“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.

Read Review of These Lies That Live Between Us
Visit authors website

Posted in TEEN/YOUNG ADULT - AGES 12 AND UP | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

“The Bird Queen’s Book” by T.L. Frances


T.L. Frances
Amazon Digital Services LLC (2018)
Reviewed by Autumn Stout (age 12) for Reader Views Kids (3/18)

T.L. Frances has given readers two tales in one with “The Bird Queen’s Book.” Denny is an average boy in a world with regular teenage problems: school, an overzealous dad who just wants Denny to be on the basketball team, and a job that is completely boring. Boring, that is, until he finds an unusual book hidden among some private documents.

Denny starts imagining all the things “The Bird Queen’s Book” could be about, and this is where the author leads us into her other tale of wizards and spells. Along the way Denny has three friends, Max, Lucy, and Katie but not all is what it seems with one of his friends. Denny must come to terms with his mother’s sudden death and the friends that are truly there for him. With all that is going on in his life the new-found book opens a whole new world for Denny and he starts to write a magical tale of 3 wizards: Master Deryck and his apprentices, Dacus and Massi. This adventure starts when Dacus finds a magical book in the section of the library that is being redone. With this book the 3 wizards travel through a portal to another world to find that their services are needed to undo a terrible plague that has been brought to this new world by rats. Denny finds he truly loves to write stories and searches out the true meaning of “The Bird Queen’s Book.”

I enjoyed “The Bird Queen’s Book,” with its unusual storyline of two separate plots and characters. I was actually left wanting more from both stories. I think Denny’s story has great potential to be a book on its own, with its Harry Potter/Spiderwick theme. His character was easy to relate to and also the messages about friendship and loss. The author did a wonderful job of putting the two tales together and connecting them in the end. Readers 5th grade level and up will enjoy how Denny comes up with the ideas for his new book, but will want to find out more about Master Deryck, his apprentices Dacus and Massi, and their continued training in magic. I do wish there had been some illustrations to help us get an idea of the characters and their surroundings. I will be looking forward to more books by T.L. Frances.

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Interview with Geoffrey Cook, Author of “Veronica and the Volcano”



Geoffrey Cook
Violet Moon LLC (2017)
ISBN 9780692892008
Reviewed by Paola Belloso (age 9) for Reader Views (07/17)
Interview by Sheri Hoyte (3/18)

Geoffrey Cook started telling Veronica and the Volcano stories to pass the time with his daughter Madeline on the twenty-five-minute drive to school every morning. She enjoyed his stories, and so he wrote them down. Geoffrey is a serial entrepreneur. He is the CEO and co-founder of The Meet Group (NASDAQ: MEET). He currently runs 5 mobile apps with 10+ million monthly users, and previously founded EssayEdge and ResumeEdge from a Harvard dorm. He lives in Princeton, NJ, with his wife, two daughters, and son.

Hi Geoffrey, thank you for being with us today. Why don’t you start by telling our readers a bit about your writing journey?

My writing career began as an editor then took a ten-year break while I built my companies and started a family. When my daughter Madeline was six-years-old, I started telling Veronica and the Volcano stories to pass the time on the twenty-five-minute drive to school every morning.

While writing Veronica, I extensively researched volcanoes, even visiting one. The most important volcanoes in the book are all based on real-world volcanoes like Krakatoa, Crater Lake, Mt. Pelee, and Tambora.

What is Veronica and the Volcano about?

Veronica and the Volcano blends science with science fiction, straddling the world of the believable and fantastical and combining the latest earth science with incredible action. GeoffCookTen-year-old Veronica lives in a high-tech, gadget-filled house on the slope of an active volcano. When she leaves on a quest to find rare white volcano pearls on the far side of the biggest volcano of all, Mount Mystery, she leads her father, her best friend Maddy, and her friend’s dad, the blustering Captain John, into a series of incredible adventures. But when the colossal volcano erupts, fears wins an election, and Veronica must square off against a fear-mongering villain: the Man-in-White.

Congratulations on your recent literary awards: the 2017-2018 Reader Views Reviewer’s Choice Award – First Place in the Young Reader Category.  Tell us about your experience upon hearing the news and what it means to you (and Veronica)!

 I think it’s great whenever I find readers who love Veronica. Veronica was a labor of love, and I’m always happy to find people other than me who love it.

What inspired you to write Veronica and the Volcano?

Veronica and the Volcano started off as a bedtime story I would tell my daughter Madeline about a young girl who lived on a volcano. Maddy couldn’t get enough. She would ask for a new story every morning on the twenty-five-minute drive to school. That’s when Veronica’s volcanic world began to emerge, and I started to write. Three years later I had over 300 pages.

 What are the lessons to be learned in the story?

If there is a message in Veronica and the Volcano, I believe it is this: “Adults are not always good, but that’s no excuse to be bad.” The villain in Veronica and the Volcano does not come dressed in black and carrying a gun, but dressed in white and asking for a vote. When a volcano erupts, fear wins an election and disaster ensues. In the end, Veronica learns she can count only on her family and her closest friends but not on her townspeople, and together they must stand up to fight the Man-in-White.

What do you hope children take away from Veronica and the Volcano?

I believe that nature is as fantastical as any imagination. Raising daughters who embrace science and nature is one of the great challenges of our time. I hope Veronica can inspire young girls with an appreciation for the mystery of nature and the courage to follow their curiosity.

My hope is that kids will root for Veronica every step of the way, and while they are cheering her on, they’ll learn as well. Complementing STEM curriculum, the book is filled with educational elements about volcanoes, geysers, caves, and the wonders of physics. A glossary in the back provides an at-a-glance list of the facts in the book. Artist Gabrielle Shamsey lavishly illustrated the work with nearly 100 wonder-filled images of volcanic action.

How do you think kids connect to actual books in this digital age?

All that matters is that the story is good. The method of delivery does not matter. Some kids listen to audiobooks, some read ebooks, but most still enjoy paper. I prefer my kids read print since a print book does not come with 1 billion methods of distraction built in.

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

If your kids don’t read or even if they do, then read to your kids.

Kids care about what makes them curious. If you don’t have a kid who reads, pay attention. What are they curious about? If nothing, then make them curious. Buy them a book on black holes. Read to them a book about time travel. Don’t throw up your hands, and say I guess little Janey or Johnny doesn’t have a passion for reading. No one is born with a passion for anything. Passion is what other people think you have when you follow your curiosity.

Besides, kids are naturally curious. Take note of what they take note of. Ask them questions. Read to them at bedtime. Read them soaring stories. Read them beautiful stories. Read them stories that spark their curiosity. Just keep reading. We are never too old to be read to and never too young to be curious.

What is the best part about being an author of children’s books?

The best part is doing school assemblies and turning hundreds of kids into fans of Veronica.

Which writers have inspired your own work as an author?

My reading tastes are pretty varied. The book Krakatoa by Simon Winchester was a major influence on Veronica.

Tell us about your writing schedule.  What is a typical day like at the desk of Geoff Cook?

Unfortunately, on a typical day, I do not write. I am presently too busy to get to writing, but I do hope that will change in the coming year or two. When I do write, I like to write for about 90 minutes at a time.

What can you tell us about your publishing experience?

I went the self-publishing route, but if I imagined building a career as an author in the long-run, I’d probably seek a large publisher.

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

Read your work out loud.

What advice can you give aspiring children’s authors?

Write every day for 30-60 minutes. (Of course, I don’t).

What do you like to do in your free time?

Spend time with family, ski, boat, etc.

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

Yes, I hope to write a book 2 eventually. Veronica’s home town of Crater Lake will threaten a supervolcanic eruption.

Do you have a website where readers can learn more about Veronica and the Volcano?


Where can readers connect with you on social media?



Veronica and the Volcano is available in print and on Kindle at Amazon.com, as an audiobook at Audible.Com and on iBooks.

Read Review of Veronica and the Volcano
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“Secret Keeper” by Jane Alvey Harris


Jane Alvey Harris
Jane Alvey Harris (2018)
Reviewed by Arianna Violante, YA Reviewer for Reader Views (2/18)

“Secret Keeper” is the second book in the ‘My Myth Trilogy’ by Jane Alvey Harris. Readers first meet seventeen-year-old Emily in the author’s debut novel, “Riven,” in which the teen creates an intricate fantasy world to protect herself and help her cope with the very real trauma and chaos that is her life.

“Secret Keeper” continues the story as Emily and her family reunite, after she and her mother are both discharged from a stay at a treatment center. Included in the family reunion is Emily’s father, who, just home from prison, is ready to start over with the family. He may have the rest of the family fooled, but Emily knows he hasn’t really changed—he’s ready to pick up right where he left off, leaving Emily desperate to protect her younger siblings. When the lack of support, betrayal and disbelief threaten to overwhelm Emily after she reveals her truth to her family, she must once again cross into the different Realms and face her demons as she searches for a Champion to guide her through what might be her most challenging days yet.

Wow. There are so many layers to this story and I was completely blown away from the beginning. Taking Emily between three different Realms during her journey really put a different spin on things and I found it such a creative way of approaching some very difficult societal and internal teen-age/young adult issues. I was easily caught up in the fantasy world that contains everything any girl ever dreaming of being a princess could imagine—from fairies, dashing heroes and castles, to dungeons, tombs and a wicked Queen – oh, and of course, Drake – the evil villain who threatens the safety and existence of all the Realms and the people in them.

Emily’s character totally makes this story shine. She is so complex! Funny, sarcastic, feisty and impulsive in nature, she shows the world one side of herself, while her inner thoughts show a different side – the side that holds shame, doubt, fear, insecurity and helplessness. Emily is such a current-day teen, who handles herself in ways that genuinely connect with today’s young adult reader. Oh man, some of her inner voices just made me want to scream because I could totally relate. At other times I wanted to shake her and tell her to quit whining and get over herself! I did like how she reacted to circumstances, especially when she comes to some self-realizations that forced her to step up and take responsibility for herself – the whole time I was thinking, “Yeah, I feel your pain, Emily!”

What really connected with me is how the author addresses such contemporary issues – issues we hear about in the current world news every day, specifically abuse and consent. There are several pages that deal with the topic of consent and how to differentiate what it is and what it is not. Without preaching, she explains exactly what it means and how to stand up for your truth – the perfect way to get the point across to YAs, who think they know it all, but deep down really want help.

Jane Alvey Harris has such a fresh, youthful voice and writes with a modern flair – Millennials will easily relate to the language and popular culture. “Secret Keeper” is a five-star story all YAs should read – it’s fun and entertaining, while taking on some serious, relevant issues. I know “Secret Keeper” just came out, but I already look forward to what is sure to be a riveting conclusion to the series!

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“These Lies That Live Between Us” by Kai Raine


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

“These Lies That Live Between Us is a fascinating debut novel from author Kai Raine, and Book One in her new series entitled: ‘What Words Have Torn Apart.’ The story begins in the year 450 AD in the fantasy kingdom of Ceryll and its neighboring countries.  The army of one of the countries, Seleukos, is using forbidden magic, known as Words, to attack its enemies, and Ceryll is the next country in their path.

Readers follow three sisters, the children of King Juste and Queen Consort Esther, on magical journeys as they fulfill their destinies.  Nicole is the eldest sister, and the heir to the throne of Ceryll. Stelle and Gwen are the younger daughters – the silver and gold twins, one with a head full of silver hair, the other with golden locks. When Stelle runs away one day, it leaves Gwen next in the line of succession after Nicole.  While Nicole is busy manipulating court politics and wielding her power over the kingdom, Gwen is determined to save her people from the Seleukos army. Believing a legend is the only thing that can save them; she sets out on a mission to find the Phoenix. As she learns more about the forbidden magic, she also learns that she must make a choice about it.  Her journey is far from what she expected!

Wow! So good – intrigue from the very first page! The author hooked me right from the beginning with the captivating characters of the sisters, and I wanted to get to know them better immediately. A dramatic twist occurs right before the end of the very first chapter and sets the pace for unpredictable action, and high level adventure and excitement! Throughout the story you really get the sense of a chaotic time – at court and over the lands, with assassination attempts, cover ups, threats, and manipulations, and I really enjoyed the author’s storytelling talent.

The writing style and the way the chapters are divided move the story along through different viewpoints within a well-paced plot. This method and the short-ish chapter lengths also made it easy to keep up with the numerous characters in the story.  A key in the back of the book is handy for an easy point of reference if needed, and the maps in the front of the book helped to draw clearer pictures of the land in my mind.

And the characters – I loved them! I really admired Gwen’s character and watching her grow from a girl at court that no one took seriously, into a resourceful and strong young woman – her destiny was the biggest surprise in the book, taking her character to an entirely different level. The sisters are all so unique with elements in each one that will drive you crazy, while attracting you to their causes at the same time!  Even the minor characters introduced along the journey create a sense of wanting to actually get into their heads as you try to figure out who to trust and who to be wary of – not everyone is as they seem!

Overall, I really enjoyed “These Lies That Live Between Us,” by Kai Raine. Mysterious worldly and supernatural elements, forbidden magic, royalty, goddesses, witches, etc., – what’s not to like? This world is full of spirited characters, complexity and non-stop unpredictable activity.  The ending is fantastic, setting things up nicely for the next book in the series. I can’t wait!

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