A message of hope that needs more emotional development within its characters.

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The Yellow Star

SHINES LIKE A CANDLE IN THE DARK

This YA short story, inspired by the writer’s grandfather, portrays a boy’s struggle to find solace during the Holocaust.

Aharon, an Orthodox Jewish boy, lives in Munich, Germany, sometime after the Nazis have assumed power. Rock-throwing children and a Nazi guard set upon him and his brother, but another boy, Paul, temporarily hides them in his house, where he tends their wounds. Paul’s parents don’t like Jews, and when Aharon returns to thank his rescuer, Paul’s father orders him away. In the square, Aharon finds Paul giving away bread in the street, his goodness shining all the more in contrast with his father. Though Christian, Paul comes over for Passover, where he’s especially interested in the story of five rabbis standing up to the Romans. When Aharon next stops by Paul’s house, it’s been burned to the ground. The whole family was sent to Dachau because Paul helped him. A letter remains with Paul’s encouraging message: “The Yellow Star / Shines like a candle in the dark… / Don’t lose hope…because / you are the hope!” Next, Aharon and his family are sent to a camp, where his mother and father die. Aharon has Paul’s letter, however, which he reads to the other children, providing hope until their liberation. Later, Aharon reconciles with Paul’s father. Debut author Seth, a sixth-grade student, bases this story on his Orthodox Jewish grandfather, Paul Liebskind, though there are few points of similarity beyond unselfishness, as clarified in a short essay by illustrator Barran (The Survival of the Gingerbread Girl, 2015). Paul’s saintliness can make him seem more symbolic than real; for knowledgeable readers, he calls to mind other examples known from history, but as presented, his motives aren’t fully explored. Also, Paul and his family pay a high price for helping Aharon, which the book doesn’t consider. The central metaphor neatly turns the yellow star, a badge of shame, into a symbol of light and determination. The pencil-drawing illustrations are simple, fitting the child-narrator theme.

A message of hope that needs more emotional development within its characters.

Pub Date: July 21, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4602-8664-7

Page Count: -

Publisher: FriesenPress

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2016

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A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

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THE GLASS HOTEL

A financier's Ponzi scheme unravels to disastrous effect, revealing the unexpected connections among a cast of disparate characters.

How did Vincent Smith fall overboard from a container ship near the coast of Mauritania, fathoms away from her former life as Jonathan Alkaitis' pretend trophy wife? In this long-anticipated follow-up to Station Eleven (2014), Mandel uses Vincent's disappearance to pick through the wreckage of Alkaitis' fraudulent investment scheme, which ripples through hundreds of lives. There's Paul, Vincent's half brother, a composer and addict in recovery; Olivia, an octogenarian painter who invested her retirement savings in Alkaitis' funds; Leon, a former consultant for a shipping company; and a chorus of office workers who enabled Alkaitis and are terrified of facing the consequences. Slowly, Mandel reveals how her characters struggle to align their stations in life with their visions for what they could be. For Vincent, the promise of transformation comes when she's offered a stint with Alkaitis in "the kingdom of money." Here, the rules of reality are different and time expands, allowing her to pursue video art others find pointless. For Alkaitis, reality itself is too much to bear. In his jail cell, he is confronted by the ghosts of his victims and escapes into "the counterlife," a soothing alternate reality in which he avoided punishment. It's in these dreamy sections that Mandel's ideas about guilt and responsibility, wealth and comfort, the real and the imagined, begin to cohere. At its heart, this is a ghost story in which every boundary is blurred, from the moral to the physical. How far will Alkaitis go to deny responsibility for his actions? And how quickly will his wealth corrupt the ambitions of those in proximity to it? In luminous prose, Mandel shows how easy it is to become caught in a web of unintended consequences and how disastrous it can be when such fragile bonds shatter under pressure.

A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-52114-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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When a book has such great comic timing, it's easy to finish the story in one sitting.

THE HONEY-DON'T LIST

A toxic workplace nurtures an intoxicating romance in Lauren’s (The Unhoneymooners, 2019, etc.) latest.

Rusty and Melissa Tripp are the married co-hosts of a successful home-makeover show and have even published a book on marriage. After catching Rusty cheating on Melissa, their assistants, James McCann and Carey Duncan, are forced to give up long-scheduled vacations to go along on their employers' book tour to make sure their marriage doesn’t implode. And the awkwardness is just getting started. Stuck in close quarters with no one to complain to but each other, James and Carey find that the life they dreamed of having might be found at work after all. James learns that Carey has worked for the Tripps since they owned a humble home décor shop in Jackson, Wyoming. Now that the couple is successful, Carey has no time for herself, and she doesn’t get nearly enough credit for her creative contribution to their media empire. Carey also has regular doctor’s appointments for dystonia, a movement disorder, which motivates her to keep her job but doesn’t stop her from doing it well. James was hired to work on engineering and design for the show, but Rusty treats him like his personal assistant. He’d quit, too, but it’s the only job he can get since his former employer was shut down in a scandal. Using a framing device similar to that of Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies, the story flashes forward to interview transcripts with the police that hint at a dramatic ending to come, and the chapters often end with gossip in the form of online comments, adding intrigue. Bonding over bad bosses allows James and Carey to stick up for each other while supplying readers with all the drama and wit of the enemies-to-lovers trope.

When a book has such great comic timing, it's easy to finish the story in one sitting.

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3864-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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