An enchanting, spirited tale packed with genuine adventure for characters and readers alike.

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The Three Worlds

From the The Monster Realm Stories series , Vol. 2

Three young girls hope to avert a war between humans and the monsters who believe Earth is rightfully theirs in this second installment of Duffie’s (A Lanodekan Bestiary, 2016, etc.) middle-grade fantasy series.

It’s been a mere three days since 12-year-old Lillian and her best friends, Katy and Maisy, returned from monster-laden Lanodeka, where they’d gone searching for Lillian’s missing older sister, Bluebell. There, Lillian learned mom Annora is a siren and was keeping safe the Creation Stone before Bluebell stole it and took it to Lanodeka. The teen’s in cahoots with monsters planning to assault humans and take back Earth, which they shared years ago before humans began hunting them and forced them to create their own world. Spearheading the plan is evil woman-spider hybrid Arachne, who orchestrates Lillian’s kidnapping to get her special medallion. Bluebell, whose self-appointed warrior name is Lysandra, has one, too; with both medallions and the Creation Stone, Arachne can lead an army into the human world. Fortuitously, Lillian doesn’t have hers when she’s abducted. Katy, Maisy, and shape-shifting pal Jack use the medallion to open a portal to Lanodeka and save their friend. They have monster allies, but their defiance of Arachne means a civil war is imminent. Unfortunately, Arachne has the Creation Stone to make monsters so daunting that they may render her side invincible. The author fills her breezy novel with mythical beasts; griffins and dragons are familiar, while others are refreshingly unique, including shark-mouthed, squid-bodied, spike-tentacled creatures. Duffie aims the story at younger readers but incorporates incisive, mature themes. Anti-discrimination is a staple in monster-featured narratives, but other notions resonate more loudly, like the vicious elf Captain, implying every creature—even good-natured ones—has the capacity for evil. Distinctive leads complement one another: earnest Lillian, meek Katy, and charmingly sardonic Maisy. Duffie, however, spotlights all of her characters, from the distrusting Captain to each of the girls’ mothers, who occasionally bicker like their daughters. There’s also playfulness regarding expectations (some monsters aren’t quite the same as myths have asserted) and understated humor, especially with Maisy. Working a strategy to protect the medallion, she thinks to herself, “I hope I know what I’m doing.”

An enchanting, spirited tale packed with genuine adventure for characters and readers alike.

Pub Date: March 16, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9904015-2-0

Page Count: 382

Publisher: Roam and Ramble

Review Posted Online: June 2, 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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