GENRE(S): Mainstream Literary, Drama
AUDIENCE: Adult & YA
PUBLISHER: Scribes Valley PublishingEDITOR:
COVER DESIGN: Tammy Sneath Grimes
In her stunning debut novel, Lessons From The Gypsy Camp
, Elizabeth Appell explores human nature and forgiveness through the eyes of a young girl. Though she is young and vibrant, Lolly's life is not at all easy. Her father, a high-powered lawyer, spends his evenings getting drunk on "horns of corn" and her mother sleeps the days away on depression medication. To make matters worse, the girls at school tease Lolly, and when she stands up for herself, she only gets in trouble.
But everything changes when, in a fit of rage, Lolly's father tosses their pet cat into a burlap sack and tossed him down an embankment. The cat runs off, crippled, into the most dangerous part of town- the gypsy camp across the levee. Angry at her father and determined to find her beloved cat, Lolly ignores her parents' warnings and sneaks into the Gypsy camp in the middle of the night.
Lolly doesn't find her cat that night, but instead she finds an unlikely bunch of friends. Friends who care about her. Friends who her father is trying to hurt with his high-powered law degree. In the chapters that ensue, Lolly does everything in her power to set things right. But she's only a little girl, and she still has to answer to her daddy.Lessons From the Gypsy Camp
is a quick read, but it could have been slightly longer. While the heart of the story stayed strong throughout, there were occasions when the characters changed almost too quickly and conveniently, or when the plot line curved unexpectedly in Lolly's favor. If Elizabeth had spent a few more chapters developing the characters and honing the details of the plot, the story would have shone even brighter. In the end, though, these minor details did not detract from the overall quality of the book. Intermittently heartwarming and tragic, Lessons From the Gypsy Camp is a lesson for all of us in tolerance and acceptance.
THE RECOMMENDATIONLessons From The Gypsy Camp
is a tale that will pull at your heartstrings. Deftly written and tactfully arranged, the story is appropriate for adults and young adults alike. It is a story of love and acceptance that could only be told from the unblemished point of view of a young child.
4 out of 5 stars
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THE REVIEWERAmy R. Biddle, co-founder and senior editor at Underground Book Reviews, was raised in the Blue Ridge Mountains and has since made a living on the great blue sea.
The Atheist's Prayer, her debut novel, will be published in the fall of 2013 by Perfect Edge Books. You can visit her at www.amyrbiddle.com.
GENRE: Fantasy/Coming of AgePUBLISHER: Self-published on AmazonEDITOR: Self-edited with the help of honest friends.GRAPHIC DESIGNER: Corinna ParrLENGTH: 500-600 pages
AUDIENCE: Adult, Mature Young Adult
THE RUNDOWNNo one has ever entered the forest of Kergulen and survived… except for Rima. To escape regular beatings from her slave master, Rima flees to the forest in desperation. After being saved from a pack of wild animals by a Kergulenite, Rima discovers that beyond the forest of Kergulen are peopled cities, a king, and even dragons.
The Kergulen people have strange customs and pasty white skin, and Rima’s dark complexion makes her stand out as a foreigner. The local people suspect that she is a spy, consider her a threat, and call her a bloodthirsty barbarian. When she is not with the family that saved her, she is required to wear a blindfold at all times, and is not allowed to speak in public. Rima quickly learns that although she is no longer a slave, her freedom is even more restricted than before. And her presence in Kergulen has put herself and her newfound friends in danger.
While the genre of fantasy is usually driven by adventure and story, Kergulen
is driven by character and theme. The novel is simply written, without much descriptive prose, but it is still a powerful story. RA White addresses serious issues such as racism and rape without being heavy-handed. Rima encounters many mental and physical troubles, and while she is often childish and emotional, her inner strength carries her through the hardest of times. In the end, the story is as much about the bonds of friendship as it is about Rima’s many adventures.
As long as you aren’t looking for poetic prose, Kergulen
is a fantasy adventure to put on your to-read list. Kergulen
is suitable for mature young adults (13 and up), but the author advises parents to read the novel before giving it to young teens. Which shouldn't be a problem, because there is no doubt that parents will enjoy the book as much as their children.
With a strong theme and dynamic characters, Kergulen
earns itself 4.5 stars.
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review by Amy R. Biddle
TITLE: Black Crow, White Lie
AUTHOR: Candi Sary
PUBLISHER: Casperian Books
LENGTH: 159 pages
Underneath the glamour of Hollywood is a collection of battered people with broken dreams. In Black Crow, White Lie
, twelve-year-old Carson’s mother is one of those desperate souls. A psychic by day and an alcoholic by night, Carson’s mother plants ideas of grandeur in his head. Carson grows up hopping from motel to motel, all the while believing that he is destined to become a great healer, that his mother can tell the future, and that his father was a war hero. As he treads the delicate line between boyhood and manhood, Carson must grow up to face the truths both around him and inside of himself. Mystical and inspiring, Carson’s coming-of-age story kept me turning pages well into the night.Black Crow, White Lie
is simple and almost plainly written. However, I must give the author credit: the plain writing suited the age of the protagonist. I feel that Candi Sary sold herself short on her first novel by boxing herself within the mind of a pre-teen, but that did not keep me from choosing the book as a Top Pick. Candi’s style is memoir-esque and the beauty within the pages comes not from flowering prose but from heartfelt character development. The story is so gritty and real that even when Carson began to use his healing powers, I did not feel as though I had to suspend my disbelief. While the plot is somewhat predictable, the overall message is worthwhile and the final pages are perfectly satisfying.
THE RECOMMENDATIONBlack Crow, White Lie
is a touching coming-of-age story about family bonds, love, and being true to yourself. It is a quick read, and appropriate for adults and young adults alike. I highly suggest putting this book on the top of your reading list.
I’d give this crow nine out of ten feathers: just enough to fly to a Top Pick.
THE LINKSBuy it on AmazonVisit Candi's website
TITLE: Tell a Thousand Lies
AUTHOR: Rasana Atreya
PUBLISHER: self-published through CreateSpace
GENRE: literary, women's fiction
If you’re looking for a peek into the lives and traditions of rural communities in India during the 1980’s and 90’s, Tell a Thousand Lies
will be an eye-opener. Pullamma, the main character, is a young girl brought up to believe that one of the worst things a woman can do is get a good education. All she wants to do is get married to the perfect husband and have beautiful children, but this proves nearly impossible when she is proclaimed a Goddess by the local oracle. In Tell a Thousand Lies
, author Rasanya Atrea juggles political corruption, superstition and deep-rooted traditions as she weaves a love story that could break your heart.
Not being familiar with Indian names or traditions, the first few chapters weren't a quick read. But as I kept going, I became familiar with terms and word usage that once seemed foreign, and the book picked up speed. Rasanya’s writing is smooth, but it was not her use of words that drew me in or kept me reading. I was intrigued by the setting and premise of the story.
About halfway through the book, though, I found myself disappointed. While the main character, Pullamma, is written to be a sweet young woman who only wants to do the right thing, she is often shallow and selfish. Even though I rooted for her and turned the pages to find out what happened next, I was never able to identify with her. I cheered for her as she became a more independent, confident character, but the stronger she became the less I could connect to her.
THE RECOMMENDATIONTell a Thousand Lies
is an exciting tale of love, deceit, family values and superstition. If you are interested in the traditions and culture of India, pick it up, but prepare yourself for a heroine who is an emotional wreck. The book is suitable for a young adult audience.
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Every once and a while a young adult book comes along that surprises me. The Domino Effect
falls into this category, both thoughtful-- yet humorous, moralistic-- yet light-hearted. Cotto's coming-of-age story left me invigorated, and thinking to myself, “Now, that's how you tell a story.”
Though The Domino Effect
has not seen the rampant readership like current fantasy and sci-fi novels, it should. The story chronicles the high school career, particularly the senior year, of Danny “Domino” Rorro. After a violent attack at his old school, Danny's parents enroll him in Hamden Academy, a prestigious boarding school far different than life at home. Danny manages to maintain his comical out-look on life in this new setting, though he carries scars from the past. Things begin to change for Danny when he is assigned a roommate, Terance King, the only African American at Hamden Academy. This event propels both boys into a conflict of race that tests them to the core and changes them forever.
Though the novel takes a while to warm up, the depth of Danny's character will draw you in and keep you captive. Danny's wise-cracking, street-wise Italian voice will keep you chuckling. Cotto is a master at the adolescent banter and the descriptions of Hamden, told through Danny, were pitch perfect. The tender romance between Danny and Brenda Devine is touching and heartfelt. My one complaint would be that Cotto opens with pages of exposition on the previous three years, much of which could have been dealt out later or cut completely. I fear that readers may get bogged down in the first few pages and miss the gold lurking beyond.
Overall, The Domino Effect
, does not disappoint. You'll find yourself cheering for Danny through the end. But more importantly, you'll find yourself reflecting on deep issues, something that is often lacking in teen literature of today.
You can find The Domino Effect here.
You can find Andrew Cotto's website here
, his Facebook here
and his twitter here