A joyfully written, American-as-apple-pie tale about what a successful life looks like.

READ REVIEW

WOODY

FOLKSONG SUITE

A young baseball star wrestles with disappointment in Schell’s debut YA novel.

In 1954, Angus Woodley “Woody” Twigg is a baseball wunderkind—a gifted high school shortstop who’s slated to soon play for the St. Louis Cardinals. But Woody’s dreams are abruptly destroyed when an accident on his uncle’s farm leaves him with only a thumb and a finger on his left hand. Unable to reconcile his self-image as a “hero” with his new reality, Woody sinks into a deep depression. His life is changed again, however, when a vacuum cleaner salesman stops at his house. The kind, quiet, and profoundly wise Joshua “Pop” Wenger convinces the young man to accept a door-to-door job with his employer, Supreme Clean, and shares his “commandments”—his tips for successfully closing deals that also happen to be good rules for living (such as “rule #3,” “Always be able to sleep in peace”). After a spirited but ultimately doomed attempt to recover his baseball glory, Woody gets caught up in Supreme Clean’s nationwide sales competition. But the re-emergence of his competitive streak proves that he’s still wrestling with what it means to be a “winner.” As the years pass, he endures heartbreak but also uses his hard-earned wisdom to guide others. The various salesmen of Supreme Clean, as written by Schell, are a joy to discover—believable, eccentric, likable, and each different from the last, such as a Vietnam veteran who may be struggling with severe PTSD and a young playwright whose talkative arrogance gradually gives way to gumption and vulnerability. The author also religiously records his characters’ Appalachian speech—“ain’t” is written as “hain’t,” and “water” as “warter”—and his descriptions of his protagonist are melodious, grandiose, and memorable, such as when Woody remembers his greatest moment at bat: “The pitcher threw a missile intended to conquer and destroy what I love and all I am as a human bean, and with a thirty-five inch piece of lumber I said you cain’t destroy the heart of who I am.”

A joyfully written, American-as-apple-pie tale about what a successful life looks like.

Pub Date: Dec. 21, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5412-1179-7

Page Count: 408

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Feb. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2017

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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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