A robust, well-realized universe that sparkles with promise.

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(THE SHADOW OF LIGHT #1)

The first book of a prospective trilogy, Wier’s debut fantasy novel follows a young girl whose link to the cosmos will decide the fate of an age-old war of light versus dark.

To celebrate her upcoming 17th birthday, Kira decides to swim under the stars at a local lake. But when she wades into the water, she narrowly escapes a fatal collision with a falling object. An unconscious Kira dreams of a tunnel and starlight that transport her to an alternate universe that mirrors her own. This world features a carnival full of eccentric characters—time-traveling gypsies, snaggletooth attendants, and a handsome farm boy who tells her she came to him by way of a psychic connection. The novel includes various YA trademarks: teenage love triangles, broken families, and the Campbell-ian monomyth. Kira’s search for her long-lost father doubles as a search for herself. Taken in by the gravitational pull of an alternate universe, she begins to discover mysteries about her identity, including theories about her father. When she discovers her light is dying, she faces a major decision; torn between her curiosity about this new world and her nostalgia for home, Kira finds herself in a race against the dying of her light, which, once extinguished, will trap her in whichever world she is in at the time of its dimming. By following through on these consequences, the author adds weight to Kira’s decisions. Wier’s prose is largely conversational, though she paints Kira’s quieter meditations with dreamy visuals that parallel the story’s landscape: “Eyes closed, I hid in the dark, visible only to our moons, floating like two paper lanterns in the starlit sky.” Instead of being a navel-gazer about a 17-year-old’s effort to discover life’s meaning, the novel delivers an action-driven storyline on the universal desire to set one’s own course.

A robust, well-realized universe that sparkles with promise.

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-942111-01-6

Page Count: 318

Publisher: REUTS Publications

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2015

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A well-crafted coming-of-age novel that skillfully chronicles the trials of a lonely orphan who joins a street gang.

Kathy, Wait For Me!

Forster tells the story of a girl’s tumultuous life in London in this YA debut.

When a boy at the children’s home offers to take Kathy to meet his friends, she’s just happy to have something to do. Following the deaths of her parents, she was shipped from her village in northern England to London, where the people are icy, and she’s had a difficult time fitting in. She quickly realizes that her new friends constitute a street gang, but she is too lonely to reject their invitation to join them. Their leader, the magnetic, ambitious Gary, holds a particular allure for Kathy: she thinks that he’s like a character out of a novel. Kathy sees herself as a modern-day Becky Sharp, from Thackeray’s Vanity Fair, ingratiating herself with her new social circle: “Her old self was slipping away, but another one, altogether leaner, sharper and more efficient was slowly developing.” Gary sees himself as an underworld CEO, overseeing his many business interests while remaining one step ahead of the law. But his management style becomes brutal, and an atmosphere of fear soon replaces Kathy’s excitement. She thinks increasingly of her past: of the Romany woman who told her of old legends and the Northumberland landscape. She decides she must seek out her grandfather, from whom she was separated after the deaths of her parents. Perhaps she can rebuild something of her old life—if only she’s able to extricate herself from the new one. Forster’s narrative voice is pitched to Kathy’s anxiousness, resulting in a world that is equal parts menacing and romantic. The narrative intersperses the crowded, anonymous language of London with Kathy’s vivid recollections of the Northumberland moors of her previous life: “The heather too burned, but in a different way. It filled the landscape, as far as she could see, with a blazing purple, set off here and there by green bracken.” The tale’s conclusion is predictably Dickensian, and a bit of unexpected religiosity begins to slip in toward the end, but the book keeps the reader invested, curious to see just where Kathy lands.

A well-crafted coming-of-age novel that skillfully chronicles the trials of a lonely orphan who joins a street gang.

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5043-3850-9

Page Count: 374

Publisher: BalboaPress

Review Posted Online: Dec. 10, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2016

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

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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