REVIEW: A Death-Struck Year by Makiia Lucier

“A Death-Struck Year” by Makiia Lucier

The Spanish influenza is devastating the East Coast—but Cleo Berry knows that’s a world away from the safety of her home of Portland, Oregon.  And then the flu moves into the Pacific Northwest.  Schools, churches, and theaters are shut down.  The entire city is thrust into survival mode—and into panic.

Seventeen-year-old Cleo is told to stay put in her quarantined boarding school, but when the Red Cross pleads for volunteers, she can’t ignore the call.  In the grueling days that follow her headstrong decision, she risks everything for near strangers.  Strangers like Edmund, a handsome medical student.  Strangers who could be gone tomorrow.  And as the bodies pile up, Cleo can’t help but wonder: When will her own luck run out?

Based on the real-life pandemic considered the most devastating in recorded world history, Cleo’s story leaves readers asking: What would I do for a neighbor?  At what risk to myself?

In the coming weeks, I would wish that I had done things differently.  Thrown my arms around my brother, perhaps, and said, I love you, Jack.  Words I hadn’t spoken in years.  Or held on a little tighter to Lucy and said, Thank you.  Thank you for watching over me, when my own mother could not.  But the distance between hindsight and foresight is as vast as the Pacific.  And on my family’s last evening in the city, my attention was fixed not on gratitude, certainly, but on myself.
—Paperback ARC edition

In the beginning of her first-person narration, Cleo Berry doesn’t know what she could possibly do with her life.  She feels no passion for anything in particular, except that she’d like to find something meaningful and possibly a little glamorous.  When the Spanish flu breaks out in Portland while her brother and sister-in-law are away on a vacation, Cleo sneaks out of her boarding school to stay in her own home.  But, once there, she realizes just how quickly the panic of the pandemic has spread: everyone is wearing white cotton masks, there is already a death toll and a climbing number of cases, and the grand theater has been turned into a make-shift hospital.

The novel really gains its legs once Cleo volunteers for the Red Cross at the theater.  Cleo is a wonderful role model, and her choices have real consequences.

Her clear romantic interest in Edmund, a young medical student and former military man, never detracts from the main focus of the plot—instead it is a gentle romance that unfurls naturally as a subplot, appropriate for the very real drama of death and disease.

There is a strong sense of dread that permeates the novel, that at any moment any character might drop dead—literally.  Readers who become attached to secondary characters, and there are plenty worth attaching to, will quickly devour the tale, even if only to make sure their favorites survive.

In her debut novel, Guam-native and Idaho-resident Makiia Lucier has raised the bar for her next novel extremely high—and readers will be excited for whichever historical setting she tackles!

Appropriate for ages 12+.  Intense situations, death, disturbing images.

Deals with sickness, fear, dying, selflessness, responsibility.


If you…

  • Love historical American fiction
  • Are a fan of independent, head-strong heroines
  • Enjoy thought-provoking tales of human courage
  • Have ever wondered what YOU would do in a crisis


YA Historical

Hardcover & Ebook, 288 pages

Published March 4th 2014 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers (ISBN 978-0-544-16450-5)

(Review copy provided by Roshan Nozari at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.  Cover image courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.)

Review by Olivia Hennis, originally published 6/1/2014 on


INTERVIEW: Kami Garci and Margaret Stohl get DANGEROUS

Ridley Duchannes will be the first to tell you that she’s a bad girl. She’s Dark. She’s a Siren. You can never trust her, or even yourself when she’s around. Lucky for her, Wesley “Link” Lincoln can never seem to remember that; quarter Incubus or not, his heart is Mortal when it comes to Ridley.

 When Link heads to New York City to start a music career, Ridley goes along for the ride-and she has her own reasons. As if leaving small-town Gatlin for the big city, trying to form a band, and surviving life with a partially reformed Siren isn’t hard enough already, Link soon learns he has a price on his head that no Caster or Mortal can ever pay.

"Dangerous Creatures" by Kami Garcia & Maragret Stohl
“Dangerous Creatures” by Kami Garcia & Maragret Stohl

Olivia: Kami, Margaret, welcome!  What a wild and crazy ride it must have been for you two these past few years.

OH: Let’s talk about Ridley.  How did you two first meet?  What drew you two back to tell her and Link’s story?

Margaret Stohl: Ridley is a hot mess–we always knew there was more to her than just being the bad girl. Our readers loved her odd-couple romance with goofball Link, and we all knew Link was headed to NYC to become a rock star after high school. So it was a natural story to tell.

Kami Garcia: Ridley and Link were reader favorites from the moment they appeared in Beautiful Creatures. Though Ridley is the quintessential bad girl and Link is loyal to a fault, they are both more complex than that, and we wanted to give readers a chance to learn more about them.


OH: What sets Ridley’s story apart from other supernatural romances?  What will readers find that they can’t anywhere else?

KG: Ridley is a unique heroine because she isn’t afraid to show us her dark side—or her mistakes. As a reader, I think it’s interesting to see how that kind of character perceives herself versus what she chooses to show the world. By writing parts of Dangerous Creatures from Ridley’s POV, readers get to see what’s really inside her head (and it’s not always pretty).

MS: I think of ​Ridley and Link’s story as the opposite of Lena and Ethan’s. In some ways, Rid and Link are our most relatable, most modern couple of all. As Rid says on page one, this is not a fairy tale. And it’s not.

OH: What non-book influences (films, television shows, music, plays, etc) helped spark this story for each of you?

Margaret  & Kami
Margaret & Kami

MS: My daughter goes to school in NYC, and I’ve been there quite often as a result. So I wrote much of the NY story while physically being in NY, which helps. I think nobody can write about teens in NY and not have Chuck from Gossip Girl in their head, but there were lots of musical influences here as well.

KG: Music has always been one of my primary influences, and Link and I just happen to have very similar musical tastes. Classic rock bands like Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, and Pink Floyd have a huge influence on Link, but he also loves metal bands like Metallica, Black Sabbath, and Judas Priest, which gives him an edge. I grew up in Maryland, right outside of Washington, DC, and I spent a lot of time in DC clubs like the 9:30 Club, which made it easier to write about the Dark Caster band Link joins. In college, my best friend went to NYU, and I spent more than my share of weekends in New York hanging out in clubs like The Tunnel, which inspired aspects of Sirene.


OH: When you were teens, what was your favorite book (YA or otherwise)?  Now that you’re authors for teens, what are your favorite contemporary YAs?

KG: I grew up reading fantasy novels like The Hobbit and A Wrinkle in Time. But as a teen, I gravitated to poetry and grittier contemporary fiction (which would today be considered contemporary YA) like The Outsiders, The Bell JarThe Catcher in the Rye, and To Kill a Mockingbird. Eventually I discovered Ray Bradbury, Anne Rice, and Stephen King—three of my greatest literary influences. There are so many young adult books that I love on the shelves right now, but a few of my favorites are: Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell, Vivian Divine is Dead by Lauren Sabel, and Hollow City by Ransom Riggs. I’m also really excited to read Four by Veronica Roth, because I’m a fan of Divergent (and Four is one of my literary crushes).

MS: I loved classic fantasy – CS Lewis, Susan Cooper, Ursula Le Guin, Diana Wynn Jones. I still love fantasy and sci fi, but I’m really looking forward to seeing Gayle Forman’s If I Stay at the movies this summer. That book captivated me.

OH: What is the story behind the title DANGEROUS CREATURES?

MS: I think that was sort of how we thought of the project in its most basic terms – dangerous, wicked, not your mother’s protagonists – and it stuck.

 KG: Definitely.


OH: What has been the most difficult part of returning to the world of Casters?  What has been the most enjoyable?

KG: Writing the final Beautiful Creatures novel, Beautiful Redemption, was so bittersweet. I missed the Caster world and writing with Margie. So writing Dangerous Creatures has been pure fun.

MS: I think it’s only been enjoyable. We so missed these characters and this world–and each other! It’s a privilege. 


OH: Your first novel together, BEAUTIFUL CREATURES, was adapted into a feature film last year.  What was it like to see your characters on screen, played by such a talented cast?  Are there any talks of bringing DANGEROUS CREATURES to the screen as well?

MS: It was amazing to see the Beautiful Creatures brought to life. We loved the entire cast, but especially our teens. They really held their own, surrounded by Oscar winners! As for Dangerous–who knows!

KG: It’s crazy to see imaginary people and places brought to life in such detail. The teen cast was remarkable. And since we’re talking about Dangerous Creatures, Emmy Rossum gave us such a sexy and layered portrayal of Ridley.

OH: What’s up next for you in YA land, either separate or together?

KG: Right now, we’re revising the sequel to Dangerous Creatures, which is a welcome distraction while I wait for Unmarked (the sequel to my solo novel Unbreakable) to release on September 30th. Luckily, Margie’s sequel, Idols, comes out first, so cheering her on will keep me busy.

MS: Just finishing the sequel to Dangerous now! And then my Icons sequel, Idols, comes out July 8, and Kami’s Unbreakable/Legion sequel is out in the fall. Busy girls!


OH: Last one!  If you could spend one day with Ridley and Link, what would you do together? What would advice would you give to Ridley about her past or future?

MS: I think I’d send Rid straight to therapy. And then maybe I’d help Link with his lyrics…

KG: I’d go shopping with Ridley. I have a serious jewelry obsession, and Ridley would be the perfect shopping partner. Link and I would probably just hole up in my office and listen to Black Sabbath and talk about how much we both love Magneto. I’d give them both the same advice I give everyone, including myself: Be yourself. Fitting in is overrated.

OH: Thank you very much, Kami and Margaret!  And congratulations on the latest addition to your world, DANGEROUS CREATURES!


Readers, be sure to check out Kami Garcia at her website and Margaret Stohl at her website Or follow them on Twitter @KamiGarcia and @MStohl.

DANGEROUS CREATURES, published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, is now available at your favorite retailers and local independent bookstores!

Interview by Olivia Hennis, originally published 6/16/2014 on 

REVIEW: Cinderella’s Dress by Shonna Slayton

Cinderella's Dress by Shonna Slayton
Cinderella’s Dress by Shonna Slayton
Being a teen-ager during World War II is tough. Finding out you’re the next keeper of the real Cinderella’s dress is even tougher.Kate simply wants to create window displays at the department store where she’s working, trying to help out with the war effort. But when long-lost relatives from Poland arrive with a steamer trunk they claim holds the Cinderella’s dress, life gets complicated.Now, with a father missing in action, her new sweetheart shipped off to boot camp, and her great aunt losing her wits, Kate has to unravel the mystery before it’s too late.After all, the descendants of the wicked stepsisters will stop at nothing to get what they think they deserve.


Spring 1994, New York CityKate Allen, in proper hat and gloves, stared at the typed sign above the receptionist: THERE ARE NO SMALL PARTS; THERE ARE ONLY SMALL ACTORS. Hmpf. Maybe in showbiz, but not in real life.
—Paperback edition

Kate Allen longs for a shot at creating window displays–but her mother has delusions of higher society and keeps encouraging… or forcing… Kate to attending auditions and model in the department store’s fashion shows. The arrival of Aunt Elsie and Uncle Adalbert sends Kate’s normal routine as a girl in wartime New York City into one filled with mystery, romance, intrigue, and beautiful gowns.

One of the most delightful parts of Kate’s personality is how she’s goal-oriented and career-driven while still being a teen. Her life doesn’t stop because of the handsome Johnny Day; in fact, she fights for her job and is allowed to make mistakes along the way. She also doesn’t have to give up friendships along the way, which might have been the case if the story was handled by a different author.

The other major players–Aunt Elsie, Uncle Adalbert, Johnny, Josie, and even Kate’s dead grandmother affectionately called Babcia–have rich personalities and individual goals. The love between Elsie and Adalbert, even in the face of Elsie’s diminishing mental faculties, strikes especially teary-eyed chords.

There’s plenty of fun historical nuggets floating around, too–like the New Look and its protesters, famous fashion designers and window designers and more.

One unfortunate part of the story is from a meta perspective. Reading the book description will give away too much of the plot–and even bits which are not as important–along with the title itself. An error early on, calling the dress Cinderalla’s dress rather than its Polish name, also will pull readers out of the moment. If the title had been different or the mystery of whose dress Aunt Elsie was guarding was less drawn out, those bits would have shown like diamonds on the princess’s bodice. That said, many readers–like us–were likely intrigued by the very title that gives away the early mystery, so it is hard to tell if this will hurt it in the long run.

The ending, which satisfyingly wraps up the major plots of Kate’s life, leaves wide open the majority of the minor ones. Hopefully this means that author Shonna Slayton has plans for a second novel–Cinderella’s Slippers, perhaps?–where Kate, Johnny, Josie and the rest can take a European vacation in search of a missing soldier…

Appropriate for ages 12+. Mild language, no alcohol or drug use, or sexual situations. Some intense situations and discussions of wartime tragedy.

Deals with family, friendship, sweet romance, loss, responsibility, mental health issues.


If you…

  • – Love magical realism and fairy tales brought to life
  • – Are a fan of driven, intelligent heroines who aren’t afraid to have emotions too
  • – Enjoy high fashion, vintage lifestyle, and the right amount of wartime spy thrills
  • – Have a soft spot for WWII era tales and want perspective from a teen on the homefront

YA Historical Retelling
Paperback & Ebook, 340 pages
Published June 3rd, 2014 by Entangled Teen
ISBN 1622663403

(Review copy provided by Entangled Teen.)

Review by Olivia Hennis, originally published 9/6/2014 on