Exciting, well-written, and thoughtfully humane, this YA adventure should win many fans.

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Ganesha's Temple

From the The Temple Wars series , Vol. 1

A teenage boy from Kashmir embarks on a quest to retrieve powerful objects for the elephant-headed god Ganesha in this debut fantasy tale.

YA fantasy novels based on Christian, Norse, Celtic, or Greco-Roman sources are legion, from the Narnia books to the Percy Jackson series. Less easy to find are stories drawing on Hindu myth and religion—a gap that this book helps fill. Fourteen-year-old Tarun Sharma lives in Srinigar, in politically unstable Kashmir, with his older brother, mother, and father, who is Kashmir’s chief minister. On the closing day of a festival celebrating the four-armed deity Ganesha, rebels set off a bomb among the revelers, then kidnap Tarun and his mother. The culprits’ truck crashes in the mountains; Tarun escapes, finding his way to a cave. Waiting for him is Ganesha, who needs Tarun’s help to journey to the Veiled Lands and regain three stolen, hidden mystical objects: the deity’s sacred ax, rope, and broken tusk. Recovering them will restore the god’s powers, reunite Tarun’s family, and “end the civil war both inside the Veiled Lands and in Kashmir.” As Tarun faces down dangers and difficulties, he gains new and powerful abilities, earning a place in the continuing fight against evil. Gaur writes a rousing, well-paced adventure story. Though the structure is familiar—a quest giver, three tasks, coming-of-age—in Gaur’s hands, it never feels stale. The tasks provide excellent settings for Tarun to test his wits and courage, show his mettle, and learn more of the Veiled Lands. In Candeuil, for example, Tarun notices the mountain city’s many carved rams’ heads: “Images of bighorn sheep had even been placed on every tenth cobblestone that lined the edge of the roadway. It gave the city an artistic unity.” More than that, the cobblestones turn out to help Tarun in his search. The novel’s ecumenical spirit is generous and intriguing, with hints of a worldwide (not India-specific) battle going on, such as a teenage girl’s mission to recover objects stolen from Gitche Manitou, the Algonquian Great Spirit.

Exciting, well-written, and thoughtfully humane, this YA adventure should win many fans.

Pub Date: April 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-692-66378-3

Page Count: 280

Publisher: Rohit Gaur Studios

Review Posted Online: April 7, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 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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