Charming characters populate this fast, exuberant genre mashup.

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MAR Rising

In this debut YA thriller, a homeless teenager’s fortunes change on the eve of a zombie apocalypse.

Sixteen-year-old Madison Jacques, a homeless musician living in Boston, performs with the Reaper, her prized guitar, and stays in the boiler room of a condemned building. After years in miserable foster homes, Madison contentedly shares her life with rats and a blind harmonica player named Jeremiah Church. One night, a construction crew demolishes her building, upending her precarious existence. If not for a mysterious benefactor dragging her to safety, Madison would have died. When she awakes at Mass General, she meets officers Joe Rowe and Phil Senior. After researching her identity, the police confirm that Madison has an aunt and twin brother living in Charleston. Meanwhile, the Holbox research facility on the Yucatán Peninsula—specializing in climate science and geology—falls into chaos when workers are contaminated by rock samples from the Chicxulub crater, becoming murderous. Researcher Ami Knight takes drastic steps to contain the transmissible psychosis, yet some of the stones have already been smuggled into the United States as souvenirs. When Madison disembarks the train in Charleston, she hopes that her relatives will welcome her. Little does she realize that a gory nightmare will soon replace the seaside tranquility. Brusseau adds a hefty, world-building twist to his zombie narrative, connecting his agile hordes to what killed the dinosaurs 65 million years ago and to the idea that humanity started on another planet. Zombie buffs, however, won’t be disappointed by the well-paced carnage, including the walking dead devouring a bus driver (his “last gasp of air came not through his mouth, but directly through his trachea”). The characters also discuss God’s existence and intentions during the mayhem, with Madison favoring the tolerant view that “as long as we are alive,” we are “free to choose” the worldview “that makes the most sense for us individually.” Later, the guardian angel who saved her from the building reveals himself, greatly expanding the potential of Brusseau's world.

Charming characters populate this fast, exuberant genre mashup.

Pub Date: Sept. 21, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-9966510-0-4

Page Count: 334

Publisher: Zombie Horde Publishing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 11, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 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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