YA fantasy that’s stretching its legs, finding its stride; it still stumbles occasionally, but it’s on its way toward...


The Cobalt Mine

From the The Cobalt Series series

Roselle (The Cobalt Domain, 2014) continues a sprawling tale of magical lands mysteriously linked to our own, talking animals, teen drama, despots, a family’s struggle to reunite, and the strange mineral that links them all together.

Having left behind the magical lands, or Darus, of the Cobalt Domain, Milo Davenport finds herself, sans memory, in the “real world.” Others will follow, each losing the memory of his or her time in the Darus. Meanwhile, the cryptic notebooks Milo left behind in the Darus offer hope to Jake Lancaster, who seeks to reunite with his lost wife, Julia, and save his son, Beckett. Pioneer, a despot seeking to control the entire Domain, seeks Julia and Beckett as well, but for far more sinister reasons. Caught in the middle is Casey Campbell, a relatively new arrival, yet she just may have a whiff of destiny about her. The question of who—if anyone—will ultimately control the Domain is open, even as answers about the Domain’s true nature and purpose come closer to the light. Like its predecessor, this tangle of interwoven tales is written in quick, easy-to-read prose divided into digestible chapters. Though the page count is hefty, the short chapters make for a quick read. Characters are often more layered than they were in Roselle’s earlier book, with one villain in particular—one who was previously more caricature than character—developing unexpected complexity. The human-turned-animal morphs also shine. Though mostly minor characters, they provide refreshing color and spots of humor. Unfortunately, dialogue suffers regular bouts of clunkiness, which lessens the effectiveness of both characterization and plotting, and with such a large number of characters and plotlines across multiple worlds, the expanding plot can also be hard to track.

YA fantasy that’s stretching its legs, finding its stride; it still stumbles occasionally, but it’s on its way toward outgrowing awkwardness.

Pub Date: July 14, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5006-6497-8

Page Count: 660

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Sept. 22, 2015

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This story is necessary. This story is important.

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Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter is a black girl and an expert at navigating the two worlds she exists in: one at Garden Heights, her black neighborhood, and the other at Williamson Prep, her suburban, mostly white high school.

Walking the line between the two becomes immensely harder when Starr is present at the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend, Khalil, by a white police officer. Khalil was unarmed. Khalil’s death becomes national news, where he’s called a thug and possible drug dealer and gangbanger. His death becomes justified in the eyes of many, including one of Starr’s best friends at school. The police’s lackadaisical attitude sparks anger and then protests in the community, turning it into a war zone. Questions remain about what happened in the moments leading to Khalil’s death, and the only witness is Starr, who must now decide what to say or do, if anything. Thomas cuts to the heart of the matter for Starr and for so many like her, laying bare the systemic racism that undergirds her world, and she does so honestly and inescapably, balancing heartbreak and humor. With smooth but powerful prose delivered in Starr’s natural, emphatic voice, finely nuanced characters, and intricate and realistic relationship dynamics, this novel will have readers rooting for Starr and opening their hearts to her friends and family.

This story is necessary. This story is important. (Fiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-249853-3

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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An emotionally engaging closer that fumbles in its final moments.

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From the To All the Boys I've Loved Before series , Vol. 3

Lara Jean prepares for college and a wedding.

Korean-American Lara Jean is finally settled into a nice, complication-free relationship with her white boyfriend, Peter. But things don’t stay simple for long. When college acceptance letters roll in, Peter and Lara Jean discover they’re heading in different directions. As the two discuss the long-distance thing, Lara Jean’s widower father is making a major commitment: marrying the neighbor lady he’s been dating. The whirlwind of a wedding, college visits, prom, and the last few months of senior year provides an excellent backdrop for this final book about Lara Jean. The characters ping from event to event with emotions always at the forefront. Han further develops her cast, pushing them to new maturity and leaving few stones unturned. There’s only one problem here, and it’s what’s always held this series back from true greatness: Peter. Despite Han’s best efforts to flesh out Peter with abandonment issues and a crummy dad, he remains little more than a handsome jock. Frankly, Lara Jean and Peter may have cute teen chemistry, but Han's nuanced characterizations have often helped to subvert typical teen love-story tropes. This knowing subversion is frustratingly absent from the novel's denouement.

An emotionally engaging closer that fumbles in its final moments. (Romance. 14-17)

Pub Date: May 2, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-3048-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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