Indelible characters, both good and evil, and a rescue storyline that refuses to dawdle.

Kalifus Rising

From the Legends of Orkney series , Vol. 2

In this second installment of a YA fantasy series, a boy’s friends rush to save him before a teen witch surrenders to dark magic.

Thirteen-year-old Sam Barconian, once a typical boy in Pilot Rock, Oregon, is battling evil witches in the Ninth Realm, Orkney. A descendant of both god Odin and he-witch Rubicus, Sam has the potential to become powerful but is still learning how to wield his magic. Unfortunately, he’s an ideal weapon for witch Catriona, who craves vengeance, having long ago witnessed Odin kill her father, Rubicus. She wants Sam on her side to kill Odin, which will likewise return Orkney to Earth, separated by the god for fear that magic would destroy the world. Meanwhile, Odin summons Sam’s Earth pals, Keely, Howie, and Leo, to Orkney. To see which path to take, Keely drinks from sage Mimir’s well, with an ensuing vision giving the trio ominous roles: she as The Seeker; Howie, Orkney’s Protector; and Leo, The Sacrifice. Keely further knows that Sam’s a captive of Catriona, who convinces him his friends’ futures are dire. Eventually succumbing to her persuasion, he becomes Kalifus, a servant of Catriona and her sister witches. At the same time, Keely searches for the Moon Pearl that reputedly can defeat the witches and pull Sam away from the darkness. The animated tale opens with action and ends in kind. Adams (The Egg Thief, 2016, etc.) is a master of exposition, never letting it slow the narrative by immersing it in rapid-fire dialogue: Keely learns of the pearl in a scene involving multiple characters—and squabbling from impetuous witch Mavery. Sam, whose discovery of his origin in The Red Sun (2015) was the series’ catalyst, is less of a protagonist this time, teetering between hero and villain, with his rescue driving the plot. But Keely handles the lead with panache, facing the same dilemmas as Sam, like struggling to understand her own magic (courtesy of Mimir’s drink). Leo’s inclusion adds suspense (will he be sacrificed?), while Howie serves as comic relief, asserting that Odin, in designating him Protector, was “just being optimistic about [his] prospects.” The Norse mythology–infused story also features a surprise appearance by a much more recognizable individual.

Indelible characters, both good and evil, and a rescue storyline that refuses to dawdle.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-940716-84-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Spark Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2016

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A thrilling romance that could use more even pacing.


For the second time in her life, Leo must choose between her family and true love.

Nineteen-year-old Princess Leonie Kolburg’s royal family is bankrupt. In order to salvage the fortune they accrued before humans fled the frozen Earth 170 years ago, Leonie’s father is forcing her to participate in the Valg Season, an elaborate set of matchmaking events held to facilitate the marriages of rich and royal teens. Leo grudgingly joins in even though she has other ideas: She’s invented a water filtration system that, if patented, could provide a steady income—that is if Leo’s calculating Aunt Freja, the Captain of the ship hosting the festivities, stops blocking her at every turn. Just as Leo is about to give up hope, her long-lost love, Elliot, suddenly appears onboard three years after Leo’s family forced her to break off their engagement. Donne (Brightly Burning, 2018) returns to space, this time examining the fascinatingly twisted world of the rich and famous. Leo and her peers are nuanced, deeply felt, and diverse in terms of sexuality but not race, which may be a function of the realities of wealth and power. The plot is fast paced although somewhat uneven: Most of the action resolves in the last quarter of the book, which makes the resolutions to drawn-out conflicts feel rushed.

A thrilling romance that could use more even pacing. (Science fiction. 16-adult)

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-328-94894-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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A sweet, slow-paced novel about a teen learning to love her body.


Greer Walsh wishes she were one person...unfortunately, with her large breasts, she feels like she’s actually three.

High school sophomore and math whiz Greer is self-conscious about her body. Maude and Mavis, as she’s named her large breasts, are causing problems for her. When Greer meets new kid Jackson Oates, she wishes even more that she had a body that she didn’t feel a need to hide underneath XXL T-shirts. While trying to impress Jackson, who has moved to the Chicago suburbs from Cleveland, Greer decides to try out for her school’s volleyball team. When she makes JV, Greer is forced to come to terms with how her body looks and feels in a uniform and in motion as well as with being physically close with her teammates. The story is told in the first person from Greer’s point of view. Inconsistent storytelling as well as Greer’s (somewhat distracting) personified inner butterfly make this realistic novel a slow but overall enjoyable read. The story contains elements of light romance as well as strong female friendships. Greer is white with a Christian mom and Jewish dad; Jackson seems to be white by default, and there is diversity among the secondary characters.

A sweet, slow-paced novel about a teen learning to love her body. (Fiction. 12-18)

Pub Date: June 23, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-1524-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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