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MAGICLAND

A bracing dystopian tale that deftly mixes magic, evolution, and romance.

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A debut post-apocalyptic novel presents a fateful encounter between two young people from different sides of a catastrophic war.

Thousands of years in the future, Earth suffers the ill effects of a long-standing war, and evolution has taken humans to new heights and diverse branches. The surviving few live on opposite sides of the planet: some in The Homeland, where citizens permanently uplink to the Stoven collective, and others in Moria, where magic reigns supreme. When a young man from The Homeland named Belex Deralk-Almd crashes on Moria, all his biosystems are disconnected; his memory is fuzzy; and, to his horror, he finds himself trapped in “MagicLand,” where savage people disavow science and embrace aging and death. But he also discovers, in the midst of all the ugliness, “a mystical, hidden factor of beauty that restrained his hatred.” One of those beauties is 17-year-old Aurilena, a gifted magician. When she finds the crash survivor, she is immediately wary of this potential enemy, but she is also attracted to his differences. Against all odds, Belex and Aurilena start to fall for each other. As they investigate why Belex is in Moria, they realize not only that everything they know about their respective cultures is a lie, but that they have roles to play in the next step of their evolution as well. In this promising first novel, Bastille introduces a world that features a surprisingly well-balanced mishmash of genres with robust elements of SF, fantasy, and romance all wrapped up in a post-apocalyptic package. From Belex’s relationship with his body’s augmentations to Aurilena’s empathic connection to Moria, the absorbing story examines the seemingly conflicting ways these new types of humans engage with the world, suggesting a balance can be found. But Moria’s magic system comes with strong religious undertones that become progressively prevalent toward the tale’s open-ended climax. Readers will enjoy trying to spot the truth in the novel’s unreliable narrative about war and history while navigating Belex’s lack of memory and Aurilena’s reliance on disputable sources.

A bracing dystopian tale that deftly mixes magic, evolution, and romance.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-1-63195-564-8

Page Count: 270

Publisher: Morgan James Publishing

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2021

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DAUGHTER OF MINE

Small-town claustrophobia and intimacies alike propel this twist-filled psychological thriller.

The loss of her police officer father and the discovery of an abandoned car in a local lake raise chilling questions regarding a young woman’s family history.

When Hazel Sharp returns to her hometown of Mirror Lake, North Carolina, for her father’s memorial, she and the other townspeople are confronted by a challenging double whammy: As they’re grieving the loss of beloved longtime police officer Detective Perry Holt, a disturbing sight appears in the lake, whose waterline is receding because of an ongoing drought—an old, unidentifiable car, which has likely been lurking there for years. Hazel temporarily leaves her Charlotte-based building-renovation business in the capable hands of her partners and reconnects with her brothers, Caden and Gage; her Uncle Roy; her old fling and neighbor, Nico; and her schoolfriend, Jamie, now a mother and married to Caden. Tiny, relentless suspicions rise to the metaphorical surface along with that waterlogged vehicle: There have been a slew of minor break-ins; two people go missing; and then, a second abandoned car is discovered. The novel digs deeper into Hazel’s family history—her father was a widow when he married Hazel’s mother, who later left the family, absconding with money and jewels—and Miranda, a consummate professional when it comes to exposing the small community tensions that naturally arise when people live in close proximity for generations, exposes revelation after twisty revelation: “Everything mattered disproportionately in a small town. Your success, but also your failure. Everyone knows might as well have been our town motto.”

Small-town claustrophobia and intimacies alike propel this twist-filled psychological thriller.

Pub Date: April 9, 2024

ISBN: 9781668010440

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Marysue Rucci Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2024

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THEN SHE WAS GONE

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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