A remarkable, deeply nuanced tale about growing up, even for readers who are already adults.

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Little Miss Chaos

A debut coming-of-age novel, set on the Jersey Shore, follows a teenager who falls in love with a thief.

High-achieving Vivian is bemused rather than frightened when a fellow teen holds up the Dunkin’ Donuts where she works. A few days later, the handsome lad shows up on his motorcycle and they have their first date. Despite notable differences in their ambition levels (Vivian dreams of attending Princeton; Jake plans his next robbery, the sites chosen for the lack of nutrition they promote rather than material gain), the two share a sense of loss. Vivian’s beloved father died recently, and she and her Southern belle mother, Ivy, are clashing for the first time as they navigate their new reality. Jake’s alcoholic mother, Wendy, deserted him and his father, Sonny, to become a cocktail waitress in Atlantic City. Jake’s formidable anger and sense of abandonment—intensified by his diabetes—are palpable. Vivian is drawn to his vulnerability, but Ivy sees him merely as bad news. Vivian’s academic and musical perfection (she plays the clarinet) falter as she spends time with Jake, intensifying the disapproval of Vivian’s best friend, Hailey, and Ivy. Then a bad decision threatens Vivian’s future and her relationship with Jake. Hilton’s secondary players—Sonny, Wendy, Hailey, and Ivy—are just as complex and developed as the main characters. At one point, Sonny turns philosophical: “Wendy had once told him that a group of seagulls was called a flurry, and while Sonny wasn’t normally a person fascinated by words, this was an image he grew to appreciate. A flurry of snow that made it impossible to fly…A flurry of events that made it difficult to put one foot in front of the other.” The tale’s setting, primarily the Jersey Shore town of Belmar, is virtually a character itself, informing and infusing the protagonists in diverse ways. Vivian has no desire to return to her parents’ hometown of New Orleans, but Jersey-raised Hailey finds her spiritual base in the Deep South. Vivian and Jake’s love story may provide the foundation for this book, but it is more than a teen romance. While it is a coming-of-age story for the three teenagers, the parents also learn lessons about love and loss. Eloquently written, the novel transcends ordinary genres and is a work of literary fiction.

A remarkable, deeply nuanced tale about growing up, even for readers who are already adults.

Pub Date: March 18, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5237-0153-7

Page Count: 276

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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An action-stuffed chronicle of one boy’s journey to self-enlightenment and martial arts mastery with heavy existential and...

White Tiger Legend

Set presumably in 12th-century China, an action-packed YA read about a young Shaolin monk named Zi who embarks on a harrowing journey of self-discovery after his temple and everything he ever knew are destroyed.

With the Gathering of the Ways quickly approaching, the entire population of the famed Shaolin Temple is frenetically preparing for the annual gathering of elite warriors from distant kingdoms who come together to test their abilities against the temple’s best kung fu practitioners. But when a cunning, morally bankrupt fighter known as the Red Dragon defeats the temple’s champion (who happens to be Zi’s older brother, Hu Yuan) and razes the temple in search of its mystical secrets, young Zi is forced to begin the Great Journey—essentially a treacherous quest of enlightenment that may ultimately reveal the greatest secret of the temple. On the quest, Zi meets and befriends a diversity of characters (like Bok Choi the grasshopper and a mysterious lady of the river named Auntie) who not only help the young Buddhist monk survive, but offer him wise advice as well. While the character of Zi is undeniably endearing, as is his insect sidekick, the story isn’t without minor flaws. The text is littered with grammatical errors (“Well stand down soldier. Watch how a ladies mantis goes about getting the goods son”), some of the fight scenes drag and become monotonous, and at points, the metaphysical nature of kung fu arguably goes too deep for the average reader (the sequence where the author connects chakras with the digestion of various foods, for example).

An action-stuffed chronicle of one boy’s journey to self-enlightenment and martial arts mastery with heavy existential and spiritual philosophical undertones.

Pub Date: July 17, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-9929738-0-3

Page Count: 170

Publisher: Kory Juul Enterprises Corp

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2015

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A fast-paced romantic drama with a touch of Roma magic.

The Lie They Told

A YOUNG ADULT NOVEL

When a teenage girl in 1925 Chicago kills her violent stepfather, her mother takes the blame in this YA novel.

Carola Pawlak, 15, living in Chicago’s Polish Town, is shy, studious, and badly dressed, although other girls sometimes say her looks are “promising.” She dreams of becoming a writer and has few friends other than Stan Carlson, a handsome Roma boy. She and her sweet mother, Maria, walk on eggshells around Carola’s angry, explosive stepfather, Henry Jaworski. That is, until a fight one day in which Carola, trying to protect her mother, strikes back. He attempts to destroy a prized silver amulet that Stan gave her—but it has a hidden knife, and Carola plunges it into Henry’s chest. Maria confesses to the crime, forcing a promise from Carola to go along, and is arrested. Unexpected help then arrives: Louise Lazaar, “the Chicago Tribune’s leading ‘sob sister.’ ” Sensing a story, Lazaar brings Carola to see T.J. O’Malley, Chicago’s best criminal lawyer, who takes her mother’s case. Carola gets a makeover—bobbed hair, cosmetics, new clothes—and Lazaar dubs her and Maria the “Mother-Daughter Angels,” writing stories such as, “‘She Did It for Me,’ Says Angel Daughter.” But Maria’s still in danger from other prisoners, and Carola learns that Stan’s in trouble for giving her the mysterious amulet. Arbeiter (A Mouton Coat: The Hunt for a Mother’s Story, 2013, etc.) offers a sympathetic YA heroine who’s also conventional in that she doesn’t feel beautiful but is, and she wants to be a writer. Her romance with Stan is sweet and provides a little heat, and Carola has a chance to play the rescuer instead of the rescuee, which is unusual in the YA genre. The 1920s setting is also vivid; Arbeiter gives a well-rounded sense of the era’s highlights, such as flappers and actor Rudolph Valentino, and challenges, such as crime and injustice.

A fast-paced romantic drama with a touch of Roma magic.

Pub Date: June 18, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-938812-59-0

Page Count: 239

Publisher: Full Court Press

Review Posted Online: June 28, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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