A taut survival story that digs deep into the part of the imagination where the subterranean meets the sublime.

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IN THE BELLY OF THE EARTH

Darkness, loneliness, and unseen danger lurk in an underground cave where a lost young boy waits to be rescued in this debut children’s novel.

Frederick Platt is rightfully apprehensive about joining a boys’ troop called the Woodlanders for a camping trip. Not long after his arrival, the bashful and bookish 11-year-old boy becomes the target of the group’s fierce ringleader, Craig, who leads him into the woods as a peace offering only to abandon him in an underground cave. Now, instead of overcoming his shyness with his fellow campers, Fred finds out what it’s like to be truly alone, without even his books for company. He settles into a cozy routine of searching for openings in the cave, foraging for food, sleeping to preserve his strength, and rationing his flashlight use to preserve the battery while he waits for help to arrive. The pitch-black setting lends an especially spooky ambiance to the adventure, with visceral treats such as dazzling rock formations, slippery bat droppings, and an epicurean description of what bugs taste like. Fred’s tantalizing and terrifying dreams shake him awake, adding to his frustration as he realizes that he is still underground alone. There are light religious undertones as he turns to Bible verses for solace and speaks to a magical crow. Finally, when all hope of rescue is seemingly lost, Fred faces his fear of the strange surroundings, fights through physical pain, and learns what it truly takes to survive. Fuller’s entertaining log ride of an ending is full of twists, turns, and splashes of water. In the illuminating recap of what was happening aboveground, older readers will note that Craig is more than just a bully—his humiliation tactics turn murderous when he fails to tell the adults where he last saw Fred before he went missing. But in retrospect, Fred wishes he would have turned the other cheek, which in this context translates to “don’t poke the bear,” and it’s solid advice for kids. Eerie and wonderfully tense, this tale delivers a strong protagonist grappling with the unknown.

A taut survival story that digs deep into the part of the imagination where the subterranean meets the sublime.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-692-94220-8

Page Count: 110

Publisher: StoryDoor Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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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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