A rollicking series opener that will leave readers eager for more despite its characters’ occasionally befuddling behavior.

Song of the Sending

From the The Expatriates series , Vol. 1

A teenager, his pet tiger, and his closest friends discover a magical new world in this YA fantasy adventure.

O’Flynn’s (Tell the Truth, 2015, etc.) novel, the first of a trilogy, introduces readers to Jim Wales, a member of a traveling circus troupe. Jim has rare powers that allow him to communicate telepathically with his pet tiger, Bak. When mysterious bandits attack the troupe’s caravan, Jim discovers that many things he thought he knew about his life were lies. It turns out that he isn’t from the “Modern World” at all but a parallel world known as Bellenor. What’s more, he’s one of Bellenor’s Scholars, who can manipulate energy using magic. His family and friends have worked to hide him from a villain, Eldred, who seeks to capture Bellenor’s magical power for himself. Guided by a mysterious falcon named Oona, Jim makes his way to the parallel world, accompanied by Bak; his girlfriend, Charlie; and his best friend, Sam. The friends find themselves in a dazzling medieval environment where they must outwit the evildoers pursuing them. Along the way, a band of small-statured creatures known as fagens robs them, which reroutes them to the Fairy World, where time moves at a dramatically different pace. When Jim and his friends finally arrive in Marren City, they confront a mystery involving Jim’s father, as a showdown with Eldred looms. O’Flynn’s novel brings an engaging, memorable world to life, full of intriguing mysteries and vividly realized settings. The main characters all stand out, though sometimes not for the right reasons. Jim, for example, seems disconcertingly blasé about the death of someone close to him until the novel’s climax. Charlie, meanwhile, comes across as a bit old-fashioned compared to strong, competent YA heroines of recent years; many of her scenes consist of her crying, fainting, or kissing. Still, the central trio is likable and engaging, and it’s refreshing to follow a group of heroes who haven’t quite matured into their powers.

A rollicking series opener that will leave readers eager for more despite its characters’ occasionally befuddling behavior.

Pub Date: Oct. 29, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-692-31539-2

Page Count: 334

Publisher: BIGink Books

Review Posted Online: May 9, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 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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