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THE MOONSTONE GIRLS

A moving and romantic coming-out story and a triumphant celebration of lesbian liberation.

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In this coming-of-age novel set in the late 1960s, a young lesbian challenges her bigoted father and rigid society to claim her identity with pride and hope.

In 1967 San Antonio, Texas, gay siblings Tracy and Spencer Franks are faced with more than the usual teenage problems and family secrets. Both are talented musicians, but this engenders little pride from their harshly conservative father, who perpetually finds Spencer too feminine and Tracy not feminine enough. With the gay liberation movement still years away, Spencer and Tracy support each other in exploring their queer identities. They go so far as to stage heterosexual double dates, during which they switch partners as soon as they are out of the public eye. Tall and athletic, Tracy soon finds that she can gain a degree of safety by dressing as a boy, daring in an era in which girls are seldom permitted even to wear pants. In disguise as “Tray,” she can relax with her girlfriend in public. But Tracy also discovers that she has more overall freedom when she is no longer trapped by the societal expectations tied to being a girl. Still, public scrutiny is relentless, and it is not long before both siblings are unmasked and their gay identities exposed. While the tidal wave of repercussions threatens to drown Spencer, Tracy finds the inner resources to stand up to public condemnation and force a grudging respect from those who would ridicule her. She looks toward a life in which shame is replaced by affirmation and joy. Skipstone has delved into a vibrant era of rapidly changing values with empathy and authenticity. Tracy is a fiercely sympathetic protagonist as she resists the numerous forces trying to drive her toward self-hate and conformity. Her story is satisfyingly positive, perhaps a little too much so for realism, but readers will find it hard to complain about her upbeat journey. A few anachronisms, such as “That’s so gay” and “her binary mind,” which were not in common usage until decades after the ’60s, demonstrate that the author is not a member of the baby boomer generation. Nonetheless, the book adeptly captures the zeitgeist of social repression and change that energized the 20th-century counterculture movement.

A moving and romantic coming-out story and a triumphant celebration of lesbian liberation.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-73700-644-2

Page Count: 338

Publisher: Skipstone Publishing

Review Posted Online: March 1, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2022

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  • New York Times Bestseller

THE WOMEN

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

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  • New York Times Bestseller

A young woman’s experience as a nurse in Vietnam casts a deep shadow over her life.

When we learn that the farewell party in the opening scene is for Frances “Frankie” McGrath’s older brother—“a golden boy, a wild child who could make the hardest heart soften”—who is leaving to serve in Vietnam in 1966, we feel pretty certain that poor Finley McGrath is marked for death. Still, it’s a surprise when the fateful doorbell rings less than 20 pages later. His death inspires his sister to enlist as an Army nurse, and this turn of events is just the beginning of a roller coaster of a plot that’s impressive and engrossing if at times a bit formulaic. Hannah renders the experiences of the young women who served in Vietnam in all-encompassing detail. The first half of the book, set in gore-drenched hospital wards, mildewed dorm rooms, and boozy officers’ clubs, is an exciting read, tracking the transformation of virginal, uptight Frankie into a crack surgical nurse and woman of the world. Her tensely platonic romance with a married surgeon ends when his broken, unbreathing body is airlifted out by helicopter; she throws her pent-up passion into a wild affair with a soldier who happens to be her dead brother’s best friend. In the second part of the book, after the war, Frankie seems to experience every possible bad break. A drawback of the story is that none of the secondary characters in her life are fully three-dimensional: Her dismissive, chauvinistic father and tight-lipped, pill-popping mother, her fellow nurses, and her various love interests are more plot devices than people. You’ll wish you could have gone to Vegas and placed a bet on the ending—while it’s against all the odds, you’ll see it coming from a mile away.

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781250178633

Page Count: 480

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2023

FOURTH WING

From the Empyrean series , Vol. 1

Read this for the action-packed plot, not character development or worldbuilding.

On the orders of her mother, a woman goes to dragon-riding school.

Even though her mother is a general in Navarre’s army, 20-year-old Violet Sorrengail was raised by her father to follow his path as a scribe. After his death, though, Violet's mother shocks her by forcing her to enter the elite and deadly dragon rider academy at Basgiath War College. Most students die at the War College: during training sessions, at the hands of their classmates, or by the very dragons they hope to one day be paired with. From Day One, Violet is targeted by her classmates, some because they hate her mother, others because they think she’s too physically frail to succeed. She must survive a daily gauntlet of physical challenges and the deadly attacks of classmates, which she does with the help of secret knowledge handed down by her two older siblings, who'd been students there before her. Violet is at the mercy of the plot rather than being in charge of it, hurtling through one obstacle after another. As a result, the story is action-packed and fast-paced, but Violet is a strange mix of pure competence and total passivity, always managing to come out on the winning side. The book is categorized as romantasy, with Violet pulled between the comforting love she feels from her childhood best friend, Dain Aetos, and the incendiary attraction she feels for family enemy Xaden Riorson. However, the way Dain constantly undermines Violet's abilities and his lack of character development make this an unconvincing storyline. The plots and subplots aren’t well-integrated, with the first half purely focused on Violet’s training, followed by a brief detour for romance, and then a final focus on outside threats.

Read this for the action-packed plot, not character development or worldbuilding.

Pub Date: May 2, 2023

ISBN: 9781649374042

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Red Tower

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2024

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