Tag Archives: Stephanie Morrill

Review: Within These Lines by Stephanie Morrill

Within These Lines by Stephanie Morrill

Within These Lines
Stephanie Morrill
Blink YA
Publishes March 5, 2019

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


Evalina Cassano’s life in an Italian-American family in 1941 is everything it “should be” until she falls in love with Taichi Hamasaki, the son of Japanese immigrants. Despite the scandal it would cause and that inter-racial marriage is illegal in California, Evalina and Taichi vow they will find a way to be together. But anti-Japanese feelings erupt across the country after the attack on Pearl Harbor, and Taichi and his family are forced to give up their farm and move to an internment camp.

Degrading treatment makes life at Manzanar Relocation Center difficult. Taichi’s only connection to the outside world are treasured letters from Evalina. Feeling that the only action she can take to help Taichi is to speak out on behalf of all Japanese Americans, Evalina becomes increasingly vocal at school and at home. Meanwhile, inside Manzanar, fighting between different Japanese-American factions arises. Taichi begins to doubt he will ever leave the camp alive.

With tensions running high and their freedom on the line, Evalina and Taichi must hold true to their values and believe in their love to make a way back to each other against unbelievable odds.

My Review

It’s probably no secret that I love Stephanie Morrill’s storytelling. Her characters always have this deep core of integrity and courage, and yet they’re relatable and funny. WITHIN THESE LINES has all the thing I love about her other books, and it focuses on a historical moment that we need to remember.

WITHIN THESE LINES isn’t the first book about the Japanese internment camps that I’ve read before, but it’s the first one I’ve seen where the political atmosphere around the camps is so overtly described. I loved that the story followed Taichi’s perspective as a Japanese American and a prisoner of the Manzanar camp. But I thought it was also cool to show how difficult it would be to speak out against the camps, and to love across racial lines at a time when not only was it viewed as wrong, but was illegal. It’s easy for us to look back at history and say, “I would never have stood by silently while that happened. I totally would have spoken out.” WITHIN THESE LINES gives us a chance to walk in those shoes and see how difficult that might have been. (Obviously Evalina’s experience was nothing compared to Taichi’s.)

In terms of the characters, I loved both Evalina and Taichi. I spent a couple of months in Tokyo a few years ago, and some of the language and the way Taichi relates to his family and camp members made me think back to that trip and really miss it. I’m no expert by any stretch of the imagination, but there were a lot of references to and snapshot moments of Japanese language and culture throughout WITHIN THESE LINES. Taichi’s sister was probably my favorite character. She added a lot to the story with her fierceness and strong emotions.

At its core, WITHIN THESE LINES is a love story. If you love forbidden romance and/or liked Morrill’s other historical novel, THE LOST GIRL OF ASTOR STREET, then you definitely want to check this one out. (Also, if you haven’t read LOST GIRL, go check it out!)

Recommended for Ages 12 up.

Cultural Elements
Evalina is an Italian American and considered white. She is ashamed of her family’s earlier connection to the mafia. Taichi and his family are Japanese American and end up imprisoned in an internment camp.

Profanity/Crude Language Content

Romance/Sexual Content
Brief kissing.

Spiritual Content

Violent Content
Some racist comments and situations. Signs prohibit Japanese from entering some places of business. A man spits at the feet of people on their way to internment camps. A group within the camp vows to overthrow the system and align themselves with Japan, threatening to harm or kill others, including any fellow prisoners who don’t support their efforts.

Drug Content

Note: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. This post contains affiliate links.

Spotlight: Go Teen Writers: Edit Your Novel by Stephanie Morrill and Jill Williamson

A trusted resource has a brand new look. Stephanie Morrill and Jill Williamson released their reference book for writers back in 2013. The updated version features a brand new cover plus new content about historical fiction and self-publishing. I’m excited to see the new stuff and add this one to my writing shelf.

Here’s some more information about Go Teen Writers: Edit Your Novel:

Go Teen Writers: Edit Your Novel
By Stephanie Morrill and Jill Williamson
Available November 2, 2018

About Go Teen Writers: Edit Your Novel

You know your first draft has problems, but what’s the best way to fix them? How do you know where to start editing? Or for many writers the bigger question becomes, “How do I know when I’m done?”

Popular bloggers Stephanie Morrill and Jill Williamson have been where you are, and they want to help you understand, and even come to love—yes, love—the editing process.

In this revised and updated edition of Go Teen Writers: Edit Your Novel, you’ll learn:

·         Methods for efficiently editing your novel.

·         What problems to look for in your manuscript and how to solve them.

·         Where to start editing, and how to know when you’re done.

·         How to keep track of your story’s character, storyworld, and setting details.

·         How a critique group can help you.

·         The pros and cons of traditional and self-publishing.

·         An overview of pitching your novel and making writing your career.

·         And much more!

Teaching yourself how to edit a first draft can feel hard, discouraging, and isolating. But using this guide, you’ll feel as encouraged, empowered, and capable—as if you had a writing coach sitting alongside you.

Where to find Go Teen Writers: Edit Your Novel

Keep up to date with release information and get a sneak peek at the first three chapters by visiting Go Teen Writers.

Top Ten Books from 2017

Top Ten Books from 2017

Here are some of my favorite books that came out this year, that have been reviewed here by Kasey or me:

The Lost Girl of Astor Street by Stephanie Morrill– February 7th, 2017

Stephanie Morrill’s latest book is a mystery set in Chicago during the Roaring 20s. It features a strong heroine and a swoon-worthy detective, along with several unexpected twists. Kasey reviewed this book back in March, and said it was a must read for historical fiction and mystery lovers alike. After reading it for myself, I definitely would agree!

The Illusionist’s Apprentice by Kristy Cambron– March 7th, 2017

The Illusionist’s Apprentice is another historical fiction/mystery novel set in the 1920s. It had some of the strongest written characters that I have come across, and an incredible plot to go along with it. I love the heartbreaking depth of Kristy Cambron’s writing, and highly recommend her latest novel. This book is a great follow-up for those looking for another book similar to The Lost Girl of Astor Street.

Shadow and Thorn (Andari Chronicles #4) by Kenley Davidson– March 12th, 2017

Kenley Davidson writes some of the best fairytale retellings that I have ever come across. Her latest addition to the series is a retelling inspired by Beauty and the Beast, and features the return of several characters from previous books. Kasey remarked that it was possibly one of the most clever retellings of Beauty and the Beast that she has ever come across, and that’s including the great Robin McKinley’s own retelling, Beauty. If you love fairytales as much as we do, you need to pick up this series ASAP!

Spindle Fire (Spindle Fire #1) by Lexa Hillyer– April 11th, 2017

Another fairytale retelling, but this one is much grittier. It’s a retelling of Sleeping Beauty with a dash of Alice in Wonderland and Maleficent thrown in for good measure. Kasey loved all of the characters in this book, and so did I–there’s a wide variety of personalities in this one, and all of them are fun to read. You might want to wait to read this one until the sequel comes out though–it ends in a horrific cliffhanger!

Dark Breaks the Dawn by Sara B. Larson– May 30th, 2017

In this book, Sara B. Larson (author of the Defy series) tells a story inspired by Swan Lake in a high-fantasy world that will bring back LOTR vibes. Creepy and magical by turns, it’s definitely a book that will give you chills at all the right times. The world-building was epic, and I adored the characters. I can’t wait to read the sequel!

Unraveling by Sara Ella– July 11th, 2017

If Dark Breaks the Dawn will give you chills, Unraveling by Sara Ella will make you cry. In a happy sort of way, of course. This book is the sequel to Unblemished, a world-hopping fantasy adventure that reminded me of the Chronicles of Narnia. It features my favorite book couple of all time, and one of the sweetest romances I’ve come across. Kasey likened it to The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare, and The Storm Siren trilogy by Mary Weber. If you haven’t read Unblemished yet, be sure to give that one a go before diving into Unraveling, so you can understand what in the world is going on.

Reintegration by Ashley Bogner– August 15th, 2017

While I felt like this dystopian novel got off to a slow start, the ending made up for it many times over. I could not read fast enough to find out what happened! There was a lot of twists and surprises packed into the last few pages, and I’m looking forward to the second book to get some answers. I highly recommend adding this one to your dystopian shelf alongside books like The Forgetting by Sharon Cameron and the Matched trilogy by Ally Condie.

Murder, Magic, and What We Wore by Kelly Jones– September 19th, 2017

This book was hilarious.It’s the perfect light-hearted read, and an excellent way to recover from a book hangover. The tongue-in-cheek humor reminded me a lot of Cindy Anstey’s writing, as did the Regency-era setting. The magic system reminded me of Mary Robinette Kowal’s Glamourist Histories, while being cleaner and more accessible to a younger audience.  I’m hoping that Kelly Jones will turn this into a series, as I would love to see what happens to the characters next!

An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson– September 26th, 2017

I was so thrilled to read this book, that I actually ended up preordering it (something that I almost never do). I wasn’t disappointed–this book was the perfect mixture of spooky and epic, and it makes for a great Halloween read. I would love to read more books set in this world, as Rogerson did an amazing job fleshing out the Fair Folk and their realm. This book will especially appeal to fans of Sara J. Maas and Holly Black.

The Beautiful Ones by Silvia Moreno-Garcia– October 24th, 2017

This book was so good, I ended up reading and reviewing it twice. The characters have such amazing depth to them, as did the writing itself. I got chills as I read it through and came across an especially insightful conversation or end to a chapter. While it does have some content issues, it’s still well worth the read, as it gives an incredibly perceptive look at human nature.

What’s on your favorites list?

How about you? Do you have any favorite books that came out this year? Or are you ready to discover a new favorite by picking up one of these? Comment below; we’d love to hear your recommendations!


Review: The Lost Girl of Astor Street by Stephanie Morrill

The Lost Girl of Astor Street
Stephanie Morrill
Published February 7, 2017

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Eighteen-year-old Piper Sail’s best friend Lydia goes missing from a neighborhood street in 1924 Chicago. Piper vows to find her friend, even if she has to take up the investigation herself. As Piper begins to hunt for Lydia, she soon learns everyone in her neighborhood hides a secret, even her father and the handsome detective who’s working the case. Piper realizes finding the truth may cost her newfound love, her respect for her family, and possibly, her own life.

I loved this book! I was hooked from the first page. Immediately we meet interesting (and funny!) characters and see complex relationships. There were a few elements of the mystery that I kind of saw coming, and I worried that would make the ending too obvious. It did not. The Lost Girl of Astor Street had plenty of twists and turns to keep me guessing at the real story behind Lydia’s disappearance and the odd behavior of some of the other characters.

The plot elements tied together well enough to be believable but also not feel too convenient—which I think is a delicate balance in a mystery. Piper kept busy with a lot of sub-plots, all interesting stuff that ultimately provided other pieces in the grander puzzle of the story.

One really random thing I enjoyed a lot was all the hats. It seemed like whenever anyone went anywhere, there were great hats involved. I loved that!

I definitely recommend this book. I loved the characters, found the mystery elements well-paced, and seriously enjoyed the adventure in 1920s Chicago. This one is a must-read for mystery and historical lovers.

Recommended for Ages 14 up.

Cultural Elements
Piper learns a little bit about the Irish and Italian mafia. She dates an Italian detective, and some friends/family members disapprove of the relationship. Piper’s friend Lydia has seizures.

Profanity/Crude Language Content

Romance/Sexual Content
A few brief male-female kisses. Piper hears a story about a girl her age rescued from a human trafficking ring. She visits some places that prostitutes frequent as part of her search for Lydia.

Spiritual Content
At one point, Piper feels discouraged, feeling like she’ll never find Lydia. She says the only thing left to do is cry out to God, if you believe He’s there.

A couple of scenes are set in a church—funeral and wedding.

Violent Content
A young woman is shot. A captor interrogates a young woman, hitting her and shoving her underwater when the girl refuses to answer questions.

Drug Content
Piper’s family enjoys wine with dinner, despite Prohibition laws. (Piper herself doesn’t drink.) Piper’s brother comes home drunk and says some unkind things to her.



Top Ten Authors on my Auto-Buy List

Top Ten Tuesday is an original meme created by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s theme asks participants to list the authors we keep on auto-buy. As soon as we know there’s a new book coming out, we’re already planning when we’ll read it and requesting the galley or placing a pre-order.

Finding favorite books is always a treat, but finding an author who never fails to disappoint is a whole other kind of fun. When a new release hits shelves by these authors, I know I’m going to buy it. Here are my top ten auto-buy authors followed by snippets of some of their book covers. Enjoy!

(These are listed in no particular order.)

1. Markus Zusak

2. Jonathan Friesen

3. Stephanie Morrill

4. Laura L. Smith

5. Marissa Meyer

6. Leah Cypess

7. Jenny B. Jones

8. Lemony Snicket

9. Jacqueline Woodson

10. Jennifer Donnelly

How about you?

Do you have a list of authors whose books you automatically buy? Which authors would make your top ten list?

Review: The Unlikely Debut of Ellie Sweet by Stephanie Morrill

The Unlikely Debut of Ellie Sweet
Stephanie Morrill
Playlist Fiction
Published October 13, 2013

Amazon | Goodreads

The day of Ellie’s book debut draws near, and the pressure is on. On top of school and family commitments, Ellie’s editor presses for detailed revisions. Instead of support and cheerleading, Ellie’s best writing buddy has gone AWOL, and her boyfriend Chase doesn’t seem to understand how much work writing can be or how important it is to Ellie.

Tension between Ellie and Chase only rises as he pushes her to spend more time with his friends and their short-term girlfriends. While Ellie believes in the goodness of Chase’s heart and his ability to succeed, he only sees his tarnished reputation. He expects Ellie to bail on the relationship at every turn. Ellie tries to reassure him, but maybe her love isn’t enough to get through to him.

Her relationship with Chase isn’t the only complicated cross-gender issue, either. Now that she and Chase have made things official, Palmer (the guy who was previously too cool to date Ellie publicly) follows her with longing in his eyes. Ellie tries to be friends, but even that spirals into emotions too confusing to sort.

Like her other novels, Stephanie Morrill captures the fresh, perky world of YA, bringing wit and emotional depth to this fantastic story. Ellie’s conflicted relationship with boys really reflects moments on the journey each of us make in learning what makes a successful (or unsuccessful) relationship. She also learns about pride and how one’s choices can injure others. She discovers the pain of humbling oneself to offer apology and the sweet release that comes with such humility.

This sequel to The Revised Life of Ellie Sweet will not disappoint fans and has a lot to offer both teens and aspiring writers alike.

Language Content

Sexual Content
Ellie overhears her boyfriend tell his pals that they’ve been having sex. While the boyfriend has been a little “handsier” than usual lately, sex is a line Ellie sure hasn’t crossed.

Spiritual Content
Ellie and her family are a wholesome, church-going family. Ellie clearly believes the values and spiritual precepts she has been taught in church and tries to walk them out in her life, but the story doesn’t focus on a lot of spiritual content as much as display the principles through the plot and each character’s response to situations the story places them in.


Drug Content
Despite his claims to Ellie that he’ll behave, Chase seems easily drawn into his friends’ habits of smoking pot and drinking. Ellie does not condone or participate.

Note: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

About Stephanie Morrill

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Stephanie Morrill lives in Overland Park, Kansas with her husband and two kids. Her only talents are reading, writing, and drinking coffee, so career options were somewhat limited. Fortunately she discovered a passion for young adult novels and has been writing them ever since.

Stephanie is the author of The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series, The Revised Life of Ellie Sweet, and the award-winning Go Teen Writers: How to Turn Your First Draft into a Published Book. She enjoys encouraging and teaching teen writers on her blog, www.GoTeenWriters.com.