A young heroine copes with bizarre dreams in a surprisingly fresh paranormal romance.

Leftover Girl

From the Leftover Girl series , Vol. 1

This debut YA novel, the first installment in a series, follows an adopted teenager who moves to Alabama.

Jessica Delaney is accustomed to relocating at a moment’s notice, whenever neighbors find out a family secret. But the most recent move exudes an air of semi-permanence; the clan settles in Credence, Alabama, Jessica’s adoptive mother’s hometown. And her mom has a teaching position, not like the Waffle House waitress job she held in Atlanta. Moreover, Jessica lives next door to her aunt and her two cousins, Pade and Bailey. Both 15, Jessica and Bailey quickly become fast friends, with Bailey encouraging Jessica’s interest in her popular quarterback brother, Pade. Worried that the “ick” cousin factor is a bit strong, despite the fact she’s adopted, Jessica denies her attraction, particularly because it elicits the jealousy of bully Tosh Henley. Jessica also feels an immediate strong kinship with fellow new student Chase Pearson, although she suspects he and his teacher-mother are hiding something, even while he and Bailey become romantic quickly. Jessica’s concern that her father is concealing a recurrence of his cancer adds even more stress to her typical teenage angst, amplified by a typically bad adolescent decision that has life-changing consequences. While she experiences increasingly strange dreams related to her early childhood and adoption, a tragedy threatens her tenuous newfound security in Credence. Heavy-handed foreshadowing at the outset of this novel by engineer and native Alabamian Bolick sets the reader up for a far more ominous back story than Jessica’s forgotten early childhood. But the Delaneys’ decision to flee in the darkness of night seems unwarranted. Indeed, a few red herrings remain unresolved—Jessica’s parents’ insistence that everyone know she’s adopted, for example—whether by design or accident. Also unexplained is why her parents alter Jessica’s physical appearance, in light of their openness concerning her adoption. Despite these unanswered questions and a generally excessive emotional intensity (perhaps well-suited to a YA tale), this book remains an enjoyable page-turner that should leave readers eager to discover whether the promised sequel ties up all the loose ends.

A young heroine copes with bizarre dreams in a surprisingly fresh paranormal romance.

Pub Date: Nov. 3, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-946089-01-4

Page Count: 276

Publisher: Dirt Road Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 28, 2016

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An action-stuffed chronicle of one boy’s journey to self-enlightenment and martial arts mastery with heavy existential and...

White Tiger Legend

Set presumably in 12th-century China, an action-packed YA read about a young Shaolin monk named Zi who embarks on a harrowing journey of self-discovery after his temple and everything he ever knew are destroyed.

With the Gathering of the Ways quickly approaching, the entire population of the famed Shaolin Temple is frenetically preparing for the annual gathering of elite warriors from distant kingdoms who come together to test their abilities against the temple’s best kung fu practitioners. But when a cunning, morally bankrupt fighter known as the Red Dragon defeats the temple’s champion (who happens to be Zi’s older brother, Hu Yuan) and razes the temple in search of its mystical secrets, young Zi is forced to begin the Great Journey—essentially a treacherous quest of enlightenment that may ultimately reveal the greatest secret of the temple. On the quest, Zi meets and befriends a diversity of characters (like Bok Choi the grasshopper and a mysterious lady of the river named Auntie) who not only help the young Buddhist monk survive, but offer him wise advice as well. While the character of Zi is undeniably endearing, as is his insect sidekick, the story isn’t without minor flaws. The text is littered with grammatical errors (“Well stand down soldier. Watch how a ladies mantis goes about getting the goods son”), some of the fight scenes drag and become monotonous, and at points, the metaphysical nature of kung fu arguably goes too deep for the average reader (the sequence where the author connects chakras with the digestion of various foods, for example).

An action-stuffed chronicle of one boy’s journey to self-enlightenment and martial arts mastery with heavy existential and spiritual philosophical undertones.

Pub Date: July 17, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-9929738-0-3

Page Count: 170

Publisher: Kory Juul Enterprises Corp

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2015

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A fast-paced romantic drama with a touch of Roma magic.

The Lie They Told

A YOUNG ADULT NOVEL

When a teenage girl in 1925 Chicago kills her violent stepfather, her mother takes the blame in this YA novel.

Carola Pawlak, 15, living in Chicago’s Polish Town, is shy, studious, and badly dressed, although other girls sometimes say her looks are “promising.” She dreams of becoming a writer and has few friends other than Stan Carlson, a handsome Roma boy. She and her sweet mother, Maria, walk on eggshells around Carola’s angry, explosive stepfather, Henry Jaworski. That is, until a fight one day in which Carola, trying to protect her mother, strikes back. He attempts to destroy a prized silver amulet that Stan gave her—but it has a hidden knife, and Carola plunges it into Henry’s chest. Maria confesses to the crime, forcing a promise from Carola to go along, and is arrested. Unexpected help then arrives: Louise Lazaar, “the Chicago Tribune’s leading ‘sob sister.’ ” Sensing a story, Lazaar brings Carola to see T.J. O’Malley, Chicago’s best criminal lawyer, who takes her mother’s case. Carola gets a makeover—bobbed hair, cosmetics, new clothes—and Lazaar dubs her and Maria the “Mother-Daughter Angels,” writing stories such as, “‘She Did It for Me,’ Says Angel Daughter.” But Maria’s still in danger from other prisoners, and Carola learns that Stan’s in trouble for giving her the mysterious amulet. Arbeiter (A Mouton Coat: The Hunt for a Mother’s Story, 2013, etc.) offers a sympathetic YA heroine who’s also conventional in that she doesn’t feel beautiful but is, and she wants to be a writer. Her romance with Stan is sweet and provides a little heat, and Carola has a chance to play the rescuer instead of the rescuee, which is unusual in the YA genre. The 1920s setting is also vivid; Arbeiter gives a well-rounded sense of the era’s highlights, such as flappers and actor Rudolph Valentino, and challenges, such as crime and injustice.

A fast-paced romantic drama with a touch of Roma magic.

Pub Date: June 18, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-938812-59-0

Page Count: 239

Publisher: Full Court Press

Review Posted Online: June 28, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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