Robby Weber writes a romantic-comedy that moves beyond what I define as a beach book, a sugary treat to indulge a craving but not necessarily one that prompts deep thought. With his novel If You Change Your Mind, Weber explores topics like relationships and finding the core of what matters. Even though real life and romantic comedies are very different things, under the influence of Weber’s pen, we realize that similarities do exist. To assist the reader in seeing some of these, each chapter is named for or alludes to a rom-com film to parallel the plot. Some of these include You’ve Got Mail, Serendipity,Read More →

Edited by G. Harron Davis, Cam Montgomery, and Adrianne White, All Signs Point to Yes is a collection of short stories targeting those who are addicted to reading their daily horoscopes. That many of the collected stories end with a kiss and several include references to the occult or witches shouldn’t alarm readers. After all, there is something magical about love. The thirteen authors who contributed stories prove that love is as universal as sexuality and ethnicity are diverse. Their works further share powerful morals, such as: regrets don’t serve anyone or that flirting isn’t a valid form of identification. These authors also invite criticalRead More →

Feeling small, alone, and unloved, Ellis Truman has been abandoned by her parents. With a father addicted to drugs and an alcoholic mother who is mostly absent, Ellis is often home alone. She grows up embarrassed of her house, her parents, and who she is. She grows up in a world of in-between, unsettled, angry, and unsure of where she belongs. Then, Sandry Albrey, who grew up in Indiana with Ellis’ father, offers Ellis a home.  Sandry knows Tru’s shortcomings as well as the depth of his love. It is from her that Ellis will also learn the true meaning of love. Although Sandry welcomesRead More →

With multiple allusions to film noir and with some genre blending, Katie Henry writes a humorous story—Gideon Green in Black and White—about Gideon’s serious approach to being a detective and solving mysteries. Dressing the part, sixteen-year-old Gideon wears a trench coat and a fedora and lives his life in the shadows. Using his difference to put distance between himself and others, Gideon makes his life mission one of truth-telling: “That’s a detective’s job. Telling the world what’s real, even if people don’t want to hear it” (12). For him, life is black and white and facts are facts. However, as time goes on, Gideon realizesRead More →

With his novel All That’s Left in the World, Erik J. Brown tells a post-apocalyptic story. It features “a gay guy, a broken straight boy, a cartography genius with PTSD, a seventy-year-old woman with a shotgun fighting zoo animals” (264), and a host of not-so-supportive others with an occasional kind character thrown in. There’s also a white supremacists commune, lest we forget the corrupting forces of racism, greed, and power. After a super-flu virus has nearly wiped out the American population, Andrew sets out from Connecticut on foot to find other survivors. Near Philadelphia, he is caught in a bear trap and staggers into aRead More →

The plot of One True Loves by Elise Bryant revolves around the life of smart, capable, artistic, and driven, Lenore Bennett. Each time she has a relationship with a boy, Lenore feels chosen and treasured—only to realize she has been nothing more than a chick on the side or a stepping stone to another relationship. Intent on protecting herself from the pain of such hurt, Lenore decides to live with her guard up and her heart on lockdown. However, “rooting out fuckboys and exposing their crimes against womankind” (29) proves to be a difficult mission with a friend like Tessa who is intent on writingRead More →

Message Not Found by Dante Medema is a romantic mystery that keeps the reader intrigued with every turn of the page. Medema tells the story of two “ride or die” friends: Vanessa Carson and Bailey Pierce. A lover of Disney princesses and blue raspberry flavored Pop Rocks, Vanessa dreams of being a writer someday. Bailey, on the other hand, hopes to follow in her parents’ footsteps to work in computer coding and artificial intelligence. One night, the girls trade Pop Rocks therapy for champagne drinking and ice cream eating as they share secrets and commiserate about boys and Bailey’s breakup. When Vanessa receives a textRead More →

Readers of Sarah Dessen and Kasie West will likely enjoy This Might Get Awkward by Kara McDowell. Set in Page, Arizona, McDowell’s novel tells the story of Gemma Wells, who finds social situations awkward and awful and who—of her own admission—doesn’t know how to have fun. Despite her challenges to conquer her social anxiety disorder (SAD), Gemma can’t just “suck it up.” So, when her favorite beach is overtaken by a teen party at the end of the school year, her fantasies kick into high gear. Beau Booker, captain of the swim team and the most popular person at Page High, is in attendance. JustRead More →

Many readers have found fictional worlds fascinating; some of us might even wonder what it would be like to live in such an alternate reality. Adelle Casey and Connie Rollins have been enamored by the Victorian era novel Moira by Robin Amery for years. Although Adelle is attracted to the esoteric and the occult, Connie is much more practical. With a heart as big as her fanciful imagination, Adelle tends to be in love with the worlds found in books rather than with the world going by all around her. As a result, her interests lean towards topics like astrology, tarot, wizards, vampires, werewolves, orRead More →