This one goes to the head of the class.



From the Demon Catchers of Milan series , Vol. 1

To the recent crop of strong debuts in an overcrowded literary arena add this series opener, a tale of demonic possession and a centuries-old family trade in exorcism.

Life in Mia’s loving, if overprotective, Italian-American family is upended when a horrifying demon enters and nearly kills her. After Giuliano Della Torre and his grandson Emilio, long-estranged relatives from Milan, arrive and drive it out, they talk Mia’s reluctant parents into letting her return to Italy with them. For her safety, she’s sequestered in the family’s home and adjacent candle shop. Studying Italian history and language, Mia comes to love her family (including some of its ghosts) and heritage, even the scary bits, but she increasingly resents confinement, longing to explore this rich new world. Cliché-free characters—patriarch Giuliano, his wife Laura, gorgeous Emilio and his sister, Francesca, especially—appear to have lives of their own beyond serving the needs of the plot. The demons themselves are haunting, multifaceted creatures that are both pathetic and extremely dangerous; the evil they project is complex and pain-ridden. Fortunately Mia demonstrates a strong gift for the family trade, which, like the novel’s other elements (the food will have readers salivating), is portrayed in exquisite, affectionate detail.

This one goes to the head of the class. (Fantasy. 12 & up)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-60684-314-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Egmont USA

Review Posted Online: June 6, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2012

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The pleasure of the protagonists’ romance notwithstanding, give this one a miss. (Romance. 14-18)


A hospital is an unlikely place for first love, but for two teenagers with cystic fibrosis who have a history of extended stays, it proves to be a realistic yet difficult backdrop.

Stella is a high school senior who is dedicated to her CF treatments while Will, a talented artist, is home-schooled and anticipating his 18th birthday, when he will be free to make his own medical decisions. Despite rocky first impressions, Stella and Will make a deal—Will must stick to his treatment regimen, and in return, Stella will model for him while he draws her portrait. This leads to romance, but the combination of CF and Will’s infection with B. cepacia requires that he must stay several feet away from Stella, making physical touch an impossibility. Stella eventually understands why living on the edge can be freeing, and Will begins taking his treatment regimen seriously—leading to their only bit of meaningful development. The novel is written in alternating chapters, creating a few unexpected plot developments, but much of it is predictable and forgettable due to thin characterization. All characters are presumed white except for gay, Colombian CF patient Poe, whose story arc fulfills tired stereotypical tropes and who seems to function mostly as a catalyst for Stella’s growth.

The pleasure of the protagonists’ romance notwithstanding, give this one a miss. (Romance. 14-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 20, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5344-3733-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 31, 2019

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A fiery sequel that yearns for more.


From the Crown of Feathers series , Vol. 2

As war threatens on the horizon, Phoenix Rider Veronyka fights to control her magic and learn the truth about her identity in this second installment of Pau Preto’s (Crown of Feathers, 2019) fantasy series.

Power hungry Lord Rolan sends soldiers into Pyra to provoke the Phoenix Riders into battle and force the Golden Empire’s Grand Council into declaring war. Now reunited with her phoenix and no longer in disguise, Veronyka hopes to prove herself a Master Rider and join the action. In the midst of her training, Veronyka strains to control her shadow magic, a secret power that gives her a mental link to Val, the reincarnation of the ruthless Ashfire queen. Shutting down her magic is the only way Veronyka knows to protect herself, but opening her mind may be the path to learning about her past. Slow-burning romance simmers between two pairings, one of which is a same-gender relationship between two boys. Historical documents between chapters expand on the world and create suspenseful foreshadowing. However, the continued cisnormativity throughout the book detracts from the otherwise high quality of the prose, deeply developed world, page-turning plot, and thrilling, cliffhanger ending. Veronyka has golden-brown skin, and Rolan is white.

A fiery sequel that yearns for more. (Fantasy. 12-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-2465-4

Page Count: 640

Publisher: Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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