“Idi & the Oracle’s Quest” by TN Traynor


T N Traynor
CreateSpace (2014)
ISBN 9781496043931
Reviewed by Autumn (age 14) for Reader Views Kids (7/18)

If you like mysterious rendezvous, witches, castles, demons, dragons and a quest to save the world then “Idi & The Oracle’s Quest,” book one in the Born to Be series, by T N Traynor, is a story you definitely should read.

A spell of forbidden love is cast, only to leave a princess grieving over her love after he is killed, and she is banished from her kingdom for the child she is carrying. Little does she know that the elements or earth witches have taken a solemn vow to protect her and her unborn child from an evil wizard by the name of Norvora. If he gets control of the child, he will unleash unimaginable horrors from the depths of Astaroth.

A plan is made by the fairies to intercept Princess Cassandra and her unborn child before Norvora can reach them. Their journey takes them through a forbidden forest to reach the mountains to a town called Tamarind.

A great and kind wizard named Marcus is called upon by the oracle Oleanna to find a boy named Idi who will become the greatest wizard of all time. Idi is an orphaned boy who has been pick on his entire life and felt like he would never amount to anything, until Marcus finds him and asks that he accompanies him on an important quest to save the kingdoms. Together they will set out on a journey to find the child who is meant to be king.

I really enjoyed reading “Idi & The Oracle’s Quest.” The story line was fast paced with hint of suspense. I liked how the author combined characters such as wizards, elemental witches, dwarfs and a dragon in a not-so-fairy-tale-like setting. The chase through the forest kept you on the edge of your seat, not knowing if Cassandra and the fairies would make it to safety before the evil wizard Norvora and his henchmen caught up with them. Every chapter had a twist in the story that was exciting and unexpected. My favorite character would be Idi. He felt like no one cared for him, but he would not give up on others and was always there for them.

“Idi & The Oracle’s Quest”, book one of the Born to Be series, by T N Traynor is a magical story that will leave you wanting more. I would recommend this story for 9th graders and up, and I look forward to the next book in the “Born to Be series.”

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“War World” by Rod C. Spence


Rod C. Spence
Gallant Press (2017)
ISBN 9780999087916
Reviewed by Mason (age 15) for Reader Views Kids (7/18)

Six teenagers sent 2.4 million light years from earth. An expedition of the world’s brightest biotech scientists missing on another planet. An alien army controlled by a powerful wizard called The Shadow Lord. Prehistoric creatures sent on assassin missions. “War World,” by Rod Spence is a fast-paced action thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

Jeremy, Patrick, Alex, Marrisa, Selene and Leo’s parents all work for a company called TerraGen Universal, the world’s leading Biotech company, sought after by mafia companies for their technology. The teenagers learn that something went terribly wrong with their parent’s expedition.

After receiving a secret message from his brother, Jeremy and his classmates embark on a mission to save their parents and possibly the world. The team consisting of the CIA, scientists, mercenaries and 6 teenagers travel across the galaxy through a wormhole that was created by TerraGen’s quantum computers. When the team gets to the other side of the wormhole they arrive on planet Genesis, a planet light years away from earth and home to blood thirsty Gnomes, prehistoric creatures, and wizards both good and bad. When the teenagers get split up during an attack, they must find their way out of the city to stay alive. The kids must make it through hidden passageways and secret entrances to escape the Gnomes who are hunting them. Once free of the city both groups encounter enormous creatures, wizards and deadly terrain. They begin to doubt they will ever find their parents and their other classmates, let alone survive this hostile planet and get home in 30 days before the return portal closes.

I thought “War World” by Rod Spence was an action-packed adventure with twists and turns of unexpected horror. While some parts were on the gruesome side, the story line was intense. I enjoyed the thrill of the chase as the groups narrowly escaped the Gnomes who wanted nothing more than to eat them. I think my favorite character would have to be Patrick, he is extremely smart and has an attitude and doesn’t let people like Alex push him around. The creatures were realistic and terrifying as they hunted the groups through inner city passages and a forest consisting of deadly terrain. Once I started reading, I could not put this book down, and finished it in two days! I look forward to reading the next book in the series, “War World, Paladin”.

I would recommend “War World” by Rod Spence to 9th graders and older who enjoy an action packed, space travel thriller.

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“The Toad Who Loved Tea” by Faiz Kermani


Faiz Kermani
Troubador Publishing Ltd. (2017)
ISBN 9781788039970
Reviewed by Sarina (age 4), Eliana (age 6) and Mom for Reader Views Kids (6/18)

My kids and I enjoyed reading “The Toad Who Loved Tea” by Faiz Kermani, a cute adventure about a toad named Tungtang who was not at all like other toads.

Tungtang loved adventure while all the other toads enjoyed sitting in the pond. She would come back with fantastic stories of her adventures until one day a crow laughed at Tungtang and said her stories were boring. The crow said, “To have a real adventure you would need to travel to where no one has traveled before, the town.” Tungtang was not sure what she should do, until the eldest toad told her of a prophecy that was predicted by Dustysox the Great. A toad would travel far and achieve human fame and glory. So Tungtang set off on her journey. After several weeks of travel, she finally made it to the town. Tungtang ventures into a tea shop and that is where she discovers she loves tea. The owners are having a hard time running the shop until they find who has been drinking their tea and making messes in their tea shop. Who would have thought a toad was exactly what they needed to save their shop?

“The Toad Who Loved Tea” by Faiz Kermani is creative and well written and has many colorful illustrations and silly rhymes throughout the book. This is a great story for early readers as my daughter Eliana could read along with me. Both girls loved the book and thought all the trouble Tungtang got into around the tea shop was very funny. They especially like the part where she became a tea tester and got to sit on a throne with a crown, in front of all the people who would travel from all over the world to come see the tea tasting toad.

The illustrations in the story allowed for the reader to envision all Tungtang’s adventures she had going into town and her experiences in the tea shop.

We highly recommend “The Toad Who Loved Tea” by Faiz Kermani as a great early reader book, and a soon to be family favorite.

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“TwoSpells” by Mark Morrison


Mark Morrison
CreateSpace (2018)
ISBN 9781983962158
Reviewed by Autumn Stout (age 13) for Reader Views Kids (6/18)

“TwoSpells” by Mark Morrison introduces readers to Sarah and her twin brother Jon who are not your ordinary kids, but are heirs to a magical realm that is home to an enchanted library.

The story begins with a trip to their grandparent’s farmhouse where the twins will find out about their true birthright, but when they arrive all is not what it seems. There are gnomes in the garden that wink and wave when you walk by. A creepy and mysterious caretaker, who wants nothing to do with Sarah and Jon, has forbidden them from going into their grandparent’s cellar. It is only when Sarah and Jon begin investigating the farm that strange things start to happen.

They are visited by huge figures called the “Collectors,” who come looking for a missing text, a magical book that was taken by their grandparent’s years ago. The supernatural book comes from “TwoSpells,” an enchanted library where readers can travel to a second dimension and explore all the unusual creatures that live there. But there is an evil power that will stop at nothing to keep Sarah and her twin brother Jon from fulfilling their destiny.

I enjoyed reading “TwoSpells” by Mark Morrison. Right from the beginning I was wondering, “What will happen next?” The cover of “TwoSpells” gives a glimpse into a wondrous library where readers can experience the most amazing adventures in every book. The author has a great idea for a book but I wish that this story setting had been more about being in this amazing library like the picture on the cover promises readers. I liked the characters the author chooses for this story and the history behind who they are, but I would have liked to find out more about “TwoSpells”. I believe a book with that storyline would be a favorite to YA readers of books like “Fablehaven” and “The House of Secrets.”

I think “TwoSpells” by Mark Morrison has overwhelming potential to be a YA best seller, if it had more about this wondrous library, and all the amazing adventures that could be had there.

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“The Christmas Wind” by Stephanie Simpson McLellan


Stephanie Simpson McLellan
Red Deer Press (2017)
ISBN 9780889955349
Reviewed by Alyvia Stout (age 10) for Reader Views Kids (05/18)

“The Christmas Wind” by Stephanie Simpson McLellan is a heartwarming story of a girl’s desperate journey to save her mother and baby brother on Christmas Eve. Jo is traveling with her sick mother and a newborn baby brother in search of shelter from the bitter cold of the wind. She notices a small house with a barn and heads there for shelter from the strong winds. The only thing is the barn is owned by a grumpy man named Franklin Murdoch. Jo does not trust Mr. Murdoch, but she has no choice but to get her mother and baby brother to the barn for shelter away from the cold. When Jo leaves her baby brother in the safe shelter of the barn to go back for her mother, little does she know that someone is looking out for them and she is soon to find out that people are not always what they seem to be.

I really enjoyed “The Christmas Miracle” by Stephanie Simpson McLellan. The part I liked the most in the story was how the author made the reader feel like they were right there with Jo and her family in the bitter cold looking for shelter from the wind. The story line sometimes reminds me of the first Christmas miracle with baby Jesus.

The illustrations were drawn by Brooke Kerrigan and they are very beautiful with lots of detail and vibrant colors. I think people of all ages will like to read a story with such a warm and happy ending that is not your usual Christmas theme. I would have liked to find out what happens to Jo and her mom and baby brother after they meet Mr. Murdoch.

I recommend “The Christmas Wind” by Stephanie Simpson McLellan, not just for a Christmas story but a book to enjoy all year long.

Posted in YOUNG READER - AGES 8 TO 12 | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Interview with George Chiang, Author of “The Railroad Adventures of Chen Sing”


George Chiang
FriesenPress (2017)
ISBN 9781460299401
Reviewed by Paola Belloso (age 9) for Reader Views (04/17)
Interview by Sheri Hoyte (4/18)

George Chiang journeyed deep into the mountains in the Pacific Northwest to uncover the long lost stories of Chen Sing.  George wrote and composed the award winning musical, Golden Lotus.  Also an actor, he has appeared in many film, television and theatre productions.

Welcome George, and thank you for being with us today.  What is your book, The Railroad Adventures of Chen Sing about?

The Railroad Adventures of Chen Sing is about the adventures of a teenage boy from China, Chen Sing, who comes to North America to help build the transcontinental railway through the mountains of the Pacific Northwest.GeorgeChiang

What inspired you to write a children’s book?

I wanted to write a story about a Chinese pioneer who helped build the railway. I chose to write it for children because I think the story of Chen Sing resonates for young readers.

Is there a lesson behind the story?

There are many lessons in this story.  However, what is prevalent in this book is that you can accomplish anything with hard work, persistence, and determination.

What do you hope children take away from “The Railroad Adventures of Chen Sing?

I hope that children will get glimpse of what it was like for the many thousands of Chinese railroad workers who helped build the railways in North America through the eyes of Chen Sing.

 As a children’s author, how do you think kids connect to actual books in this digital age?

I think children connect with books as much as their environment allows them to. If they are brought up in an environment that cherishes books they will embrace them.  Books give them an opportunity to really learn about the world.   If they are not in an environment where books and reading are encouraged than they will have not much use for them.

What guidance can you give to parents on how to instill a love of reading and introduce the world of books to their children?

I think role modeling is the best way to instill a love or reading in children.  If they see their parents reading, they themselves will want to read more too.

What is the best part about being a children’s author?

The best part is that you are giving them a story that will help develop their ideas about the world.  To see their reactions and hear their questions and comments about the book has been a very rewarding experience.

What is the best piece of advice you ever received, about writing or about life in general?

The best advice about writing I received is that “Writing is re-writing.”  The best advice about life is “Live each day as if it’s your last.”

What advice can you give aspiring children’s authors?

If you want to write a book you just need to write.  Set a time each day that you can spend on just writing, with no distractions.  If you can do that, you will be surprised at how much you can get done.

What do you like to do in your free time?

I enjoy playing hockey, watching movies, spending time with family, and of course, reading.

So, what’s next?  Will Chen Sing continue to take readers on exciting new adventures?

I am writing a sequel to this book called The Pioneer Adventures of Chen Sing which is about his life after he worked on the railroad.

Do you have a website where people can find out more about you and your works?

I have a website in the works at http://www.georgechiang.org.

Where can readers purchase The Railroad Adventures of Chen Sing?

The book is available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble (Hardcover/Paperback), and by e-book at Kindle, iBooks, and Google Play Books.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers today?

Look out for the sequel, The Pioneer Adventures of Chen Sing!

George, thank you so much for spending some time with us today! I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know more about you and look forward to see what’s coming next!

Thank you!

Read Review of The Railroad Adventures of Chen Sing

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Interview with Kai Raine, Author of “These Lies That Live Between Us”


Kai Raine
Gatekeeper Press (2018)
ISBN 9781619848894
Reviewed by Arianna Violante, YA Reviewer for Reader Views (3/18)
Interviewed by Sheri Hoyte (3/18)

Kai Raine is a writer and cognitive scientist, who believes in thinking outside the box and questioning assumptions. Kai reads and writes to experience lives and opinions and possibilities beyond her own. She has lived a relatively nomadic life, being born in the US, then growing up mostly in Japan, and spending most of her early adult life in Europe. She has a BA from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and MScs from the University of Trento and the University of Osnabrück.
Kai Raine.png

Welcome Kai, and thank you for being with us today. Why don’t you start by telling our readers a bit about yourself?

I’ve been in love with stories all my life. I always knew I wanted to write, and always did, but there was this understanding in my family that it could only ever be a hobby. I was well into my twenties before I realized that life is short and I should do what I feel I’m called to do. I’m a cognitive scientist and neuroscientist, and my life can be summarized as “inadvertently nomadic.” I grew up mostly in Japan.

What is These Lies That Live Between Us about?

It’s the story of three sisters, with complicated relationships and each with her own path to take. Their kingdom is about to go to war, and their lives are full of intrigue, action, adventure, forbidden magic and the like. But to me, it’s the story of sisters, growing up and coming to terms with a world that isn’t what they thought it was—and the pain and hurt that they’ve caused each other along the way.

What was your inspiration for writing this book?

When I was eleven or twelve, I used to “write songs” by writing my own lyrics to Japanese pop songs. One day, I thought to myself, “I should try writing a song all mine, tune and all.” I wrote this silly little song about how the princess of Hearts runs away from home and pretends to be a common girl. Along the way, she meets a dashing knight, who turns out to be the prince of Spades in disguise. Eventually she gets tired of living on the run and becomes a maid in the court of Diamonds. It bears very little resemblance to These Lies That Live Between Us, though you may be able to make out the skeleton of one of the storylines, if you squint hard enough.

Anyway, that song became more songs, then became a middle-grade book. Eventually I scrapped the manuscript entirely when I realized that my characters’ personalities didn’t match their motivations. I zoomed out my perspective a little, and realized that part of my problem was that all my side characters were just props. I started with the younger twin sisters of my original protagonist. I gave them names and personalities, shifted around who did what from my original storyline, and voila! Suddenly it was a much more interesting story. That was about 12 years ago, and the true beginning of These Lies That Live Between Us.

What called you to write Young Adult Fantasy?

I love reading—and writing—because I believe that well-written fictional stories are the single most powerful tool we have to broaden our perspectives and see past our own assumptions. To me, fantasy and science fiction are the most powerful genres, because they can make us see things about our own world by showing us a world we don’t know, where we know our assumptions might not necessarily hold.

I think I write young adult books because changing perceptions and questioning my basic assumptions are things I was forced to live often as a teen—and it’s just a part of growing up, in a lot of ways. Writing YA is just the most natural way that I can express the characters and stories that I want to write.

How do you think writing for the YA crowd differs from writing for a more mature audience?

I don’t think it does, not really. I’ve heard people make a lot of generalized rules about writing for the YA crowd. First person perspective, one main protagonist per book (or one protagonist and one love interest), and no complicated story with multiple intertwining storylines, because it’s harder to identify with—these are all things I’ve been told about “how to write for the young adult.”

But when I was a teenager, I didn’t like first person perspective as a general rule. The most resonant book I read as a teen was The Mists of Avalonby Marion Zimmer Bradley, which I read at age 14. I still remember it vividly—I still feel like I lived that book. It had multiple storylines, multiple protagonists, and at the end, there really isn’t a triumph, or a sense of who was fundamentally right or wrong. I loved Morgana, and I hated Gwenhwyfar, and I read every word. It moved me so deeply that most books felt lackluster by comparison for years afterward.

So, I write YA that appeals to me as I am now—and hope that it would also have appealed to the girl that I was.

How do you create your characters?

It depends. Usually the story just takes form in my head, and then I have to start writing it to get a sense of who the characters are. I write short stories and vignettes and even novellas about characters that never see the light of day—they’re just to get a sense of who I’m dealing with.

I’ve learned that writing, for me, is about letting go. It’s all there in my head, somewhere. If I get hung up on what I want, I can end up diminishing a character, and therefore the story.

Which character do you relate to most and why?

This is a difficult question, because what it really comes down to is when I focused on any given storyline.

I told my sister recently that there’s a lot of me in Stelle—but not me as I am now. Her anger, her frustration at a world that defines her in a way that doesn’t match her identity, her tendency to blame that anger and frustration on anyone and anything but herself—this is all a journey that I went through when I was younger. I wrote Stelle’s storyline all the way through for the first time about eight years ago, and largely based her on who I was eight years before that. At the time, I thought I’d give each sister a novel, so her story began with her frustration with Gwen from chapter 1, then followed her chapter after chapter as she travelled, settled in at Traveler’s Crossing, and eventually was found and had to flee into the Tor. Obviously, most of that didn’t make it into the final version of this story.

There’s a lot of me in Alderic too, who was the easiest character for me to write. It’s hard to articulate why, except to say that he’s the only character who I never had to struggle to understand. I especially feel kinship with the way he stumbles through very nuanced, politically charged interactions while remaining totally oblivious—but can look back at it later and say, Oh! I see what was going on there. In a way, he’s carries some of the naïve, innocent side of me, just as Stelle carries some of my angry, rebellious side.

Most recently, in the last couple years, a lot of me went into Gwen. I lost my mother in 2015, and in the wake of that, felt like I was losing all the rest of my family, too, as we all grieved in our own ways and drifted apart. I channeled a lot of that grief and loneliness into Gwen, and the way she feels after losing Stelle. So much, in fact, that when I went through during the last three edits, one thing I had to do was cut out a lot of the grieving process. It was cathartic for me to write it, and it gave me a better understanding of Gwen’s character, but it was not at all interesting to read.

What was your biggest challenge in writing These Lies That Live Between Us?

The beginning. I don’t have words for how difficult this was. I still look at the beginning and shake my head sometimes, because I know that it could have been much better. As it is, I get mixed comments. Some people have told me they love the beginning. Others have told me they had to push through the beginning to get to the meat of the story that made it worth it.

The problem with having this story in incubation for so many years is that I’ve lived with it for too long. I know these characters inside out. I can’t remember what it is to not know Gwen, and her codependent relationship with Stelle, and the court at Castle Dio, and both of their complicated relationships with Nicki.

So, trying to introduce Gwen and her dynamic with her sisters in a way that was compelling, but also provided all the information a reader might need to understand her—this was a struggle.

What distinguishes These Lies That Live Between Us from other YA Fantasy?

Maybe the fact that it has so many point of view characters. I’ve had a lot of people balk at the number of point of view characters when they look at the table of contents. It does mean that in one of the storylines, there is a sort of detachment that you don’t often see in YA, since you’re watching events unfold through the perspectives of many different characters with minor roles in this story, rather than through the eyes of one main protagonist.

To me, it’s also distinguished by the fact that the sisters’ relationships are the central love story, rather than the romantic relationships.

What is it you hope readers take away from the story?

I’m a strong believer in the concept death of the author. Whatever readers take away, it’s theirs to take. But I’d love to hear what they do take away from it!

What do you like to do in your free time?

I don’t have a lot of free time these days. I try to make sure I exercise regularly, so I jog, hike, swim and play tennis. I love skiing, but I only go once every couple years, because it’s so expensive.

What do you like to read?

Almost anything! I like accessible non-fiction that teaches me things about the world I didn’t know, and I like character-driven fiction that makes me see people or the world in a way I didn’t before. I have a soft spot for fairy tale retellings. My review blog was originally started as a fairy tale retelling review blog, after one horrifying summer when I decided to order every single fairy tale retelling novel I could get through the interlibrary loan system. I had over a hundred books under my bed at one point.

What book has most influenced your life?

This is difficult, because so many books have had a huge influence on my life. I already spoke about The Mists of Avalon. If I had to pick something as the greatest influence, I would say the Moribito series by Nahoko Uehashi. My father bought me the third book in the series for my 10th birthday—probably because I was mostly reading for pleasure in English at the time, and he wanted to urge me to read in Japanese, too. I griped at him about buying me the third book in a series—he hadn’t realized that it was part of a series—so he got me the first book.

That book changed my life. For one thing, it became the catalyst that made me start devouring books for pleasure in Japanese as well as English. Before, I only read Japanese books for school. I read every novel Nahoko Uehashi ever wrote, and remained so obsessed with these books that when I was 16, I spent six months translating the novels into English for my mother. I translated up to the sixth out of the ten books in the Moribito series. I was even thinking I’d become a translator—it was already apparent that I wouldn’t be able to graduate from high school or get a GED, so I was looking at career options. I was already acting as a translator for Japanese visitors in the city where we lived in India, so it seemed like a good option.

But I wrote to the author and asked her if I could publish my translations—online if not in print—and she shot me down, no holds barred. Oh, she was nice about it, but there was this bit about how I was young, and should stay in school and leave these things to the professionals. I was crushed, and lost the will to do anything at all for some time after that. I haven’t translated a single novel since I got that letter.

Fortunately, by pure chance I applied to the University of Alaska Fairbanks and explained my situation, and they didn’t care that I didn’t have a high school diploma, and were willing to give me full financial aid (even if it was mostly loans)—so I wasn’t left bereft of a career as a result. Funnily enough, though, I did want to be an anthropologist for the longest time—in retrospect, probably because Uehashi is one. The only reason that wasn’t my major was because my change of major form got lost three times over the course of a year, at which point I really needed to be settled on a major.

Since then, the popularity of this series has continued to build over in Japan. My will to translate may have been broken, but my love for the series is completely intact. I’ve watched the anime—in fact, my sisters and I have dissected it for adaptation-derived plot-holes—as well as the live action TV drama they’ve been doing for the last several years. I’ve even tried in vain to get my hands on the radio drama that aired maybe ten years or so ago. I enjoy the adaptations, but never half as much as the books.

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

I’d tell her not to be afraid of being judged through her writing. I’d tell her not to be afraid of being judged in general, and to do what she loves and write.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received, about writing, or about life in general?

To not listen to advice. Everyone is different, and thinking about how you should be can be crippling, preventing you from finding who you are, and what works best for you. I’m paraphrasing something the author M. Pepper Langlinais said when I was interviewing her a few days ago.

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

I second M’s advice from above, and advise not to listen to advice. But I also want to add: don’t overthink it—just write what comes naturally.

So, what’s next, do you have another project in the works?

Many! I’m working on a YA thriller called H-A-G-S (the trailer can be found here https://youtu.be/WvzcIFWXgYI), as well as the sequel to TLTLBU, which is presently titled Remind Us of the Truth. I’m also constantly churning out new short stories, whenever I get tired of the constant writing and rewriting and editing that comes with novel writing. One of these short stories, Nevena’s Silence, is a short prequel to TLTLBU—I’m hoping to see it published somewhere in the next few months!

Do you have a website or blog (or both) where readers can learn more about you and your works?

You can learn about me at my website http://www.kairaine.com, as well as follow my book reviews and interviews of authors and artists at http://storybooker.wordpress.com/.

Where can readers connect with you on social media?

You can find me on Twitter http://twitter.com/raine_kai, Instagram http://instagram.com/kai_raine/ and Facebook http://facebook.com/rainekai/. You can also find me on Amazon https://www.amazon.com/Kai-Raine/e/B078R2XZMR/ and Goodreads http://goodreads.com/author/show/6558055.Kai_Raine. I do have a Pinterest account, but I’m still trying to figure out how that works and may end up never using it.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers today?

Thank you so much for your interest, and for reading this!

If you like the cover art of TLTLBU, you might be interested in this interview where I interviewed the artist http://storybooker.wordpress.com/2018/02/28/interview-kelly-tinker-artist-extraordinaire/! She and I were roommates in college, and I love her work. You can also find her on Instagram and follow her artist page on Facebook.

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