A pleasant tale for readers who want a female-centric Harry Potter story.

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SILENT LEE AND THE ADVENTURE OF THE SIDE DOOR KEY

A young teenager loses her home and employs magic to figure out what went wrong in this debut novel.

Silent “Sie” Lee finds her life in an uproar. First, her guardian and great aunt, Generous, dies under mysterious circumstances. Then, Sie’s mostly absent mother, Mauvaise—who has a covert job the teen suspects involves spying—ships the 14-year-old to live with her rowdy relatives. They exile Sie to the attic and force her to attend a public school where she’s very out of her depth. Little do they know that Sie is used to a different world altogether. At Gen’s, the teen would come and go via the house’s side door into a Boston of old, with horse-drawn carriages, curiosity shops, and, most importantly, the Girl’s Academy of Latin and Alchemy, where Sie learns the ways of magic. With public school out for the summer and Sie’s relatives on vacation, the plucky teen employs the help of classmate Raahi—who has literal “tunnel vision” and an enthusiasm for books and learning—to discover what exactly happened to Gen and why Sie’s mother is now selling the house. Judging from the long author’s note at the end of the book, Hiam is very passionate about Boston and the magically realistic history he has created around it. The Harry Potter–like Sie is intelligent and resourceful—she is determined to find out what happened to her beloved great aunt and devoted to her spellcasting studies—and Raahi is an appealing, affable sidekick. The author’s dialogue tends toward the stiff (Gen says “Tut tut” more than once) and awkward. At one point, a school secretary comments on Sie’s last name, saying, “I’d expected she’d be Korean or Chinese.” In addition, Sie seems more confused (by everything from debit cards to milkshakes) than is realistic for someone who’s lived in the modern world for a few months by now. Still, the novel is short, digestible, and adventurous but not too dark, ideal for teens transitioning to middle-grade novels. 

A pleasant tale for readers who want a female-centric Harry Potter story.

Pub Date: April 30, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-63558-011-2

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Webster Press, LLC

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2020

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A romantic, sad, and ultimately hopeful book that’s perfect for fans of Jojo Moyes.

GHOSTED

In Walsh’s American debut, a woman desperately tries to find out why the man she spent a whirlwind week with never called.

Sarah has just separated from her American husband and is visiting her hometown in England when she meets Eddie. He’s kind and charming, and although they only spend one week together, she falls in love. When he has to leave for a trip, she knows they’ll keep in touch—they’re already making plans for the rest of their lives. But then Eddie never calls, and Sarah’s increasingly frantic efforts to contact him are fruitless. Is he hurt? Is he dead? As her friends tell her, there’s a far greater likelihood that he’s just blowing her off—she’s been ghosted. After trying to track Eddie down at a football game, Sarah starts to become ashamed of herself—after all, she’s almost 40 years old and she’s essentially stalking a man who never called her. But as Sarah slowly learns, she and Eddie didn’t actually meet randomly—they both have a connection to an accident that happened years ago, and it may have something to do with why he disappeared. The tension quickly amps up as the secrets of Eddie’s and Sarah’s pasts are revealed, and the truth behind their connection is genuinely surprising and heartbreaking. The barriers between Sarah and Eddie seem insurmountable at times, and although their issues are resolved in a tidy manner, the emotions behind their actions are always believable. Walsh has created a deeply moving romance with an intriguing mystery and a touching portrait of grief at its heart.

A romantic, sad, and ultimately hopeful book that’s perfect for fans of Jojo Moyes.

Pub Date: July 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-52277-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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An ambitious and bewitching gem of a book with mystery and passion inscribed on every page.

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THE STARLESS SEA

A withdrawn graduate student embarks on an epic quest to restore balance to the world in this long-anticipated follow-up to The Night Circus (2011).

Zachary Ezra Rawlins is a typical millennial introvert; he likes video games, escapist reading, and drinking sidecars. But when he recognizes himself in the pages of a mysterious book from the university library, he's unnerved—and determined to uncover the truth. What begins as a journey for answers turns into something much bigger, and Zachary must decide whether to trust the handsome stranger he meets at a highflying literary fundraiser in New York or to retreat back to his thesis and forget the whole affair. In a high-wire feat of metatextual derring-do, Morgenstern weaves Zachary's adventure into a stunning array of linked fables, myths, and origin stories. There are pirates and weary travelers, painters who can see the future, lovers torn asunder, a menacing Owl King, and safe harbors for all the stories of the world, far below the Earth on the golden shores of a Starless Sea. Clocking in at more than 500 pages, the novel requires patience as Morgenstern puts all the pieces in place, but it is exquisitely pleasurable to watch the gears of this epic fantasy turn once they're set in motion. As in The Night Circus, Morgenstern is at her best when she imagines worlds and rooms and parties in vivid detail, right down to the ballroom stairs "festooned with lanterns and garlands of paper dipped in gold" or a cloak carved from ice with "ships and sailors and sea monsters...lost in the drifting snow." This novel is a love letter to readers as much as an invitation: Come and see how much magic is left in the world. Fans of Neil Gaiman and V.E. Schwab, Kelly Link and Susanna Clarke will want to heed the call.

An ambitious and bewitching gem of a book with mystery and passion inscribed on every page.

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-385-54121-3

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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