An engaging, inspiring rise above a traumatic childhood, but it’s dampened by a narrative that’s more sketch than story.

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Tall Trees

A STORY OF TRIUMPH

In Bouvier and Clements’ debut novel, Thomas Paul Stanton’s upbringing is a Dickensian nightmare.

Thomas Paul suffers physical and verbal abuse from his absentee father, his mother is mentally ill, and he agonizes over self-loathing spurred by his family life and the ever-growing revelation that he seems different from his peers. Eventually, he realizes he’s gay. He seeks to find answers to his anguish through God and/or religion, but his spiritual yearning is met with conflict, confusion and, ultimately, abuse at the hands of a priest. Similarly, as he seeks acceptance from his family, his need seems all too often to be met with some form of abuse. Before he’s even 3 years old, Thomas Paul witnesses a confusing scene of naked boys “playing” beneath a makeshift tent; then suddenly, one of the boys tries to sexually abuse him—a traumatic incident that gives him recurring nightmares. As his mother’s mental condition deteriorates, Thomas Paul can no longer turn to her for comfort. Just as he begins to accept who he is, the teenage Thomas Paul meets a priest, whom he admires. The priest invites him to his home, where he sexually abuses him. Only years later, in intensive therapy, does Thomas Paul come to understand that he was sexually abused by the priest. Readers who have suffered any kind of abuse will surely identify with this novel, which reads very much like a memoir; thankfully, it has a positive resolution. While the book tells a powerful story, too often the authors tell rather than show. For instance, a good part of the novel is spent with Thomas Paul in a therapist’s office, where he relates traumatic events from his past. Therapy is a crucial part of Thomas Paul’s ultimate recovery, but presenting key parts of the story in this manner turns the book into more of an extended summary than a complete story. Furthermore, sloppy copy editing mistakes—missing quotation marks and paragraph indentations, for example—mar the presentation.

An engaging, inspiring rise above a traumatic childhood, but it’s dampened by a narrative that’s more sketch than story.

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2012

ISBN: 978-0985663902

Page Count: 266

Publisher: Tall Trees LLC.

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2013

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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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