Readers willing to forgive a few construction flaws should find a tale fortified with passion, fantasy, and a chilling...

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A WOLF AMONG THE SHEEP

A widowed bride-to-be becomes obsessed with revenge for her fiance’s unexplained murder.

Meade’s debut novel depicts a group of childhood friends who reunite in their adulthood under unsavory circumstances. On the morning of his wedding day, Eric Martinez is mauled to death by a ravenous, wolf-like creature while jogging in the forests of bucolic Grand, Oklahoma. The event devastates and angers his fiancee, Sarah, who demands swift answers and becomes emboldened with exacting vengeance for Eric’s death. An outdoor lover, Eric had taught her the rules of the woods and they’d consummated their love at Grand Lake, where he was killed. Sarah heads there and begins days of investigative spadework, discovering large scratches on the trees, and starts to actualize the monster’s cunning and intelligence. Meanwhile, other lake residents become victims to “the beast.” Local Sheriff Christian Morgan is on the scene and is well-versed in the area because he, Eric, and a man named Brandon Hank used to camp at the lake each summer as kids. They shared secret knowledge of a grim legacy, which surfaces as Sarah edges closer to confronting the otherworldly, regenerative creature. Brandon also rematerializes in the narrative as a boat mechanic and befriends Sarah as she continues her dogged sleuthing, which begins to fall into place as she deduces that the killings took place during a full moon. Though she puts her tree-climbing skills to great use, things get much worse before Sarah’s desperation manifests itself and she gets closer to solving the mystery. With an economy of pages, Meade’s tightly written novel moves at a brisk pace and is consistently engrossing, offering a terrifying adversary and a grisly, open-ended conclusion. But there are unfortunate drawbacks. Too often, the author sacrifices character development for plot. Though Sarah is thoroughly fleshed out as a resourceful, robust woman, the other characters are too thinly drawn. There are also some startling tense and timeline shifts, which threaten to jeopardize the impressive work that Meade has done to amp up the book’s climactic storyline.

Readers willing to forgive a few construction flaws should find a tale fortified with passion, fantasy, and a chilling villain, with room for further installments.

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5320-3307-0

Page Count: 73

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: Jan. 31, 2018

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A spellbinding portrait of what it means to be human in an inhuman world.

THE WORLD THAT WE KNEW

In this tale of a young German Jewish girl under the protection of a golem—a magical creature of Jewish myth created from mud and water—Hoffman (The Rules of Magic, 2017, etc.) employs her signature lyricism to express the agony of the Holocaust with a depth seldom equaled in more seemingly realistic accounts.

The golem, named Ava, comes into being in 1941 Berlin. Recently made a widow by the Gestapo and desperate to get her 12-year-old daughter, Lea, out of Germany, Hanni Kohn hires Ettie, a rabbi’s adolescent daughter who has witnessed her father creating a golem, to make a female creature who must obey Hanni by protecting Lea at all costs. Ettie uses Hanni’s payment to escape on the same train toward France as Lea and Ava, but the two human girls’ lives take different paths. Ettie, who has always chafed at the limits placed on her gender, becomes a Resistance fighter set on avenging her younger sister’s killing by Nazis. Lea, under Ava’s supernatural care, escapes the worst ravages of the war, staying first with distant cousins in Paris (already under Gestapo rule), where she falls in love with her hosts' 14-year-old son, Julien; then in a convent school hiding Jewish girls in the Rhone Valley; then in a forest village not far from where Ettie has partnered in her Resistance activities with Julien’s older brother. While Lea’s experiences toughen and mature her, Ettie never stops mourning her sister but finds something like love with a gentle gentile doctor who has his own heartbreaking backstory. In fact, everyone in the large cast of supporting human characters—as well as the talking heron that is Ava’s love interest and Azriel, the Angel of Death—becomes vividly real, but Ava the golem is the heart of the book. Representing both fierce maternal love and the will to survive, she forces Lea and Ettie to examine their capacities to make ethical choices and to love despite impossible circumstances.

A spellbinding portrait of what it means to be human in an inhuman world.

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5011-3757-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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Real events like the Vietnam draft and Stonewall uprising enter the characters' family history as well as a stunning plot...

THE RULES OF MAGIC

The Owens sisters are back—not in their previous guise as elderly aunties casting spells in Hoffman’s occult romance Practical Magic (1995), but as fledgling witches in the New York City captured in Patti Smith's memoir Just Kids.

In that magical, mystical milieu, Franny and Bridget are joined by a new character: their foxy younger brother, Vincent, whose “unearthly” charm sends grown women in search of love potions. Heading into the summer of 1960, the three Owens siblings are ever more conscious of their family's quirkiness—and not just the incidents of levitation and gift for reading each other's thoughts while traipsing home to their parents' funky Manhattan town house. The instant Franny turns 17, they are all shipped off to spend the summer with their mother's aunt in Massachusetts. Isabelle Owens might enlist them for esoteric projects like making black soap or picking herbs to cure a neighbor's jealousy, but she at least offers respite from their fretful mother's strict rules against going shoeless, bringing home stray birds, wandering into Greenwich Village, or falling in love. In short order, the siblings meet a know-it-all Boston cousin, April, who brings them up to speed on the curse set in motion by their Salem-witch ancestor, Maria Owens. It spells certain death for males who attempt to woo an Owens woman. Naturally this knowledge does not deter the current generation from circumventing the rule—Bridget most passionately, Franny most rationally, and Vincent most recklessly (believing his gender may protect him). In time, the sisters ignore their mother's plea and move to Greenwich Village, setting up an apothecary, while their rock-star brother, who glimpsed his future in Isabelle’s nifty three-way mirror, breaks hearts like there's no tomorrow. No one's more confident or entertaining than Hoffman at putting across characters willing to tempt fate for true love.

Real events like the Vietnam draft and Stonewall uprising enter the characters' family history as well as a stunning plot twist—delivering everything fans of a much-loved book could hope for in a prequel.

Pub Date: Oct. 10, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5011-3747-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Aug. 6, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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