A satisfying, involving, and well-paced story that effectively blends action and redemption.

THE SECOND CORTEZ

An apolitical English professor vows vengeance against the Mexican drug cartel that has infiltrated his hometown in this novel.

The cartel Segundo Cortez is escalating its reign of terror in the Mexican city of Veracruz. Its soldiers roam the streets hassling citizens with impunity. They have bribed policemen and become more brazen in their violence. But 32-year-old university professor Nicolás Nolano has elected to “keep out of all that business” and just “concentrate on my profession.” His mother; his brother, Esteban, a district attorney; and a local priest, meanwhile, are very public activists against the cartel. Esteban has recently filed suit against the cartel’s leader, Arturo Méndez. Nicolás insists that they would be better off keeping a low profile. “Laying low and biding your time is not how change is won in the world,” the priest counters. Nicolás’ warning that they are all setting themselves up “for tragedy” inevitably comes true, and he is alerted that he will be next. Though “merely a professor,” the radicalized Nicolás flees to America, where he plans to acquire weapons and training and then return “to strike at Segundo Cortez.” Wall (Water Lessons, 2014) has fashioned a fast-moving, immensely readable payback story. But Nicolás’ transformation might have carried more dramatic weight if on Page 2 he didn’t come to the rescue of a former student being hassled by Cortez thugs or soon after take heroic action to transport another young cartel victim to the hospital. Some dialogue is heavy-handed, as this exchange between Esteban and his brother: “Me, the idealistic attorney. You, the cynical literature professor. Damn, just like when we were boys. You always off in your bedroom, in your own universe, your nose in a book, dreaming. While I was out living. Making dreams into reality.” Ivan Méndez, an increasingly unstable successor to his father (and a former friend of Nicolás), is straight out of central casting. More nuanced is Hector Pantano, the compromised police chief, who has enabled the cartel but is suffering a crisis of conscience.

A satisfying, involving, and well-paced story that effectively blends action and redemption.

Pub Date: June 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-938749-44-5

Page Count: 360

Publisher: Enchanted Indie Press

Review Posted Online: July 31, 2018

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A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

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THE GIVER OF STARS

Women become horseback librarians in 1930s Kentucky and face challenges from the landscape, the weather, and the men around them.

Alice thought marrying attractive American Bennett Van Cleve would be her ticket out of her stifling life in England. But when she and Bennett settle in Baileyville, Kentucky, she realizes that her life consists of nothing more than staying in their giant house all day and getting yelled at by his unpleasant father, who owns a coal mine. She’s just about to resign herself to a life of boredom when an opportunity presents itself in the form of a traveling horseback library—an initiative from Eleanor Roosevelt meant to counteract the devastating effects of the Depression by focusing on literacy and learning. Much to the dismay of her husband and father-in-law, Alice signs up and soon learns the ropes from the library’s leader, Margery. Margery doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her, rejects marriage, and would rather be on horseback than in a kitchen. And even though all this makes Margery a town pariah, Alice quickly grows to like her. Along with several other women (including one black woman, Sophia, whose employment causes controversy in a town that doesn’t believe black and white people should be allowed to use the same library), Margery and Alice supply magazines, Bible stories, and copies of books like Little Women to the largely poor residents who live in remote areas. Alice spends long days in terrible weather on horseback, but she finally feels happy in her new life in Kentucky, even as her marriage to Bennett is failing. But her powerful father-in-law doesn’t care for Alice’s job or Margery’s lifestyle, and he’ll stop at nothing to shut their library down. Basing her novel on the true story of the Pack Horse Library Project established by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s, Moyes (Still Me, 2018, etc.) brings an often forgotten slice of history to life. She writes about Kentucky with lush descriptions of the landscape and tender respect for the townspeople, most of whom are poor, uneducated, and grateful for the chance to learn. Although Alice and Margery both have their own romances, the true power of the story is in the bonds between the women of the library. They may have different backgrounds, but their commitment to helping the people of Baileyville brings them together.

A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-56248-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

MAGIC HOUR

Sisters work together to solve a child-abandonment case.

Ellie and Julia Cates have never been close. Julia is shy and brainy; Ellie gets by on charm and looks. Their differences must be tossed aside when a traumatized young girl wanders in from the forest into their hometown in Washington. The sisters’ professional skills are put to the test. Julia is a world-renowned child psychologist who has lost her edge. She is reeling from a case that went publicly sour. Though she was cleared of all wrongdoing, Julia’s name was tarnished, forcing her to shutter her Beverly Hills practice. Ellie Barton is the local police chief in Rain Valley, who’s never faced a tougher case. This is her chance to prove she is more than just a fading homecoming queen, but a scarcity of clues and a reluctant victim make locating the girl’s parents nearly impossible. Ellie places an SOS call to her sister; she needs an expert to rehabilitate this wild-child who has been living outside of civilization for years. Confronted with her professional demons, Julia once again has the opportunity to display her talents and salvage her reputation. Hannah (The Things We Do for Love, 2004, etc.) is at her best when writing from the girl’s perspective. The feral wolf-child keeps the reader interested long after the other, transparent characters have grown tiresome. Hannah’s torturously over-written romance passages are stale, but there are surprises in store as the sisters set about unearthing Alice’s past and creating a home for her.

Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

Pub Date: March 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-345-46752-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2005

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