A frothy tale that mixes a whodunit and a teen romance with knights and prophecies.

Holding Court

A reluctant psychic stumbles across a murder most foul in this debut YA novel.

The aptly named Jules Verity comes from a family of “gifted” women. Her grandmother reads auras, her mother reads objects, and Jules makes psychic predictions. Unfortunately, she blurts out prophecies that are often ill-timed and difficult to understand (for example, “the Hepplewhite hides the boogers”). Jules needs a summer job and winds up playing the Mad Maid of Kent at Tudor Times, a local Renaissance-themed, dinner-theater experience. Jules’ random predictions align perfectly with her role as a crazy psychic nun, and she gets to work in proximity to her longtime crush, the swoon-worthy Grayson Chandler. The good news: Grayson is handsome and loves The Princess Bride. The bad news: he thinks Jules is nuts, and he already has the perfect girlfriend, Bree Blair. Yet Jules’ concerns about her love life take a back seat when she stumbles across a body in a secret passageway. The body quickly disappears, and no one believes her until another one is discovered and Jules becomes a target and suspect. Grayson, a Tudor Times knight-in-training, gets the task of guarding Jules, although it turns out it may be her heart that needs protection. The novel is a sweet and entertaining concoction despite the presence of murder and intrigue. Jules is a funny, often cringeworthy heroine who believes her tendency to let loose bizarre prophecies makes her a freak. Swap out Jules’ supernatural talents for body issues or acne and the reader has a relatable and archetypal teen. Held does an admirable job of crossing genres; the budding romance between Grayson and Jules is enjoyable to watch unfold, while Held’s murder mystery is a satisfying whodunit. The setting at a Medieval Times-like destination in a town called Lunevale adds another dose of humor. Held incorporates a quirky cast of characters, such as Floyd the Keeper and King Henry VIII, re-enactors who spend their lives in character and provide subtle foils to Jules, who may not be the crazy one after all.

A frothy tale that mixes a whodunit and a teen romance with knights and prophecies. 

Pub Date: March 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-63375-227-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Entangled Publishing

Review Posted Online: March 21, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2016

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A thrilling romance that could use more even pacing.

THE STARS WE STEAL

For the second time in her life, Leo must choose between her family and true love.

Nineteen-year-old Princess Leonie Kolburg’s royal family is bankrupt. In order to salvage the fortune they accrued before humans fled the frozen Earth 170 years ago, Leonie’s father is forcing her to participate in the Valg Season, an elaborate set of matchmaking events held to facilitate the marriages of rich and royal teens. Leo grudgingly joins in even though she has other ideas: She’s invented a water filtration system that, if patented, could provide a steady income—that is if Leo’s calculating Aunt Freja, the Captain of the ship hosting the festivities, stops blocking her at every turn. Just as Leo is about to give up hope, her long-lost love, Elliot, suddenly appears onboard three years after Leo’s family forced her to break off their engagement. Donne (Brightly Burning, 2018) returns to space, this time examining the fascinatingly twisted world of the rich and famous. Leo and her peers are nuanced, deeply felt, and diverse in terms of sexuality but not race, which may be a function of the realities of wealth and power. The plot is fast paced although somewhat uneven: Most of the action resolves in the last quarter of the book, which makes the resolutions to drawn-out conflicts feel rushed.

A thrilling romance that could use more even pacing. (Science fiction. 16-adult)

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-328-94894-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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A familiar but heartfelt romance for easygoing readers.

ADORKABLE

In O’Gorman’s YA debut, two best friends try to fool people into thinking that they’re in love—and then discover a new facet of their relationship.

Sally Spitz is a frizzy-haired 17-year-old girl with a charming zeal for three things: Harry Potter (she’s a Gryffindor), Star Wars, and getting into Duke University. During her senior year of high school, she goes on a slew of miserable dates, set up by her mother and her own second-best–friend–turned-matchmaker, Lillian Hooker. Sally refuses to admit to anyone that she’s actually head over Converses in love with her longtime best friend, a boy named Baldwin Eugene Charles Kent, aka “Becks.” After a particularly awkward date, Sally devises a plan to end Lillian’s matchmaking attempts; specifically, she plans to hire someone to act as her fake boyfriend, or “F.B.F.” But before Sally can put her plan into action, a rumor circulates that Sally and Becks are already dating. Becks agrees to act as Sally’s F.B.F. in exchange for a box of Goobers and Sally’s doing his calculus homework for a month. Later, as they hold hands in the hall and “practice” make-out sessions in Becks’ bedroom, their friendship heads into unfamiliar territory. Over the course of this novel, O’Gorman presents an inviting and enjoyable account of lifelong friendship transforming into young love. Though the author’s reliance on familiar tropes may be comforting to a casual reader, it may frustrate those who may be looking for a more substantial and less predictable plot. A number of ancillary characters lack very much complexity, and the story, overall, would have benefited from an added twist or two. Even so, however, this remains a largely engaging and often endearing debut. 

A familiar but heartfelt romance for easygoing readers.

Pub Date: Dec. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-64063-759-7

Page Count: 340

Publisher: Entangled: Teen

Review Posted Online: Jan. 7, 2020

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