Well-wrought, unusual, and memorable fiction beautifully illustrated—a keepsake.



Third in a series, this illustrated collection of flash fiction, edited by Dahl (Zizzle Literary: Issue 2, 2019, etc.), for middle schoolers and up focuses on fantasy and magic.

Zizzle Literary publishes concise, imaginative pieces that both parents and kids can enjoy and discuss. Each of the 10 stories is tagged with its reading level, from “Easy” to “Not Easy.” Magic is the theme of this third issue, whether “outright fantasy” or a more subtle variety, according to the Foreword. The opener, “A Reluctant Fairy Tale,” by Karen Heuler, riffs on elements from childhood classics like “Little Red Riding Hood.” Instead of being helpful and complaisant, the heroine refuses to help an old lady—with at first “delicious” and then more disturbing consequences. In other stories, magic can be delicate and poignant, as in “The Shelter of Abandoned Dreams” by Kimberly Huebner. An old woman works at a shelter that reunites people with their lost dreams. By the story’s end, she’s able to nurture her own adrift dream. Other stories tap into the anarchic energy of childhood, such as “Dead Mudge” by Melissa Ostrom; a teacher’s death in the classroom liberates the children’s vitality and creativity. Magic can shade into the sinister, as in “Uncle Frank” by Wendy Nikel. The title character insinuates himself into a family, but the child narrator knows she’s never had an Uncle Frank. In “Serbian Dracula Mysteries” by Kate Felix, magic takes a turn for the funny and sweet. The story’s puckish narrator, Arsen, is sent to school counseling for his pranks. Amateur detection is meant to be a good outlet for him, but investigating the daytime doings of his attic-dwelling uncle reveals nothing ominous. Instead, his uncle smiles at him “with more admiration than I have ever enjoyed from anyone else in my growly, vampiric family.” The book also includes photos, usually of the authors when they were children, and in a final section, contributors talk about their favorite books from childhood. The stories—strong and graceful—raise issues that children and parents could profitably discuss together. “A Reluctant Fairy Tale,” for example, might prompt questions about why it feels good to be bad, what the consequences are of defying such cultural norms as helping old ladies, or why the narrative seems to both admire Eugenia’s defiance and punish her for it. Genre expectations could be another topic. “Serbian Dracula Mysteries,” for example, takes its horror influences in an unexpected direction, with Arsen reinvigorated, not drained, by his encounter with the unknown. Depending on reader taste, some stories could also invite more critical analysis. For example, is Eugenia perhaps too obviously a stand-in for an adult sensibility with dialogue like, “your false tests, your arbitrary trials”? Adding to the issue’s charm are debut illustrator Moriyama’s lovely, otherworldly rabbit-themed paintings resembling Japanese woodblock prints.

Well-wrought, unusual, and memorable fiction beautifully illustrated—a keepsake.

Pub Date: N/A


Page Count: 126

Publisher: Promiseshore

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2019

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Hoover is one of the freshest voices in new-adult fiction, and her latest resonates with true emotion, unforgettable...

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Sydney and Ridge make beautiful music together in a love triangle written by Hoover (Losing Hope, 2013, etc.), with a link to a digital soundtrack by American Idol contestant Griffin Peterson. 

Hoover is a master at writing scenes from dual perspectives. While music student Sydney is watching her neighbor Ridge play guitar on his balcony across the courtyard, Ridge is watching Sydney’s boyfriend, Hunter, secretly make out with her best friend on her balcony. The two begin a songwriting partnership that grows into something more once Sydney dumps Hunter and decides to crash with Ridge and his two roommates while she gets back on her feet. She finds out after the fact that Ridge already has a long-distance girlfriend, Maggie—and that he's deaf. Ridge’s deafness doesn’t impede their relationship or their music. In fact, it creates opportunities for sexy nonverbal communication and witty text messages: Ridge tenderly washes off a message he wrote on Sydney’s hand in ink, and when Sydney adds a few too many e’s to the word “squee” in her text, Ridge replies, “If those letters really make up a sound, I am so, so glad I can’t hear it.” While they fight their mutual attraction, their hope that “maybe someday” they can be together playfully comes out in their music. Peterson’s eight original songs flesh out Sydney’s lyrics with a good mix of moody musical styles: “Living a Lie” has the drama of a Coldplay piano ballad, while the chorus of “Maybe Someday” marches to the rhythm of the Lumineers. But Ridge’s lingering feelings for Maggie cause heartache for all three of them. Independent Maggie never complains about Ridge’s friendship with Sydney, and it's hard to even want Ridge to leave Maggie when she reveals her devastating secret. But Ridge can’t hide his feelings for Sydney long—and they face their dilemma with refreshing emotional honesty. 

Hoover is one of the freshest voices in new-adult fiction, and her latest resonates with true emotion, unforgettable characters and just the right amount of sexual tension.

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-5316-4

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 7, 2014

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Finding positivity in negative pregnancy-test results, this depiction of a marriage in crisis is nearly perfect.


Named for an imperfectly worded fortune cookie, Hoover's (It Ends with Us, 2016, etc.) latest compares a woman’s relationship with her husband before and after she finds out she’s infertile.

Quinn meets her future husband, Graham, in front of her soon-to-be-ex-fiance’s apartment, where Graham is about to confront him for having an affair with his girlfriend. A few years later, they are happily married but struggling to conceive. The “then and now” format—with alternating chapters moving back and forth in time—allows a hopeful romance to blossom within a dark but relatable dilemma. Back then, Quinn’s bad breakup leads her to the love of her life. In the now, she’s exhausted a laundry list of fertility options, from IVF treatments to adoption, and the silver lining is harder to find. Quinn’s bad relationship with her wealthy mother also prevents her from asking for more money to throw at the problem. But just when Quinn’s narrative starts to sound like she’s writing a long Facebook rant about her struggles, she reveals the larger issue: Ever since she and Graham have been trying to have a baby, intimacy has become a chore, and she doesn’t know how to tell him. Instead, she hopes the contents of a mystery box she’s kept since their wedding day will help her decide their fate. With a few well-timed silences, Hoover turns the fairly common problem of infertility into the more universal problem of poor communication. Graham and Quinn may or may not become parents, but if they don’t talk about their feelings, they won’t remain a couple, either.

Finding positivity in negative pregnancy-test results, this depiction of a marriage in crisis is nearly perfect.

Pub Date: July 17, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7159-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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