Despite this space saga’s few clever turns, readers face a long, dreary trip.



From the Shifters series , Vol. 3

This third volume of a YA series finds the Ascunse siblings on different planets and at odds thanks to a formidable manipulator.

Fifteen-year-old Tanner and 14-year-old Ryland had been leading normal lives until they learned they were Shifters—aliens endowed with superpowers. They also discovered that Earth is the Lost Colony among a series of 12 planets in an empire ruled by a brutalist named Rian. Now, Tanner and assorted Revolutionaries—including his recently brainwashed girlfriend, Devon Almasta—are on Colony Nine, while Ryland is on Colony Ten. Tanner, Kai (Ryland’s boyfriend), and several others hope to locate Ryland and make strides against the Prophecy that says Shifter youth must be culled lest a chosen one give social primacy to the Ordinaries (those without powers) and imbalance Shifter society. Ryland, meanwhile, becomes under the sway of Atlis, a Shifter with the ability to Push, rearranging a victim’s memories, and by extension, reality. Ryland’s indoctrinated into fascism by assisting in the roundup and execution of 109 Ordinaries. Atlis’ machinations eventually lead her to believe that Rian’s rule is just and that Tanner killed their younger sister. Her increasing violence helps rally the Shifter army, priming her for a lethal confrontation with Tanner and his cohorts. In this third installment, the Pershings (Ordinaries, 2014, etc.) continue to scale back the relatable humor of their debut in favor of military maneuvering and planet-hopping action. Most of the chapters are split between the siblings’ viewpoints, though Devon’s harrowing mental recovery (during which her “teeth clench like a dog sneering at an intruder”) proves dramatically vital. If she can overcome her programming, can’t Ryland? The answer, involving the crafty use of one character’s abilities, is an engaging thread in an otherwise fractious, apocalyptic narrative. The various Colony worlds, potentially alien and imaginative, are instead dismal like the Districts in Hunger Games. If implied bleakness weren’t enough, Tanner calls Atlis “The man I want to kill. The man I need to kill. The man I’m going to kill.” After this YA equivalent of a death metal dirge, it’s hard to imagine what the Pershings will offer next.

Despite this space saga’s few clever turns, readers face a long, dreary trip.

Pub Date: Nov. 14, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9975129-3-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Pershing Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 29, 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


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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