Fine fantasy that borrows too much from Lewis Carroll when it should invest in itself.

WATERSPELL

BOOK 1: THE WARLOCK

A teenage girl runs away from her life of servitude only to be captured by a sorcerer who will help her discover her true past.

When Carin sets out north, heeding the words of the village wise woman, she’s not sure what to expect, but she hopes the pull northward will shed some light on her mysterious past. On her travels, she mistakenly crosses into the lands of the sorcerer Lord Verek. He’s insulted by her trespass, but his anger is tempered by his shock at her imperviousness to his spells. So, Verek invites Carin back to his home for further study. There, he gives her the task of organizing his personal library, which holds the secret to Carin’s true origins: a copy of the book Alice Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll that only Carin can read. She discovers the book might actually be a relic from a life and time she has forgotten—a separate world parallel from the one they live in. Together, Carin and Verek attempt to harness the power of “Jabberwocky”—a poem from Carroll’s book that, when recited, opens a magical portal for Carin to step through. Carin and Verek’s well-crafted relationship balances in a tense power struggle due to Verek’s questionable motives, while other characters—a chatty housekeeper, a wise wood sprite, an enigmatic elfin gardener—are sympathetic and engaging. Though Lightfoot is a capable writer, the plot of this first novel in the proposed trilogy moves along sluggishly at times because of many scenes oversaturated by extensive dialogue. In the end, Lightfoot also relies too heavily on Lewis Carroll’s imagination. Taking inspiration from Alice’s story and alluding to it is tolerable, if unsurprising, but in Lightfoot’s case, her strong start, intriguing premise and original characters could carry more weight if Lightfoot had continued in her own world-building rather than following Carroll so closely down his rabbit hole.

Fine fantasy that borrows too much from Lewis Carroll when it should invest in itself.

Pub Date: Oct. 31, 2011

ISBN: 978-0972876841

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Seven Rivers

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2012

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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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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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