While it fails to reinvent the genre, this action-packed ride through a grim but fascinating world should delight fans of...

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Vinyl

From the The Vinyl Trilogy series , Vol. 1

A power-hungry government controls the populace through music, and one young woman accepts the formidable task of saving her family and helping to kick-start a revolution in this dystopian YA adventure.

Hanson’s debut novel, the first in a planned trilogy, takes place in the walled-off, steampunk city of Revinia, where all the inhabitants have devices called Singers implanted in their ears at birth. The machines ensure obedience to Revinia’s ruler, The Conductor, by transmitting a form of mental and emotional control called The Music. The heroine, Ronja, has been branded a Mutt, the lowest rung on the social ladder. She works as a driver on the underground train system, struggling to keep her ailing mother and two young cousins afloat. Destiny comes calling when she accepts a courier’s job, delivering a mysterious package to a member of an underground enclave of freedom fighters known as The Anthem. Among them, she learns, “Everything you have ever felt besides strict loyalty—love of a partner, hate of an enemy, terror, excitement, anxiety—all are muted by The Music. Every time your passions spike, they are beat down. You have lived your life shackled to a weightless iron ball.” Freed from her Singer, Ronja joins forces with Roark, one of the leaders of the Resistance, to convince her family to join the group and thwart The Conductor’s plan to unleash an even more crippling form of The Music upon the citizens of Revinia. The central premise of music as a mechanism of control works well here, and the plot moves at a snappy pace, introducing distinctive new characters nimbly throughout while adding shades of detail to more familiar ones. Ronja’s journey to adapt to a life as a rebel fighter while negotiating the repressed memories that emerge following the removal of her Singer is captivating and memorable. Although the protagonist’s evolution from guttersnipe to superhero in the novel’s last quarter feels like quite a sudden leap, it makes for supremely fun reading.

While it fails to reinvent the genre, this action-packed ride through a grim but fascinating world should delight fans of The Hunger Games and Divergent and leave many waiting impatiently for the sequel.  

Pub Date: Nov. 14, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-692-56983-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Calida Lux Publishing

Review Posted Online: April 8, 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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