Inspired by Louis L’Amour and targeting fans of the western genre, Paul K. Brown writes The Llano Kid series in which he traces the journey of his title character. In the third book of the series: Cactus Valley Lawman, readers learn the origin of the protagonist’s name, as well as additional pieces to the story of this young man who was orphaned as a boy. Now, Llano has taken on a job as security and scout for a wagon train heading west to California. When the wagon train is ambushed, Billy Nevil’s Ma is killed, leaving her son Billy an orphan at age twelve. Seeing himself inRead More →

Like the Fleetwood Mac Song “Go Your Own Way,” Eric Smith’s protagonists Adam Stillwater and Whitney Mitchell—in his novel You Can Go Your Own Way—must decide whether love and sharing their worlds is worth the risk or whether divisiveness and potential loneliness is their reality. Set in Philadelphia, Smith’s novel alternates between the two lead characters in its telling, giving readers insight and perspective.  A lover of old movies, music, and pin ball arcade games, Adam is struggling to let go of his father’s dream in exchange for his own since he feels as if giving up on the dream would mean he is alsoRead More →

Writing a western set in the 1870s, Paul K. Brown invites readers on a ride with The Llano Kid, the first of the Llano Kid Adventures. Half Cherokee and half Irish, Llano was orphaned when he was twelve.  On Llano’s path to young adulthood, Brown recounts various encounters with drunks, bullies, thieves, and gunmen who seem to prefer bravado or mob mentality without any notion for getting the facts.  Now nineteen and seasoned by these experiences, Llano is looking for a place to find honest work and to hang his hat. However, he will have to navigate the harsh code of the West and theRead More →

Brandy Colbert writes an important book, a story that needed to see the light of day. Black Birds in the Sky is a nonfiction account of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. It is filled with sad and horrifying cruelty as it recounts one of the most deadly and destructive acts of racial violence in American History. Colbert makes her readers aware of just how much the past inform the present. She enlightens us, explaining that history is full of progress and setbacks. The Unites States, in particular, has a violent genocidal foundation. Traumatic times often get passed over in classrooms and conversations because they makeRead More →

Having been raised by her grandparents, Maria (Ri) Fernández has a lot of questions: Why did her mother abandon her? Why is Grandma so cold to their Mexican American neighbors? Why doesn’t the family speak Spanish? Why is Grandma keeping secrets? Wishing to “be enough” in Grandma’s eyes and yearning to study journalism and become a writer—not the doctor or engineer that Grandma wants—Ri feels like an outsider in her own life.  She is tired of everyone else telling her what’s best for her without regard for what she wants. Estranged from her Mexican identity—mostly due to her grandmother’s insistence about the sacrifices she hasRead More →

Dark, gruesome, and captivating, The Keeper of Night by Kylie Lee Baker is Book One in a planned duology. In this first installment, Baker writes the story of an angry biracial girl—Ren Scarborough—who is trying to find out where she belongs. This feeling of being half and not whole, as well as the label foreigner haunts Ren, following her from London, England, where she serves as a Reaper, to Japan where Ren was born a Shinigami. In both roles, Ren, who is a descendent of darkness—made not of flesh and blood but of Death and Time—works for Death. This servitude is supposed to be sacred,Read More →

Set in the fictional country of Mariposa, The Samosa Rebellion by Shanthi Sekaran tells the story of several twelve-year-old middle schoolers who attend Marble Hill Preparatory (MHP) Academy.  When Muki Krishnan spots Dragonflies—a type of spy drone—monitoring the neighborhood of Oceanview and suddenly hears people talking about moths versus butterflies, he knows strange things are afoot, so he is glad to have his best friend Fabi Calderón by his side. Fabi is smart, funny, genuine, great at soccer, and immune to what the world thinks. Unlike Tinley Schaedler and others whose families have ancestors from Mariposa, the two friends are on scholarship to attend MHP,Read More →

A magical and enchanting tale of adventure, The Color of Dragons by R.A. Salvatore and Erika Lewis will likely intrigue readers of Christopher Paolini or Anne McCaffrey. Besides a story about finding one’s self, Salvatore and Lewis tell a story about love, loyalty, and other things worth fighting for. Seventeen-year-old Maggie and Griffin are both orphans trying to find their place in the world. Just as Griffin must decide if his place is with the corpulent and greedy King Umbert serving as his champion: “Sir Griffin, the mighty Draignoch Slayer” (92), Maggie must determine whether she owes allegiance to Xavier, the magician and perhaps theRead More →

Fifth grader Anthony Joplin, aka Ant, is afraid of confrontation but confident in his card playing skills and kind to his friends. He is also trying to discover where and how he fits into the “tough guy” image and whether he can “be a lion,” as Jamal’s brother Taj says. Ant is further confused by girls, in particular, Shirley Heyward. How she smiles, talks, and laughs makes Ant’s skin tingle. “Ant doesn’t know what was prettier—Shirley’s smile, her brown fingers as they worked the deck, or the sound of the cards as she made a perfect shuffle” (193). Now that Ant’s older brother Aaron isRead More →