University.

LinkedIn | Twitter | Facebook | Muckrack | Website | Email

Buy the book at Amazon – available in both paperback and kindle, Barnes and Noble – available in paperback, Publisher – available in paperback or available in kindle.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

One to Ten, Squirrel’s Bad Day by Carole P Roman

One to Ten, Squirrel’s Bad Day by Carole P Roman
Publisher: Self Published
Genre: Children’s Fiction
Length: Short (37 Pgs)
Rating: 5 Stars
Age Recommendation: 3+
Review by: Stephanotis

Squirrel is rushing along a tree limb when she trips, losing all her acorns into the rushing water of the river below. Angry and frustrated, she doesn’t know what to do. Her good friend, Rabbit, lends both a sympathetic ear as well as a solution.

Rather than get angry, Rabbit tells her, rate the problem on a scale of one-to-ten. By identifying and realizing the true importance of the issue, the issue may not seem so overwhelming.

Adorable forest creatures help the sad squirrel put everything into perspective so he does not to get stuck in a rut over something that may not be a big deal after all.

What a fun book! It has a wonderful message and is beautifully illustrated by Mateya Arkova.

The story is about a squirrel that slips and drops all the acorns he’s gathered. He watches them slowly float down the river and becomes sad. Along comes his friend, a rabbit, who tries to cheer him up and offers him a way to compare this disaster to others in his life. He has to rate certain things on a scale of one to ten with ten being very bad.

What I loved most about this book is the author chose situations that most children can relate to like getting bad grades at school, grandparents moving away, parents divorcing, and even bad weather ruining your outdoor games.

While reading it I thought that its theme isn’t just for children but actually for all of us. When you’re having a bad day or something terrible happens if you put it on a scale of one to ten it doesn’t seem so bad.

I’d recommend this book to parents to read with their children and maybe use it as a tool to open up a discussion about feeling down or how to get over something bad happening in your life.

January Book of the Month Poll Winner ~ Just Another Quiet Little City by J.S. Frankel

Just Another Quiet Little City by J.S. Frankel
Publisher: Devine Destinies
Genre: Young Adult, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Horror, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (234 pages)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rating: 4 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

BoM LASR YA copy

Magic is in the air, and it makes the rules. Teenagers Gabe Common and his girlfriend, Millie Themmes, have settled in Angels Camp, California. As a high school dropout with little education and no future job prospects, Gabe is forced to work as a sideshow attraction with Millie at his side. They spend their days taking people on airborne excursions, and Gabe longs for some stability in his life.

However, all things have to change, and change they do when the magic returns with a vengeance. As with Chumsville, their former residence, most of the citizenry of Angels Camp disappear with no rhyme or reason, leaving only fifteen survivors behind. And the changes from human to something else happen once more, this time with frightening speed.

An old friend, Gil Perkins from the FBI arrives as a liaison, and then the army takes over. However, they have another plan in mind, and they imprison Gabe and the other survivors and use them as guinea pigs, trying to copy their powers.

Gabe needs answers, and the answers lie in Chumsville, a small community in South Dakota. He and his friends stage a breakout and make a perilous journey back to where it all started. Once there, Gabe and Millie learn the secret of why the magic happened and have to fight for their very survival.


The Mutual Admiration Society by Lesley Kagen

The Mutual Admiration Society by Lesley Kagen
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Genre: Historical (1950s), Mystery, Young Adult
Length: Full (294 pgs)
Age recommendation: 12+
Rating: 4 Stars
Review by: Stephanotis

FACT: Unbeknownst to eleven-year-old Theresa “Tessie” Finley, she’s in over her head.

PROOF: After hearing a scream and catching a glimpse of a mysterious man carrying a body beneath the flickering streetlights in the cemetery behind her house, Tessie adds solving a murder case to her already quite full to-do list.

Tessie has elected herself president of the crime-stopping Mutual Admiration Society—as if dealing with her “sad madness” over the tragic drowning of her beloved father; showering tender loving care on her “sweet but weird” younger sister, Birdie; and staying on the good side of their hard-edged mother weren’t enough. With partner in crime Charlie “Cue Ball” Garfield, Tessie and Birdie will need to dodge the gossips in their 1950s blue-collar neighborhood—particularly their evil next-door neighbor, Gert Klement, who’d like nothing better than to send the sisters to “homes.” And, of course, there’s the problem of steering clear of the kidnapping murderer if they have any hope of solving the mystery of all mysteries: the mystery of life.

A rich and charming tour de force, The Mutual Admiration Society showcases Lesley Kagen’s marvelous storytelling talents. Laced with heartwarming humor and heartbreaking grief, this novel is nothing short of magical.

How can I categorize this novel? I don’t think I can because it’s part Nancy Drew-like mystery, part family drama, and yes, it’s lots of fun to read.

The first thing I liked about this book was its main character and narrator Tessie Finley. She’s a likeable young girl who’s lost her father, doesn’t have the best relationship with her mother but along with her sister, Birdie, she’s making the most of it. She’s quirky, funny, sometimes adorable and when she thinks she’s seen a murder, she turns amateur detective. Along with her sister they set out to solve the crime, form the Mutual Admiration Society, and that’s when the fun really begins.

The book is set in 1959 which I think was perfect for the story and setting. I loved Tessie’s use of lists and the fact and proof entries as she tries to solve the crime. Her voice comes across strong in this story and some of the dialogue has you laughing out loud.

I’d say that not only will young adults enjoy this story but adults too. I haven’t read anything else written by this author but this first introduction to her work has made me want to check out some other titles. If you’re looking for a quirky mystery with some family drama thrown in, this is probably one you’d enjoy.