A clever series opener that draws from the myths and pantheons of numerous ancient cultures.

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ALEX VEGA AND THE ORACLE OF THE MAYANS

This debut middle-grade adventure sees a group of kids train to prevent an alien invasion of Earth.

One night, the diminutive, pointy-eared Carl Bellon pops up from a seemingly unspectacular hole in an empty lot. He teams up with a German shepherd named Mercure to visit the home of 13-year-old Alex Vega. The dog telepathically alerts the teen’s family members, including Alex’s parents, Miguel and Janet, and sister, Aura, to imminent danger. They escape as four green spheres float toward the house and set it ablaze. While running to the hole in the lot, Miguel and Janet use a polished black tablet called a Z-Con (or Zero Point Field Condenser) to defend against the spheres. The hole, it turns out, is a portal that leads to a carved-out facility inside the Himalayan Mountains. There, Alex learns of the Praefectus, who possess advanced alien technology and have been training for generations to defend Earth against intergalactic invaders. He also meets more children—Maia, Elka, and Dion—with whom he’ll train, and the Masters Kattan and Ebo. The Masters guide the young apprentices through various portals to their new home at the Jade pyramid, a section of the Earth Defense Operations School. In this novel, D.J. Burchell and M.A. Burchell combine touches of the Harry Potter and Indiana Jones series to introduce an epic saga that includes the origins of gods like Zeus and Ra. The brother-and-sister team maintains a tight narrative flow, unveiling the wonders of the Z-Con technology through the kids’ eyes. Less savvy authors might infodump story elements, but the Burchells refuse. Mercure says to Alex, “Some things you should discover for yourself. More exciting that way, isn’t it?” Indeed, ice cream that tastes like a high dive into the ocean and Gravity-Energy Manipulator suits that confer near invincibility are wondrously detailed. With Z-Cons standing in for wands, the children solve a minimystery while learning to fly planes and sail, skills potentially needed for later missions. The authors lay down an exceptional foundation of characters and worldbuilding for more dangerous escapades to come.

A clever series opener that draws from the myths and pantheons of numerous ancient cultures.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-941952-10-8

Page Count: 370

Publisher: South Bay Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2018

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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THE VANISHING HALF

Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in white society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her white persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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